An anti-fluoride movement in Churchill is gaining ground, with the town now considering the possibility of removing the substance from their drinking water entirely.
“After over two years of presentations and debates, the town council is considering proposals to halt the fluoridation of our water supply,” explains anti-fluoride advocate Mark Brackley. “This is a very big step and accomplishment for myself and the citizens. We feel victory is close at hand, and any objections shall be met with overwhelming historical facts, up-to-date science, and the truth.”
A letter from the town was sent out in March, stating that the town is considering proposals to remove fluoride from the public water, and that objectors must send written objections to the town office.
“I have personally been working on this for over three years and have sunk much of my life and time into this project,” says Brackley. “We as a group believe that the hydrofluosilicic acid that is put in our water is doing more harm than good. We feel it is unethical and a violation of our human rights. This substance, which is far different than the calcium fluoride found in nature, is a byproduct of the fertilizer industry.”
Like many communities around the world, Churchill uses hydrofluosilicic acid as the exact substance used to fluoridate its water. Aside from that use, the most common use for this acid is for it to be converted into aluminum fluoride and cryolite, which in turn are used to convert aluminum ore into aluminum metal. According to a 1992 study, hydrofluorosilicic acid was the most common fluoridation chemical in the United States at that time.
The Town of Flin Flon council has already voted to stop fluoridation once their new water treatment plant is operational in the late spring or early summer of 2012. But Coun. Bill Hanson said April 5 he would introduce a resolution May 3 to immediately end fluoridation. Cranberry Portage stopped adding fluoride to its drinking water Jan. 1, 2009 while Snow Lake, Creighton, Sask. and Denare Beach, Sask. have also stopped fluoridating their drinking water in recent years.
Last fall, Churchill town council heard presentations from a University of Winnipeg dental team as well as Manitoba Health representatives, followed by a group of concerned citizens, including Brackley. The University of Winnipeg and Manitoba Health delegations were in favour of retaining fluoride, while the group of citizens wanted to see the process discontinued.
“We believe we were victorious in the presentation-debate and we were commended by Manitoba Health for our informative talk,” says Brackley.
Debate about the benefits of fluoridating drinking water have gone on for decades, since the process first became widespread across North America in the 1940s.
Generally, dentists and public health agencies are in favour of fluoridation. The Canadian Dental Association says that fluoride makes teeth more resistant to decay, and can even reverse tooth decay that has already started – adding fluoride to drinking water being a simple, low-cost way to fight tooth decay.
However, too much fluoride is also a risk by itself. If too much fluoride is ingested during early childhood, there can be changes in the appearance of the teeth, including the appearance of small white specks – a process known as dental fluorosis. According to a study conducted between 2007 and 2009, approximately 16 per cent of Canadian children have mild forms of dental fluorosis, which often go unnoticed by children and parents alike.
Opponents of fluoridation are likely to point to both political issues – those who object to fluoride treatment not being given the option of unfluoridated drinking water – as well as the health issues.
In Churchill, at least, the debate rages on.
- with a file from Jonathon Naylor at The Reminder in Flin Flon