MUSKOKA – It’s official — fluoride is staying in the district’s water.
Despite a last-ditch effort by Huntsville District Coun. Fran Coleman to defer a decision on the matter, district council defeated her motion on Tuesday evening, voting to keep fluoridating the water. The decision gave formal approval to a resolution from the district’s public works and engineering committee, which recommended the district keep fluoridating.
The committee’s resolution, passed earlier this month, was based on reports from committee staff and medical input from the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit.
“Public health experts strongly encouraged municipalities to fluoridate their water. They said it’s safe and is of great benefit,” said deputy district chair Scott Young, who presided over the meeting. “I think that was the basis of (council’s) decision.”
Jim Bjork, a Huntsville resident who first flagged fluoridation as a health hazard before council last month, started off the evening with a request that council delay the issue until a volunteer committee be formed to look more closely at potential health issues.
“This committee should represent a diversity of expertise in this subject, including environmental laws, Canadian and provincial charter of rights and freedoms, environmental concerns, toxicology, engineering of fluoridation systems, ethical considerations and health concerns,” he said.
He criticized current laws and NSF standard 60, an industry benchmark for water quality that evaluates the safety of fluoride used in drinking water.
Dr. Keith Morley, a Barrie-area pediatric dentist and president of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, countered Bjork’s claims before council.
Morley showed council graphic pictures of tooth decay in children, which he said could be prevented through fluoridation. He said Barrie’s decision not to fluoridate has led to “horrific” dental disease rates.
“It is the most prevalent disease in children, five times more prevalent than asthma,” he said. “It can be fatal, it can kill and it has killed children.”
He also cited a list of supporters for fluoridation on both sides of the border, including Health Canada, the FDA, and both the Canadian and American dental associations, academies of pediatric dentistry, and medical associations.
Huntsville dentist Dr. Adrian Musters added that fluoridation is vital to preventing dental disease among residents who can’t afford regular dental care.
“If we take the fluoride out of the drinking water, we have a situation where the people who most need it can’t afford to get the fluoride they need to reduce their chances of getting cavities,” he said.
Council’s decision, however, proved disappointing for another Huntsville dentist.
When approached after the vote had passed, Dr. Richard Smyth said he wished council would have taken more time to examine the health effects of fluoridation in greater detail.
Prior to practising in Huntsville, Smyth worked as a dentist in Niagara-on-the-Lake, where the water is not fluoridated. Smyth said he hasn’t noticed any difference in tooth decay rates between patients he has treated in both areas.
“You see the difference more between socioeconomic groups rather than in fluoridated and non-fluoridated (groups),” he said.
He said the fluoride currently being put in drinking water isn’t natural fluoride, but an industrial byproduct called hydrofluorosilicic acid.
“The fluoride source is actually the toxic tailings from smokestack scrubs from the fertilizer industry,” he said.
Smyth, who doesn’t use any fluoride products in his practice, said tooth decay can be prevented without fluoride by taking ordinary precautions, like brushing and flossing regularly.