Fluoride has officially returned to Windsor and the surrounding Ontario area following years of political disagreement and some more recent technical delays.
ENWIN Utilities Ltd. announced last week that fluoride had returned for the first time since 2013, when Windsor council ceased offering the anti-dental decay additive as part of its municipal water supply.
The fluoride implementation follows completion of extensive tests recommended by Jacobs Engineering, including a treatability assessment, a review of fluoride additives, as well as a study using a pipe test loop to ensure no adverse effects to the Windsor Utilities Commission corrosion control program.
“We completed the pipe loop testing as anticipated in 2021, but experienced a minor setback in the implementation due to supply chain issues related to COVID-19,” announced Garry Rossi, vice president of water operations at ENWIN. “We have now resolved that issue, and our team is poised to begin introducing fluoride,” he added.
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ENWIN will continue to monitor the pipe loop after the implementation to ensure pilot data is consistent with actual drinking water system sample results, and to collect further seasonal data, local officials stated.
“We are dedicated to ensuring the water we provide is safe and reliable,” said ENWIN President and CEO Helga Reidel. “We have received a 100% rating on our annual audit by the Ministry for the last 10 years, and we want to ensure we maintain our consistently high standards,” she added.
The decision to remove fluoride emerged as some members of the community had expressed concern over fluorosis, environmental impact, as well as the government deciding on behalf of residents whether so-called “mass medication” should be forced on the population. Meanwhile, the argument in favour of fluoride has long been that it represents a low-cost dental health solution that crosses socioeconomic barriers.
Windsor’s initial decision to remove fluoride, however, took a turn when five years later the local health unit issued its annual Oral Health Report. The data showed a 51% jump in serious tooth decay among children over the age of five.
Following Windsor council’s fluoride reversal in 2018, approval was also required from Tecumseh or LaSalle council, which share Windsor’s water supply. That approval came in April 2019 from Tecumseh.
The Windsor area situation is not dissimilar from that in Regina, where fluoride was also recently restored to the municipal system.
A 2012 report from the Windsor Utilities Commission summed up the fluoride issue as follows: “On balance, the fluoride debate is a public health issue, rather than a water treatment or operational issue, and much of what has been cited within the body of this report speaks to that point. As such, from an operability standpoint, administration sees no risk with respect to the removal of fluoride from the City of Windsor water supply and will act in a timely fashion to comply with the wishes of Council.”
The Windsor drinking water system currently provides water, on a bulk basis, to the Towns of LaSalle. It will prevent excessive intake of fluoride through multiple sources by keeping the fluoride level at 0.7 mg/L.
In 1961, Ontario enacted the Fluoridation Act, which specifically provided for the establishment, maintenance and discontinuance of fluoridation of drinking water within the Ontario waterworks system. On October 16, 1961, the City of Windsor passed a bylaw to require the establishment of a fluoridation system in connection with the water works system.
In 2007, Health Canada convened a panel of experts to provide advice and to make recommendations to both Health Canada and the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Committee on Drinking Water regarding the addition of fluoride to drinking water. The panel’s findings state that the current maximum acceptable concentration (MAC) of 1.5 mg/L of fluoride in drinking water is unlikely to cause adverse health effects.