Calgary’s decision to remove fluoride from its drinking water is giving some teeth to anti-fluoride supporters in Red Deer.
Residents who are opposed to the cavity-fighting chemical being added to Red Deer’s water supply are hailing a recent decision by Calgary elected leaders, who voted 10-3 in favour of eliminating it.
The decision in Alberta’s largest city is monumental, according to fluoridation opponent Craig MacKenzie of Red Deer.
“Doesn’t that tell you something?” he said on Monday. “This is tremendous news for Calgary. What a blessing it is for them.”
Ald. Druh Farrell of Calgary spearheaded the effort to eliminate the fluoride because she said it was a matter of ethics.
Red Deer city Councillor Paul Harris agrees.
“I think it’s an ethical debate,” said Harris. “The trend has been to remove it and I think it’s based on personal choice. The fluoride is available in lots of different places.”
Fluoridation of Red Deer’s public water supply is mandated by a plebiscite that was held in the 1950s. The water treatment plant is legally required to continue this practice.
Harris, an opponent of fluoride being added, said he’s had more phone calls about this issue in reaction to Calgary’s decision. He hopes to have the chance to discuss Red Deer’s fluoridation of water during a council retreat workshop later this week.
City manager Craig Curtis said that reopening the fluoridation issue will be up to council or members of the public.
Deputy Mayor Buck Buchanan said he would favour discussing the issue in council chambers.
“With Calgary coming up with the decision they made, it will probably put the rest on notice in Alberta,” Buchanan said. “Nobody asked me on the front end when they decided to put it in in the first place. I just grew up doing the same thing as everyone else. I’ve been pretty fortunate when I’ve gone to the dentist over the years.”
Curtis said removing fluoride from the city’s water supply would only save about $30,000 to $40,000 annually.
The provincial government’s approval levels for fluoride is 0.6 mg to 1.0 mg per litre. Red Deer keeps its levels at 0.7 to 0.8 mg per litre. There is naturally occurring fluoride in the water as well.
In early 2009, fluoride was reintroduced into Red Deer’s water supply after more than a year of not having it due to supply shortages.
About 75 per cent of Alberta communities use fluoridated water. British Columbia is about 95 per cent fluoride-free and Europe is about 98 per cent fluoride-free.
Besides the issue of personal choice, fluoridation opponents believe this chemical is toxic to the human body.
Alberta Health Services disputes this claim, saying scientific studies have not found water fluoridation to cause adverse health effects.
It reports that communities with optimal water fluoride levels have more cavity-free children, and the children who have had decay have less of it. Water fluoridation also works to limit tooth decay in adults, and has an additional positive effect beyond that of using fluoridated toothpaste.
Dr. Steven Patterson, a dentist who was commissioned by Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Andre Corriveau, conducted a recent review of health information on fluoridation.
“As far as we can tell, there’s no new information to suggest the benefits of fluoridation have been reduced,” said Digby Horne, one of three medical officers of health for the Central zone of Alberta Health Services.
Alberta Health Services refers to systematic reviews, representing years of work examining thousands of documents, for its research into fluoridation. Three have been done in the last decade in three different countries.
One systematic review was done in the United States in 2001. It looked at 21 studies showing decay rates measured before and after water fluoridation. There was a median decrease of 29.1 per cent among children ages four to 17 years when compared with control groups.