Calgary councillor revisits fluoride study request

A nearly-identical motion by Diane Colley-Urquhart was defeated 9-5 in 2016

Calgary stopped fluoridating its water in 2011, but some councillors would like to see the practice resume. WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Coun. Diane Colley-Urquhart is reviving a motion she brought forward more than two years ago in the hope that a new slate of councillors will see Calgary water fluoridation a little differently.

Her notice of motion, which goes before council on Monday, is literally the same document she presented in 2016 with dates and names changed.

She even had the clerks strike out the names of the councillors previously involved, rather than edit the document.

“I said no – I want people to see that I’m submitting the very same thing I submitted two and half years ago.”

Colley-Urquhart crossed out the names of councillors who supported the motion in 2016, rather than drafting up a new document. SCREENSHOT
Colley-Urquhart crossed out the names of councillors who supported the motion in 2016, rather than drafting up a new document. SCREENSHOT

The motion doesn’t call on the city to put fluoride back in the city’s water supply – something that it stopped doing in 2011. Instead, it asks councillors allow the University of Calgary’s O’Brien Institute for Public Health to examine existing studies and literature on water fluoridation to determine its effectiveness.

If the motion is approved, the institute would provide its findings in June of this year.

However the last time Colley-Urquhart tried this motion, it failed 9-5, according to the minutes from that meeting.

She thinks it will be a close vote again this time, too.

“I think my biggest challenge in all of this – with politician getting involved, they come in with what I call a confirmation bias,” she said. “If you’ve always been anti-fluoridation, they continue to be against it.

“My personal view is that if you’re a political figure, you should be open to persuasion, open to hearing from the experts, and having the very, very best facts before you.”

Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra is on the minutes from 2011 as having voted against the motion the last time around, although he remembers voting in favour of it.

He said he would be totally open to supporting the study, although he’s not convinced municipal water fluoridation is the best option.

“I think the research is pretty clear that is if you want to stop dental cavities you paint fluoride onto human teeth – you don’t wash the universe in fluoride,” he said. “That doesn’t do anywhere near anything as close to good.”

Carra said it really boils down to two questions: How effective is fluoridation, and whose responsibility is it?

“I’m happy to have that full conversation,” he said. “The concern is that maybe this research is about water fluoridation by a group that’s pro-fluoridation.”

The debate last reared its head in 2016 after a study released by the Cummings School of Medicine found a measurable spike in children’s cavities after Calgary stopped fluoridating its water in 2011.

Putting it back in would come with a cost. Calgary would need to purchase new fluoridation equipment. In 2011, the cost was pegged at $10 million, with an additional $1 million annually for fluoride and system maintenance.

Colley-Urquhart knows that some councillors will argue that dental health is a provincial jurisdiction, and that any costs associated should be picked up by the province, but she wants to get the information first.

“Those arguments are way premature,” she said “Wait for the analysis and facts to be done, and see what the recommendations are before you start pointing fingers at other jurisdictions.

“We have to keep the overall health and welfare of our citizens at heart.”

22 Comments

  1. Any investigation into fluoridation’s effectiveness at preventing tooth decay should focus on studies that have controlled for other measures of preventing tooth decay, specifically diet, nutrition, and the personal oral hygiene of those in the control populations participating in the studies. Chances are that no such studies will be found, in which case there is no valid science to support the claim that “fluoridation has been proven safe and effective.”

    • Controlling for basic confounders is standard in peer-reviewed studies of fluoridation effectiveness. If it was not, then there would be no point to the studies. It would simply be a matter of presenting raw uncontrolled data. The method by which confounders are controlled is by comparing similar areas, fluoridated, versus non-fluoridated. In so doing, the diet, nutrition, personal oral hygiene, socio-economic status, education, and other such confounders are statistically similar in each area, thereby cancelling each other out. This leaves fluoridation as the difference between the areas.

      Finding quality, peer-reviewed scientific studies demonstrating the effectiveness of fluoridation is not difficult, by any means, for anyone who understands the scientific literature. There are volumes.

      Steven D. Slott, DDS

  2. The councilor should be commended for recognizing the bias that follows this long standing debate, but there is a larger issue that overrules any question of effectiveness or safety. The practice is medically unethical, in clear breach of the UNESCO treaty that Canada has signed.

    No medical treatment should be imposed on anyone without their consent, especially for a disease that is not communicable and when there is a clear option for those who want to to take part on an individual basis. It doesn’t matter what any “experts” have to say about whether the practice is beneficial, harmful or possibly beneficial in one way and harmful in another. That information is only useful in helping people make a judgement for themselves. Please just let them do that.

    • 1. The UNESCO treaty is obviously of no relevance to community water fluoridation.

      2. There is no medical treatment “imposed” upon anyone by water fluoridation. There is simply the adjustment of the level of existing fluoride in public water supplies to the concentration at which maximum benefit will be attained from that fluoride, with no adverse effects upon anyone.

      We ingest fluoride in our water anyway. Fluoridation simply ensures that we obtain maximum benefit while so doing.

      3. There is no separate “consent” required for local officials to determine the content of public water supplies under their jurisdiction. Consent for them to do their jobs is conveyed upon election/appointment to office.

      4. There is no credible organization in the world which supports your implication that
      fluoridation may be harmful…….in any manner.

      Steven D. Slott, DDS

      • The Canadian Food and Drugs act says differently. It doesn’t apply to the US, where you live, but In Canada fluoride is a Drug. That makes fluoridation a medical treatment.

  3. “drug includes any substance or mixture of substances manufactured, sold or represented for use in

    (a) the diagnosis, treatment, mitigation or prevention of a disease, disorder or abnormal physical state, or its symptoms, in human beings or animals,”

    Fluoride is represented for use in the prevention of tooth decay. That makes it a drug.

    • Fluoride added to water is not considered a drug under the Canadian Food and Drug Act, and is no regulated as such.

      “Fluoridating drinking water is intended to provide a dietary source of fluoride, a mineral nutrient. Fluoride added to water in the concentrations available in Canada is considered nutritive as opposed to therapeutic. Fluoride is added to drinking water as a public health measure to protect dental health and prevent or reduce tooth decay. Fluoride used in drinking water fluoridation is not considered a drug by Health Canada as per the Food and Drugs Act and is not regulated by the Department as a drug.”

      Government of Canada Response to
      Environmental Petition No. 299, filed by Mr. Gilles Parent and Mr. Pierre J. Morin
      under Section 22 of the Auditor General Act
      Received May 28, 2010

      Petition asking for a response to seventeen questions
      On Fluorides Added to Drinking Water
      September 25, 2010
      Minister of Health

      Health Canada’s response to the seventeen questions, Petition No. 299, Fluorides Added to Drinking Water

      Steven D. Slott, DDS

      • Health Canada’s ignorance of the Act doesn’t change what the Act says, which is very clear. The only question is whether local councilors wish to be complicit in HC’s dishonesty.

        At least HC has admitted that they have no evidence for the safety or effectiveness of HFSA in water, even though that is also required of all “Drugs” or “Natural Health Products”. They have also not come out and said that fluoride is not a drug. Instead, they made up the term “beneficial mineral nutrient”, even though HFSA is neither a nutrient nor a mineral, and beneficial part is a matter of debate.

        When this is all over, the higher ups at HC are likely going to have some explaining to do, hopefully to a judge. The smart ones will likely be on the golf course in some place without an extradition treaty with Canada.

      • 1. So, the bottled water dealer from Peterborough proclaims that the government agency, Health Canada, has “ignorance” of federal law…..because HC has the audacity to differ with his personal “interpretation” of that law. Hmmm……..

        2. HFSA is not ingested in water. There is no requirement, or any need, for “evidence of the safety or effectiveness” of a substance which is not ingested.

        3. Health Canada clearly stated that it does not consider fluoride in drinking water to be a drug. Health Canada is the regulatory body which has jurisdiction over the contents of drinking water.

        4. There is no “debate” about the dental infection prevention benefit provided by fluoride. Countless peer-reviewed scientific studies clearly demonstrate this fact.

        5. The comical claims of a bottled water dealer as to what “the higher ups” at Health Canada will have to do are certainly entertaining, but obviously of no relevance.

        Steven D. Slott, DDS

  4. But we should trust the opinion of an American dentist about our laws? Hmmmmmmmmmmm……..

    Do you have a statement from Health Canada saying HFSA or fluoride isn’t a drug?

    Audacity is a good word for their behaviour. I think I might use that in the future.

    • I haven’t asked anyone to trust my opinion. I’ve provided a direct quote from the governing authority over fluoride in drinking water which negates your personal desire for it to be considered a “drug”. What readers do with that information is up to them. All you’ve provided is your personal “interpretation” of Canadian federal law. What readers do with that is up to them.

      I don’t need a statement from HC stating that fluoride isn’t a drug. If you want a statement worded in that manner, then I suggest you contact HC. I‘ve provided a statement that HC does not consider fluoride in water to be a drug. It is therefore not subject to drug regulations. As a water additive, HFSA and the fluorude ions it releases into water are subject to stringent water quality regulations instead. Given that HC has jurisdiction over drinking water contents, and David Green does not, what HC connsiders in that regard carries a bit more weight than the desires of David Green.

      Sure, use whatever words you choose. Such use will not change facts or evidence.

      Steven D. Slott, DDS

      • 3. Health Canada clearly stated that it does not consider fluoride in drinking water to be a drug.

        I didn’t say you needed a statement. I asked if you had one to back your claim. Since you don’t seem to have one I think you should retract that claim and go back to NC with your tail between your legs….again.

      • 1. There is no medication involved in water fluoridation. So, yes, as readers can easily discern, there is little, if anything, of relevance to fluoridation within this regulation.

        2. See my previous response to your lack of understanding of scientific control for confounders. It is self-explanatory.

        Steven D. Slott, DDS

      • 1. The claim I made is that HC does not consider fluoride in water to be a drug, for which I provided documentation. It’s unclear as to why you believe I should “retract” a clearly valid claim such as that. However, attempting to decipher the mind of an antifluoridationist is far too daunting a task for me, or anyone else.

        Again, if you want a statement from HC worded however you want worded I suggest you contact HC.

        2. I’m already in NC, and have not left here for weeks.

        3. It’s unclear as to how a human might put his tail between his legs, but perhaps antifluoridationists have made something up in that regard, as they often do in regard to fluoridation.

        Steven D. Slott, DDS

    • Reguation by the Provinces or Territories must be in compliance with federal regulations, over which HC has jurisdiction.

      Steven D. Slott, DDS

      • There are no federal regulations about the contents of drinking water. A regulation is a law that can be enforced. HC has guidelines. In other words they make suggestions (and conduct research).

        Nothing like doubling down on a mistake by repeating it. Just do a little research before you make more false statements. This is getting a little bizarre…..again.

  5. You are also incorrect that “Health Canada is the regulatory body which has jurisdiction over the contents of drinking water”.

    HC provides guidelines and does research. Regulation is the responsibility of the Provinces or Territories. In Ontario that is through the Ontario Safe Drinking Water Act, which, by the way is contravened by fluoridation.

    I don’t know what the corresponding law is called is Alberta, but it isn’t a federal law and HC is a federal body. So much for the attempt by the North Carolina dentist to sound like he knows Canadian law. Better do some more homework.

    • Yes, Canada is one of the few developed countries which utilizes non-enforceable guidelines for water quality, in lieu of enforceable regulations. It is the responsibility of Provinces and Territories to follow these guidelines. This results in water that is not as safe as it could be, but that’s the system set up by the lawmakers.

      “Clearly, drinking water in Canada is not as safe as it could be, but how bad is it?? A recent report published in the spring of 2008 titled, Investigative Report: 1766 boil-water advisories now in place across Canada, found that over 1700 boil advisories were in place throughout Canadian communities and, that an estimated 90 Canadians die each year from drinking contaminated water. Further, the report found that the quality of drinking water in Canada is largely dependant on where one resides; typically water quality is excellent in urban areas and marginal in rural and First Nation reserves. This disparity is largely the result of varying source waters and water quality treatment systems that aren’t effective a treating poor quality source waters.”

      —-Safe Drinking Water Foundation

      As Health Canada develops the guidelines for drinking water, its consideration that fluoride in such water is not a drug carries a bit more weight than does the desire of the bottled water dealer fron Peterborough for it to be considered a drug.

      Yes, your comments are always bizarre. Nothing new there.

      Steven D. Slott, DDS

      • Just admit that you were wrong about what HC has “clearly stated” and wrong about their jurisdiction. And a thank you for being educated might be nice, but I have low expectations for that at this point. You just can’t seem to bring yourself to admit a mistake or express any sort of humility, just like many of the organizations who promote fluoridation. You are their perfect spokesperson.

      • David Green

        1. Seems you can’t read but for the benefit of those who can……yet once again, HC has, indeed, clearly stated that it does not consider fluoride to be a drug under the Food and Drugs Act, as per the following:

        “Fluoridating drinking water is intended to provide a dietary source of fluoride, a mineral nutrient. Fluoride added to water in the concentrations available in Canada is considered nutritive as opposed to therapeutic. Fluoride is added to drinking water as a public health measure to protect dental health and prevent or reduce tooth decay. Fluoride used in drinking water fluoridation is not considered a drug by Health Canada as per the Food and Drugs Act and is not regulated by the Department as a drug.”

        Government of Canada Response to
        Environmental Petition No. 299, filed by Mr. Gilles Parent and Mr. Pierre J. Morin
        under Section 22 of the Auditor General Act
        Received May 28, 2010

        Petition asking for a response to seventeen questions
        On Fluorides Added to Drinking Water
        September 25, 2010
        Minister of Health

        Health Canada’s response to the seventeen questions, Petition No. 299, Fluorides Added to Drinking Water

        2. Perhaps if you exhibited any signs of being “educated” on this issue, your strange request for a “thank you” might have some semblance of logic. As you obviously have not, it doesn’t.

        3. One should make a mistake before “admitting” one. Your ridiculous claims of some phantom “mistake” made by fluoridation proponents is certainly comical, but does not constitute anything but demonstration of your own frustration at being constantly refuted by facts and evidence.

        4. Claiming that anyone else lacks “humility” is one of your more blatant examples of projecting your faults unto others.

        Now, do you have anything else you’d like me to refute, or just more of the same patronizing nonsense you attempt as diversion from your lack of understanding of fluoridation?

        Steven D. Slott, DDS

    • David Green – Guidelines are critical, and the Food and Drugs Act does address fluoride in bottled water.

      Canada, like the U.S. regulates bottled water “as a food and therefore it must comply with the Food and Drugs Act. Section 4 of the Act prohibits the sale of foods which contain poisonous or harmful substances and section 5(1) of the Act prohibits the labelling, packaging, treating, processing, selling or advertising of any food in a manner that misleads or deceives consumers as to the character, value, quantity, composition, merit or safety of the product.” And spring or mineral water, “may be treated by the addition of carbon dioxide for carbonation, ozone for disinfection during the bottling process and fluoride for the prevention of dental carries.”

      Health Canada’s position on community water fluoridation states, “community water fluoridation is an important and often overlooked public health measure that has contributed over the last 70 years to the health of Canadians by preventing tooth decay and thereby improving oral health. Fluoride is a mineral found naturally in almost all water sources, and in small amounts in food and soil. Fluoride helps to prevent tooth decay by strengthening the enamel layer and making teeth more resistant to acid attacks from plaque bacteria and sugars in the mouth. Water fluoridation is the process of adjusting the level of fluoride in the water to provide optimal dental health benefits.”

      Apparently, according to sources I have read, in Canada “The decision to fluoridate water supplies is made by local governments, with the federal, provincial and territorial governments setting the guidelines.” (Ms. Rabb-Waytowich, CDA) Since fluoridation status is able to be determined by local politics, like it can be in the U.S.,, fluoridation opponents in both countries spend their time creating disinformation campaigns designed to hijack the democratic process by scaring the public into blindly accepting their opinions and sowing distrust in legitimate scientific evidence and organizations.

  6. Here is a very good regulation, worthy of any local government’s consideration, found in the Revised Ordinances of Honolulu, Chapter 30 WATER MANAGEMENT:

    Article 5. Medication in Drinking Water
    Sections:
    30-5.1 Prohibition.
    30-5.2 Product safety.
    30-5.3 Severability.
    Sec. 30-5.1 Prohibition.
    No person shall add any product, substance, or chemical to the public water supply, except federally owned and operated water systems, such as military facilities, for the purpose of treating or affecting the physical or mental functions of the body of any person, rather than to make the water safe or potable. This prohibition shall not apply to water treatment chemicals used to make the
    water potable and safe to drink, such as chlorination and anticorrosion chemical to reduce lead. (Added by Ord. 04-01)
    Sec. 30-5.2 Product safety.
    Should any state law mandate using the drinking water system to dispense medication for treating the physical or mental function of a person’s body, the chemical additive used shall meet the following quality control and safety requirements:
    (1) All chemical additives purchased shall be pharmaceutical grade or equivalent; industrial grade chemical additives shall not be used.
    (2) The chemical additive shall not contain any contaminants which would exceed the maximum contaminant level goals established by (A) the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or (B) the State of Hawaii department of health, whichever is lower.
    (3) The chemical additive shall not increase corrosion of the water piping system material components or increase leaching of heavy metals such that another chemical additive will be required to minimize corrosion.
    (4) The chemical additive shall have been tested and approved for safety and effectiveness by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
    (5) The chemical additive shall have been tested using the following additional safety tests if not already done by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
    (A) The chemical additive shall have been tested for safety using worst-case conditions for any
    contaminants allowed by specifications with a safety factor to cover all ranges of unrestricted
    consumption.
    (B) If the chemical additive, in combination with body minerals, becomes a thermoluminescent
    phosphor material which is known to become electrically charged when exposed to radiation and Xrays,
    testing shall have been done to determine any adverse effects. Thermoluminescent phosphor
    material examples are calcium fluoride, lithium fluoride, lithium bromide, and calcium sulphate.

    This posted comment may be deemed “irrelevant” in a pro-fluoridation reply; the readers can decide. Nonetheless, I am still waiting to see a pro-F study that controlled for patterns of personal oral hygiene, diet and nutrition, (including sugary beverage consumption), among the population studied. Absent control for these significant and universally accepted factors affecting dental health and cavity reduction, a population study claiming positive benefits of fluoridation should be considered biased and therefore meaningless.

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