The City of Winkler is considering the removal of fluoride, a chemical that prevents cavities, from our drinking water. But first they want your opinion.
“I like the idea of removing it,” Councillor Don Friesen said, adding more big cities are taking it out of the water.
“But how does the public feel?” Friesen wondered.
Councillor Herb Dyck explained he is in favour of keeping the fluoride because dentists like that it reduces cavities.
However, Mayor Martin Harder noted fluoride is the most dangerous chemical the City deals in.
“And it goes into our water,” he said, although in a controlled measure.
Fluoridation of public water does not change the appearance, or add any taste or smell. According to the Canadian Dental Association website, water fluoridation is a means of preventing tooth decay at a low cost. With the exception of dental fluorosis, which cause small white specks to appear on teeth if too much fluoride is ingested at an early age, the CDA website suggested no scientific studies have been found to create a link between water fluoridation and adverse health effects.
Other organizations like the Fluoride Action Network (FAN) seek to bring awareness about the toxicity of fluoride, suggesting what citizens need is affordable dental care, and not water fluoridation.
Foreman Travis Duff at the City’s water treatment plant explained fluoride is a naturally occurring compound in ground water, usually 0.3 to 0.6 milligrams per litre, which is stripped out in the city’s reverse osmosis process.
However the flouride is added back in in the form of fluorosilicic acid (not a natural product) according to the Medical Officer of Health’s guidelines of 0.5-0.9 milligrams per litre. Currently 0.6 milligrams per litre are added to Winkler’s drinking water.
Approximately 3.5 litres of fluorosilicic acid is added to 1.8 million litres of water to reach the 0.6 balance, which Duff noted is on the low end of the Medical Officer of Health’s guidelines. “It’s not like we’re dumping it in,” Duff said. “It’s a very small amount.”
The maximum allowance by the Canadian Drinking Water Guidelines is 1.5 milligrams per litre, compared to Winkler’s 0.6.
Duff explained Winkler has been adding fluoride since the original water plant was built in 1963. But because the Pembina Valley Water Coop continues to add fluoride the decision to cease fluoridation wouldn’t mean fluoride free water, as the PVWC contributes about 30 percent of Winkler’s drinking water.
“Even if we stopped tomorrow, we’d still have fluoride in our drinking water,” Duff said.
Yet the debate continues.
“Some people think it’s very good, and others think we’re poisoning the water,” Duff said. “But we all have a right to an opinion.”
Duff has talked to both sides, and found determined advocates for each, both with strong arguments.
“It’s a tough decision,” Duff said.
Harder said he’d like to see a questionnaire sent to the public and available on City of Winkler website and table the decision until December and they’ve heard from the public. Anyone wishing to express their opinion of either keeping or getting rid of the fluoride are encouraged to call the City at 204-325-9524 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.