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Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that exists in fresh water, sea water and soil. It is known to prevent tooth decay and promote better dental health.
Most drinking water contains some natural fluoride. Water fluoridation is the process used in many Canadian communities of adjusting the level of fluoride in the municipal water supply to an optimum level.
Water fluoridation is considered by health authorities to be a safe and effective public health measure to adjust the concentration of fluoride in drinking water to an optimum level. According to health authorities, fluoridation offers health benefits to the entire community, especially vulnerable populations without access to regular dental care.
Municipalities across Canada rely on the health authorities' recommendation for determining the safe levels of fluoride in potable water. While we administer fluoride in accordance with health guidelines, the decision to fluoridate (or not to fluoridate) is a municipal one.
We abide by the bylaws of the communities where we operate water treatment plants. Where we are directed to fluoridate the drinking water, we follow Health Canada's guideline for fluoride levels (0.7 parts per million).
The North Saskatchewan River has naturally occurring fluoride levels of approximately 0.1 ppm. In Edmonton, where we operate two water treatment plants, fluoride is added to the treated water to increase the concentration to the optimal and approved Health Canada guideline level of 0.7 ppm.
The decision to add fluoride to Edmonton's drinking water was originally made by City Council based on a plebiscite.
We use additives such as chlorine and ammonia in the standard water treatment process.
Our objective in providing safe drinking water is to ensure that a minimum disinfectant residual is present in the water up to the customer's tap to offer a measure of protection against regrowth of microorganisms or potential contamination in the municipal distribution system or building plumbing systems.
We add chlorine to disinfect the water and to inactivate harmful microorganisms. We are required by our approval to operate issued by Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development to maintain a chlorine residual of at least 0.5 mg/L at all times and at all locations in the distribution system. We also add ammonia to react with free chlorine to form combined chlorine which is a stable disinfectant important for storage and distribution of the treated water. Regular water testing, conducted on the water after any additive is added, is done to ensure proper dosage.
In addition, all additives used in the drinking water treatment process must be certified to National Sanitation Foundations standards (NSF)/ANSI Standard 60 for use in potable water. This testing provides quality assurance of the additives by testing for product impurities, maximum use levels for the product, details product labelling, and requires product traceability.
For further information regarding what is added to our water, see our operations report and monthly quality assurance report.