Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington Public Health has officially endorsed the idea of adding fluoride to Kingston’s drinking water to help reduce tooth decay in the city.
“It’s a naturally occurring nutrient, and it’s beneficial for everybody, but especially those who are the most vulnerable such as children and those who can’t afford dental care,” Dr. Kieran Moore, the local public health medical officer of health, said.
The idea emerged during city council’s strategic planning sessions held last March. A public consultation meeting on the proposal was held last Wednesday, at which members of public health’s dental health team answered questions.\
Public health promoter Allison Bradshaw was one of the experts at the public consultation. She said there were people at the meeting who were deeply skeptical of the idea of adding fluoride to the water.
“One of the comments from someone who was opposed to it was, ‘Why don’t you train people to eat more healthily? You’re not getting to the root causes of health decay,’” Bradshaw recalled. “Well, we certainly do try to get people to eat healthier, but that’s just one piece of it … we need a multi-factorial intervention.
“We are not looking at community water fluoridation as a silver bullet that will solve the problem of dental decay. But we do have good evidence to suggest that it will reduce it by 25 to 30 per cent.”
That evidence includes many decades of studies on the subject based on observations of communities that have decided to introduce fluoride into their water systems. But none of those studies include randomized controlled trials, which puts them pretty far down in the hierarchy of scientific evidence.
Opponents of fluoridation have seized on that point as a way to try to discredit the mountain of evidence in favour of the policy, Bradshaw said, but it is impossible to do randomized trials on whole communities.
“Soda and tobacco companies have used this to say we don’t have good evidence, and now the anti-fluorination people are saying the same thing: that there is no evidence that it is effective,” she said.
“There is an argument being made that the scientific consensus emerges from a conspiracy to quash dissenting views. There’s cherry-picking of data, false analogies and other logical falsies.”
To get the dental benefits of fluoride, the city’s drinking water would need a concentration of 0.7 parts of fluoride to every million parts of water. Because fluoride is a naturally occurring compound, Lake Ontario already has 0.1 parts per million of fluoride in its waters.
Fluoride is also found in the ground and is absorbed by plants, so a cup of black tea can have anywhere between two to eight parts per million of fluoride in it. For Lennox and Addington County Coun. John Wise, illustrative facts like that one are important.
“That’s the kind of thing that’s way more effective than saying, ‘Here’s a study that proves fluoride is safe,’” he said.
Kingston city councillors and health board members Mary Rita Holland and Jim Neill both voiced their support for introducing fluoride into the water system and their exasperation with the opposition against the policy.
Neill told the board that since the idea has come up, his email inbox has been flooded with angry emails opposing it. But he is convinced that most of them are not coming from local residents, but rather activists in places like New Zealand, where a national bill regarding fluoride is being considered.
“I’m getting more anti-fluoride emails than any other kind every day. I’ve started to ignore them, or say, ‘I appreciate your perspective, I assume you are a Kingston resident, I would love to meet with you for coffee.’ I haven’t met anyone for coffee,” he said.
Holland, meanwhile, argued that regardless of the online outrage, the council needs to make a decision based on evidence and what is best for the community as a whole.
“As a councillor, my responsibility is to listen to the experts,” she said. “There is some terrible scaremongering going on out there. It’s hard to take.”
The board voted unanimously to endorse the idea and to send a letter of support to the City of Kingston.
*Original article online at https://www.thewhig.com/news/local-news/public-health-endorses-fluoridating-kingstons-drinking-water