‘No one’s monitoring the public for side effects’
SYDNEY — A community activist is asking the Cape Breton Regional Municipality to provide detailed information about the costs associated with adding fluoride to municipal water supplies.
Marlene Kane of Sydney appeared at last week’s stakeholder budget consultation session and asked council for not only the cost of the fluoridation chemical hydrofluorosilicic acid used at its four treatment plants, but also any other associated chemicals required for the fluoridation process, system maintenance and other processes.
“I wanted to know how much of our municipal budget was actually being spent to fluoridate the four communities — Sydney, New Waterford, Glace Bay and the northside — especially given that water fluoridation isn’t mandated by any level of government … it’s not a required expense or a necessary one for the CBRM,” Kane said.
Kane, a longtime critic of fluoridation, added she believes the cost of the hydrofluorosilicic acid itself is relatively small, with the majority of expenses being around its handling “because it’s extremely caustic and corrosive.”
Fluoridation is a decades-old practice of adding fluoride to the water supply as a medicating ingredient against tooth decay.
“It’s not added to treat the water, like chlorine is, it’s added to treat people and there are many reasons why the drinking water should never be used as a vehicle for any kind of medical or dental treatment,” Kane said.
The practice violates an individual’s right to refuse treatment, she said, and there is a lack of control over the dose that consumers receive and that there are also cautions about receiving too much fluoride.
“You can’t control who gets this treatment and no one’s monitoring the public for side effects,” Kane said.
Health care is not the responsibility of municipalities, she added.
Greg Penney, CBRM water operations manager, confirmed Tuesday that he has been asked by council to compile the information in response to the request filed by Kane, and he is currently in the process of doing so.
Last week, a published report suggested a decision by Calgary in 2011 to stop adding fluoride to its water supply had a negative impact on children’s dental health.
The report, published in the journal Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology, showed Calgary children have more than twice as many cavities as their counterparts in Edmonton, where fluoridation continues. Researchers also found that Calgary children have more health issues with their baby teeth.
While there was a general increase in tooth decay in both cities between 2004 and 2005, and again between 2013 and 2014, the increase was greater in Calgary, according to the report.
Kane said she is currently awaiting a critique of that report, noting critics have raised concerns about data that may have been omitted from the study.
“What we clearly saw was that in Calgary and in Edmonton, the rates of tooth decay increased, even though Edmonton remains fluoridated,” she said.
The practice of adding fluoride to public drinking water started in the mid-1940s and was seen as a method for improving dental health.
A number of Canadian communities, both large and small, have since decided to discontinue the practice.
In 2011, CBRM council voted 11-2 in favour of keeping fluoride in municipally treated water. Penney said, to his knowledge, that’s the only time the issue went to a vote by CBRM council.