Fairview Town council again discussed whether the town should discontinue the fluoridation of town water or not as Associated Engineering sent engineer Rudy Chan to do a presentation on fluoridation.
There was no decision and the town continues to look to ratepayers for input.
Chan began by saying he is not an expert on fluoridation and had the information in his presentation compiled by a colleague who had experience as a dental hygienist as well as a passion for dental health.
Fluorine is a naturally occurring element that is present to some degree in all water, for dental health purposes the optimal concentration is 0.7 milligrams per litre (mg/l) with 1.5 mg/l being the maximum acceptable level.
Prolonged exposure to fluoride above 1.5 mg/l can cause fluorosis which is unsightly staining of the teeth. Skeletal fluorosis (a bone disease causing pain and damage to joints) can occur after 10 years of exposure to levels of 10 mg/l.
He also said that fluoridation is recognized as important in preventing tooth decay by 90 national health organizations.
Chan said a number of communities have decided to not fluoridate their water including Athabasca, Grande Prairie, Spirit River, City of Calgary and Slave Lake. Locally, the Town of Manning and M.D. of Northern Lights still add fluoride to their water.
Chan did say that the water treatment plant for Athabasca supplies water to a number of communities, some of which agree with fluoridation and some that don’t but if they come to an agreement the water treatment plant is equipped to begin injection immediately.
Councillor Tony Prybysh asked what the physical hazards of the chemical are for water treatment plant operators – before it is injected into the water supply.
Chan explained that as long as the operators wear the proper personal protective equipment, they are safe handling the chemical.
Councillor Tim Schindel asked what fluoridation costs and Garry Leathem estimated that of the $85,000 spent on chemicals annually, about $8,000 of it goes for fluoridation.
However, he added that water testing to verify the levels can take up to four hours so fluoridation is labour intensive.
Councillor Prybysh said he still did not consider it expensive even adding in the testing costs as the price of poor dental health is something he had seen from the first days of his dental practice.
Council discussed the somewhat strange fact that while it is only too high levels of fluoridation that are a health risk, the town must report itself as non-compliant if the level of fluoride in the water goes too low or too high.
Presently, town administration is trying to get the town water license modified to allow them to shut the fluoride injection system off if they are having problems getting it at the proper level rather than reporting the system as being non-compliant.
CAO Larry Davidson said he could try for an amendment to the license so having a low level of fluoride would not be considered being non-compliant.
CAO Larry Davidson presented council with a letter from Alberta Health Services expressing interest in doing a presentation to council about fluoridation and asking to be informed about the process the town is going through to make the decision.
For the moment, town administration will post information on fluoridation on its website or Facebook page and see what kind of responses they get between now and September, at which time they will be holding a public meeting to discuss the question.
For more information, websites provided by Alberta Health include Fluoridation: questions and answers: www.albertahealthservices.ca/5453.asp and Fluoridation: what does science say: www.albertahealthservices.ca/3474.asp.