OTTAWA — The city’s chief medical officer of health is dismissing concerns from a fledgling Ottawa group that the presence of fluoride in the city’s water supply is harmful.

A new group called Fluoridation Free Ottawa has started a campaign to rid the water supply of fluoride, which is added to prevent tooth decay, saying it contains such agents as arsenic, lead and mercury that could cause serious health problems. The group says more than 90 per cent of European countries don’t fluoridate water and it wants the City of Ottawa to end the practice.

Richard Hudon, who in a news release lists himself as president of the group, could not be reached for comment, but in a statement Hudon warned Ottawa residents about the danger.

“Fluoride can affect your kidneys, your liver, your bones, your nervous system, your brain …. Fluoride poisoning will initially feel a lot like arthritis and accumulates in your bones and can affect IQ and the thyroid,” Hudon said.

“The problem is a lot of the public just doesn’t realize the dangers.”

But public health officials dismiss the group’s concerns, saying research by reputable institutions and agencies ranging from Health Canada to the Ontario Medical Association and the World Health Organization have all concluded that fluoride is safe, and people should not worry about their drinking water.

In a statement to the Citizen, Ottawa’s medical officer of health Dr. Isra Levy said Ottawa Public Health has reviewed a number of major studies that have examined the issue and concluded that fluoride poses no public health danger. He pointed out that many natural water sources in the Ottawa area, as well as some bottled water, contain higher levels of fluoride than Ottawa’s drinking water.

“Water fluoridation is endorsed by all reputable health organizations …. Despite claims to the contrary, they all confirmed that there is no credible scientific evidence to suggest adverse health effects related to water fluoridation,” Levy said.

“In spite of the overwhelming evidence, a great deal of anecdotal information continues to circulate. Detailed review of this information has shown that it is not based on scientific or thorough research.”

Other experts agree. Carleton University chemistry professor Bob Burk said city authorities often add several substances such as chlorine to kill bacteria, and fluoride is added to ensure healthy teeth. He said the levels of fluoride in drinking water are tightly regulated, and what’s allowed in water is not harmful. Burk said the maximum allowable concentration of fluoride is 1.5 milligrams for a litre of water. But typically in operation, what’s used is 0.7 milligrams of fluoride per litre of water, which offers the best protection against dental cavities.

“As far as we are aware, there’s no observable effect at these concentrations,” he said.

Burk said scientists have established that the level at which no observable harmful effect of fluoride in water is detected, is 15 milligrams per litre.

“There is no observable effect even at 10 times the maximum concentration,” he added.

The issue of water fluoridation flared up in Calgary last year when despite the opposition of the city’s chief medical officer of health, council voted to remove fluoride from the water supply. Supporters of the move questioned the safety of fluoride in drinking water, saying there was insufficient medical evidence that keeping the substance in water has any benefit.