Calgary is once again preparing to tackle the issue of water fluoridation, one of the longest and most contentious debates in Canadian history.
Advocates argue that fluoridated drinking water is a safe and effective way to reduce cavities. Opponents call it a poison and a gross infringement of individual rights.
When first introduced, it was decried as a Communist plot.
The Herald was on the fluoride bandwagon when it first came up as a Calgary plebiscite issue in 1957. Over the past two decades, our position has been one of increasing skepticism.
Despite growing credible research citing the potential deleterious effects of ingesting fluoride, the practice of fluoridating water continues to be endorsed by more than 90 national and international professional health organizations including Health Canada, the Canadian Dental Association and the Canadian Medical Association.
This overwhelming support from the medical establishment does little to dissuade us. We believe it is time for Calgary to remove fluoride from its drinking water.
Swallowing fluoride was thought to be good practice in the 1950s and 1060s [sic], but it is clear from modern research that the topical application of fluoride is more beneficial than ingesting drinking water that contains a chemical additive.
With exceptions such as Scotland, where fluoridation is being advocated to reduce tooth decay, the worldwide incidence in cavity rates is on the decline, regardless of whether water is fluoridated. Factors that might be preventing caries include increased exposure to vitamin D, better oral hygiene, less sugar consumption, fluoridated toothpaste and even antibiotics.
One need only look at the minuscule difference in decay rates in Quebec, where practically no one drinks fluoridated water, and Ontario, which has the country’s highest rate of adding the chemical into municipal supplies.
Media reports earlier this year of Statistics Canada figures showed that among children aged six to 19, considered the most decay-prone part of the population, the rate in Ontario was lower by less than half a cavity per child.
Due to smaller population sample, a similar comparison could not be made between British Columbia, where there is little fluoridated water, and Alberta, where nearly three-quarters of the population has municipally fluoridated water supplies.
A number of medical studies have linked fluoride exposure to altered thyroid function.
In 2005, Harvard researchers found that boys exposed to high levels of fluoridated water were about four times more likely to develop childhood osteosarcoma, the rare bone cancer that caused the death of Canadian icon Terry Fox. The National Kidney Foundation altered its position on fluoride in 2008, contending there are risks.
Some demographics may benefit from fluoridation, including the children of low-income families. There are other ways of serving such groups, including school-wide fluoridation programs and free dental products.
The majority deserve to not have it forced down their throats every time they turn on the tap.
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