Council chambers at Sarnia city hall was bustling with talk about water fluoridation Monday, where a packed house listened as two doctors presented the pros and cons.

“At a baseline, the overwhelming majority of evidence is in favour of continuing water fluoridation,” said Dr. Sudit Ranade, Lambton County’s medical officer of health

Ranade said water fluoridation is an effective way to guard against tooth decay, provided it’s regulated properly.

The practice is backed by the World Health Organization, Centres for Disease Control and many other reputable bodies.

Its benefit in reducing tooth decay is especially poignant among children, he said, noting the data generally needs further clarification.

Advocates also argue having fluoride in water means it’s available for lower-income portions of the population who might not have access otherwise.

But fluoride is in toothpaste and a host of other things, meaning it can build up and causes fluorosis – mottling – in teeth, said Dr. Hardy Limeback, former head of preventative dentistry at the University of Toronto .

One in 10 children in Canada has some degree of fluorosis, he said, noting he’s researched the impact of fluoride in water for decades.

Applied topically, fluoride has benefits, he said.

Ingested, it’s a different story.

“Once it gets in your cells, it’s like a bomb goes off,” he said, noting a study he conducted found it lowers bone strength.

Several studies also show it affects brain chemistry and lowers intelligent quotient, he said, when it builds up beyond the recommended level.

That happens more with people who consume more water, like athletes, kidney dialysis patients and babies on infant formula, he said

“It’s my opinion, based on the research we did … it can cause bodily harm,” he said.

“It does not provide the dental benefits as claimed and is not cost effective at all.”

In terms of cost, he said, it’s basically a wash in terms of preventing cavities and fixing fluorosis.

Sarnia last tackled the issue of water fluoridation in 2013, voting 5-4 to take it out of the water.

But Sarnia is part of the Lambton Area Water Supply System (LAWSS) and has continued with fluoridated water since because most other member municipalities with the utility voted to continue with the practice.

Representatives were invited to attend Monday’s meeting, but none were there, said Sarnia City Coun. Andy Bruziewicz, chairperson of the LAWSS board.

He said he hoped they were watching the video feed.

It’s unclear what happens next

Bruziewicz noted information is being collected by staff until June 2 for an eventual report to council.

“So that may outline the path towards the future a little bit,” he said.

Those interested can email comments via

Several residents booked time to speak Monday on the issue. Most were opposed to fluoride in water

Municipalities like Windsor, Vancouver and Calgary have ended water fluoridation.

The evidence to end the practice needs to be stronger to make a move, Ranade said.

Evidence in support also needs to be stronger and updated, he said, suggesting Sarnia-Lambton should try to be involved in advancing that research.

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