Fluoride in Calgary Drinking Water

In the press we read that Calgary City Council is being persuaded to add fluoride to drinking water as it benefits dental health of people in general and that of growing children in particular. Arguments are brought forward that, if fluoride is added to the water, there will be less cavities and even result in lower oral health costs.

Notwithstanding the possibility that dentists most likely have done their homework and that there is enough science backed evidence that fluoride appear to have some positive effect on cavity prevention (although there is no agreement on this), there are some objections that deserve consideration:

1. Logic:

According to Government of Canada website, average water use per person translates to 200-300 litres per day. Of that amount, about 1 percent is consumed by a person in the form of drinking water, the remainder 99 percent goes down the drain of toilets, dishwashers, laundry, showers and, in the summers, end up on the lawn. So, the question that needs to be asked is: why should the entire tap water supply have fluoride added, while only one, meagre percent ends up in someone’s system? Would it not be far more logical to buy supplemental fluoride in the form of toothpaste, jell, rinse or chewing gum?

2. Economics:

According to The Herald, the cost of adding fluoride to water is $10 million to set up the system and an additional $1 million per year for operation and maintenance. Adding these number over a 10-year period we arrive at $20 million. The dental association claims that for every $1 investment in fluoride, a savings of $38 will be realized. Over twenty year that would be $760 million. However, Alberta Government shares the information that it spends $50 million per year on oral health care. That would be $500 million in ten years.  Comparing the two numbers one must conclude there is something amiss. Furthermore, the dental association hedges their claim by stating that fluoride intake will perhaps result in 25 % less cavities, which renders their claims on realizing savings even more dubious. The bottom line is that fluoride economics, as provided, simply do not work out.

3. Ethics:

The last objection has to do with ethics, and it is astonishing that none of the press pundits have clued into this. Is it ethical for a city council to have authority to change composition of drinking water, regardless whether or not it will benefit public health? People who think so should consider other scenarios. Talk to any mental health practitioner and they will tell you that depression among the population is rampant and suicides are record high. So, why not spike the water with a dose of Prozac? What about other issues people are dealing with? What about Vitamin C, D, B12, zinc, iron, calcium, folate or other supplements?  Neither city council nor any other level of government should EVER have the power to manipulate the composition of drinking water in which the citizens have no choice. Also, there should be no plebiscite on the issue as this approach is (or should be) totally beyond their jurisdiction.