MOH makes case for adding fluoride to our drinking water

Cathy Dobson

Letter writers who say they want fluoride removed from the local water supply don’t represent the majority of residents, says Lambton’s medical officer of health.

Surveys indicate 70% of Sarnia-Lambton residents support fluoridated drinking water, according to Dr. Sudit Ranade.

And he’s one of them.

Dr. Sudit Ranade

Ranade said fluoride’s ability to improve dental health is a “public health achievement and one of those things we’d like to protect.

“We think it’s still beneficial.”

He said emotions run high in the fluoride debate because people feel their right to choose what they consume has been taken away.

The issued has been debated in The Journal’s letter section in recent months, with experts and consumers from across the country weighing in.

But, Ranade argues, a water supply without additives would send the entire population to the hospital.

“We also put chlorine in the water and nobody has the opportunity to say they prefer there’s a little less chlorine in this water.

“At the population level we’ve said this is beneficial and we put it in the water so you don’t get sick.”

Fluoride and chlorine aren’t the only examples of additives with beneficial properties, he added.

Folic acid has been added to Canadian flour since 1998, which has cut in half the number of neural tube defects in infants, Ranade said.

“By giving people an everyday substance that they use all the time, rather than saying only pregnant women should take folic acid, our rate of neural tube babies dramatically dropped.”

Adding iodine to table salt, a practice that began in 1924, is another example in which the general population benefitted, this time by reducing the incidence of goiters.

“It’s one of those things that we hope people accept because it benefits the vast majority of folks,” he said.

Ranade said he believes a high percentage of Sarnia-Lambton residents support fluoridated water because many recall a time before fluoridation.

“They remember what people’s teeth were like. As we lose that community experience and knowledge, we open ourselves up to more people who don’t realize how great the benefit is,” he said.

“I think we need to listen to the past on this one and protect the gains that we’ve made.”

Dr. Ranade made his comments as guest speaker at the annual general meeting of the local Green Party on Nov. 29.

He was asked his opinion on bottled water by former Green Party candidate Kevin Shaw, who said he’s surprised by the number of local households that buy bottled water.

Sarnia-Lambton residents have a safe and regulated water supply so it’s “hard to justify” bottled water, Ranade replied.

Bottled water is not regulated and its source is often unknown, he said.

“Unfortunately, I think the bottled water companies are really good marketers. I can’t compete with the millions of dollars they spend to promote their product,” he said.

“It’s really a David and Goliath scenario.”