Fluoride is hardening more than teeth in London Ontario. In this Southwestern Ontario city it is also hardening positions. The battle to remove fluoride from the city's tap water appears to be gaining strength.
A talk by Dr. Paul Connett Wednesday night at the downtown Central library filled the 370-seat Wolf Performance Hall, forcing organizers to close the doors and turn many away who had hoped to catch the talk by a co-author of the book The Case Against Fluoride.
Connett heads a New York state anti-fluoridation group called the Fluoride Action Network. These American activists have found Canadians receptive to their arguments against the decades old practice. Politicians in two major Canadian cities, Calgary in Alberta and Waterloo in Ontario, have voted to remove the chemical from their municipal water.
Connett challenged Dr. Bryna Warshawsky, associate medical officer of health for the Middlesex-London Health Unit to tackle his arguments publicly. "I want her to tell me where I'm wrong."
The 370-seat Wolf Performance Hall was filled to capacity with those eager to hear Dr. Connett's talk on why fluoridation must be stopped.
The London Free Press reported that when the health unit voted recently to support continuing the 53-year-long practice of fluoridating London water, it was done without debate. The health unit did not take questions from the fluoridation opponents present.
Warshawsky said fluoridation is a key component of preventative health care and the health unit has posted information detailing this position on their website.
Thursday night's talk at the library indicates this battle has just begun and will be fought on many fronts. The health unit will not be able to continue to skirt addressing their opponents directly and tackling their questions head on forever.
The battle lines are being drawn and among the claims being made by Connett and his supporters are the following:
1. Fluoridation is unethical because "No government has the right to force medication on its people to fight a non-contagious, non-life-threatening disease."
"We add chlorine (to water) to kill bugs," but adding fluoride is quite different according to Connett.
2. Fluoridation is poor medical practice because the amount of fluoride consumed, the dose, is uncontrolled. "This is given to everyone willy-nilly," he said.
3. There is no adequate margin of safety Connett claimed. "Is the margin of safety large enough to protect everyone," he asked.
The recent move by the EPA in the States, along with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), to lower the recommended maximum acceptable level for fluoride in tap water appears to add credence to Connett's position.
The joint HHS/EPA announcement fanned the flames of doubt in the fluoridation opposition by stating: "The new EPA assessments of fluoride were undertaken in response to findings of the National Academies of Science (NAS)" in order to avoid the unwanted health effects from too much fluoride.
Learning that after decades of use the safe amount of fluoride to be added to drinking water is still being adjusted, and adjusted downward, concerns the opponents of fluoridation.
Connett had at least a dozen talking points, with each one backed up in some detail. The local health unit may have its work cut out for them in fighting this battle.
And the health unit may find it difficult to persuade their opponents that fluoride is safe when the anti-fluoridationists only have to look as far a the nearest toothpaste box to find support for their contention that fluoride is dangerous.
The warning on the toothpaste box states in bold letters: "Keep out of reach of children under 6 years of age." If more than a pea-sized amount is accidentally swallowed, "get medical help or contact a Poison Control Center right away."
Bottle-fed babies are exposed to 250 times more fluoride than breast-fed babies when their formula is made with fluoridated tap water, Connett argued.
One dental hygienist, who did not want her name used, but who generally supports fluoridation of tap water, admitted she advised her son to buy bottled, non-fluoridated water for use in making her grandchild's bottled formula. She believes she is following a recommendation of the American Dental Association. She said the ADA is against giving fluoride-enhanced products to children less than one year old.
Fluoridation, opponents say, adds an unnecessary expense to the budget of many young parents. It forces them to buy bottled water rather than simply using inexpensive tap water for mixing their baby's formula. Of course, that would be if they knew about the warning — most don't.
"Get this warning on water bills," Connett suggested. He said his group has tried to do this is in the past and the American Dental Association has fought them and stopped them. "We could not take their warning and deliver it to parents."
But the anti-fluoride folk have not given up. In New Hampshire bills have been introduced to force fluoridating communities in the state to place a statement on all water bills disclosing the water is fluoridated and warning citizens not to reconstitute baby formula using the fluoridated tap water.
The anti-fluoridation group believes support for fluoridation is crumbling in North America, especially in Canada. "They've got to admit," says Connett, "fluoridation is a huge mistake and has got to stop."
The gauntlet has been thrown down: "I don't say fluoridation is the biggest threat (to our safety) but it is the easiest one to correct." Connett clearly hopes London will be another victory in the battle to remove fluoride from our water.