Sunday, October 6, 2013

Fluoride: Poison or Cure?
I have to accentuate that having a second cup of coffee at 3:17pm is far from characteristic of my daily habits. But here I am, sipping on Van Houtte's Sumatra Dark in a desperate attempt to wake my senses and unlock my brain's potential. After all, the army of crackpots bent on exposing the modern food production industry for what it is- a mammoth blemish on the face of so-called free democratic society- never ceased accepting the new converts into their ranks. 

I should not call us crackpots, however. Having arrived to Canada as an international student at the age of 16 and completed my Bachelor of Commerce degree at the University of Calgary, I practiced as an insurance and mortgage broker for six years before making a decision to cater to my family on the full-time basis. The little extra time I have is spent on promoting nutrition as the key to physical and mental health, as well as exposing the popular food and beverage producers for the junk they put out and market to us and our children. The hobby that I treat like an 8pm-1am part-time job. 

Going through article after article, scientific report after scientific report and book after book, I thank the data rich and technologically advanced world we live in today. The world of infinite wisdom for anyone willing to reach out and claim it... And today, I claim my right to know about fluoridation. My conspiracy theorist of a husband suggested it as the next research topic, citing concerns over what to him seemed like systematic, although gradual, poisoning of the People.

Without getting into the history of fluoridation, which is very well described by an award-winning journalist Christopher Bryson in his book The Fluoride Deception and featured in a short video on Fluoride Action Network's official website, I begin with the definition of fluoride, which is a binary compound of fluorine with another element. Fluorine, on the other hand, is toxic, pale yellow gas with a pungent odour, produced by electrolysis under special conditions. In academic literature, fluoride has been linked to dental fluorosis, osteosarcoma (bone cancer), low IQ in children and reduced thyroid function. It is also NOT an essential nutrient, as we have been taught to believe. On the contrary, a known carcinogen is being intentionally added to one of the six essential nutrients- water- all the while insisting on its colossal benefits.

In the US, the water quality is monitored by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency)*, which is specifically tasked to determine the maximum levels of contaminants (MCL) in drinking water that are safe for human ingestion. For fluoride, the MCL is 4.0 mg/l or 4 ppm.** As for its northern neighbour, the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Committee on Drinking Water (or simply, CDW)*** performs similar functions and recommends that the maximum level (MAC) of fluoride be 1.5 mg/l or 1.5 ppm. The latter is a rather unexpected figure, as I assumed the standards for drinking water quality of the two close neighbours were in line with each other. 

Undoubtedly, this is great news for Canadians, especially since the optimum level for fluoride in drinking water has been established to be 0.7 mg/l (as per June 2011 update to thGuideline Technical Document for Fluoride)- less than half of the MAL and only 17.5% of the American guideline. But is it low enough? In general, about 45 per cent of all communities in Canada receive fluoride water treatment, whereas in the US, that number is approximately 72.4 per cent. In comparison, only 3 per cent of the population of Western Europe drink artificially fluoridated water****. Is it, perhaps, because fluoridation at low concentrations of 1 ppm has been linked to neurodevelopmental damage in children? A recent Harvard University study concluded just that. Or that the practice can be a direct cause of arthritis? Several studies, listed by the Fluoride Action Network, confirm that fluoride can be detrimental to joints.

The proponents of water fluoridation argue that it played a major role in dramatically reducing dental caries over the last several decades. Going through endorsement after endorsement by the North American public health agencies, one can be persuaded that the dental disease has been completely eradicated... But has it been? According to WHO's (World Health Organization) report on global oral disease burden, dental caries remains a major public health problem in most high income countries, affecting 60-90% of schoolchildren and the vast majority of adultsHowever, as the European public health agency suggests, there is no clear advantage of water fluoridation over direct application for prevention, and systemic exposure via drinking water is unlikely to benefit people whose teeth have already grown

In Red Deer AB, a decision has been made in February of 2009 to resume fluoridation of municipal water, where 0.6 mg/l is added to reach the optimum level. In Calgary, on the other hand, the City Council voted 10-3 to ban the practice, redirecting savings to alternative measures for the city's poor. The question, however, is whether the optimum level accounts for fluoride added to toothpaste and mouthwash. And if so, who regulates how much of the fluoride additives is acceptable? I ran to our bathroom and retrieved two tubes of Colgate toothpaste and Listerine mouthwash. All three contained different fluoride compounds of varied concentration: from 0.23 ppm to 0.76 ppm. The latter already exceeds the optimal level, as per Canadian guideline, so my guess of a dilettante who can count is that we ingest a higher amount of the controversial chemical than needed for dental caries prevention or any other potential, although highly unlikely, benefit to health.

Having done a massive amount of research for one day- enough to keep me awake for at least another hour (yes, it actually took one and a half days to publish this)- I had one last piece of information to look up. Is the municipal water of Lake Country BC, where we will set sail on the 11th of October, being treated with fluoride? Luckily, the answer, as for most of British Columbia, was a big fat NO. The heavy burden off my shoulders and a more sound sleep tonight for my husband...

*As mandated by the Safe Drinking Water Act, enacted in 1974
**The so-called secondary standard (SMCL) is set for any contaminants that may cause cosmetic effects like skin or tooth discoloration, and is it 2 mg/l or 2 ppm for fluoride
***Through the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality, published by Health Canada since 1968
****Coincidentally, the EU is also GMO-free and prohibits the use of many industrial pesticides openly and abundantly used in North America.  

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