Lambton County’s medical officer of health is ready to defend fluoride use in drinking water now that the divisive debate has been reopened.
“We’ve had to go to bat for fluoride periodically over the time that I’ve been here,” Dr. Chris Greensmith said Thursday. “It can be an extremely contentious issue . . . about two years ago, we made a presentation to support it, and I don’t see any reason to change that.”
Point Edward Mayor Dick Kirkland is seeking support to have the cavity-fighting chemical removed from local drinking water because of potential health impacts.
A Health Canada study has recommended lower levels of fluoride in drinking water because infants now ingest it from many different sources.
The optimal target should be of 0.7 milligrams per litre, the agency said. The maximum concentration currently acceptable is 1.5 milligrams.
The drinking water piped to most Sarnia-Lambton homes and businesses contains 0.5 to 0.8 milligrams, well below the maximum.
“The bottom-line is that we’ve achieved the levels they’re recommending for many years,” Greensmith said. “It’s been 10 years at least. Even at maximum levels, there are unlikely to be adverse effects.”
Fifty years of usage has demonstrated fluoride is safe, Greensmith added.
“I don’t make these decisions by myself. It’s part of a weight of evidence that comes from national and international public health agencies.”
Sarnia City Coun. Anne Marie Gillis said she also wants to revisit the debate, which became heated at city hall in 2005.
“If we take it out of the water we’re still going to have it in the toothpaste,” she said. “You’re getting a double and sometimes a triple hit.”
Coun. Dave Boushy was around in the 1960s when fluoride was introduced to drinking water to fight tooth decay. He said let sleeping dogs lie.
“This is the most divisive issue that will ever hit Sarnia . . . There was really a lot of fear-mongering going on,” he said.
Greensmith said health unit staff support breast-feeding over baby formulas made with tap water. That eliminates much of the worry over fluoride exposure and is a healthy practice.
But one should get too worried about one study, he said.
“You have to look at the overwhelming weight of evidence. That’s what has been done again nationally and there isn’t any new evidence that supports claims of bone problems, cancer problems or developmental problems.”