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Churchill to stop fluoridating its water

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Churchill town council unanimously voted to stop fluoridating its water supply in September.

The decision follows the outcome of an October plebiscite in that community, where a majority of eligible voters supported ending the program.

"This is awesome," said Mark Brackley, spokesman for Churchill No Fluoride, which spearheaded the stop-fluoridation movement.

"It’s been four years and four months but come September, the (fluoride tap) will be turned off."

Churchill CAO Albert Meijering said the fluoride treatment will end Sept. 15, adding the community delayed acting on the October plebiscite until an alternative fluoride treatment could be put in place.

Meijering said a fluoride rinse program will be offered at the local school in September, adding anyone wishing treatment can obtain it there.

Fluoridation has become a controversial issue in many North American communities. Adding fluoride to drinking water as an effective way to combat tooth decay was a practice that became widespread in the late 1950s and 1960s. However, questions over potential health hazards and its effectiveness as a cavity-preventer fuelled strong anti-fluoride lobbies.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States said past and current reviews of scientific studies found no basis to claims fluoride poses a health hazard. It describes fluoridation as one of the "10 great public-health achievements," but it does advise that children's exposure from birth to age six should be restricted.

Winnipeg has been fluoridating its water since 1956. The city recently lowered the fluoride content from 0.85 milligrams per litre to 0.7 mg/L, based on recommendations from Health Canada and Manitoba Health.

Brackley said his group will now turn its efforts to Winnipeg, helping activists in the provincial capital remove fluoride from the city’s water supply.

Several countries in Europe have stopped water-fluoridation programs, including Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands and Finland.

Closer to home, Flin Flon stopped adding fluoride to its water supply at the end of July and Calgary stopped in May. Before the Churchill plebiscite, a spokeswoman for Manitoba Health said it supported continued fluoridation as an effective way to combat tooth decay.

Churchill’s water is pumped from the Churchill River, where it is treated in a pumping station with chlorine and fluoride before distributed throughout the community.

Meijering said Churchill worked with Manitoba Health to implement the rinse program before moving to remove fluoride from the water supply.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

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