First major Public Health shift in over 50 years
Health officials want fluoride levels reduced
by Mark Lowey, Calgary
Herald, March 20, 1998
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 percent, Friesen said in an interview
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 percent of voters in a 1989 municipal plebiscite. Voters
had defeated the measure in four previous plebiscites, in 1957, 1961, 1966
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
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.
Last modified: 7 September 2001