Everyone is suddenly using the F-word.
I don’t recall the issue surfacing during the civic election campaign last fall. But suddenly, council wants to talk about removing fluoride from Calgary’s drinking water, and just as suddenly, everyone is weighing in with instant vehemence, as if they’d been fulminating on it for a long time and the fulminations, unable to simmer below the surface any more, have burst forth. A couple of weeks ago, the word “fluoride” wasn’t on anyone’s lips, and I think it’s safe to say, the vast majority of people were filling their glasses with tap water with nary a thought to it.
Now, it’s an instant hot-button item. Weird.
Regardless, it’s hard not to get sucked into the debate. Each side produces reams of studies to counter the other side’s arguments. Furiously dredging up links to articles, both factions try to out-URL each other, as though the one to get the last word in, the last link, the last article, the last and loudest shout, will win the day.
The articles both sides produce are equally convincing. Fluoride in the water, the pro-fluoride articles declare, has been a huge public health success. Dental decay is practically a thing of the past. Fluoride in the water, the anti-fluoride articles declare, is forced mass medication; it causes fluorosis, it may cause cancer, etc. It is literally impossible for a layperson to know who’s right.
Should we believe what dentists tell us? Hmm, they all seem to be singing from the same hymn book. That’s suspicious. But is it? After all, if anyone would benefit from fluoride-free water, it would be the dentists, as they’d have a lot more patients with cavities, and a lot more profit.
The Canadian Cancer Society, on its website, describes numerous studies that show no evidence that fluoride in the water is linked to osteosarcoma, a form of cancer, in boys. Yet, it also talks about a study that seemed to show a link, until it was adjusted for socioeconomic factors. Then it talks about a study done on rats which offers “uncertain evidence that exposure to very high levels of fluoride in drinking water (100 or 175 parts per million, or milligrams per litre) increases the risk of osteosarcoma in male rats.” It says that subsequent studies didn’t confirm this finding. Then, it mentions another study in which rats were given fluoride at levels 200 times greater than what Canadians have in their water, and the rats did not have more cases of osteosarcoma. A more recent study showed an increased risk in boys drinking water with target levels of fluoridation, “relative to boys who consumed water containing 70 per cent less fluoride.” But that study had flaws, including its size.
The Canadian Cancer Society concludes: “On the basis of current evidence, it appears unlikely that water fluoridation increases the risk of osteosarcoma in humans,” but also notes that “in May 2009, the California Environmental Protection Agency announced that they would be evaluating the cancer risks associated with fluoride consumption. This review has been designated as a high priority.”
What a jumble of confusing information for the layperson to think about.
The situation was best summed up two years ago by Coun. Larry Johnson of Cranberry Portage, Manitoba, when his town stopped fluoridating the water supply. According to the Reminder, a newspaper in Flin Flon, Cranberry Portage stopped fluoridating because fluoride in the water was above recommended levels, the town had trouble obtaining fluoride along with the chemicals required for testing amounts in the water, and there were health concerns.
“There’s lots of pros and cons to it; it just depends who you talk to,” Johnson told the Reminder. Cranberry Portage’s decision, however, may eventually be reversed.
That’s it in a nutshell. You don’t know where the truth lies. And that’s why fluoride should be removed from Calgary’s drinking water.
“Appears unlikely” — to borrow the Canadian Cancer Society’s words — has a hesitant quality to it.
I believe that when in doubt, it’s best to err on the side of not ingesting chemicals.
One of the reasons the market for organic produce has burgeoned is that frightened consumers want to reduce the amount of chemicals they’re taking in. Remember back in 2006 when Wendy Mesley, host of CBC’s Marketplace, had the levels of toxins in her blood tested? “… the results show I’m full of carcinogens,” said Mesley, who had breast cancer.
Aren’t we concerned about herbicides on our lawns, pesticides on our fruit, carcinogens in our cosmetics, methylparabens in our shampoo and mercury in our tuna? Then, we should also be concerned about fluoride in our drinking water. Get it out of there. We ingest more than enough of a witches’ brew of chemicals every day, given all the products we use that have dubious stuff in them. When we have the choice to avoid a chemical, we should exercise that choice.
Take fluoride out of the water — and remove it from the toxic overload our bodies are already dealing with.