U of C medical faculty offers advice on city’s fluoride decision

The University of Calgary’s faculty of medicine has offered to strike an expert panel before the city vote on removing fluoride from Calgary’s water supply Feb. 7.

“The medical school is still happy to make staff available to work with the city and to provide whatever scientific help the city might need on figuring out this issue,” said U of C faculty of medicine undergraduate education director Dr. David Keegan, who explained the most important thing is the city not be hasty in its decision.

“I can only hope that with a couple of days’ recess the aldermen might think, ‘You know, it might be incredibly handy to have a panel of experts weigh in on this.'”

Keegan, a physician, said his research suggests the city should of maintain the current level of fluoride.

“Using fluoride in the water decreases your chance of cavities in the overall population by approximately 15 per cent,” said Keegan, who has corroborated the figure with his colleagues in the field.

Too much of the compound can lead to side effects including a cosmetic discolouration of the teeth.

Keegan said those helped the most by the additive are Calgarians of a lower-socioeconomic status who might not have access to proper dental care.

Keegan noted that in 1998, when the city lowered the amount of the chemical in the water from 1.0 mg/L to 0.7 mg/L, it did so after forming a panel similar to the type he suggests.

“It’s a great way to partly resolve discrepancies,” he said, pointing to the relative cost of the treatment, less than $1 per Calgarian, against the health costs. “You save individuals from having these cavities and by doing that you save them from spending money on getting dental care.”

Last week a city sub-committee voted in favour of removing the additive, which has an annual cost of $750,000. The issue will return to city council where aldermen will decide to remove it, maintain current levels, go to a public plebiscite or request further study.

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