The provincial government may want to prevent municipalities from removing fluoride from their water supplies — but that doesn’t mean much for fluoride-free Windsor.
Last week, the Ontario legislature passed a non-binding motion that would “remove the portions of the Ontario Municipal Act that allow a municipality to … opt out of fluoridation of its drinking water.”
The motion was put forward by Mississauga-Streetsville MPP Bob Delaney, whose home region of Peel has been discussing an end to water fluoridation.
Delaney argued that the province should provide financial and technical assistance to communities “so that all Ontarians, to the fullest extent practicable, are protected with municipal drinking water fluoridation.”
Along with the Liberal government, both the New Democrats and the Progressive Conservatives supported the science behind Delaney’s motion.
However, the non-binding nature of the motion means it’s not enforceable — a fact not lost on Dr. Gary Kirk, medical officer of health with the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit.
“While we welcome the motion, we, too, recognize the motion is more symbolic than substantive,” Kirk said.
After heavy debate, Windsor city council voted in January 2013 to stop adding fluoride to the municipal water supply.
Now close to four years later, Kirk said WECHU’s position remains unchanged: Community water fluoridation should be required for all municipal water systems, as it has a direct impact on dental health.
“Community water fluoridation is essential to minimize tooth decay, and help to restore and strengthen tooth enamel,” reads the health unit’s standing statement on the issue.
“Global health experts and scientific evidences support community water fluoridation to prevent tooth decay.”
Kirk said the health unit hopes to present local impact data to city council before Windsor’s moratorium on water fluoridation expires (in early 2018).
A fluoride analyzer at the Weeks Water Treatment Plant in Windsor in 2011. Jason Kryk / Windsor
Meanwhile, impact data is being scrutinized at other Canadian communities that ceased water fluoridation.
Earlier this year, a study by the University of Calgary’s school of medicine found that since 2011, when Calgary decided to stop adding fluoride to its drinking water, tooth decay amongst children in Calgary has worsened compared to tooth decay amongst children in Edmonton — where water is still being fluoridated. [Note: this study was fatally flawed with key data omitted. See FAN’s critique]
Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens, who tabled the original municipal motion to cease fluoridation of Windsor water, couldn’t be reached for comment.
Kimberley DeYong of the citizens’ group Fluoride Free Windsor argued that since the recent provincial motion is non-binding, the Ontario government hasn’t really done anything new on the issue.
She said that if Ontario pursues real legislation to stop fluoride removal, she wants to know if the MPPs will assume the legal responsibility that the Safe Drinking Water Act currently places on municipalities.
According to DeYong, the health unit’s own oral health reports indicate that local dental surgeries have decreased since Windsor stopped water fluoridation, and there’s even been slight improvement in terms of tooth decay amongst children up to Grade 2.
As for the University of Calgary study, DeYong said both Calgary and Edmonton showed increases in tooth decay, and she doesn’t think the statistical difference between them is significant.
“This isn’t about teeth — It is about water providers supplying the safest drinking water possible,” DeYong said.