A local advocacy group is seeking to reopen a debate about the safety and effectiveness of putting fluoride in the drinking water, in the first city in Canada to do it.
Terry Wilson and Casey Moore of We Are Change Brantford are gathering signatures on a petition call for the city to end water fluoridation. The group claims new scientific studies show that consumption of sodium fluoride does not affect dental health in the ways that the public has been told, and that the chemical can have negative side effects.
Meanwhile, city administrations aware of the latest initiative by anti-fluoridation forces continue to stress that the process is safe.
A report on the subject from the environmental services department is going forward to council, to be discussed at the operations and administration committee on Monday.
In the past week, the group’s petition has garnered nearly 500 signatures, collected almost exclusively in the downtown. They say they plan to visit every neighbourhood in the city until they get 10,000 signatures, or more than the 10% required to force a question to be put on a ballot.
In an interview at The Expositor on Monday, Moore said despite widespread acceptance of assurances for years that fluoride is useful in the dental health fight and is safe when put in drinking water at the rate of one part per million, a debate continues in the scientific community with researchers and authorities lining up on each side.
“There are a thousand people and articles saying it isn’t safe and a thousand saying it is,” said Moore, who, along with Wilson, has amassed reams of pro and con literature.
“Even that indicates there should at least be a public debate about it.”
The two are surprised at how widely accepted water fluoridation is in Brantford, which in 1945 became the first Canadian city to adopt the practice and the third community in North America.
In fact, it’s so accepted, they found, that as they have been walking about gathering signatures they cont i n u a l l y meet people who weren’t even aware their water is fluoridated. They realize they have a tough selling job on their hands.
Selvi Kongara, a water engineer in the environmental services department, said Brantford follows the Ministry of the Environment’s guidelines in the Safe Drinking Water Act. The city is allowed to stay in the range of 0.4 milligrams per litre and 0.8 milligrams per litre in application, and must not exceed 1.5 milligrams per litre, she said.
“Where fluoridation is concerned, we rely on the Brant Medical Officer of Health to advise us on the actions we need to take,” said Kongara.
“The water we supply is safe. Regarding health impacts, we take the advice of the MOH. Usually once every couple of years we get this question and we refer it there. Each time, the answer is the same, to keep putting it in.”