Researcher issues warning to pregnant mothers when fluoride returns to Windsor water

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The tooth decay-fighting fluoride returns to local water taps next month after an eight-year hiatus.

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But a Canadian researcher who was part of a groundbreaking study on a possible human health downside of fluoridated drinking water urges pregnant mothers and those who formula feed babies to avoid using unfiltered tap water, if possible. .

“For at least the first six months of life, use fluoride-free water when possible,” said Dr. Christine Till, a neuropsychologist and associate professor at the York University School of Health.

That advice goes against the near unanimity among dental and public health professionals recommending that the cavity-fighting chemical be added to drinking water and that it be safe. The cost-effective preventive strategy has been touted as one of the major public health achievements of the past century.

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And it was that strong message from health experts that helped convince the current Windsor city council in 2018 to reverse the previous 2013 council majority decision that listened to critics and stopped artificial fluoridation after 51 years. It took three years of municipal water system testing and upgrades, and long delays due in part to COVID-19, to get to the point where fluoridation returns in January to residents and businesses in Windsor, LaSalle and Tecumseh.

Garry Rossi, Enwin vice president of water operations, at the AH Weeks water treatment plant, Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018.
Garry Rossi, Enwin vice president of water operations, at the AH Weeks water treatment plant, Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018. Photo by Dax Melmer /Windsor Star

Fluoride is not a requirement for a safe municipal drinking water supply. Adding it as a dental decay preventative is “governed by health authorities,” said Garry Rossi, vice president of water operations for Enwin Utilities.

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After more than four hours of debate at the first meeting of his current term, the city council voted 8-3 in December 2018 to resume artificial water fluoridation. Dr. Wahid Ahmed, the then acting health practitioner, presented an oral health report from the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit indicating a huge jump in severe tooth decay among children over the five-year period. anterior without fluoridation. The findings, he said, “should be alarming to our community.”

But Till, who is aware of the political debates on the issue in Windsor and elsewhere, the Calgary city council voted in November to resume fluoridation after a 10-year absence, said disturbing findings like his about the Fluoride’s potential as a developmental neurotoxin is just beginning. to be revealed.

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The respected medical journal JAMA Pediatrics published the peer-reviewed study with a landmark accompanying editorial describing the “additional scrutiny” it subjected to the research. He said there was “clearly an association” between the consumption of fluoridated municipal drinking water and a reduction in IQ in the study subjects.

Water flows from a kitchen faucet in Windsor.
Water flows from a kitchen faucet in Windsor. Photo by Nick Brancaccio /Windsor Star

Till and other members of the scientific community are currently awaiting a final report, expected in early 2022, from the US National Toxicology Program on the growing body of “high-quality” epidemiological studies pointing to to fluoride as a “suspected danger to cognitive development for humans”. “The conclusions of the preliminary draft of that body already support that conclusion.

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“It may or may not settle the debate; at the very least, however, it will propel the conversation forward,” said Till, who describes it as “an extremely important report, looking at all the scientific evidence.” Also awaiting that report is a court case in which the US Environmental Protection Agency is being sued to reduce recommended levels of fluoride in municipal drinking water.

Till’s ongoing research has faced strong criticism from fellow scientists who question his findings, including that fluoride in water disproportionately negatively affects children’s intelligence levels. An international group of academics and health officials took the unusual step a year ago of writing to the York University board asking for a comprehensive review of Till’s work to determine whether “ideology is being misrepresented as science.”

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Till supports their research, which compares subjects in Canadian communities fluoridated with non-fluoridated, and so do their employers. “At no time has there been any finding by the University of York of misconduct in the investigation against him,” York President and Vice Chancellor Rhonda Lenton wrote in a Nov. 4 letter to Till.

Till said she follows the science and was as surprised by what her research data revealed – fluoridated drinking water that causes measurable damage to the developing brain – as were the editors at JAMA. What makes his work so controversial, he said, is that it questions something that for many decades has been considered so beneficial to many. “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence; I think that’s what we have, “he said, adding that criticism of his research findings is a” completely rational reaction “to emerging science.

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“It’s not junk science,” said Donna Mayne, a Fluoride-Free Windsor Essex activist. If fluoride is reintroduced into Windsor’s drinking water supply as planned next month, “you better warn parents,” he said.

Windsor City Councilor Rino Bortolin is pictured on March 20, 2018 on Maiden Lane in downtown Windsor.
Windsor City Councilor Rino Bortolin is pictured on March 20, 2018 on Maiden Lane in downtown Windsor. Photo by Dan Janisse /Windsor Star

City Coun. Rino Bortolin, who introduced the 2018 motion supporting the resumption of fluoridation, said he and his colleagues trust the advice and recommendations of the local health unit and the medical community. As with all public health decisions, he said the greater good for the community must be weighed against any potential harm for some.

“The evidence (for the benefit of fluoridation) was clear as presented by the health unit in 2018,” said Bortolin, who is also vice president of the local health board.

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Even if the research by Till and others is supported by the US National Toxicology Program review, the question of the risk-benefit ratio remains: is the potential damage to brain development, however slight, outweighed by proven dental health benefits? Would lower fluoride concentrations still benefit oral health while reducing potential neurotoxic damage to the fetus or baby?

When asked for comment, a WECHU spokesperson responded in an email that information on community water fluoridation can be found on their website . “Studies have shown that there is no link to negative health outcomes,” says the agency’s statement, adding that fluoridation is “the most effective public health measure to prevent tooth decay.”

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Bortolin said that “the biggest impact” of fluoridation is on the oral health of children from low-income families who can least afford dental visits or fluoride treatments. He said he is “open to talk,” including the possibility of subsidizing water filtration systems for poorer households that may need them.

Rossi said that the installation of the equipment necessary to reintroduce fluoridation was “well within” the approved budget of $ 850,000. He said the annual cost of adding a “high purity product” from Fluorspar will be about $ 150,000.

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