The region’s health unit is girding for opposition to its proposal to fluoridate Orillia’s drinking water.
“We expect a dedicated opposition,” said Dr. Charles Gardner, medical officer of health.
The health unit’s push for fluoridation is being driven by a study that shows Orillia children have the highest rates of decayed, missing, extracted, or filled teeth of the 10 largest communities in the region.
Adding fluoride to the municipal water supply would provide a measure of protection to local residents while reducing demand for public dental services accessed by low-income families, he said.
Opponents of the plan argue the city has no business tampering with Orillia’s drinking water.
“Fluoride is a drug,” said environmentalist Kelly Clune. “Drugs are administered by doctors for the health of individuals. Providing a drug to an entire population is not something that doctors do.”
Colleen Cooney agrees.
“There are lots of studies that show there are a lot of side effects from that drug,” she said. “By imposing a drug on everybody, whether they need it or not, is not something that doctors even have a right to do.”
Health officials should focus on ensuring families have access to affordable dental services, she said.
“Free dental service for families in need would seem more appropriate to me,” she added. “To drug a whole population is outrageous.”
Council will hold public consultations on water fluoridation, with the first meeting scheduled for Feb. 29 in the council chamber.
Public works will present recommendations at a second meeting on May 29, with council expected to make a decision in June.
Gardner in a meeting with local media said fluoridation is a “proven, safe and effective way of reducing cavities.”
It does not cause bone fractures, reduced intelligence, cancer or other health concerns as stated by some opponents of the practice, Gardner said.
“None of these have been borne out by the body of research that have be done on this,” he said.
In an interview with Orillia Today last June, Dr. Hardy Limeback, then the head of preventative dentistry at the University of Toronto’s faculty of dentistry, said water fluoridation was unnecessary and could be harmful.
He pointed to cases of severe fluorosis, in which the tooth’s enamel is damaged and falls off.
“If that is what is happening to the teeth, you can imagine what is happening to the bones,” he said
Gardner said he was aware of Limeback’s stance on the issue, saying he belonged to a “small” group of health professionals opposed to fluoridation.
“His view does not represent his department, or the school,” Gardner said.
Opponents of fluoridation often interrupt particular studies “in a way that suits their cause” without considering the “wide range of studies” on the subject, he said.
About three-quarters of Ontario communities fluoridate drinking water.
In Orillia, the average number of decayed, missing or filled teeth per child is 2.5.
In the City of St. Thomas, where water is fluoridated, that figure is 1.4 teeth.
CAPTION UNDER PHOTO: MOH wants fluoride in water. Dr. Charles Gardner, medical officer of health for the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, is urging Orillia to fluoridate its drinking water.
“More than another whole cavity is prevented,” Gardner said.
Fluoridation would require an initial investment of $50,000 to $100,000 for equipment, and $25,000 in annual operating costs.