Last week, I wrote about the ongoing junk-science campaign against water-fluoridation, which has resulted, most recently, in the city of Waterloo, Ont. removing fluoride from its water system. In documenting the history of the anti-fluoridation movement, I relied on the work of Gretchen Ann Reilly, whose U.S.-focused research appeared in the 2004 book The Politics of Healing. But I have since been delighted to learn that a Canadian scholar, Rachel Elder, has done a study of the anti-fluoridation movement right here in Canada. Her work appeared in a 2008 edition of The Canadian Historical Review.
Elder’s work is important for anyone who wants to put the current Canadian controversy over water fluoridation in context. As she shows, water fluoridation long has been supported by the Canadian medical establishment — notwithstanding anti-fluoridationists’ attempts to cite spurious, non-peer-reviewed studies purporting to show that fluoridated water causes cancer or other serious illnesses.
Anyone interested in the issue should read Elder’s article. But here are some highlights I thought were particularly interesting:
• Montreal remains one of the last Canadian cities to continuously reject large-scale water-fluoridation, a legacy of mayor Jean Drapeau’s belief that the practice was an infringement on personal liberties. (This explain why, as a child growing up in Montreal, I was forced to submit to “fluoride treatments” at Dr. Weinstein’s office every 6 months.)
• The recent referendum result in Waterloo, Ont. was nothing new. Between 1960 and 1966, there were 136 referendums or plebiscites on water fluoridation in Canada. Fluoridation lost more than 60% of the time.
• The first Canadian city to fluoridate its water? Brantford, Ont. in the mid-1940s. (Brantford, of course, is also where Wayne Gretzky was born. Coincidence?)
• In 1969, Canadian Doctor magazine published an editorial against water fluoridation by one Dr. K.A. Baird. According to Baird, fluoridation led to increasing “mongolism” in children. (Baird’s article was duly circulated by the Canadian League of Rights, a racist group that opposed fluoridation.)
• Not all the General Jack D. Rippers were in America: A Strangelovian Vancouver activist, Reverend Herbert Robinson, published a pamphlet called “Fluorides: The Poisoning of a Whole Race,” in which he argued that fluoride was a communist plot. One of his coverts was Dr. Watson Kirkconnell, the President of Acadia University, who declared: “If we have to choose between sound teeth and healthy brains, I would vote for brains.”
• In 1976, the Provincial Council of Women of British Columbia, which opposed fluoridation, passed a resolution as follows: “The right to determine what shall be done to one’s own body is fundamental and one should not be forced to take medication …” In other words: My teeth, my choice.