Peel water fluoridation opponents are pointing to the extensive environmental cleanup needed this week, after a Highway 401 pileup, to illustrate the serious health risks associated with the local water treatment practice.
The multi-vehicle collision in the westbound lanes of Highway 401 in Leeds and the Thousands Township occurred at about 2 p.m. on March 14.
It resulted in one death, dozens hurt and a 32-hour closure of a portion of the busy highway.
One transport truck involved leaked its cargo of hydrofluorosilicic acid (HFSA), a chemical produced from phosphorite rock that is commonly used in water fluoridation.
According to Ontario Provincial Police, the “toxic spill” resulted in a precautionary evacuation of the immediate area and seven firefighters, three police officers and 17 civilians were treated, as a precaution, for exposure to the chemical.
According to the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, the transport truck leaked about 7,000 litres of the chemical.
The ministry helped co-ordinate cleanup and assessed containment and environmental impact.
A spokesperson said cleanup measures included collecting acid from the leaking containers, applying a stabilizer to neutralize acid that could not be pumped from the accident scene, and removal of contaminated soil and neutralized material.
“There are no known private drinking water wells impacted,” said an email from the ministry. “The environmental consultant has been asked to provide the ministry with a second plan to address longer term monitoring.”
Opponents of the water treatment, which received council go-ahead to continue last week after a contentious review, have insisted HFSA is a highly toxic byproduct of the phosphate fertilizer manufacturing process.
This unfortunate highway accident and resulting environmental scare is proof of how toxic the chemical is, according to the anti-fluoride lobby.
“HFSA is a clear and present danger in our water, on our roads and to the workers forced to handle it,” said Christine Massey, a local anti-fluoride activist.
During the recent review of water fluoridation in Peel, regional staff and health officials assured council and the public the levels of HFSA in community drinking water are safe to consume.
The Region of Peel said the water-based liquid additive used in Peel is NSF 60 (National Sanitation Foundation) certified, as required under the Safe Drinking Water Act, meets purity standards and complies with all Ministry of Environment and Climate Change regulations.
“In order to ensure the safety of staff and residents, all products used in Peel’s municipal water supply meet strict requirements defined by national accrediting organizations,” Peel Region public works manager Jeff Hennings said in an email. “Peel’s water is carefully monitored to ensure it meets all appropriate provincial regulations.”
At a March 9 meeting, councillors endorsed a motion from the region’s community water fluoridation committee reaffirming the municipality’s commitment to oral health, while recommending fluoride concentrations in local drinking water be reduced to 0.5 milligrams per litre and switched to a calcium fluoride additive to address concerns about the toxicity of Peel’s current additive.