Will fluoridation of the water at the Pointe-Claire plant continue once Montreal initiates its overhaul of water distribution?
Both Dorval and Pointe-Claire mayors have been briefed by Montreal and told there are no plans to discontinue the fluoridation of water at the Pointe-Claire treatment plant once Montreal’s 10-year overhaul of water distribution in the Lachine and Dorval sectors is complete.
Montreal executive committee member Sylvain Ouellet announced last week that the water treatment plants in Lachine and Dorval would be shut down and 23 km of new pipes installed to link Lachine up with plants in the Sud-Ouest and LaSalle boroughs and Dorval to the treatment plant in Pointe-Claire.
Ouellet said the $235 million plan will save the city money in the long run because it costs less to run the larger water plants.
What separates Dorval and Pointe-Claire from the Montreal pack is that the two municipalities add fluoride to the drinking water and Montreal, which includes the borough of Lachine, never has.
“We’ve been told that the supply of fluoride will continue until the equipment breaks,” Pointe-Claire Mayor John Belvedere said. “So the situation, as it is, will be maintained.”
Ouellet’s office did not respond to a reporter’s question about why Montreal does not add fluoride to its drinking water.
The use of fluoride has been hotly debated for years with each side producing what it considers to be definitive reports supporting its stand.
In 2012, the Quebec Director of Public Health published a 12-page document which read, in part,
“Community water fluoridation is the cornerstone of any public program of prevention in oral health. The municipalities concerned should introduce this measure, as all citizens of Quebec have an incentive to drink water that contains enough fluoride. Indeed, several benefits are associated with the immediate introduction of fluoridation in which is a measure recommended for all of Quebec.”
Those in favour argue that adding fluoride to the water supply is a cheap and effective way to prevent cavities in children. Not all families are covered by insurance for dental care, which makes it costly to visit a dentist to get targeted fluoride treatments.
The opposing side argues that fluoridation is tantamount to adding hazardous waste to the water supply and that the efficacy of the practice in terms of cavity control is overstated.
Dentists say they notice a spike in the number of cavities in children when they live in areas where the water is not fluoridated, but then other statistics show that the actual consumption of fluoridated water is very low.
“Most of the fluoridated water is used to wash dishes and water the lawn,” Pointe-Claire Mayor John Belvedere said. “Perhaps there is a more efficient way to treat children’s teeth with fluoride.”
“There have been so many studies,” Dorval Mayor Edgar Rouleau said. “Fifty per cent say yes and 50 per cent say no. It’s like talking about religion. You can’t win. But Dorval citizens wanted it, so we made sure they got it.”
Dorval began adding fluoride to its drinking water in the mid-1950s, but stopped in 2003 because the fluoridation equipment needed an upgrade. Then a battle broke out between Montreal and Dorval about the Dorval’s right to use a $400,000 Quebec government grant it had received to upgrade the equipment. The Quebec government eventually amended a law which granted Dorval the right to upgrade its equipment, which was done in 2007. The Pointe-Claire upgrade was done at the same time.
Rouleau said that even though they’ve been told there will be not change down the road, after Dorval plant has been shut down and the pipes connected to the Pointe-Claire facility, it’s out of their hands.
“At that point, they can do anything they want,” he said.
Health Canada offers a fluoride fact sheet.
The Montreal Gazette’s Andy Riga contributed to this report.