Kingston city council appears to have moved quickly from exploring and investigating the feasibility of fluoridating our water to voting soon on the issue. This is a startling development given that in three past municipal referendums, the majority of Kingston voters opposed municipal water fluoridation. This issue is simply too important to rush. Since drinking water is essential to life, it seems only fair and democratic to respect the previous referendum outcomes until another is held, rather than fast-tracking a proposal that really does need more careful consideration. A referendum in the next municipal election would demonstrate walking the talk on “open government,” not to mention the well-established medical practice of informed consent.
Kingstonians are certainly not informed on the issue of fluoridation when in public media statements proponents of fluoridation suggest that fluoride is “naturally occurring” — and therefore implied as safe. Yet, what is proposed to be added to our water supply is not the naturally occurring form of fluoride called calcium fluoride, but rather the synthetic compound hydrofluorosilicic acid, which is a hazardous waste byproduct of the phosphate fertilizer manufacturing process. By design, this non-pharmaceutical-grade hydrofluorosilicic acid would be injected into the water supply and thus absorbed into the entire human body even though the targeted area is just the surface of the teeth.
It is true that on the surface of the tooth, fluoride ions act to disrupt bacterial metabolism by inhibiting the action of two enzymes. This topical application is readily found in the comparatively safe product of toothpaste with fluoride. The problem with using a municipal water supply “systemic” (read “ingested”) approach, as opposed to brushing teeth directly with fluoridated toothpaste, is that fluoride in public drinking water also affects at least 64 other enzymes within the human body. In a scientific review paper, “Molecular Mechanism of Fluoride Toxicity,” Dr. Olivier Barbier and his colleagues observed that “fluoride can interact with a wide range of enzyme-mediated cellular processes and genes modulated by fluoride, including those related to the stress response, metabolic enzymes, the cell cycle, cell-cell communications, and signal transduction.”
In July 2019, Dr. Hardy Limeback, professor emeritus and former head of preventative dentistry at the University of Toronto and former president of the Canadian Association for Dental Research, submitted a report to Calgary council on the multiple risks of water fluoridation. It’s well worth reading. Given Limeback’s scientific expertise on this issue, and the fact that he was once an advocate for fluoridation but remained open to evidence challenging fluoridation, this is a strong critique.
If Kingston truly aspires to be one of the “most sustainable” and “smart” cities in Canada, then it would be wise to quickly invoke the precautionary principle at this late point in deliberations over the fluoridation of our public water. Kingston city council needs to vigorously review scientific papers that present an alternative to the status quo, “Don’t worry about it” perspective. A good start would be a paper by Dr. Stephen Peckham and Dr. Niyi Awofeso, “Water Fluoridation: A Critical Review of the Physiological Effects of Ingested Fluoride as a Public Health Intervention.” Once it has a more balanced overview on the issue, a more informed course — including a referendum — could be taken. After all, we are more than just teeth.
*Original online under the title Letters to the Editor: March 4, 2020 at https://www.thewhig.com/opinion/letters/letters-to-the-editor-march-4-2020