ONE OF THE THINGS that appealed to me about Kamloops when I moved here in 1981 was its water. Kamloops water had been fluoridated since 1961.
At the time, Calgary’s water wasn’t fluoridated. The attraction of moving to a city with fluoridated water was obvious: fluoridation is nature’s way of preventing cavities.
Fluoride research had its beginnings in 1901 when a young dental school graduate opened a dental practice in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He found that teeth were unusually discoloured and that dental cavities were low.
The reason for the cosmetic discolouration and low rate of cavities took years to unravel. It turned out that there was an unusually high level of fluorides in the water. Once the level of fluorides was lowered, the discolouration disappeared and dental health improved dramatically.
Grand Rapids, Michigan, became the first place to add fluorides. The dental caries (cavities) among Grand Rapids children born after fluoride was added to the water supply dropped more than 60 percent.
Fluorides are naturally found in all water sources, except for rain water collected in barrels. Fluorides leach out of the soil into rivers, lakes and wells. The longer that water is in contact with soil, the greater the fluoride concentration.
Kamloops’ water is naturally fluoridated but only to one-half of the concentration required to be beneficial. After fluorides were added to supplement the natural amount, dental hygiene improved for all, even for those who couldn’t afford to see a dentist. My son, born in 1980, had no cavities.
Then, in 2001, a referendum was held in Kamloops on whether to have water meters installed and fluoridation removed.
The arguments against fluoridation back then sounded at lot like the ones today against COVID vaccinations — I should be free to have fluorides if I want.
Kamloops voters, cranky at the prospect of having to pay for what they imagined was free water, rejected water meters and fluoridation. Voter turnout was low at 37 per cent; 63 per cent of those rejected fluoridation.
I’m astonished how much fuss is made over simple health measures in some places and so little in others. When I was in Mexico I noticed that the salt is fluoridated — an obvious benefit where there are few central water systems.
And why aren’t people ranting about our iodized salt? It reduces iodine deficiency and boosts thyroid function in the production of hormones.
Like fluorine, naturally occurring iodine is found in rivers, lakes and wells but not enough to be beneficial. Fluorine and iodine are similar elements in that they are both halogens.
Calgary’s opinions have blown back and forth like the Chinook winds over the Rockies. They voted yes to fluoridation in 1998 and 1989, and then no in 2011.
In the last referendum, a substantial number, two-thirds of Calgary voters, approved fluoridation.
I think the difference is the pandemic. Even antivaxxers are shifting opinions about public health. They once thought that the issue was personal choice: they should be able to choose whether to receive the shot or not.
Now, the concept of what’s good for all overcomes vaccine hesitancy.
Now will Kamloopsians also come to their senses and return fluorides to our water supply?
David Charbonneau is a retired TRU electronics instructor who hosts a blog at http://www.eyeviewkamloops.wordpress.com.