Fluoride Action Network

Hamilton: City weighs fluoridated water costs, dental care

Source: The Hamilton Spectator | July 10th, 2008 | By Nicole Macintyre
Location: Canada, Ontario

The city is debating how to protect your smile.

Councillors want more information on the cost of targeted dental programs that would allow Hamilton to remove fluoride from its water.

Health and dental experts say the move isn’t necessary, but some councillors are worried about the chemical’s potential adverse health effects.

“How many people will be sacrificed to save someone from cavities?” asked Councillor Terry Whitehead at a meeting yesterday.

Fluoride was added to water systems across the country decades ago when studies showed it decreased tooth decay. About 45 per cent of Canadians have access to fluoridated water, according to Health Canada, which recently reviewed the chemical’s use. The agency ruled fluoride is safe in small doses in the water and continues to have health benefits.

“The benefits outweigh the risks,” said Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, the city’s medical officer of health.

Still, debate over the use of fluoride in water continues. Niagara recently voted not to fluoridate its water.

City staff acknowledge many people already get fluoride from toothpaste and regular dentist visits. But they argue fluoridated water is important for people who can’t afford proper care. Critics, on the other hand, argue the chemical isn’t effective in water or safe.

“People should have confidence in tap water and that’s not going to happen until we don’t have fluoride,” resident Cindy Mayor told council yesterday.

She linked her own health problem to the chemical and only drinks distilled or spring water.

Hamilton must decide if it wants to continue to fluoridate its water because the equipment needs to be replaced at the water treatment plant. The new system will cost $2.1 million. The price of the chemical is also on the rise and is expected to cost $1 million a year.

If the city stopped fluoride, public health advocates say it would need to be replaced with dental programs to ensure residents living in poverty receive care.

The program could cost anywhere from $250,000 to $1.8 million depending on its scope. Staff plan to report back in the fall with more details.