Dr. Melissa Généreux, director of Santé Public Estrie, the Eastern Townships public health division, is hoping that voter turnout is high for the upcoming public consultation on water fluoridation in Richmond.
According to Généreux as many as 60 per cent of adults in the Eastern Townships are in favour of water fluoridation, based on a study conducted this summer, which leads her to believe that those standing in opposition to the program represent a vocal minority in the issue.
“We have good reason to believe that there are lots of people in favour who are just not being heard,” the public health director said, citing this summer’s study. The study, based on a random representative sample of 9,000 adults in the Eastern Townships, showed 70 per cent of respondents were hooked up to municipal water systems, with 60 per cent of those stating that they support of water fluoridation. By contrast, Généreux said that only 30 per cent of those on municipal systems said that they were opposed, with the remaining ten per cent saying that they were either indifferent or unsure about the matter.
“We have nothing to sell,” Généreux said. “Our only goal is increased public health (…) If there was any health risk we would never recommend (fluoridation).”
The public health representative pointed out that the safety limit established for fluoride in water, the point above which it has been determined that the substance is too concentrated to be safe, has been set at 1.5 milligrams per litre. The standard for municipal water fluoridation programs is 0.7 mg per litre, less than half of the limit.
Généreux pointed out that the practice of adding small amounts of fluoride to drinking water has been endorsed by more than 90 different organizations on the national and international level including Health Canada, the World Health Organization and a variety of Canadian and American medical and dental associations. She proceeded to offer up the same proofs that have failed to convince detractors of the program in the past.
Généreux also pointed to what she called a “drastic” decrease in cavities among kindergarteners at École Plein Coeur since 2010 when the program came into effect, as well as the fact that water fluoridation has the best cost-to-benefit ratio of any oral health intervention, producing a reduction of $80 in dental procedure costs for every $1 put into fluoridation programs.
Water fluoridation, Généreux said, has been proven to reduce the number of and frequency of cavities in populations.
Despite the perspective that Townshippers are supportive of the practice overall, the Public Health Director said that she had the impression that many of those standing in opposition to water fluoridation are parents of young children, and said that in that light, she could understand the drive for a person to question something she or he thinks might be dangerous to a child.
“It’s normal to question the security of our children, I know, I am a mother as well,” Généreux said, “but I want parents to understand that these programs work to everyone’s benefit.”
The doctor said that the benefits of water fluoridation are of particular significance for young children, as the early access to small but regular amounts of fluoride help to develop strong teeth that will better stand up to the tests of time.
Généreux did admit that fluoridation alone is not enough to magically solve the problem of dental cavities, instead putting the practice into a trio of healthy approaches alongside good nutrition and excellent oral hygiene. She said that the Public Health administration is not suggesting fluoridation as a replacement for healthy habits, but rather as a way of supporting the overall oral health of the community in a cost-effective way.
“Fluoridation is safe, proven and worthwhile,” Généreux said pointing out that 70 per cent of the population of Ontario and the United States has access to fluoridated water.
The matter of water fluoridation will come to a vote in Richmond this coming Sunday, Oct. 19.
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NOTE FROM FLUROIDE ACTION NETWORK: 76% of the Richmond voters against fluoridation.