CORNWALL, Ontario – Proponents of water fluoridation said Cornwall's overall health will suffer if the practice is abandoned.
Paul Roumeliotis, the local medical officer of health, and Canada's chief dental officer Dr. Peter Cooney, told councillors Monday too much scare mongering is taking place from critics of the practice.
Cooney said one would have to drink as much as 15,000 litres of water in one sitting to get a toxic dose of fluoride.
"There is a huge level of safety between what is in your water and what is toxic," he said.
But that hasn't stopped critics from expressing concern with the issue.
The acid used to fluoridate Cornwall's water contains arsenic, said Peter Van Caulart, executive director of the Environmental Training Institute in Niagara, prior to Monday's city council meeting.
He said the 15,000 litres of hydrofluorosilicic acid in storage at the water treatment plant in Cornwall could contain as much as 800 grams of arsenic – a poisonous substance.
Van Caulart arrived at this conclusion after receiving a sample of the acid, which shows it contains about 55.75 parts per million of arsenic. The material he shared with the media prior to the council meeting has also been shared with city council, he said.
Van Caulart, who trains water and wastewater operators in Niagara, was asked to come to Cornwall by the union representing such operators at the Cornwall treatment plant.
"The process of fluoridation is not a process to treat drinking water," said Van Caulart. "It's done after the water is already clean.
"There is no excuse for topping up what isn't found in the water naturally."
But that is exactly what happened Monday night at city hall when Roumeliotis lobbied city councillors to return fluoride to Cornwall's water supply.
"The Cornwall area has higher rates of chronic diseases, all of which are worsened by poor oral health," he said. "If the fluoride is not in the water (dentists) are going to be working 24-7.
"We know (area citizens) tend to be sicker, and we know there is no coverage. We know that with age, the percentage of people with dental insurance goes down. And our elderly are getting less coverage."
Many local dentists attended the Monday council meeting, and Roumeliotis said as many as 20 have signed a petition seeking a return to water fluoridation in Cornwall. He added a number of dental associations have made similar commitments.
"Oral health really is a picture of our overall health. It's (poor dental health) one of the most common chronic diseases – more common than asthma," he said.
The city has been without fluoridated water for nearly three years, after safety concerns at the treatment plant forced the city to abandon the process.
Roumeliotis refuted material provided just two weeks ago from an American university professor who lobbied city council to abandon water fluoridation for good.
Among reams of material filed with the city clerk for his Monday presentation is specific mention of hydrofluorosilic acid, the material added to Cornwall's water supply in the past to create the fluoride which proponents argue results in stronger teeth.
"Once introduced into drinking water, due to the pH of that water, the (acid) is immediately and completely hydrolyzed (broken down)," reads a response to a presentation made at the previous council meeting by St. Lawrence University professor Paul Connett. "After this point, (the acid) no longer exists in that water. It does not reach the tap. It is not ingested. It is therefore of no concern, whatsoever."
But in its pure form hydrofluorosilic acid is extremely toxic, and city environment manager Morris McCormick has even labeled it a "significant" risk to health and safety.
Roumeliotis pointed to the health benefits of drinking fluoridated water, including a reduction in tooth decay of up to 40 per cent in people of all ages.
He further suggests every dollar invested in fluoridating water results in a $38 savings in dental treatments.
The practice of fluoridating Cornwall's water was abandoned three years ago when health and safety concerns at the city's water treatment plant became evident.
It will cost taxpayers as much as $350,000 to fix the safety issues at the plant, and an additional $50,000 a year to operate with a fluoridated system.