Despite an impassioned plea from a Prince Albert resident backed by a Canadian medical scholar, the city is cleared to resume the fluoridation of its drinking water.
Local health advocate Maureen Logue first brought the issue to city council about a year ago, around the same time the city stopped injecting fluoride into its drinking water due to ongoing renovations.
With fluoridation set to re-commence in about a week’s time, Logue made one final plea for city council to reconsider their fluoridation policy during Monday’s city council meeting.
“It’s unethical to enforce a drug, because fluoride is not a nutrient,” she said. “If people, through their own choice, want to fluoridate, we have so many sources of fluoridation.”
By international law, it’s illegal to dump fluoride in oceans, she said — “and we’re drinking it!”
Logue backed her argument with a number of points University of Calgary medical biophysics Prof. James Beck provided her.
Beck co-authored the book, “The Case Against Fluoride: How Hazardous Waste Ended Up in Our Drinking Water and the Bad Science and Powerful Politics That Keep It There.”
Although fluoride may be beneficial when applied topically, fluoride in drinking water is ingested — something Beck notes in his research as carrying potentially harmful side effects such as dental fluorosis.
Even its alleged positive effects were questioned by Logue, who noted, citing literature by Beck, that “dental cavities for various reasons have gone down all over the world … In non-fluoridated communities, it has gone down just as much or (more) than fluoridated.”
In a letter to city council, Beck listed various adverse health effects linked to fluoride, including lower IQs in children, early onset of menstruation, low sperm counts and adversely affecting the kidneys, among other things.
Providing a pro-fluoride stance, College of Dental Surgeons of Saskatchewan executive director Jerod Orb also spoke during Monday’s meeting.
In Canada, about 45 per cent of communities have fluoridated water — its benefits obvious to citizens that have it, he asserted.
“It reduces tooth decay anywhere from 18 to 40 per cent,” he said. “That is why we see our long-term care facilities more and more full of seniors with their natural teeth.”
Saskatoon fluoridates its water and Regina doesn’t, he said, noting that a 2009 study cited twice as many cavities in Regina kids.
“It’s proven to be safe,” he concluded. “At the recommended levels it’s safe — excessive, it isn’t.”
In Prince Albert, the naturally occurring fluoride is topped up to 0.7 parts per million, which is shy of the country’s maximum acceptable concentration of 1.5.
Backing Orb’s pro-fluoride stance, Prince Albert Parkland Health Region dental health educator Dwight Krauss said that fluoridation is free because “it benefits the entire spectrum of the population.”
“It’s a huge benefit. The costs of getting restorations done — I think everyone’s aware of that.”
When it comes to dental fluorosis, Krauss handed a chart to the city’s elected officials highlighting its prevalence. Although 40.3 per cent of the population has questionable to mild levels of dental fluorosis, it may actually make the tooth more resistant to decay, his handout reads.
Only 0.3 per cent of the population has severe dental fluorosis, which is likely caused by additional outside factors, he said after his presentation.
After hearing both sides of the debate and considering correspondence from a few additional sources that outlined numerous additional arguments, Mayor Greg Dionne told council that now is the time to make a decision.
“It’s a no-win situation,” he said. “The yeas have all their facts in line, the nays have all their facts in line.”
With the only dissenting comment from council coming from Coun. Ted Zurakowski, who noted that the city would save money by not injecting fluoride, council voted in favour of fluoridation.
City public works director Colin Innes confirmed that after more than a year of being offline, the city’s new fluoridation equipment is almost good to go.
“It’s either very close to us being able to feed, already, or that we’re within a week or so of being able to do it.”
Questioning much of what was presented to the city’s elected officials, Logue said after the meeting that she’s not done addressing the fluoridation issue, and plans on remaining in contact with Beck to plan the next course of action.
With fluoride injection set to recommence within the next week, she wants to warn the public — particularly the most vulnerable, such as people with babies — that not all professionals agree that it’s safe.