For the first time in more than 50 years, Windsor drinking water will soon be fluoride-free.
By a vote of 8-3, the city will now join a growing number of municipalities that have voted to end the longtime chemical additive, initially brought into play to prevent tooth decay.
In supporting the measure to remove fluoride, city council went against prevailing scientific belief among health and dental experts, many of whom presented their case – in vain – before council Monday night, including the president of the Essex County Dental Association, Dr. Mark Drkulec, and local medical officer of health, Dr. Allen Heimann (who cited evidence supporting fluoridation from agencies such as the World Health Organization; U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Health Canada).
“The Board of Health of the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit supports community water fluoridation. Adding fluoride to the drinking water supply remains a safe, effective, economical, equitable, and ethical practice for our entire community. It benefits all residents, regardless of age, socioeconomic status, education, employment, or dental insurance status.”
Voting for the motion were Mayor Eddie Francis; councilors Al Magnieh; Percy Hatfield; Ron Jones; Alan Halberstadt; Ed Sleiman; Bill Marra and Drew Dilkens. Those in favor of keeping fluoride in city water were Fulvio Valentinis; Hilary Payne and Jo-Anne Gignac.
Similar measures to end fluoridation have been put into place in recent years in Tecumseh, Lakeshore and Amherstburg. However, London, Hamilton, Peel and Halton recently voted in favor of continuing its respective programs. Reportedly, some 45 percent of Canadian communities add fluoride to their respective water supplies, the majority of which reside in Ontario.
Among those supporting fluoridation’s end was a group called Fluoride Free Windsor, who amongst their arguments, cited the fact that the chemical added to the local water supply - hydrofluorosilicic acid – would be illegal to dump elsewhere within the environment, with its only proven health-related effect said to be tooth enamel hardening.
According to the Windsor Essex Health Unit website, however, fluoride does offer other benefits: “Fluoride, a naturally occurring mineral, has been found to stop, prevent, and even reverse the process of tooth decay. This finding is strongly supported by an extensive body of Canadian and international research.”
Further, it cites a number of other statistics in regard to keeping the status quo, including the fact that 33% of the community has no dental insurance, with predictions that ending water fluoridation could cost between $2.8 to $11.6 million in additional treatment.
Some $125,000 normally allotted for adding fluoride to the water supply will now be shifted into oral health and nutrition education through the region.