“I’m relieved, because I wouldn’t consider drinking the water otherwise, because you can’t even get it out with a Brita filter,” Maureen Logue said.
“It violates sound medical ethics and denies freedom of choice.”
The city’s water fluoridation program has been in place since a 1956 referendum saw residents vote in its favour.
“It’s not being applied to the water right now because construction at the water treatment plant is ongoing,” the city’s manager of capital projects and planning Scott Golding explained.
With the city’s removal of the contractors working on $13.4 million in upgrades to the city’s water treatment plant last month, it’s currently unknown when the city’s water fluoridation program will be back online.
“The new chemical feed system is not yet complete at this time,” Golding said.
“The cost of installing the new fluoride system is expected to be less than $75,000 once all work is finished.”
Although Logue noted her objection to the city injecting fluoride into the drinking water during a city council meeting nearly seven months ago, council’s yet to again address the issue.
When council does make a decision, at least two local dentists hope they vote in favour of fluoridation.
“From everything I’ve read, it’s at the optimal recommended level,” Dr. Terry Lang said. “Most dentists probably agree with the Canadian Dental Association that there are benefits to fluoridated water.”
The key benefit comes in the form of added protection from tooth decay.
Under Health Canada’s drinking water guidelines, the maximum acceptable concentration of fluoride in drinking water is 1.5 parts per million. When operating, the City of Prince Albert’s drinking water is set at 0.7 parts per million.
“Even without the deliberate addition of fluoride to water, background levels are still found in the water at about 1/10th of the city’s targeted concentration,” Golding notes.
“That’s not to say that at high dosage, fluoride isn’t an issue,” Lang said, adding that at the levels of fluoride present in the city’s drinking water, there’s no issue.
In fact, it’s communities with lower levels of fluoride that have greater issue when it comes to tooth decay, with higher rates noted in communities without a fluoridation program.
Evidence supporting fluoridation is “overwhelming,” Dr. Louie Kriel said, and is particularly useful among those low on the socioeconomic ladder.
“If their dental hygiene isn’t optimal, at last they get the fluoride in the water,” she said.
Anti-fluoride discussion seems to pop up every few years, Kriel noted, with people accusing fluoride treatment of ill health effects.
“It’s amazing people jump on a bandwagon when they don’t know anything about it,” she said.
“I don’t think there’s been a substance so tested,” Lang noted.
The issue of fluoridation has been debated in Prince Albert since 1954, when a group calling themselves the Anti-Fluoridation Committee of Prince Albert was formed, which convinced city council to hold a referendum on the issue, which voted in favour of fluoridation in 1956.
The basis for a referendum vote was laid out in a June 22, 1954, Daily Herald account of that week’s council meeting.
“The committee based its argument on the ‘divergence of professional opinion, where one side can show only good results and benefits by adding sodium fluoride to the drinking water supply and the other side of scientific opinion presents … only the health hazards which will be endured by us in the future with the use of the same process,’” the article reads.
The same atmosphere exists today, with Logue encouraging residents to visit the Fluoride Action Network website at www.fluoridealert.org to learn more about the anti-fluoride viewpoint.
“The ultimate decision is by city council,” Golding said. “Administration’s suggestion to city council is to maintain the program.”
The city’s elected officials are currently awaiting a report outlining the Prince Albert Parkland Health Region and the provincial Ministry of Health’s opinion on the matter, which they will consider prior to making a decision.