The Windsor-Essex County Environment Committee voted Thursday to recommend Windsor consider ending fluoridation of its tap water after learning that fluoride can harm wildlife and not just human beings.
“It’s something that slipped under the radar,” said Tamara Stomp, deputy mayor of Kingsville, referring to how governments have simply taken it for granted that fluoridation is safe.
A presentation by Fluoride Free Windsor and a medical geologist cited research showing that fluoride from tap water ends up in rivers and lakes, affecting aquatic species, and raising red flags about the effects on human beings – especially infants.
“Health Canada has failed to consider the long term effects (of fluoridation),” said Kimberly DeYong of Fluoride Free Windsor.
While Health Canada has set 1.5 milligrams per litre as an acceptable level for fluoride in tap water, it is far above the 0.12 milligrams level set by Environment Canada for the protection of aquatic species, she said.
Windsor uses about 0.56 to 0.75 milligrams of fluoride per litre.
The majority of the tap water is sent back into the water system, DeYong said. About one per cent is used to drink.
The fluoride agent used in Windsor tap water is not a natural product, either, said Heather Gingerich, a medical geologist, but rather the industrial byproduct of phosphate fertilizer production.
Hydrofluorosilicic acid, as it is known, is corrosive and has to be handled very carefully – unlike naturally occurring fluoride – and contains contaminants such as arsenic and lead, Gingerich said. (The fluoride used in toothpaste is not the same type, she said.)
“It’s time we looked hard at fluoridation,” Coun. Alan Halberstadt said before the committee voted.
After the committee makes its recommendation to city council, the city will conduct its own research to determine whether to stop adding fluoride to the water.
Other committee members suggested comparing data showing the number of cavities in municipalities that don’t fluoridate their water. If the numbers are comparable, then the issue is worth examining, said Shahbaz Ahmed.
Last month, Lakeshore voted to stop fluoridating its tap water after the town council examined research and concluded fluoridation did not present any additional benefits.
Tamara Stomp says communities have simply taken it for granted that fluoride is safe.