A Côte St. Luc woman who wants city council to pass a resolution calling for the local public water supply to have fluoride added has won the support of Mayor Anthony Housefather.
“You certainly laid out good reasons why fluoridation should occur in the water system and I personally support it,” said Housefather, after listening last week to Dr. Shirley Blaichman’s pro-fluoridation arguments.
According to Blaichman, who practices paediatric medicine at the Montreal Children’s Hospital, the City of Montreal, which furnishes water to Côte St. Luc, is the last North American municipality of its size that does not add fluoride to its water.
“There is presently an alarming epidemic of dental caries amongst Montreal children, highest in underprivileged areas,” she told city council, adding that in certain neighbourhoods of Montreal up to 60 per cent of children have caries.
Montreal children have 77 per cent more caries, compared to children in areas of Quebec where the water is fluoridated, she maintained. In Côte St. Luc, she said, 21 per cent of kindergarten children in 2003 had an average of 14 dental caries, compared to eight per cent in the City of Dorval where the water was fluoridated during that period.
“Dental health is a global part of global health,” said Blaichman. “Children with caries suffer with pain, inability to eat properly, sleep and school difficulties.” She said that at the Montreal Children’s Hospital, 300 children, most of them pre-schoolers, are on an 18-month waiting list to have their caries repaired under general anaesthesia.
“Water fluoridation is the most cost-effective method for dental caries prevention, particularly as it reaches the poor and disadvantaged population group with the highest risk of dental caries.” Blaichman noted that in Quebec, the Ministry of Health assumes the entire cost of fluoridation, so there’s no cost to municipalities.
She said fluoride is a naturally-occurring element which is already present in small amounts in the City of Montreal’s water system. Montreal water has .15 milligrams of fluoride per litre. She said a water fluoridation program would raise that to .7 milligrams per litre.
“Water fluoridation at this recommended concentration is safe for the environment and is safe for human health.,” said Blaichman. “Over 50 years of research and 27,000 published studies support the safety of water fluoridation. Water fluoridation is a highly-effective, safe and economical strategy for control of dental caries in both children and adults.”
Although council had no fluoridation resolution on its agenda last week, Housefather said Councillor Dida Berku had asked that one be put forward for discussion by a committee, after which a decision will be taken whether or not to adopt it.
While acknowledging that he grew up in a West Island community where there was fluoridation “and I never had a cavity in my life,” Housefather added, “that’s just personal experience,” although “I think I agree that fluoridation is advisable. I know that the City of Montreal for some reason debates that, but we need to have discussion in council.