LETHBRIDGE: City council is seeking your help when it comes to a final decision on whether or not to keep fluoride in public drinking water.
The group set an April 18 deadline for the decision, after hearing more than a dozen presentations Monday on the dangers and benefits of keeping fluoride in the water supply.
Two delegates led the charge for the "no" side. Robert Dickson, a family doctor based in Calgary, was joined by James Beck - a retired professor of medical biophysics, who say they've been closely following the research, media reports and latest studies on the effects of fluoridation for at least a decade. The pair was part of discussions that led to Calgary city council's 10-3 vote on February 8 to turn the fluoride taps off - a decision that came as the city faced $6 million in upgrades to two water-treatment plants involved in the fluoridation process. Calgary council said they would use the savings to create a preventative dental health program for children and more assistance for poverty-stricken families to gain access to fluoride products.
"Things change and this is a good opportunity for us to change," said Dickson, who explained he believes in the benefits of fluoride as a surface tooth treatment, but argues it's not safe enough to drink on a regular basis. "You don't swallow your sunscreen, why swallow fluoride? It works topically, and that's the only way it should be used."
Dickson calls the type of fluoride placed in drinking water a "volatile and toxic substance." "You're not allowed to swallow your toothpaste, you're not allowed to swallow the fluoride application you get with your dentist, why would you be allowed to swallow water fluoridation?"
Council ordered a report on the levels of fluoride currently added to Lethbridge water - a process monitored and licensed by Alberta Environment. The current level of fluoride - formally termed hydrofluorosilicic acid - added to city water is 0.5mg/L to 0.7mg/L. Combine that level with the calcium fluoride that occurs naturally in area rivers and streams, and the end concentration is somewhere between 0.7mg/L to 0.9mg/L.
Dr. Peter Cooney, the chief dental officer for Health Canada, says that level of concentration is within the bounds recently recommended by an expert panel. In his presentation to council Monday, Cooney outlined the process Health Canada used to review the use of fluoride in drinking water. In 2006, administrators contracted three researchers to study the impacts of fluoride. Their research was then reviewed by a large panel - including six experts, the Canadian Dental Association and the US Environmental Protection Agency.
What they found is that the amount of fluoride in the environment and in food products has gone down in recent years. They also found "no conclusive evidence" that fluoride intake is related to bone fracture, cancers, IQ, skeletal fluorosis, immunotoxicity, reproductive and developmental toxicity, genotoxicity or neurotoxicity. They did, however, recommend a level of 0.7 mg/L as the "optimal target concentration" for fluoride in water. The "Maximum Allowable Concentration" remains at 1.5 mg/L.
Efficacy and Ethics Played Large Part in Discussion
Dr. James Beck opened his presentation with a point about how effective fluoride in drinking water is in working to prevent tooth decay. He displayed a graph made with information from the World Health organization that compared rates of tooth decay between countries that had fluoridated water versus countries that don't have it. Those that have fluoridated water - Canada, the U.S., and Australia for example - were not that different from those that don't have fluoridated water. Beck says statistics show the decrease in dental decay in developed countries over the last 60 years is due to better diet, improved oral hy