Two years ago, parents in the United States began noticing the word "poison" on their toothpaste tubes. The reason: U.S. drug regulators were beginning to doubt the safety of fluoride, particularly to children, and demanded warnings on the labels. Health Canada has not followed the U.S. lead, although fluoride toothpaste here does carry a mild warning to avoid swallowing it. But attitudes toward fluoride in this country are also beginning to change.
Dr. Hardy Limeback is a leading Canadian fluoride authority who is often cited by health officials in their defense of fluoridated water. He is also a long-standing consultant to the Canadian Dental Association and a professor of dentistry at the University of Toronto.
But in an interview last week, he conceded that fluoride may be destroying our bones, our teeth and our overall health. Although he still believes fluoride in toothpaste is effective against tooth decay, he says it doesn't need to be added to our water and we may be taking unnecessary risks by doing so. "There is no point swallowing fluoridated water. The only benefit comes with direct contact with the teeth."
Limeback is currently studying fluoride buildup in the body, and his results, like those of other studies, are worrisome. "What we're finding indicates a trend: Torontonians have double the fluoride levels in their hip bones compared to Montreal, where water is not fluoridated." What effect these high fluoride deposits in our bones will have is unclear, he says, "but we know that in areas of the world where water is naturally high in fluoride, skeletal fluorosis is a widespread problem."
Skeletal fluorosis is a debilitating condition that occurs when fluoride accumulates in bones, making them extremely weak and brittle. In parts of China, India and Turkey where water is naturally high in fluoride, residents tend to age early and die before the age of 50, weak, arthritic and hunched over. "Old" men of 30 drag themselves around, leaning on sticks; their bones shatter like glass when they fall. Women give birth to dead babies after pregnancies of only four months.
"Children under three should never use fluoridated toothpaste. Or drink fluoridated water. And baby formula must never be made up using Toronto tap water. Never. In fluoridated areas, people should never use fluoride supplements. We tried to get them banned for children but (the dentists) wouldn't even look at the evidence we presented," says Limeback, emphasizing that we are now spending more treating dental fluorosis than we would spend treating cavities if water were not fluoridated.
For decades, anti-fluoride activists have blamed fluoride (which is only slightly less poisonous than arsenic) for a variety of problems, including osteoporosis, bone cancer, kidney problems, arthritis, genetic damage and birth defects, premature aging, lowered intelligence, and Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. Although there are numerous studies suggesting links between fluoride and various illnesses, pro-fluoridationists have always contended - correctly - that the exact effects of long-term fluoridation on our bodies have not been established beyond a shadow of a doubt.
As Chris Clark, a high-profile fluoride booster and professor of dentistry at the University of British Columbia, says, "There is no proof that fluoride causes brittle bones or cancer" at current concentrations. (Toronto's water supply is 1 part per million (ppm) fluoride. Toothpaste, typically, contains 1,500 ppm.)
Limeback, who until very recently would have been considered an ally of Clark's, vehemently disagrees. "We absolutely know about the tragic consequences of higher levels of fluoride, and we know it builds up over time. These people haven't done any studies to find out what effect fluoride accumulation will have at current levels. How can they say it's safe when the studies haven't been done? Right now, we have people who have been ingesting fluoride for 35 years. What happens in another 50 years, when these people have been adding this poison to their bones for 85 years?"
Limeback points out that almost all the beverages we drink (beer, pop, juice) are made with fluoridated water. Fish and other foods also contain fluoride. Many of the vegetables we eat are fertilized with compounds containing fluoride; they are irrigated with, and washed and cooked in, fluoridated water. So we are getting far more fluoride than it appears.
And, considering safe fluoride levels in terms of concentrations (parts per million) is a dubious practice, since at least half the fluoride we ingest fuses with bones and teeth and never leaves the body. So although a big one-time dose of fluoride can kill - as happened to a New York boy during a fluoride treatment and to people in Alaska when too much fluoride was accidentally added to the water - Limeback says it's the cumulative effect we should be most worried about.
Contrary to popular belief, there is no proof that fluoride fights cavities. In the U.S., the government recently ordered toothpaste manufacturers to stop claiming it does until they could prove it. (None bothered to try.) Studies have shown that children in B.C., where most water is not fluoridated, have better teeth than children here, where it is. And while it's true there's no absolute proof that fluoride, at established levels, isn't safe, there is also no proof, as Limeback points out, that it is.
The stand most health officials seem to be taking these days is that, until we get proof that fluoride is harmful, it will continue to be added to water. (This may seem ironic, given that companies who want to market new drugs must prove they are safe first whereas a drug already in our water will stay there until we prove it isn't safe.)
Absolute proof may be hard to come by, but the evidence is abundant and compelling. A U.S. congressional subcommittee announced after hearings in 1977 that it could no longer assure the public that fluoride doesn't cause cancer; later tests, which it ordered, showed a link to bone and liver cancer.
The U.S. National Research Council reported that fluoride is dangerous to health and that "reductions in fluoride in drinking water would be easier to administer, monitor and evaluate" than reductions in foods, beverages and dental products.
A half dozen studies in the Journal of the American Medical Association show more hip fractures in fluoridated areas - up to 300 per cent more, according to one report. Appearing on a recent Canadian television show, a former scientist with the Environmental Protection Agency called fluoridation "the biggest fraud of the century."
Dr. John Colquhoun, Principal Dental Officer for the New Zealand city of Auckland, once advised mandatory fluoridation; so did Dr. Richard Foulkes, special consultant to the B.C. Minister of Health. Both later reversed their recommendations. Wrote Colquhoun in 1982: "Common sense should tell us that if a poison circulating in a child's body can damage tooth-forming cells, then other harm is also likely." Foulkes wrote in 1992: "There is evidence that fluoridation does not prevent tooth decay and may cause serious illness, birth defects and premature death."
In the final analysis, perhaps the proof is in the water. So, does Limeback drink tap water? "I purchase distilled water at a local drugstore and we use it for all our beverage needs," he says. "Look, I've been drinking fluoride for 35 years and I'm worried. "I have joint problems which cleared up when I switched to non-fluoridated water . . . fluoride is a pollutant, so why would you want to swallow that stuff?"
Michael Downey is a Toronto freelance writer.
(The following article was published by the Calgary Herald before the plebiscite in response to several editorials by columnists: Fluoride plebiscites are Calgary's cross to bear, Naomi Lakritz, 09/20/98; Both sides have become insufferable, Naomi Lakritz, October 4, 1998; Conspiracy theory down the drain, Peter Menzies, October 5, 1998; Evidence of damage underwhelming, Peter Stockland, October 4, 1998)Calgary Herald, October 16, 1998 "In Rebuttal" side bar by page Editor Beth Burgess: Herald columnists Peter Stockland and Naomi Lakritz have both written about the fluoride plebiscite in recent weeks. Helen Carsted and Leslie Reeves, of Calgarians for Choice, a group opposed to mandatory water fluoridation, offer this rebuttal.
Helen Carsted and Leslie Reeves for the Calgary Herald:
Pennsylvannia Supreme Court Justice J.P. Flaherty heard the case against fluoridation and stated: "...the evidence is quite convincing that the addition of sodium fluoride to the public water supply at one part per million is extremely deleterious to the human body.... Prior to my hearing this case, I gave the matter of fluoridation little, if any, thought but I received quite an education, and noted that the proponents of fluoridation do nothing more than try to impugn the objectivity of those who oppose fluoridation."
It is not fluoridation opponents who have poisoned the water and become insufferable. It is Herald columnists who don't do basic research. Instead of offering an opinion based on new information, columnists disparage community volunteers. Instead of asking why Council members voted for another plebiscite, columnists offer mere opinions.
If fluoridation was safe and effective, why couldn't Calgary Regional Health Authority (CRHA) convince the majority of Councillors? If the case for fluoridation was unassailable, why did CRHA, in concert with the City Administrative staff, stack the deck by hand-picking fluoridation proponents to Calgary's review panel of five professors?
Doesn't it strike columnists as odd that the conclusions of a much more comprehensive review of fluoridation by five scientists and professionals in Natick, Massachusetts, could be so different than ours?
Unlike our five professors, Natick scientists were not chosen by the regional Health Board, known to have a staunch pro-fluoridation stance, nor were they chosen by the town's Administration. The chairman of this panel was eminently qualified and was a former Apollo Project scientist with NASA with over 100 published Chemical, Scientific, and Engineering publications to his credit. Natick scientists had impeccable credentials with backgrounds in genetics, biochemistry, microbiology, engineering, chemistry, mathematics, and human health risk assessment.
Unlike our Calgary panel, their scientists reached a unanimous conclusion: "...that the risks of overexposure to fluoride far outweigh any current benefit of water fluoridation."
Given this and other information, we are puzzled as to why Professor Dixon Thompson - the Chairman of Calgary's panel - would mention the words "conspiracy theory" when he speaks of fluoridation opponents.
Are Professor Thompson, and the Herald implying that Councillors voted for another plebiscite because they believed in "conspiracy theories"? Or, could it be that the majority of our Aldermen didn't buy into the myopic view of fluoridation proponents who refuse to look at all the evidence in its entirety, who refuse to respect the concept of self-determination, and who refuse to accept our right to freedom of choice?
Unlike Herald columnist Peter Stockland, who can't wrap his mind around the fact that it's fluoride intake over a lifetime which causes damage, and unlike fellow columnist Naomi Lakritz whose "eyes glaze over" at the "arsenal of studies" which support stopping fluoridation, many city Councillors did their homework. They also sat through hours of public hearings, both before and after the fluoridation review panel's report.
Has it never occurred to Herald columnists that your thoughtless comments about Elke Babiuk, and other fluoridation opponents, also imply that our city aldermen were too ignorant to make an intelligent decision when they voted for a plebiscite? Has it occurred to columnists, that by dismissing local fluoridation opponents as fringe, you are also marginalizing reputable scientists and other professionals world-wide?
The reason Stockland doesn't see the insidious effects of fluoride is because he doesn't open his mind and eyes to the nature of the problem. People were not dropping dead in the streets from leaded gasoline either. Like fluoride, it affected children first. Nor were people dropping dead in the streets from asbestos. It took 20-plus years, and many years of denial and foot-dragging before both threats were recognised.
Have we forgotten how authorities tried to dismiss concerns over the blood supply, forced sterilization, asbestos, the Dalkon shield, the Méme breast implant, DES, leaded gasoline?
U.S. scientists are calling for a congressional investigation. It's only a matter of time before it
happens. Do the research. You owe it to the public.
So Council members voted for another fluoridation plebiscite because I filled them full of "Wacky conspiracy theories", and bamboozled them by "fear-mongering"? ("Brushing up on fluoride - wacky conspiracy theories hurtful to caring health professionals," by Licia Corbella, Sun, Sept. 29.)
What a crock.
Doesn't Calgary Regional Health Authority (CRHA) realize how absurd its American-imported propaganda is? They are spending $250,000 tax dollars on a slogan "Nature thought of it first".
Indeed! Nature also gave us mercury, and lead.
Unlike Vitamin D in milk, the lack of which causes rickets, fluoride "deficiency-disease" doesn't exist so there is no "need" to ingest industrial-grade fluoride. Far from being a "nutrient", our fluoride would go to Swan Hills if Calgary stopped fluoridating tomorrow.
CRHA was given the opportunity to prove fluoridation safe and effective before the Councillors who actually sat through hours of hearings and read the "'I-have-to-get-through-this' reading material". They failed to make their case. It's that simple.
If the arguments in favor of fluoridation were sound, proponents would not now resort to the tools and tactics of spin-doctors to get their message out - "emotional human arguments", endorsements, slogans, appeals to "authorities", "science by media" and "shoot the messenger".
The repeated attacks from CRHA and the media on my integrity and alleged "misinformation" is water off my back, however offensive or outrageous it is. I am only a messenger. Much of the new data I relayed to Council was either written or reviewed by scientists and other medical/dental professionals world-wide. Several professionals who responded to my request for information, were once staunch fluoridation proponents. They withdrew their support after extensive research. Are they all wrong?
Those who eagerly paint me black only disgrace themselves by attempting to impugn the integrity of professionals with impeccable credentials and qualifications. Shame on them.
People who want to do something to us 'for our own good' but against our will are so blind-sighted by their faith that they are incapable of grasping the most fundamental fact - fluoridation will never be accepted or non-controversial. They cannot fathom the unassailable common bond which is forged between so many diverse people from all walks of life. It transcends all professions, all political parties, all socio-economic strata, all ages (young and old), and all religious and cultural backgrounds.
We want the freedom to make our own health care choices and the right to refuse daily medication for ourselves and our children. That option is unavailable to many because fluoridation is expensive to remove and difficult to avoid. The late Dr. F. Exner said it best:
"A majority vote which violates ethical or moral principles or deprives individuals of rights they should be free to enjoy is not democracy but tyranny. It is a subversion of democracy that will bring democracy to an end in the degree that it is allowed to operate."
The last word by Carl Sagan:
"Arguments from authority simply do not count; too many authorities have been mistaken too often."
For information from the opponents of fluoridation, visit www.cadvision.com/fluoride [now fluoridation.com]...
WHITEHORSE After a six-month debate, city council voted 4-3 to end 30 years of fluoridation. "I still believe were going the wrong way on this," said Coun. Duke Connely, "I believe we will regret this in the long run." However, Coun. Allan Jacobs who also voted against banishing fluoride, said it's unfair to impose it on the whole community when there are other means of getting it.
Editor's Note: The Whitehorse Council specifically waited until the Calgary fluoridation review was finished before they made a decision on fluoridation. Unlike our Council, they stopped fluoridation on the same day as our Council approved the wording of the fluoridation plebiscite question. Whitehorse was apprised of the situation in Calgary the process which led to the Calgary report was tainted.
Given the information this newspaper has received on fluoridation from competent scientists and the facts readily available on my Internet site www.fluoridation.com/index.htm Catherine Ford's 0/4/18/97 editorial appears to be tabloid journalism.
Ford states we are "zealots" conducting "an ongoing campaign of voodoo to frighten and worry people". She claims the poorest Calgary children would be deprived if fluoridation is stopped. By her definition, British Columbia is the most callous in its disregard for the poor because they are the least fluoridated province in Canada, about 5%. Yet, BC's decay rate is equal to and even better off than some of our most fluoridated provinces.
Less than 1% of western Continental Europe is fluoridated, yet decay rates are comparable to ours. When the Berlin Wall fell in Germany, the East was ordered to stop fluoridation. According to an extensive study, poor children did not suffer increased tooth decay. In fact, decay rates dropped further. A recent Health Canada (HC) review by a panel of dentists also reveals that fluoridation imparts no statistically significant and/or clinically relevant benefits to Canadian childrens' teeth. Other large-scale studies show tooth decay has dropped precipitously world-wide, regardless of fluoridation status. A 1984 Alberta survey proved there were no statistically significant differences in decay rates between unfluoridated Calgary children and long-time fluoridated Edmonton children. Why did local health authorities push fluoridation in 1989?
Ford further displays her ignorance by stating that we should not lower Calgary's current 1.0 ppm (1.0 mg/L) "optimal" fluoride content until "all the evidence is in." Doesn't she read her own newspapers? The fact that children are ingesting too much is self-evident by the recent recommendation of a Federal-Provincial Committee on drinking water guidelines. Edmonton has followed the advice and lowered fluoride levels. Calgary is now moving to do the same. The rest of Canada will eventually follow. HC's reviewers also revealed that childrens' fluoride intake is out-of- control. The evidence is clearly in.
One of the Calgary professors who reviewed the issue for City Council, stated in his April 8th presentation: "fluoridation should be entirely stopped because there are serious health risks" and marginal to no benefit for children. Reputable scientists world-wide, including those at the United States Environmental Protection Agency agree with this assessment. Moreover, in 1997 Natick Massachusetts Councillors appointed a panel of impartial scientists with impeccable credentials to do an extensive review of fluoridation. The Committee, chaired by a former Apollo project scientist with NASA with over 100 published chemical, scientific, and engineering publications to his credit, unanimously: "...reached the firm conclusion that the risks of overexposure to fluoride far outweigh any current benefit of water fluoridation."
It's regrettable that the very children Ford champions are those most susceptible to fluoride's negative effects. The U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry recently stated: "...subsets of the population may be unusually susceptible to the toxic effects of fluoride and its compounds. These populations include the elderly, people with deficiencies of calcium, magnesium, and/or vitamin C, and people with cardiovascular and kidney problems."
Taxpayers have spent over $5 million on fluoridation. If the issue is really poverty, then let's use the money wisely and fill empty stomachs with wholesome food rather than flushing fluoride down the toilet. Nutrition, education, and oral hygiene are the most critical factors for healthy teeth, not fluoridated water.
Rather than discussing the issue coherently, Ford stoops to what she alleges we are guilty of fear-mongering. Does she believe that all the scientists mentioned above are guilty of voodoo and fear- mongering? Does she believe our Council is so unintelligent that they may "be bamboozled" into approving yet another plebiscite. I am confident Councillors who vote on the 27th, will do so based on new scientific data, not rhetoric. It's time to discard blind beliefs and biases and do what's morally and medically right turn off the fluoride taps.
The recently-filed class action legal suit against dental associations over the known and proven dangers of mercury amalgam tooth fillings may be an omen of things yet to come if we continue to ignore the advice of scientists.
Call me crazy, label me loonie, designate me dippy I believe this new plebiscite on water fluoridation is a good idea. It will be the sixth such vote in our fluoride-obsessed city. But this time a plebiscite is vital because there's a wealth of new information suggesting that fluoridation may be harmful. I wouldn't have said this until recently.
For years I've virtually ignored the issue, believing that the health experts must know best. But the same kinds of experts gave us HIV and hepatitis-tainted blood, mercury fillings, silicone breast implants, asbestos insulation, and other health and environmental horrors. They never mean to hurt anyone. It's just that when new technologies evolve, the benefits are always more obvious than the long-term side-effects. With fluoride, it doesn't take much research to raise serious doubts.
Fluoride prevents tooth decay (although some dispute even that). When concentrations rise too high, however, if can also cause such diseases as skeletal and dental fluorosis. And levels are rising because of fluoride from many sources, including dental products, fruit juices, and, of course, the water.
A blue-ribbon panel from U of C, although concluding fluoridation should continue, recommended dropping the level. (And admitted that some questions remain unanswered.) A dissenting member of the panel, statistician Miloslav Nosal, said forcefully fluoridation must be stopped. He cited studies showing older people especially men are far more likely to break hips if they drink fluoridated water. Nosal also pointed out that since all water fluoridation was stopped in Germany in 1990, dental health has actually improved. And in the period when Edmonton's water had fluoride and Calgary's didn't, there was no discernable difference in dental health.
After considering the U of C report, the city administration recommended a plebiscite. Yesterday council agreed by an 8-7 Count. Ald Ray Jones put the political case perfectly. "Of all the letters I've received, not one says 'leave fluoride in,' " he said. "Every one of them says we should take it out."
Several aldermen, including Sue Higgins and Barry Erskine, noted the first rule of medicine is to do no harm. And there's growing proof that, for some people at least, fluoride is damaging. That raises the legal nightmare of lawsuits. If council were to ignore any evidence fluoride is harmful, Mayor Duerr might someday find himself in the same spot as the feds desperately trying to broker a settlement that doesn't bankrupt the government. (There was a startling moment yesterday when city officials conceded fluoridation also puts trace amounts of cadmium, lead and arsenic all deadly poisons -into the water.)
A slim majority of aldermen, thank heavens, realized that this issue must be handed back to the people. Perhaps the most telling argument against universal fluoridation is there are far more sensible ways to protect your choppers. Does it make any sense to spend $475,00 a year to fluoridate all the city's water, when applying the stuff directly to your teeth is known to work very well?
As Ald. Ray Clark pointed out, most of our fluoridated water doesn't get anywhere near a tooth. It washes cars, waters lawns, or goes down the toilet. The answer seems obvious stop fluoridation, and brush your teeth.
The ongoing anti-fluoride dispute is nothing short of fear-mongering that, if successful, will harm the children who can least afford to be penalized. And every person who grew up in this city with non-fluoridated water, who spent their childhood in dentists' chairs because of cavities, should remember what it was like and fight like fury to keep fluoride in this city's water.
There is no guarantee that Calgary city council, when it votes next week on the issue, will be bamboozled into approving yet another plebiscite and, if convinced by the anti-fluoride zealots to do so, that the people of this city would vote to turn off the machinery. Yet in a climate of fear, where people want absolutely risk-free lives, the anti-chemical campaign sucks in too many people who want the best for their children and only hear of the evils of additives.
They have lived safe from harm. They don't understand or acknowledge a worse alternative than the tiny possibility of drug or chemical reaction. Those who worry inordinately are often the same people who have never actually seen the devastating, life threatening complications of any childhood disease such as polio or measles. They only hear the risks associated with vaccinations and inoculations. They choose only to listen to negatives without considering the statistical chances of being placed in danger from getting a needle are so minute as to be irrelevant. Because a couple of generations of parents haven't had to face the diseases that used to kill children, there is an ignorance about protections from vaccinations to hand-washing to additives such as iodine in salt or fluoride in water.
Because so much of the fresh water in North America is naturally fluoridated, or has been artificially fluoridated in the past 50 years, worriers fail to see the differences between children raised with fluoridated water and those raised without. They worry about the possibility of a condition known as dental fluorosis, a discoloring or (at its worst) a pitting of the tooth enamel. Instead they should consider the evidence before their eyes the millions of North American children whose teeth have been protected from cavities. In a perfect world, this wouldn't be an issue. All children would receive regular dental checkups and care; all parents would consider dental health a priority. But reality means families without dental insurance and those who can't afford trips to the dentist just don't go when such care is considered a matter of choice. Without fluoridated water, the poorest children are at the most risk. Fluoride at the least, remains "a safe and effective public health measure," said Dr. Brent Friesen, Calgary's chief medical officer of health. His opinion is supported around the world including by the World Health Organization.
If scientists want to reduce the level of fluoride added to Calgary's water -from the current 1.0 parts per million it is a decision to be made when all the evidence is in. The very people who should know, the Canadian Dental Association recommend an optimal fluoride level of 0.7 to 1.2 parts per million. Such changes are a matter for scientific decision not voter choice.
But there is an ongoing campaign of voodoo designed to frighten and worry people who have better things to do than look askance at the water coming out of their taps. If children are getting too much fluoride, let's try convincing dentists, who still offer fluoride rinses, to stop. Anyone inordinately worried about the level of the chemical need do nothing more exotic than buy a non-fluoridated toothpaste (or use baking soda) and monitor children's dental visits, refusing fluoride treatment of any kind.
Calgary's water was fluoridated in 1991, following the fifth and finally favorable 1989 plebiscite.
Given the wealth of evidence to prove the efficacy of water fluoridation, that should have been the
end of it. Those who objected could have stuck to the expensive and unnecessary alternative of
bottled water. But duelling points of view have convinced Calgary city council to consider another
plebiscite. The scaremongering includes importing a former adviser to the British Columbia
government who hinted the city would leave itself open to a class-action lawsuit if the water
continued to be fluoridated. This tactic is out of line, and makes no more sense than to threaten the
city with the opposite: a class-action suit on behalf of all the generations of children who did not have
the proven benefits of fluoridated city water and who, if the scare tactics work will not in the future.
Catherine Ford can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com
Calgarians will get to vote this fall in yet another plebiscite on fluoridation of city drinking water if city council backs a committee recommendation. It would be the voters sixth chance in 40 years to express their views on fluoridation. Council's operations and environment committee also wants council to reduce the level of fluoride in city water from Its current one part per million to 0.7 ppm It Will consider the issue April 20.
The decision was made after a panel of five scientists from the University of Calgary and scores of fluoride opponents presented the committee with a cascade of conflicting evidence on the benefits and hazards of water fluoridation during a five-hour session.
"I'm pretty pleased that they all put it forward to council said Elke Babiuk, director of the Alberta Chapter of the Health Action Network Society, "It's ultimately a decision that needs to be left up to the people."
"There are two opposing sides. each with tons of information and statistics," said Ald. Ray Clark who argued that the lack of agreement on the issue could put the public at risk. Committee chairman Ald. David Bronconnier said he felt fluoride opponents presented no new information, but he voted for the plebiscite because the panel said it didn't have enough time or data study the topic properly. Asked why anti-VLT crusaders must gather signatures to force a city plebiscite on that issue while fluoridation could easily find its way onto the fall ballot, Bronconnier said: "VLTs are beyond council's control, they are a provincial issue. Water supply is a municipal issue."
A federal-provincial study recently suggested the optimum amount of fluoride be reduced to 0 8 ppm from one ppm. given all the other sources of fluoride people access such as toothpaste and dental treatments. Edmonton recently followed that decision. Panel chairman Dixon Thompson, a U of C professor, said it recommended reducing fluoridation in the city's water from one to 0.7 ppm "in an effort to reach total consensus with its lone dissenting member, Prof. Miloslav Nosal. He recommended that water fluoridation in Calgary should not continue at its present concentration of 1 ppm. Should it continue at all, then the fluoride concentration should decrease to at most, 0.5 to 0.7 ppm he said. "There is statistically significant evidence that exposure to 1 ppm of fluoridated drinking water over a long period of time is associated with increased evidence of hip fractures," he said.
Dr. Brent Friesen, the city's medical officer of health said water fluoridation is an effective way of preventing dental cavities, especially for children. Fluoridation was started in August 1991 after a 1989 plebiscite which narrowly approved it. Unsuccessful plebiscites were held in 1957, 1961, 1966 and 1971.
Calgary will face lawsuits over damaged teeth if fluoride is left in the city's drinking water, says a former health adviser to the British Columbia government. Parents whose children's teeth have been discolored and pitted by too much fluoride a recognized condition called dental fluorosis will get together and take legal action, predicted Dr. Richard Foulkes. "I think (the city) should discontinue water fluoridation ... inevitably there's going to be a class-action suit." Foulkes said in Calgary.
The Herald couldn't reach local public health officials for comment Tuesday. But Dr. Brent Friesen, the Calgary Regional Health Authority's chief medical officer of health, said last week: "We are satisfied that water fluoridation remains a safe and effective public health measure" to prevent cavities.
Foulkes, a B.C. family doctor invited by local fluoridation opponents, will today address the city's operations and environment committee, which is looking at a report on fluoride's risks and benefits. It was written for the city by an expert panel of five professors. The report recommends reducing the amount of fluoride added to drinking water to 0.7 parts per million, from the one ppm that has been added since August 1991. "The total fluoride intake is now higher than it was when the optimum level was set at one ppm," it says. But that reduction isn't sufficient to prevent dental fluorosis in children who already get too much fluoride in other sources, including toothpaste, soda pop and foods. Foulkes argued.
The U of C professors, in a majority opinion, said: "Water fluoridation is a safe and inexpensive mechanism to improve the health of Calgarians. especially the 25 per cent with lowest incomes, who can least afford alternatives." In a minority dissenting opinion, U of C professor Miloslav Nosal, a bio-statistics expert, recommended that "water fluoridation in Calgary should stop, but if it continues, then it should be decreased to at most 0.5 to 0.7 ppm."
Foulkes said most of the fluoride in tap water isn't consumed by people, but pollutes the Bow River downstream of Calgary when the water is flushed down toilets, is used to water lawns and for other purposes. Studies of B.C.'s Columbia and Fraser rivers show fluoride levels above 0.2 parts per million harm fish, yet the U of C report ignored the potential damage to the Bow River's world-famous trout fishery, he added. About 25 years ago, Foulkes, as a special consultant to B.C.'s health minister of the time, supported water fluoridation throughout that province. He said he became an opponent after examining the scientific case for and against fluoride.
This article contains several gross errors and omissions. Water fluoridation is a very volatile topic which will be addressed today by 3 Calgary Regional Health Authority- meeting as well as by a public rally. I have recommended that fluoridation be stopped or, if continued, to be decreased to at most .5 - .7 parts per million. The article neglected to mention the possibility of stopping fluoridation and stated that I have recommended a 700-per-cent increase. If true, I could be held liable for violating the government regulations on toxic substances. This article quoted me incorrectly. The correct quotation is: "It is recommended that water fluoridation in Calgary should not continue at its present level of 1 ppm. Should it continue at all, then the fluoride concentration in drinking water should decrease to at most .5 - .7 ppm." The conclusions of the dissenting report are entirely omitted from the Herald article. Similar problems and errors have appeared in the past with other issues as well and I would recommend that sensitive scientific issues be handled by science writers such as the Herald's Mark Lowey. He has proven his chops on many occasions in the past.
Miloslav Nosal. M.Sc., PhD Calgary
One of the scientists who authored a study of fluoridation of the city's water supply said Monday that his views have been misrepresented. U of C Prof. Miloslav Nosal, an expert in bio-statistics, said he has three major concerns connected with the review he conducted for the city with four other U of C professors. He outlined his concerns in a letter to council members They were:
Five University of Calgary scientists are recommending a 30 per cent reduction in the amount of fluoride in the city's water supply. The report for the city and Calgary Regional Health Authority recommended that fluoridation of the city's water be reduced from one part per million to 0.7 parts per million (ppm), given the many other sources of fluoride now available. The finding follows closely on the heels of a recommendation by a federal-provincial subcommittee on drinking water that the optimum level for fluoridation be 0.8 ppm. The two decisions are not linked and were made independently. But they mirror a growing understanding in dental health care circles about the total exposure to fluoride for most people especially children.
The panel, chaired by U of C Professor Dixon Thompson, said it found no new scientific evidence on the health and safety effects of fluoridation which would support major change to current policies. But it did say that other sources of fluoride in the diet, better oral hygiene and better dental procedures have decreased the relative importance of beneficial effects from water fluoridation.
The panel members have refused comment until their report is presented to city council's operations and environment committee this Wednesday. Dr. Brent Friesen, the city's medical health officer, said he needs the panel to explain why their recommendation of 0.7 ppm from the of 0.8 ppm. But Friesen agrees with the local recommendation because it still provides benefits and minimizes potential for over-exposure.
"The debate over water fluoridation is very highly polarized." said the report's authors, who added that the only report that would be widely accepted is one that didn't come to conclusions. If the health concerns raised about fluoride that it causes cancer, increases bone fractures and suppresses the immune system are true, then fluoridating the water supply should be halted, they said.
The practice began in North America in the 1940s. Fluoride in the water supply was thought to provide protection from acids that cause tooth decay for the largest number of people. But now the thinking in the dental community is changing, said Dr. Amid Ismail, a dentistry professor at the University of Michigan who formerly worked at Dalhousie University and is still a member of the Canadian Dental Association.
A reduction in water supply fluoridation makes sense now because other sources of fluoride exist that weren't available when the practice began, said Ismail, who has studied fluoridation of more than 150 municipal water supplies. There's what he calls a halo effect now, as people not only consume fluoride in water but also in soda pop, other beverages and food made with fluoridated water supplies. "There are so many sources of fluoride out there, a reduction shouldn't make a difference," said Dr. Gordon Thompson, executive director of the Alberta Dental Association and no relation to the U of C's Dixon Thompson.
FLUORIDE, Many foods contain fluoride
People are exposed to fluoride from a variety of sources, including air water, soil and food. Most foods contain low levels but some such as marine fish, bananas and potatoes contain more. A cup of brewed tea can contain as much as 8.6 ppm of fluoride, while some bottled beverages contain 2.7 ppm. That's why total fluoride intake, although difficult to calculate, is important in this debate.
"I think we are moving toward a time when fluoride will be removed completely from water supplies," said Dr. Conrad Sonntag, a dentist who practices in Redcliff, just outside Medicine Hat. He said new evidence is also emerging that fluoridated water is not as effective at preventing tooth decay as first thought. What dentists do agree on is that parents must become about the use of fluoridated toothpaste which contains between 1,000 and 1500 ppm of fluoride by children who may swallow it. Kids should be supervised to use only a small pea-sized amount of toothpaste and rinse thoroughly after brushing to ensure they don't swallow. Ingestion of toothpaste is a major cause of fluorosis, a symptom of which is chalky white enamel on teeth, said Thompson.
"I see a lot of kids with fluorosis," said Sonntag. He approves topical fluoride treatments for patients but has been strongly opposed to water fluoridation for 15 years. A more effective way to prevent cavities in children would be to ensure fluoride drops are distributed in schools every morning, a practice he said is followed in Germany and was used in Saskatchewan at one time. New types of ceramic fillings, sealants and cements used to replace mercury amalgam fillings are actually designed to release fluoride over time, he says.
In the mean time, opponents of fluoridation are rallying in preparation for Wednesday's committee meeting. On Tuesday, April 7, at 7 p.m. in the John Dutton Theatre in the downtown Calgary Public Library at 616 Macleod Tr. S.E., the Citizens for Choice in Health Care Association and the Health Action Network Society plan to have Dr Richard Foulkes and Dr. Thomas Evans address the issue. Foulkes, a British Columbia doctor, used to be an ardent fluoride proponent but is now opposed to its use, while Evans is a Calgary dentist who doesn't use fillings containing mercury.
Some aldermen have already made up their minds on the issue. Alderman Lord says council should stop fluoridation completely, while Alderman Ray Jones is calling for a plebiscite and Alderman Barry Erskine isn't convinced of fluoride's benefits.
Who did it... Recommendations... Dissent... History... [sidebar not included]
Calgary (CP) It's been surveyed to death, split city council in two, debated in court and yet, for the sixth time, Calgarians may be asked to vote again on a never-ending issue water fluoridation.
To fluoridate or not to fluoridate; that is the question. Today, a city council committee will hear from both sides of the perennial debate doctors and professors who are proponents for fluoridation, and those who have committed their lives to ridding the water of what they call poison.
"It's a contentious issue, all right," said Ald. David Bronconnier, who heads the standing committee that will make recommendations to council whether Calgarians should vote on the matter. According to Bronconnier, most of the hoopla is caused by a few Calgarians who have been unyielding in their crusade against fluoride ever since it began trickling from taps eight years ago. "A couple of them literally live and breathe this issue," Bronconnier said. "That's their calling. They are committed to the cause of having fluoride eliminated from the drinking water." He's referring to Jack Locke and Elke Babiuk, who have relentlessly been fighting city hall over fluoridation since it was introduced.
Locke, a self-employed freelance writer and editor, made the courts his battlefront from 1989 to 1993. He argued that fluoridated water violated Canada's Charter of Rights, that council didn't follow proper procedure during the 1989 plebiscite, and questioned whether such public votes are binding. A judge turfed the case and ordered Locke to pay the city's $35,000 court costs.
As director of the Health Action Network Society in Alberta, Babiuk networks globally with anti-fluoride crusaders. Hard-to-pronounce medical terms flow from her mouth as easily as water from Calgary taps, and you can find her on a flashy, yet informative, web site. Babiuk speaks at a rapid pace, spurting assertions such as: "What makes the teeth brittle also makes the bones brittle."
Health Action Network Society, Alberta Chapter
HANS AB Chapter is not active now (address, fax, phone are no longer valid). HANS in BC is active in Canada
The just-published edition of the peer-reviewed medical Journal Brain Research (vol 784:1998), reveals that aluminum-induced neural degeneration in rats is greatly enhanced when the animals were fed low doses of fluoride. The presence of fluoride enhanced the bioavailability of aluminum (Al) and caused more Al to cross the blood-brain barrier and be deposited in the brain. The Al level in the brain in the fluoride-treated group was double that of controls.
The pathological changes found in the brain tissue of the animals given fluoride and aluminum- fluoride were similar to the alterations found in the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia.
The authors stated that: "While the small amount of AlF3 in the drinking water of rats required for neurotoxic effects is surprising, perhaps even more surprising are the neurotoxic results of NaF [sodium fluoride] at the dose given in the present study (2.1 ppm NaF)" 2.1 parts per million NaF equals about 1.0 milligram fluoride ion per liter of water (the same level found in 1.0 ppm "optimally" fluoridated water).(1)
This study confirms what the authors of a 1995 study, published in the Journal Neurotoxicology and Teratology, predicted when they found fluoride-induced behavioral disruptions (related to drug- induced hyperactivity and cognitive deficits). The authors anticipated that given the behavioral disorders found in fluoride-fed rats, damage could be expected in the hippocampus of the brain (central processor which integrates inputs from the environment, memory, etc).
When contacted by phone, Dr. Phyllis Mullenix, one of authors of the 1995 study and the scientist who recently provided comments to Calgary's Operations & Environment Committee regarding the Water Fluoridation Review(2), stated that she's "not at all surprised" this recent study found pathological brain changes in fluoride-treated rats. "They came up with the evidence which made our prediction come true" she added.
The present study is one more study which shows that even low levels of fluoride may have serious health implications for people and that the effect is enhanced in the presence of other neurotoxins like aluminum. City Council should stop artificial fluoridation.
1) The formula for converting NaF to fluoride ion is ppm x 45%. Thus, 2.1 ppm x 45% = .95 ppm. PPM=Mgs/liter
2) Scientific and Professional comments on the "Report of the Expert Panel for Water Fluoridation Review" at:
Health Action Network Society, Alberta Chapter
HANS AB Chapter is not active now (address, fax, phone are no longer valid). HANS in BC is active in Canada
Upon reading the report, especially the "Dissenting Section", it is clear that our city bureaucrats appear to be pushing their own agenda and that of the Calgary Regional Health Authority's Chief Medical and Dental Officer of Health, not the conclusions of the Fluoridation review panel. Nowhere is it stated in this report that panelists recommended "..a plebiscite not be held... "
Whoever wrote the "EXECUTIVE SUMMARY" of this report either had trouble with the truth, or didn't understand what was written. The following statements are totally contradictory to what is contained in the report: "Four Panel members agreed that there was not sufficient new scientific evidence upon which to base a recommendation for substantial changes to water fluoridation policy in Calgary. The fifth member concluded that there was evidence supporting health concerns, but that the evidence was weak."
The evidence presented by this panelist can in NO WAY be construed as "weak". The "Recommendations" in the report of the dissenting panelist are as follows:
It was also clear from this dissenting report that "Many studies provide evidence that today water fluoridation is not the main reason of caries decline and such practice should be reconsidered." In fact, the panelist presented local data: "The 1985 Alberta Dental Health Survey provides data documenting that caries rate among 13 year old children in Edmonton (water fluoridated since 1967) and Calgary (water not fluoridated) was not statistically different." [emphasis added]
When local data show no benefit, WHAT MORE PROOF DOES ONE NEED THAT FLUORIDATION IN CALGARY IS SUPERFLUOUS useless, needless, and wasteful?
Health Action Network Society, Alberta Chapter
HANS AB Chapter is not active now (address, fax, phone are no longer valid). HANS in BC is active in Canada
Natick citizens will receive health warnings about drinking fluoridated water in their next utility bill. The warnings were approved by the town's Board of Selectmen in a recent 3-2 vote and were spurred by the conclusions of the "Natick Fluoridation Study Committee", a panel of five independent and impartial scientists who were appointed by the Selectmen to review the risks and benefits of artificial water fluoridation.
According to the panel of scientists, "The Committee reached the firm conclusion that the risks of overexposure to fluoride far outweigh any current benefit of water fluoridation." (see Executive Summary at naticks.htm). Partial conclusions:
Fluoridation of city water should be cut 30% to 50%, says a new report on the health and safety aspects of the chemical. The report says the city should cut the amount of fluoride it adds to drinking water to between 0.5 and 0.7 milligrams per litre. The city now adds 1 mg per litre.
A five-member panel charged with reviewing health and safety benefits of water fluoridation says the chemical does help prevent tooth decay. But it questions impacts of increased fluoride levels on people's overall health, pointing to possible links to increased hip fracture rates as well as fluorosis, a condition that causes discolored teeth.
In a report that's to go to a council committee next week, the panel says fluoridation"is a safe and inexpensive mechanism to improve the health of Calgarians, especially the 25% with lowest incomes who can least afford alternatives. "(But) much more research is needed to clarify a very complex relationship between fluoride intake and human health. Prudence dictates potential risks cannot be disregarded."
The panel says it may be more appropriate to provide fluoride through things like better access to dental care for low-income families. It says health authorities should also study total fluoride intake. Scientists can't agree on a "safe" level. The report says health authorities should pay more attention to sources including the fluoride-rich toothpaste that children swallow.
Elke Babiuk of the Health Action Network Society says the report doesn't go far enough. She wants an end to fluoridation saying it is linked to cancer, bone deterioration and lower IQs in children.
A new report on fluoridation of city water has raised enough questions that the city should stop the practice, say some aldermen. "I think the only acceptable answer is to drop it down to zero," said Ald. Jon Lord yesterday. "Fluoride is in everything we eat and drink. i can't accept we are still putting fluoride in the water knowing children are getting fluoride poisoning to the degree they are. I predict fluoride will probably become one of the greatest environmental and biological disasters of modern times."
Recommendations from an expert panel say the amount of fluoride in drinking water should be cut by 30%/ The panel says while fluoridation helps prevent tooth decay, it questions the impact of increased fluoride levels on people's overall health. Lord will ask the city law department if council can order an end to fluoridation.
An alderman is questioning the validity of a task force set up to review the safety of fluoridation in the city's drinking water. Ald. Jon Lord said allegations of bias and secrecy have been levelled at the city-appointed task force. Long-time fluoride opponent Elke Babiuk of the Health Action Network Society complained after she was denied admittance to a task force meeting.
There is concern the city chose the five professors for the panel because they support fluoride. City waterworks lab superintendent and panel spokesman Dr. Read Seidner said the scientific review was never intended as an open forum, though the panel met with dental biologists on both sides of the fluoride debate.
Lord said the city needs to know if fluoride is safe so it can make a decision on continuing the process. "Are we growing kids with brain damage so they have good teeth?" Lord asked. The report will be made public next month.
Calgary public health officials will recommend the city reduce fluoride in drinking water after a government advisory group found people are over-exposed to the chemical. "We are satisfied that water fluoridation remains a safe and effective public health measure" to strengthen tooth enamel and prevent cavities, said Dr. Brent Friesen, chief medical officer of health for the Calgary Regional Health Authority.
But health officials will follow the recommendation of a federal-provincial subcommittee on drinking water standards, to reduce fluoride levels in tap water by 20 per cent, Friesen said in an interview Thursday. The advisory group has recommended the "optimal" level of fluoride be cut to 0.8 parts per million from the current one ppm (or one milligram per litre). The maximum limit allowed in drinking water will remain at 1.5 ppm
It is the first reduction in the optimal level since water fluoridation began in North America more than 50 years ago. Health officials and the city's waterworks department also are waiting for the scientific review. The review on fluoride's effectiveness and safety is nearing completion by a panel of a local university experts, said Read Seidner, supervisor of the city waterworks laboratory. The five-member panel's report is scheduled to be released nest month.
Recent health studies have shown overexposure to fluoride has increased the number of children with a dental condition called fluorosis. It ranges from white flecks on teeth to severe mottling and pitting of tooth enamel.
Fluoridation of Calgary water supply started in August 1991, after being endorsed by 53 per cent of voters in a 1989 municipal plebiscite. Voters had defeated the measure in four previous plebiscites, in 1957, 1961, 1966 and 1971.
Calgary mother Elke Babiuk who opposes fluoridation, said the latest studies show fluoride is ineffective in fighting tooth decay and causes dental fluorosis, bone damage and other health problems.
Karu Chinniah, Alberta Environmental Protection's representative on the subcommittee, said the reduction should help avoid fluorosis yet still prevent cavities.
Health studies show people are getting fluoride from many sources, including toothpaste, mouthwash and fluoride rinses in dental offices, Chinniah said. Fluoride can also be present in soda pop, canned foods and tea.