A burgeoning anti-fluoride movement has not swayed Algoma Public Health support for infusing the municipal water system with the chemical, which average Sault Ste. Marie residents have opposed for decades.
“We have always supported the concept of water fluoridation and we never changed our position on that, because the research and the World Health Organization supports this as the best approach from a population health perspective,” said Laurie Boston, APH dental services program director.
Calgary is the latest city to take a second look at mass fluoridation. The city’s Utilities and Environment committee voted last Wednesday to remove it after two decades, although the final say will be up to city councillors.
Waterloo residents voted by a small margin to remove it last year, and Lethbridge, Alta., is also preparing to debate the matter.
Sault Ste. Marie residents have three times roundly rejected adding the chemical to their drinking water. The last time was in 1985, by a margin of 63.5%, an even higher margin than the two previous referendums, in 1968 and 1970.
At that time, the city was said to be one of just four Ontario municipalities with populations over 80,000 that did not fluoridate. Wawa residents opted to add fluoride in the same municipal election and folks in the Michigan Sault drink fluoridated water.
In 2007, then city councillor James Caicco attempted to bring the matter before the public again but other councillors prevented the matter from getting that far.
Recent studies show too much fluoride can result in streaks or splotches on the teeth, and in rare cases can lead to more serious problems.
But Boston maintains the “current research” shows adding fluoride to tap water is the most simple, cost-effective way to strengthen and develop children’s teeth.
Having said that, health units officials “don’t have any plans at this point to move it back to any kind of vote.”
For the time being, she said the public has other methods to keep their teeth strong. “We do support fluoridated toothpaste and regular dental checkups with your dental provider. At that time your dental provider will give you advise if you or your child needs dental supplements.”
The scene is a familiar one in Calgary: medical practitioners on one side supporting fluoridation and a loud segment of the public railing against its unknown health effects.
However, one former dental assistant said her family have been drinking bottled water for years because her son developed dental fluorosis, a condition caused by over-exposure. “It’s an industrial waste by-product and we’ve been sold on the story that it reduces tooth decay in children,” said Colleen Cran.
Other jurisdictions such as Asheville, N.C., are reducing the amount of fluoride in their water systems. The town of 125,000 recently lowered the amount by 30%, in response to concerns expressed about how excess levels of fluoride can affect people’s teeth.
The move is in conjunction with an announcement from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that it will lower the recommended level of fluoride in drinking water for the first time in nearly 50 years.
— With files from QMI Agency