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Dr. David McKeown, Toronto's Medical Officer of Health. (Tibor Kolley for The Globe and Mail/Tibor Kolley for The Globe and Mail)
Dr. David McKeown, Toronto's Medical Officer of Health. (Tibor Kolley for The Globe and Mail/Tibor Kolley for The Globe and Mail)

Toronto votes to continue fluoridating water Add to ...

The Toronto Board of Health voted Monday to accept the recommendation of Toronto's medical health officer to continue the use of fluoride in the city's water.

The board voted unanimously to reaffirm water fluoridation in the city.

Toronto's current level of water fluoridation is 0.6 milligrams per litre, according to Dr. David McKeown, Toronto's medical officer of health. The ideal amount of fluoride is 0.7 milligrams per litre and should not exceed 1.5 milligrams, Dr. McKeown said. The city's water supply has been fluoridated since 1963.

As pictures flashed upon the screen comparing the rotted teeth of children from Eastern European countries where there is no access to fluoridated water and the teeth of children in Toronto, representatives from various dental health organizations argued that fluoridated water significantly decreases tooth decay and enhances the dental health of citizens.

The current debate over water fluoridation in Toronto began as a result of Councillor Frances Nunziata's request that the Board invite The Toronto Coalition Against Fluoridation to a future meeting. The coalition had been lobbying councillors to end the city's 48-year policy of fluoridating water. The matter was referred to Dr. McKeown, who wrote a report recommending that the Board reaffirm its position to continue the fluoridation of the city's water.

The issue of water fluoridation has been at the centre of a series of municipal debates and public referendums across the province. In November 2010, Waterloo city council voted for an end to fluoridating its water.

By removing fluoride from its water, Waterloo is "putting the dental health of its citizens at risk," said Dr. Arlene King, Ontario's chief medical officer of health.

Proponents of water fluoridation, including the presidents of the Ontario Dental Association, the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario and the Ontario Dental Hygienists' Association, urged the board to continue the fluoridation process saying it prevents tooth decay, saves millions in public health costs and protects the dental health of children. The group also said it protects those who might not have access to dental health care, such as the elderly and poor.

Several groups came out Monday to oppose Dr. McKeown's recommendation. Citing a report from the director of Dental and Oral Health Services, Aliss Terpstra of the International Institute of Concern for Public Health said that discontinuing the use of fluoride in water does not show an increase in tooth decay or other dental health issues.

She also stated that fluoridation chemicals leach lead into drinking water making the water hazardous and unsafe to drink.

Dr. King refuted claims such as Ms. Terpstra's saying that people need to refer to credible research on the subject.

"There is a plethora of information out there. We don't have a problem getting information, we have a problem vetting information."

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