Peel Region’s drinking water will continue to be fluoridated after council decided today to carry on with the 40-year practice.

Councillors opted to stick with fluoridation after hearing arguments from more than 20 delegates representing both sides of the fluoride debate.

Delegates speaking against the practice, pointed to evidence they believe shows a link between exposure to fluoride in drinking water and several adverse health affects including dental fluorosis – caused by excessive ingestion of fluoride during the tooth forming years – gene mutation and cancer.

The group has added its voice to a growing chorus of critics across North America arguing water fluoridation presents several ethical issues and can be linked to serious health problems.

“We are counting on you to make the right decision,” said Mississauga’s Liesa Cianchino. “Get all the facts and remove fluoridated water.”

Among the advocates speaking in favour of fluoride was Ontario chief medical officer of health Arlene King, who stressed the importance of fluoride for good oral health.

Advocates support the use of fluoride because they argue it makes teeth stronger and helps to reduce the rate of decay, which is particularly beneficial for children in poorer areas who do not have access to regular dental treatment.

“The value of drinking water fluoridation should not be underestimated,” King said. “As tooth decay is the single-most common chronic disease among Canadians of all ages, and as poor oral health is linked to diabetes, heart disease and respiratory conditions, water fluoridation is an extremely important health measure. In fact, water fluoridation has been called one of the greatest public health achievements of the 20th Century.”

King, who left council chambers immediately after her speech, was followed by a long list of dentists and other health professionals arguing in support of keeping the status quo.

Dr. Paul Andrews, assistant professor in the department of paediatric dentistry at the University of Toronto, said fluoride has significantly cut the rate of tooth decay.

“It is the most effective way to reduce tooth decay. It is categorically safe,” Andrews said.

Peel introduced fluoride into the municipal drinking water system in the late 1960s for the prevention of tooth decay.
It costs Peel $400,000 a year to add fluoride to the water.

A number of municipal councils in Canada, most recently Calgary, have opted to discontinue fluoride in municipal water.

Delegates urged Peel Region to follow suit.

They claimed there is no proof that fluoridated water supplies influence oral health in a positive way. The group presented a mountain of facts gathered from various studies and other sources that they said point to fluoride as being extremely hazardous.

Carole Clinch, a resident of Waterloo, said combined with fluoride found in other sources, particularly toothpaste, the amount of fluoride people ingest is unsafe. In the end, council decided to keep on with water fluoridation.

Dr. David Mowat, Peel’s medical officer of health, said water fluoridation has been well-studied to weigh both its benefits and potential health risks.