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GN pleads with Rankin to revisit water fluoridation
Up to 50-per-cent increase in cavities can be expected if council doesn't reverse decision not to build new plant to put fluoride in water, says official

Cody Punter
Northern News Services
Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Children in Rankin Inlet are at risk of seeing a 20 to 50 per cent increase in cavities if the hamlet does not reverse a decision to stop adding fluoride into its water system.

NNSL photo/graphic

The Government of Nunavut is urging Rankin Inlet council to reconsider its decision not to build a new fluoride treatment system after the old one failed to meet code. - Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Council voted against building a new fluoridation facility in June after the Department of Community and Government Services told them the existing one needed to be replaced

"By removing fluoride we can estimate there will be 20 to 50 per cent more tooth loss for our children," said Gary Nelson, acting regional director of population health for GN, who pleaded with the hamlet to reverse its decision during a July 25 council meeting

At the time that council made its decision, fluoride had not been added to the water for several months because the existing facility was shut down for failing to be up to code

A new plant was scheduled to be built by the Government of Nunavut at no cost to the hamlet. However, when the issue was debated by the hamlet, several councillors raised concerns about the negative health effects of fluoride, according to SAO Justin Merritt, who addressed council on July 25. Merritt said they were citing "their memory" and "articles they read on the Internet" which led them to decide to scrap the practice

"Some councillors felt it was dangerous. They made a motion that they did not want fluoride added to the water going forward," he said

Nelson pleaded with hamlet to reverse its decision and build a new fluoridation plant

Nelson said any studies which suggested fluoride could be bad for your health were unscientific. He said water fluoridation has been supported by hundreds of medical organizations including the World Health Organization

"Water fluoridation is probably the second greatest achievement of water treatment technology in the 20th century after chlorination."

Fluoride is a naturally occurring compound which is added to water supplies around the world in order to prevent cavities. Rankin is one of only a few communities, along with Arviat and Iqaluit, that have water fluoridation in Nunavut. The average amount of natural fluoride in Rankin Inlet's water, according to Nelson, is 0.1 parts per million. The recommended amount to combat cavities is between 0.5 to 0.7 parts per million

quote"Probably jumped the gun a bit"quote

Aside from the obvious rise in cavities, Nelson said children with poor dental hygiene were at risk of a loss of self-esteem, problems eating and digesting food, an increase in behavioural problems and problems sleeping

"I can say with 100 per cent accuracy that taking fluoride out of the drinking water system will lead to a great number of cavities and dental problems in Rankin," he said

With only four councillors in attendance, just enough to make quorum, there was little discussion on the matter

Coun. Harry Towtongie conceded that council had "probably jumped the gun a bit" with its decision not to build a new fluoridation facility

He also pointed out the fact many people go to rivers to get their drinking water

While this is true, Nelson said, adding fluoride to the water would especially benefit people who cannot to go on the land to get water

He also said that cost should not be an issue when discussing whether or not to go ahead with the practice

"That cost (of building a new fluoridation facility) would be insignificant compared to the increased cost the GN would bear with increased dental visits, medical travel, speech therapists, and all the expenses that go along with oral hygiene in children," he said

Following the debate Mayor Robert Janes said he would reconvene council to revisit the issue when there are enough councillors present to have a substantial debate

"I guess we need council to revisit this issue and make a more informed decision." Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons The Government of Nunavut is urging Rankin Inlet council to reconsider its decision not to build a new fluoride treatment system after the old one failed to meet code. According to a health official who addressed council, children are at risk of a 20 to 50 per cent increase in tooth loss as a result of cavities if the fluoride is not reintroduced into the water.

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