Lake Cowichan’s drinking water may not be as healthy as the public thinks, Burnaby-based Health Action Network Society president Jane Shaak argues. The fluoridation of the water, she said, must end.
“I’m sure a lot of people in Lake Cowichan don’t know they’re the only community on the island that has (fluoridated water),” she said.
Not only is Lake Cowichan the only place on Vancouver Island still adding fluoride to their drinking water, its citizens make up some of the only 3.7 per cent of British Columbians with access to fluoridated water. Prince George is currently the largest centre with fluoride added to its water supply, with no water fluoridation taking place on the Lower Mainland. The Health Action Network Society has a goal of educating the remaining communities adding fluoride into their water to stop doing so.
Lake Cowichan superintendent of public works Nagi Rizk confirmed through an e-mail interview that the town is currently injecting fluroide into the drinking water.
“On average, fluoridation costs exceed ten thousand dollars per year, and that fluoridation equipment is quite costly to replace,” Rizk said.
“Spending anything on this is ridiculous,” Shaak said.
Shaak and the Health Action Network Society’s argument against fluoridation, and why fluoridation was introduced into drinking water, is made somewhat clear in the World Health Organization document Fluoride in Drinking-water.
“Fluoride has beneficial effects on teeth at low concentrations in drinking-water, but excessive exposure to fluoride in drinking-water, or in combination with exposure to other sources, can give rise to a number of adverse effects. These range from mild dental fluorosis to crippling skeletal fluorosis as the level and period of exposure increases,” the document reads.
Between 75 and 90 per cent of fluoride ingested is absorbed by the body.
This fluorosis results in damage to teeth and bones, including the erosion of tooth enamel and deformation of bones. Although a large number of studies have been conducted to find an association between fluoride and cancer, no concrete evidence has been found.
On the other side of the coin is the fact that these negative consequences take place at high concentrations. Lake Cowichan Public Works keeps the town’s drinking water at levels determined to be safe for consumption.
“Public Works samples the water daily and once a month a compounded sample is tested in a certified laboratory for optimal fluoride content,” Rizk said.
“For whatever reason (fluoridation) was done in the past, but this has to change,” Shaak said. By adding fluoride to the water supply the town is forcing a medication upon the public. “Why are municipalities medicating people? They’re making these arbitrary decisions based on information of the past.”
Although Shaak said that there are still some challenges in BC in getting the remaining 3.7 per cent of the province’s population drinking-water fluoride-free, large advancements have been made.
“BC is ahead of a lot of places in the states,” she said.
Her goals in Lake Cowichan involve mainly educating the public about what the Health Action Network Society sees as negative health side effects with regards to fluoride. They’ve already contacted Rizk, and have a potential trip out to Lake Cowichan at some point in the future, as they have in the past.
With the decision to inject fluoride into the town’s water supply commonly a decision of council to make, Shaak said that there’s a lot of pressure to make the right decision.
“It’s a really tricky position for everyone,” she said.
The fluoridation of the local water supply last came up in council meetings in 2002, when the council of the time approved of putting the fluoridation issue to a public vote. Before this happened, submissions made by the Central Vancouver Island Health Region endorsing fluoridation came forward, and approval for the vote was withdrawn.
In Prince George, the decision of whether or not to inject fluoride into the public’s water recently came to a council vote. Council voted to continue fluoridation.