Fluoridation has become a hot topic in Montreal’s mayoral race.
Despite concerns from environmental and health groups, Pierre Bourque, a former mayor and current mayoral candidate in the November municipal elections, is pledging to add fluoride to Montreal’s drinking water if he is elected.
Montreal is one of the last major cities in North America without fluoridated water.
Suzanne Gagnon, Bourque’s press attaché, said that the fluoridation treatment could have serious benefits for the dental health of Montreal residents, particularly children living in poorer parts of Montreal.
“If they don’t have access to dentists, at least they will have fluoride in the water. When there’s fluoride in the water they drink, the children have better teeth,” she said.
But some groups are firmly opposed to fluoridation treatment of municipal water supplies. UNICEF and The Sierra Club, for example, disapprove of such measures, and many cities outside of North America ban the fluoridation treatments entirely.
Daniel Green, Scientific Advisor to The Sierra Club of Canada, explained that the process of fluoridation, specifically in Montreal, is potentially dangerous.
“When we calculated the amount of fluoride that the city would discharge, we came to the conclusion that the city of Montreal would discharge more fluoride than the aluminium smelters are allowed to emit in the environment,” he said.
He also pointed to the potential danger of storing the highly concentrated acid that would be added to Montreal’s water, adding that people who work in the plant or live near it might face increased risks from their exposure to the chemical.
Dr. Stephanie Schwartz is the President of Montreal’s Coalition for Healthy Teeth, an organization that works to educate the public about dental health issues. She insisted that adding fluoride would reduce the number of cavities.
“We’re looking mostly at children, and mostly in the children of lower socio-economic levels,” she said, explaining that this segment of the population receives inadequate dental care.
Schwartz estimated that fluoridation could take a few months to implement.
A number of dental and health associations worldwide, including the Order of Dentists of Quebec, the World Health Organization, the Association of Pediatricians of Quebec, and other scientific societies, have voiced support for Bourque’s proposal.
But opponents of the plan have questioned the effectiveness of fluoridating water. Green argued that few people would experience the benefits of the fluoridation treatment because of personal filtration systems, but that many could still experience the ill effects of the chemical due to high levels of fluoride in the St. Lawrence River.
“There is already a lot of fluoride in the St. Lawrence River valley from the emissions of the aluminium sector. Adding more fluoride to the environment might increase the dose to an unsafe level for human and environmental exposure,” he explained.
Green also questioned whether it was necessary to fluoridate everyone’s water when the implementation is aimed at a specific socio-economic group. Instead of a mass-fluoridation treatment of Montreal’s municipal water supply, Green said decision-makers should find a less expensive, safer, and more environmentally friendly way to improve dental hygiene for the city’s poorer children.