Fluoride in Drinking Water - Frequently Asked Questions

"Water Fluoridation in Halton" staff report

Read the report submitted to Regional Council for the upcoming Jan 31 special council meeting regarding water fluoridation.

What is water fluoridation?

  • Water fluoridation is the process whereby the natural level of fluoride in a water supply is adjusted to a level that will optimize dental benefits.
  • Fluoride additives meet standards for quality and purity before they are added to water at the recommended levels .

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Is drinking water fluoridated in Halton?

  • Yes, the Region adds fluoride to the water supplies in Burlington, Halton Hills, Oakville, and the new developments in Milton to bring it up to the recommended levels.
  • The older section of Milton does not have fluoride added, although the groundwater based system has a natural fluoride level of about 0.1 parts per million (ppm) to 0.15 ppm. That level is well below that of any preventative value (i.e., 0.5 - 0.8 ppm)
  • Fluoride occurs naturally and is often found in water sources, levels of which vary in drinking water throughout Ontario and Halton Region. However, the natural fluoride level in Halton Region is too low for the prevention of tooth decay.

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If my water source is a private well, does Halton Region add fluoride?

  • No, Halton Region does not treat nor add anything to private well water.
  • Well water can vary substantially in fluoride levels.
  • Well owners are responsible to both maintain their well and test their well water for bacteria. To assess fluoride levels in private wells, residents must have their water tested at a private laboratory. Find out how to have your well water tested .

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What is the level of fluoride in Halton’s drinking water?

  • Where fluoride is added, the level is between 0.5 - 0.8 parts per million (ppm) which is the optimal range for reducing the risk of tooth decay as recommended by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment.

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In Halton Region, who is responsible for adding fluoride to our water?

  • The level of fluoride in the drinking water in the water distribution system is carefully monitored by Halton Region's Certified Water Treatment Operators, in association with the Medical Officer of Health.

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Why is water fluoridation so important?

  • Tooth decay is the single most common chronic disease in children and adolescents, 5 times more common than asthma, and 7 times more common than hay fever.
  • Research has shown that fluoridated drinking water greatly reduces the number of cavities in children.

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What or which organizations are in support of water fluoridation?

  • Water fluoridation is supported by over 90 dental and public health organizations, including:
    • The World Health Organization
    • Health Canada
    • The Canadian and American Dental Associations
    • The Canadian Public Health Association
    • The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

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What evidence supports that water fluoridation reduces dental decay?

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Are there any health risks associated with water fluoridation?

  • There are no known health risks with drinking water fluoridated at optimum levels (0.5 to 0.8 ppm).
  • As with many substances, fluoride can be harmful if taken in excessive amounts. At higher levels (i.e., greater than 4 ppm), with long-term consumption it can cause skeletal fluorosis, osteoporosis or bone fractures.
  • Other potential effects of high levels of exposure that have not been proven, but have been and continue to be investigated, include:
    • osteosarcoma
    • effects on the reproductive system, kidneys, brain, and endocrine system

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What is fluorosis?

  • Dental fluorosis occurs in people who swallow too much fluoride during the important tooth formation years (ages 0 - 6 for front teeth).
    • Sources of fluoride other than in drinking water include swallowing fluoride toothpaste at a young age and use of fluoride supplements.
  • In its mild form, dental fluorosis appears as white flecks on the tooth surface.
  • In the severe form, brown staining and/or pitting occur on the tooth surface.
  • Dental fluorosis is most often mild and only a cosmetic concern.

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Is it safe to prepare infant formula with fluoridated water?

  • Yes, any municipal supply of drinking water in Halton Region is safe to use for the preparation of infant formula, whether fluoride is added to the water supply or not. However, the Halton Region Health Department recommends breastfeeding as the safest and optimal way to feed your baby.
  • Well water can vary substantially in fluoride levels and should be tested prior to using it to prepare infant formula. To assess fluoride levels in private wells, residents must have their water tested at a private laboratory. Find out  how to have your well water tested .
  • For more information on safe preparation and storage of formula call Halton Region or talk to your health care provider.

What can I do if I don’t want to drink fluoridated water?

  • You can use alternatives such as bottled water for drinking.
  • You can purchase a filter to your kitchen tap that removes fluoride.
  • Halton Region’s drinking water is safe to drink.

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Where can I get more information about water fluoridation?

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