Take drinking water then add fluoride.
Throw in dozens of opinions whether or not the substance that prevents tooth decay once again should flow from faucets in Welland, Thorold and Pelham and what you’re left with is anything but a crystal-clear solution for regional politicians who will cast decision on the matter.
About 25 people turned out to a meeting at Days Inn last night to opine on the subject.
It was argued by some that to spend tens of thousands, even millions, of dollars to restart fluoridation systems at Welland and Thorold water plants isn’t worth it.
More people are switching to purer bottled water, there’s enough fluoride in diets, they said.
It’s found in such things as toothpaste, cereal, tea, beer and even cigarette smoke.
That the variety of fluoride added to water systems comes from industrial smokestacks – hydrofluosilicic acid – is concern to some about its long-term health risks.
Others supported its addition to drinking water as a cost-effective way of providing oral health care.
Fluoride slows the breakdown of mineral crystals in teeth, and also helps with their reformation, providing protection against tooth decay and demineralization.
Fluoridation in Welland started in 1963, supported by referendum. It was never supported so by Pelham residents who also received water produced in Welland.
Welland’s fluoridation system has been idle since February 1999. In the 64-month period before then, it was out of commission for 39 months – about 60 per cent of the time – because of leaking tanks, pumps and feed lines.
Thorold’s plant experienced similar problems and was turned off in 2002.
However, only recently was it acknowledged by the region that fluoridation had stopped.
“The public works department has to take full responsibility for that,” regional water and wastewater services director Leo Gohier said last night.
Regular water quality reports posted on the region’s website as far back as July 2000 had reported the absence of fluoride in local water.
To again supply Welland and Pelham with fluoridated water, but not Thorold, would cost up to $17 million to build a separate non-fluoridated watermain to serve Thorold communities supplied by the region’s Welland water plant.
Similarly, it would cost about $12 million in infrastructure to supply Welland and Thorold but not Pelham.
“It’s impractical to do selective fluoridation,” said Gohier, who’s recommending the upper-tier government formally put an end to water fluoridation.
Simply reinstating Welland and Thorold systems would cost up to $500,000 for system needs plus $90,000 in annual operating costs
“Those are startup costs, as far as I’m concerned, and you have to look at costs further down the road,” said Dr. David Klooz, Niagara’s associate health commissioner.
“One dollar spent on fluoridation saves you $38,” Niagara Peninsula Dental Association president Ravi Kumar said, rising from the audience to support its reinstatement as a preventive public health measure.
“Water fluoridation is an important and cost-effective public health service that should be restored,” Dr. Peter Fritz, president of the Welland District Dental Society, said in a statement to the media.
“The failure of Niagara Region to notify dentists of the original system malfunction put patients at risk.
“Now there is an effort to compound the problem by its complete removal and this will have an adverse impact on the health of our community,” said Fritz.
“You have our support to get the region fluoridated,” the dentist said at last night’s meeting.
To fluoridate all Niagara drinking water produced at its six plants would cost up to $3 million to install and repair systems, plus annual operating costs of $600,000.
A second two-hour public meeting on the subject takes place inside regional council chambers tonight starting at 7.