EMC News – Two Smiths Falls residents feel the government’s defence of fluoride in town pipes just doesn’t hold water when considering the potential for health concerns.
A discussion begun at the council table last month has reached the town streets in the form of a public petition aimed at immediately removing fluoride from the town’s drinking water.
“My kids have been drinking that water,” remarked Mathieu Savard, one of two residents to circulate a petition in town.
His fear is the accumulative long-term effects that fluoride exposure in combination with other food products, tooth paste, etc. that also contain fluoride may create.
In this increasingly debated health issue doctors have found themselves on either side of the debate, including Dr. Hardy Limeback, head of preventive dentistry at the University of Toronto. He wrote an open letter in April 2000 setting out why he is staunchly against fluoride in public water system. The letter states there has been no testing done on fluoride to determine its safety for humans nor has there been adequate studies completed to prove that fluoride is improving dental health in any significant way. This is important as Dr. Limeback notes the chemical compounds can have traces of heavy metals, which over time have health risks of their own.
“Long-term ingestion of these harmful elements should be avoided altogether,” Dr. Limeback’s letter states.
Savard asks why is it that home toothpastes urge people to call poison control if they swallow this product that is put in mouths daily? The reason is fluoride can be dangerous, he contends. Dr. Limeback’s letter states that most of the fluoride we ingest remains in our skeletal system and accumulates over time.
Doctors on the other side of the debate argue that there isn’t enough fluoride in the water to cause these serious health issues Dr. Limeback is highlighting.
Ted Joynt, water waste water operations superintendent emphasized that the town’s staff aims to fluoridate between .5-.8 mg/L and has a safety mechanism in place so that no more than a maximum of 1 mg/L can be found. If this happens the town’s fluoride equipment shuts down.
“It’s strictly monitored at the plant,” Joynt said.
Cynthia Mayes of Smiths Falls distributed her petition against fluoride in the water the same day as Savard after months of working with town representatives and the health unit. She’s concerned with the impact fluoridated water is having on her two-and-a-half year old son. Mayes points out that often baby formula has fluoride added to it, which is then added to by the fluoride in the water. She fears this combination would bring the amount of fluoride ingested beyond an acceptable amount. Now that her son is older and eating regular food, Mayes is hoping to reduce his exposure to fluoride by having it removed from the municipal system.
“I feel bad every time I make him juice and have to use fluoridated water,” she told The EMC.
She objects to the additive in town water not only for health concerns, but also on the basis of an individual’s right to choose. While the town did hold a public vote to begin fluoridating the water in the mid-60s, Mayes doesn’t feel that adequately reflects today’s residents.
“Where did our choice go in all this,” she asks.
Literature from the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit says fluoride is added to the water in an effort to protect dental health in Canadian citizens.
“In fact, the use of fluoride in drinking water has been called one of the greatest public health achievements of the 20th century by the CDC (the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention),” states a letter written by Dr. Arlene King, Chief Medical Officer of Health in Ontario. She feels that fluoridated water is not done in large enough amounts to cause bone fractures or other serious long-term health issues. On the other hand, poor oral health has been linked to diabetes, heart disease, and respiratory conditions.
Both Savard and Mayes aren’t convinced that the studies surrounding fluoride are free of flaws and that the benefits from fluoride in the water can’t be found by other means.
“It’s worn out its purpose,” Mayes said.
Petitions have been placed in Global Vitamins (Lombard Street) and Modern Thymes (Russell Street) as well as on Facebook (Remove fluoride from Smiths Falls drinking water) with the hope of reaching 1, 000 signatures before taking it to Council for consideration. The pair has already collected over 200 signatures towards this goal. There are two online petitions related to the town’s discussions on fluoride (one for and one against) that can be found at www.petitiononlinecanada.com (type in Smiths Falls fluoride). Savard appreciates the difficult task of councilors in making such policies, but urges them to make their own decisions based on fact not government approval.
“I’m just asking the mayor and council to do your own research,” he said.
Public awareness is a major component of what both Savard and Mayes hope to achieve in Smiths Falls. The town isn’t the only community discussing the value of fluoride. Carleton Place is also in the throws of this debate. Earlier this year Calgary City Council passed a bylaw to remove fluoride in the water.
“I hope it keeps continuing to flow all over Canada,” Mayes added of the removal of fluoride. “The risks just outweigh the benefits to the teeth.”