Conspiracy theorists are fighting to remove fluoride from Toronto drinking water
Toronto boasts some of the cleanest drinking water around, but a group is loudly campaigning to have a common additive removed from our taps, citing that their rights are infringed by the city's fluoridation of its water supply.
A blogTO reader suggested coverage of a petition calling for the end of Toronto's water fluoridation program, claiming that "there is no scientific evidence that shows it's good for dental health."
It was such a wild and easily disproven claim that I bit the bullet and went down the rabbit hole, reading through a campaign littered with cherry-picked and, at times, blatantly misrepresented data.
The change.org petition to Toronto City Council was created by an organization known as End Fluoride Toronto, which (as the name suggests) calls on officials to end the practice of water fluoridation, a standard public health tool used to reduce the risk of tooth decay.
In the petition's pitch, the group cites a 1990 study as evidence of "no significant difference in tooth decay between those drinking fluoridated vs. non-fluoridated water."
Yet that exact study, for those who actually take the time to read things, actually came to a conclusion "that water fluoridation has played a dominant role in the decline in caries and must continue to be a major prevention methodology."
The petition makes the vague accusation that "other research has linked fluoride ingestion to bone cancer in boys, skeletal and dental fluorosis, hypothyroidism, kidney damage, and other adverse health effects."
While some of these points are indeed applicable to high doses of fluoride, studies have yet to directly link the 0.7 milligrams per litre added to drinking water with any ill effects.
Skeletal and dental fluorosis are legitimate concerns when children receive too much of the chemical, though Health Canada notes on its page for fluoride-related health risks that both are extremely rare, and are more likely sourced from toothpaste than drinking water.
Many of the other health claims can be easily debunked with easy research (from reputable medical sources instead of your aunt on Facebook), but let's just focus on the bone cancer claim for a moment.
The petition's claim seems cherry-picked from a 2006 study suggesting a link between fluoride and bone cancer in young males, while ignoring the many studies that came before and after claiming the exact opposite.
According to the U.S. National Cancer Institute, links between cancer and fluoridated drinking water were refuted in studies conducted in 1993, 1999, and 2011, and even subsequent investigations have backed up the conclusion that there is no evidence of an association between fluoride in drinking water and the risk of osteosarcoma.
The petition also claims that the water additive hydrofluosilicic acid is "highly toxic" and "contaminated with arsenic" without bothering to mention that these have only ever been measured at trace levels that, once again, have not been proven to pose any risks to human health.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that "drinking fluoridated water keeps teeth strong and reduces cavities by about 25 per cent in children and adults."
Despite some groups lobbying for the removal of fluoride, its use against tooth decay is endorsed by over 90 national and international governmental and professional health organizations, including the Canadian and American Dental Associations, the Canadian Medical Association, the US Food and Drug Administration, and the World Health Organization.
Almost 7,600 people have taken it all at face value and signed the petition as of the noon hour Wednesday, aiming for a goal of 10,000.
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