Despite the ongoing and often heated debate, it’s clear Health Canada is not particularly concerned about fluoride in tap water. Or is it?
It commissioned an independent study, which reported in January 2007 that governments should lower the amount of fluoride in water and urge makers of toothpaste and baby formula to reduce it in those products.
The recommendations were not posted on Health Canada’s website until this spring, and officials still seem in no rush to make any kind of official pronouncement.
Canadian cities have added fluoride to municipal drinking water since the 1960s, with encouragement from Health Canada and most dental professionals, because it reduces cavities in teeth.
In recent decades, however, critics have raised fears it causes other problems, including: Lower IQ in children; cancer; and fluorosis, which mottles teeth in young people. Some critics even dispute whether it actually promotes healthy teeth.
And they’re obviously getting some attention. Health Canada set the maximum at 1.5 mg/L in 1968, but recommended 1.2 mg/L. The maximum has never changed, but the recommended level has steadily fallen, and at present is .08 mg/L. Now the expert panel says it should be lowered again to .07 mg/L.
But it may take some time before municipalities get that message. Despite the panel’s suggestion, Health Canada is not likely to make any official recommendation before next spring, and is likely in any event to re-assert that 1.5 mg/L presents no undue health risks to Canadians.
That doesn’t mean municipalities can’t act by themselves and err on the side of safety or even common sense.
In Canada, fluoridated tap water is now rare in British Columbia, Quebec and the Maritimes, but more than 40% of the country’s population still encounter it, especially in Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario.
Ultimately, if people in those provinces feel strongly about it, they may have to lobby their own municipalities rather than waiting for Health Canada.
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