Anti-fluoride activists, fresh off two huge victories in major Canadian cities, are bringing their fight to London.
Nearly 50 years after the teeth-toughening compound was first added to Forest City water, the same kinds of groups rejoicing over the recent removal of fluoride in Calgary and Waterloo will hammer the issue here next month.
To those forces – led by the Fluoride Action Network, a group of U.S. activists – the compound is an unnecessary toxin linked to health woes and reasons for its continued use veers into the conspiratorial.
But to public health officials, fluoridation of water is called one of the greatest health achievements of the 20th century and an inexpensive way to protect the teeth of children, particularly those living in poverty.
The March 2 public presentation downtown, which will be made by Fluoride Action Network head Paul Connette [sic; Connett], has grabbed the attention of London health leaders who consider such arguments “fear-mongering.”
“They refer to fluoride as being the equivalent of a poison or a toxin,” said Dr. Graham Pollett, London’s top public-health official.
“These fears are not substantiated but nonetheless they raise concerns in people’s minds,” he said, adding the fluoride levels in London water “pose no risk to health.”
The March 2 event, which appears to be free to the public, is in no way connected to city hall or council – but the matter could be raised there eventually.
In Calgary, council voted 10-3 Tuesday night to remove fluoride from its water after two decades of using it.
Last year, the City of Waterloo held a public vote about fluoride. In response to the vote’s results, Waterloo council voted in November to get rid of fluoride.
Connette [sic], the anti-fluoride leader who will speak in London, is merely pushing for a review that’s badly needed after decades of conventional wisdom, says a person who works with his group.
Carol Kopf, who lives on Long Island, says decades of public acceptance have made it tough for people to re-consider fluoride’s wide use.
“It’s engrained in your mind. The grass is green, the sky is blue and fluoride is good,” she said. “It takes a while to change your mind.”
But why would public-health officials ignore the scientific research Kopf says shows fluoride is risky?
She’s not entirely clear, though she did say some health leaders are “hired to protect fluoride.”
“If (an official) comes out and saying ‘this fluoride is not good,’ I think he’d lose his job,” she said. “I do not understand why it’s so important to protect fluoridation.”
Pollett argues fluoride may be a victim of its own success.
Because it’s been decreasing dental decay effectively for decades, those fighting against it may not realize its value, he said.
“When something is effective and people don’t see what it’s preventing . . .
it’s the same thing with some of our vaccines. Because people don’t see measles or polio anymore, people start to question vaccines.”
While Waterloo is oft-cited as a leading Canadian city in many respects, its decision to get rid of fluoride has opened it up to some criticism.
In Calgary, anti-fluoride residents are rejoicing over its council’s decision but at least one dentist warns fluoride-free water could lead to increased childhood cavities.