Fluoride: A healthy additive to drinking water, or a poison?

Photo by mssaramarie | flickr.com

While downtown Hamilton the other day, I noticed a man gathering signatures for a petition against the fluoridation of Hamilton tap water. I think this is an interesting concept to think about: what exactly is in our water, and why?

Although there are federal and provincial standards that must be met, most people are aware of the fact that tap water varies from region to region. Hamilton has been fluoridating its water since a vote passed the idea in the 1960s because it is considered the “best” way to boost the “protection of teeth” for the city as a whole. I’m not sure what technical standards are considered to qualify it as “best,” but it bothers me that I don’t have a choice in the matter.

If you’ve ever seen people with white spots or streaks on their teeth, this is the result of too much fluoride causing a mild condition called fluorosis during tooth development.  I am not trying to scare you away from your drinking water; I think the stuff is phenomenally clean, and advanced forms of fluorosis are rarely a result of the fluoride in drinking water (since this amount is monitored carefully).

My point is not so much that fluoride in water will cause massive abnormalities in the teeth of society, rather that it may cause harm in some people. Yet the government chooses to continue adding it to drinking water that the entire population relies on. Is this entirely fair? Is it worth it to sacrifice potential health risks for the “best tooth protection” of a community? Fluoridation can easily be done via dentist trips or toothpastes, so in my opinion, people should be able to fluoridate their teeth as they please, on their own time, rather than be obliged to by way of necessity.

When I was younger, I was told fluoride was good and I needed it to have healthy teeth. I have since then backed away from many similar medical advances that have turned out to be more trouble than they’re worth in the long run. In an effort to slowly rid myself of manmade additives and chemicals, I find myself wishing I could drink fluoride-free water, or at least have the option to. I realize that fluorosis is not a pressing issue in today’s society, but I still find it rather unfair that the entire population is quite literally forced to consume it because the government thinks it’s for the greater good of everyone. I’m curious to hear your thoughts!