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ARCHIVED - Fluoride in Drinking Water

Warning This content was archived on June 24 2013.

Archived Content

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Should I be Worried About Fluoride in my Drinking Water?

No. Scientific reviews conducted by a number of international agencies and by Health Canada are in agreement that the weight of evidence from all currently available studies indicates there is no link between any adverse health effects and exposure to fluoride in drinking water at levels that are below the maximum acceptable concentration of 1.5 mg/L in Canada.

Who is Responsible for Adding Fluoride to Drinking Water?

Fluoride is a beneficial mineral nutrient that occurs naturally in most sources of drinking water. It is the responsibility of municipalities, or the appropriate provincial or territorial authorities, to decide whether to fluoridate their drinking water. Although Health Canada supports water fluoridation as a public health measure to prevent dental decay, the department does not participate in those decisions.

Why Does Health Canada Support Fluoridation of Drinking Water?

At low levels in drinking water, fluoride prevents the formation of dental cavities and improves dental health. While there may be an increased risk of very mild or mild dental fluorosis (small white spots on teeth) from multiple years of exposure to fluoride from all sources including fluoride supplements and fluoridated toothpaste, water that is optimally fluoridated does not pose a risk of dental fluorosis for any age group. Other sources of exposure such as the use of fluoride supplements or the ingestion of fluoridated toothpaste could increase the risk of dental fluorosis. Parents are encouraged to teach their children to brush their teeth regularly, but to not swallow the toothpaste.

Can I Prepare Baby Formula Using Fluoridated Water?

Yes. Infant formula prepared with water fluoridated at the optimal level of 0.7 mg/L maximizes the protective role of fluoride during the development of the permanent teeth while minimizing the risk of dental fluorosis. Water from wells may have higher levels of natural fluoride and should be tested before using to reconstitute infant formula. If you live in an area with naturally occurring high levels of fluoride (higher than the guideline of 1.5 mg/L), you may want to use a different source of drinking water with a lower fluoride concentration. Dental health professionals or municipal health departments can also provide advice on what to do when well water contains excessive amounts of fluoride.

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What are the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality?

Health Canada works with the provinces and territories, through the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Committee on Drinking Water, to develop the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality.

An updated Guideline Technical Document for Fluoride was published in June 2011. It is based on the latest science and reaffirms that fluoride in drinking water at or below the maximum acceptable concentration of 1.5 mg/L does not pose a risk to human health. The optimal level for fluoride in drinking water (that is, the level at which the protective effect of fluoride occurs) has changed from a range of 0.8-1.0 to a single value of 0.7 mg/L to best continue effective prevention of tooth decay.

The maximum acceptable concentration for fluoride was established based on the segment of the population most at risk of developing dental fluorosis, children 1-4 years old. It is based on moderate dental fluorosis, which is a potential cosmetic concern. By protecting against a cosmetic effect of moderate dental fluorosis (white spots on the teeth) in young children, the drinking water guideline is protective of the health of all Canadians.