Fluoride Action Network

Norfolk: Fluoride showdown

Source: Simcoe Reformer | March 24th, 2009 | By Monte Sonnenberg
Location: Canada, Ontario

The Ontario Dental Association has weighed in on the debate over the fluoridation of municipal water in Norfolk.

In a statement yesterday, Dr. Larry Levin, president of ODA, said eliminating fluoride from municipal water would be a step backward for the oral health of Norfolk residents. Specifically, ODA fears Norfolk children deprived of fluoridated water will suffer higher rates of tooth decay.

“To remove water fluoridation would be a tremendous step backward,” Levin said. “Kids need all the help they can get in life — and we owe it to each and every one of them to ensure that they get this kind of preventative care.”

The ODA statement arrived just in time for tonight’s meeting of Norfolk council. At the meeting, council is expected to decide whether to extend fluoridation to treatment plants in Port Dover, Waterford and Port Rowan or to strip it entirely from the mix at water treatment plants in Simcoe and Delhi.

Norfolk council-in-committee voted 6-2 last November to remove fluoride from all municipal water. However, council deferred the question in anticipation of a comprehensive report from the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit. In that report, which will be tabled at tonight’s regular meeting of council, Dr. Malcolm Lock comes down squarely in favour of fluoridated water.

“The fluoridation of water continues to be supported by the World Health Organization, the Canadian Dental Association and many other highly recognized organizations,” says Lock, who is Haldimand and Norfolk’s acting medical officer of health. “The balance of scientific evidence of fluoridating water shows that water fluoridation is a safe, economical and effective oral health preventive measure that has resulted in improved oral health for the population.”

Dr. Ian Malo of Simcoe, president of the Haldimand-Norfolk Dental Society, is also cited in the ODA release.

“Water fluoridation is safe and helps prevent tooth decay — it is that simple,” he said. “I see it in my office all the time — water fluoridation is something kids need from a very early age. Adults need it too. It’s preventative care that will help for life.”

Norfolk’s public works and environmental services department initiated the discussion about fluoridation. In a report last November, Bob Fields, Norfolk’s water and wastewater compliance officer, said the county’s fluoridation program raises serious issues related to compliance and worker safety.

The report said it is difficult to maintain fluoride levels at the minute quantities — 0.5 to 0.8 milligrams per litre — allowed by Health Canada. As well, fluoride in its concentrated state — hydrofluosilicic acid — is highly corrosive and dangerous to handle.

In the Lock report, Norfolk public works reiterates its desire to eliminate fluoride under a section headed “Interdepartmental implications.”

“The hydrofluosilicic acid requires extreme care in handling and personal protective equipment to ensure worker safety,” the section states. “Public works and environmental services staff are concerned with regards to exposure to this chemical and its impact on our operators. It is possible that Norfolk County could experience some labour relations issues should fluoridation remain in the Delhi and Simcoe drinking water systems.”

Public works goes on to say that the county will incur significant capital and operating costs if council agrees to fluoridate water in Port Rowan, Port Dover and Waterford.

“Some of the plants will not be able to accommodate the additional equipment and will need an expansion of the existing facility footprint at a significant capital cost,” the report says.

Fluoride critic Peter Van Caulart of the Environmental Training Institute in Fonthill is scheduled to speak to council tonight as a deputation. Tonight’s meeting gets underway in the council chamber at Governor Simcoe Square at 5 p.m. The public is welcome to attend.