Canada: Anti-Fluoride In Drinking Water: Litigation Update

Last Updated: December 2 2014
Article by Meredith James

Will citizen group litigation and the threat of personal liability stop fluoridation of drinking water in Ontario?

In our earlier blog post, we described a threat by an advocacy group called Concerned Residents of Peel to End Water Fluoridation (Concerned Residents) against Peel municipal councillors. The group threatened the councillors with personal liability if they did not stop the Region from adding fluoride to the Region's drinking water. The Region decided to defer the issue until after the municipal election. The group now claims that it has launched a lawsuit against the province of Ontario and Peel Region.

A press release from the Fluoride Action Network states that the claim alleges:

"[T]he risk of harm posed by water fluoridation greatly exceeds its speculative benefits, and that water fluoridation is both unconstitutional and a violation of the Ontario Safe Drinking Water Act.


The Claim also alleges that the Region's use of fluorosilicic acid to fluoridate drinking water is negligent because fluorosilicic acid often contains dangerous contaminants, including arsenic, a known carcinogen.

Although we were not able to find a copy of the Claim online, it is likely similar to a Memorandum prepared for Concerned Residents by Nader Hasan of Ruby, Shiller, Chan, Hassan, Barristers. Mr. Hasan argues that such a lawsuit could succeed because [footnotes omitted]:

Skeptics about the viability of a successful legal challenge to Ontario's fluoridation program will point out that since the Supreme Court's 1957 decision Toronto (Metro) v. Forest Hill (Village), which was superseded by legislative action (see supra at 10-11), all other legal challenges to fluoridation programs in North America have failed. For the following reasons, I do not regard these cases as barring a legal challenge in Ontario.


In Canada, there have been unsuccessful challenges to fluoridation programs in Alberta and British Columbia: see, e.g., Millership v. Kamloops (City); Locke v. Calgary (City). Those cases, however, are distinguishable on at least three different grounds.

First, those challenges were brought by self-represented litigants. While it appears that these individuals did an admirable job at marshaling the evidence and the arguments, novel constitutional challenges such as this are highly complex and require the assistance of counsel.

Second, the scientific evidence about fluoridation is improving. More information than ever before is known about fluoridation. At the time that Millership (2003) and Locke (1996) were decided, for example, the NRC Report had not yet been published. Nor had the Harvard study on the association between osteosarcoma and artificial fluoridation been completed.

Third, Canadian constitutional law under s. 7 of the Charter has developed significantly over the past five years. The principle of fundamental justice of "gross disproportionality" is a fairly new principle in Canadian constitutional law. Prior to the Supreme Court's recent decisions in PHS and Bedford, there was some doubt over whether this principle was indeed a principle of fundamental justice and also some doubt over what "gross disproportionality" actually meant. In my view, the best argument against fluoridation relies on the principle of gross disproportionality. This argument was not available to the claimants in Locke and Millership. Each of these factors suggests that these other cases will not bar a successful constitutional challenge to fluoridation in Ontario

Whether the claim could be successful depends on the evidence. Can the group prove that the potential harm of fluoridation is grossly disproportionate to its benefits? It seems unlikely.

The NRC Report referred to in Mr. Hasan's Memorandum -Fluoride in Drinking Water: A Scientific Review of EPA's Standards ( 2006 ) – did not "evaluate nor make judgments about the benefits, safety, or efficacy of artificial water fluoridation. That practice is reviewed only in terms of being a source of exposure to fluoride." Further, it concluded with a recommendation to lower the maximum contaminant level goal, rather than a ban on water fluoridation (at p. 352). The Report also summarizes the benefits of fluoridation (at p. 16):

Public health agencies have long disputed these claims [that the potential harm caused by fluoridation outweighs the benefits]. Dental caries is a common childhood disease. It is caused by bacteria that colonize on tooth surfaces, where they ferment sugars and other carbohydrates, generating lactic acid and other acids that decay tooth enamel and form a cavity. If the cavity penetrates to the dentin (the tooth component under the enamel), the dental pulp can become infected, causing toothaches. If left untreated, pulp infection can lead to abscess, destruction of bone, and systemic infection (Cawson et al. 1982; USDHHS 2000). Various sources have concluded that water fluoridation has been an effective method for preventing dental decay (Newbrun 1989; Ripa 1993; Horowitz 1996; CDC 2001; Truman et al. 2002). Water fluoridation is supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as one of the 10 great public health achievements in the United States, because of its role in reducing tooth decay in children and tooth loss in adults (CDC 1999). Each U.S. Surgeon General has endorsed water fluoridation over the decades it has been practiced, emphasizing that "[a] significant advantage of water fluoridation is that all residents of a community can enjoy its protective benefit.... A person's income level or ability to receive dental care is not a barrier to receiving fluoridation's health benefits" (Carmona 2004).

We will continue to monitor this case.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Meredith James
In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.