Lakeshore dumps cavity-fighter from water
Region’s top physician is ‘disappointed’
By Dave Battagello, The Windsor Star November 1, 2011 8:38 AM
A majority of Lakeshore’s water supply does not contain fluoride, but a recent decision by town officials has completely removed the cavity-preventing ingredient from its entire system.
The move has ignited the ongoing debate locally. Critics cite the negative health impacts of ingesting fluoride, while supporters in the health and dental community counter with scientific studies that show no detrimental effects.
The region’s top physician says he recommended to keep fluoride in the system.
“I’m certainly disappointed,” Medical Officer of Health Dr. Allen Heimann said. “That’s inconsistent with the recommendation of our board of health and boards of health across Ontario which all support the concept of community fluoridation.”
He pointed to a myriad of provincial and national health associations, including Ontario’s Ministry of Health and Health Canada which have all called on keeping fluoride in the water.
“As long as its used in accordance with the accepted public health standards there is no scientific indication there is a health issue,” he said.
But the Fluoride Action Network, which opened a local chapter in Windsor this summer and has already attracted 200 community members, is applauding Lakeshore’s decision. Members say they will keep up the pressure so other municipalities in Essex County will follow.
“Cities are falling away from fluoridated water,” said Donna Mayne, a group member, citing recent decisions by Calgary and Waterloo. “They are happening at a quick rate.
“People are realizing how unnecessary it is and the potential harm. It doesn’t make sense for cities to act like our doctor. It’s time for people to stop drinking the Kool-Aid. Fluoride in our bodies can cause havoc on many levels. It was never meant to be ingested.”
The Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE), whose membership includes 5,000 physicians and health care workers across Canada, has come out against fluoridation of drinking water.
The organization released its study in November, 2008 which concluded based on the “weight of evidence” fluoridation of drinking water is “scientifically untenable” and should not be a public health initiative.
Health impacts of the chemical through ingestion, officially known as hydrofluorosilicic acid, may include weakening bone tissues and damage to thyroid function, concluded CAPE’s study.
“It really is an uncontrolled experiment,” said the group’s executive director Gideon Forman.
“When you compare places with fluoride and those without, you don’t see a big difference in the rate of cavities. Why take the risk of medicating entire populations if the benefits are not significant.”
The executive for the Essex County Dental Society is meeting this week to further discuss the issue of fluoride in the water, said vice-president Mark Drkulec.
Local dentists largely support continuation of the program, citing the proliferation of sugars in food and juices children are faced with these days.
Removing fluoride would actually be a boost for business, but dentists want to see strong oral health, Drkulec said.
“Tooth decay will increase if you remove it from the water,” he said.
Charles Frank, the dental society’s former president, said he was disappointed to learn of Lakeshore’s decision.
“(Studies) have shown without fluoride, you would have two additional cavities per year and there is a cost for that. The cost to put fluoride in the water is less than a cup of coffee per year. You can pay the cost for that or getting two fillings done. Guess what the choice is going to be?”
Heimann was also approached earlier this month by the Windsor Utilities Commission (WUC) about the issue. He expressed his views against any change.
It costs WUC $130,000 annually out of its $50-million operating budget to put fluoride in the water, said general manager John Wladarski.
Concerns raised by the local action group trying to get rid of fluoride has triggered WUC to launch a fact-finding review of its own, Wladarski said. Along with consulting Heimann, WUC has asked for community feedback from Tecumseh and LaSalle, which it also provides with water.
WUC first put fluoride in its water system at the request of the public health unit in 1953.
WUC operates on a five-year licence and unless there is a major health implication, cannot alter chemicals in its system, Wladarski said. The current licence does not expire until the end of 2014 giving WUC plenty of time to thoroughly study the issue, he said.
“We are aware of the differing opinions of all parties concerned,” Wladarski said. “We owe to our customers to indicate (fluoride) is in the water and either provide a comfort one way or another on the matter. We are in the middle of reviewing this with everybody.”
To be extra safe, parents may wish to monitor young children as they brush teeth to make sure they are not swallowing fluoride-based toothpaste, he said.
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