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Canadian cities rethink removal of fluoride from tap water

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It shouldn’t be up to cities to decide to add fluoride to drinking water, but provincial officials, a Canadian mayor says.

Windsor, Ont., is bucking a national trend and looking at lifting its ban on adding fluoride to drinking water after seeing an increase in cavities among children.

Community water fluoridation is recommended by public health, medical and dental groups, including the Canadian and American Dental Associations, Canada’s Chief Dental Officer and the World Health Organization. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called its contribution to the decline in cavities one of the 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.  

Fluoride is a mineral that binds to the enamel of teeth, strengthening them to prevent bacterial decay.

But ever since Canadian communities first introduced fluoridation in 1945, some cities have gritted their teeth at the contentious addition, and the debate continues. Some Windsor city council members initially argued that fluoride could be obtained cheaply from toothpaste and other critics have presented general fears over adding chemicals to water supplies. 

A 2018 review by the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health evaluated dozens of studies on the health effects associated with fluoridation. “The evidence in this review supports the protective role of community water fluoridation in reducing dental caries [cavities] in children and adults,” the authors concluded.

Decisions left to people with ‘no science background’ 

Last month, the city council in Windsor, Ont., voted to put fluoride back into its water supply after voting to remove it in 2013.

While Windsor’s mayor Drew Dilkens is opposed to fluoridation, he doesn’t think it should be up to municipalities to decide.

“If there is truly a health benefit of fluoride in the water system that is legitimate and real, it should be decided and mandated for all water systems across the province of Ontario and across Canada. That is not the case. They leave the decision up to people like me with no science background,” said Dilkens.

“You have got to make the decision you think is right for your community and I think that mass medicating the entire water supply for the benefit of very few is not the right thing to do. But council voted otherwise. I respect that decision. We will add fluoride back to the water if another municipality agrees with council’s decision.” 

Studies show fluoridation is effective for the broad population, said Dr. Alexandria Meriano, a pediatric dentist in Windsor.

Like Windsor residents, almost two-thirds of Canadians no longer have fluoride added to their municipal water. In British Columbia, Yukon, Quebec, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador for instance, less than three per cent of the population has fluoride added to their municipal water. In comparison, it’s 74 per cent in the U.S. and the CDC aims to increase that to 80 per cent by 2020.

Yemmi Calito’s children are patients of Dr. Meriano. The two oldest kids were raised on fluoridated water in Windsor and both have healthy teeth. Her two youngest weren’t, and they’ve had to be treated for serious tooth decay. Calito said their oral hygiene habits are the same.

“The younger two I feel they have more cavities,” Calito said. “My little one, my three-year-old, actually had to go have general anesthesia … [about] four weeks ago to get his teeth fixed. They were in pretty bad shape.”

Meriano said she’s noticed a difference in her patients after the city banned fluoridation. “What I am seeing is more cavities at a younger age and more severe cavities at a younger age.”

Dr. Alexandria Meriano supports re-introducing fluoride in Windsor’s tap water. (Turgut Yeter/CBC)

The advantage of community water fluoridation is it reaches everyone, not just those seeking dental care, Meriano said.

Like Windsor, Calgary is also seeing a spike in kids’ cavities after removing fluoride. One city councillor in Calgary is convinced of its health benefits and thinks the city should vote on putting it back.

The opposition to fluoride is driven in part by “a fear of ‘chemicals,’ which unfortunately have been synonymous with toxin or poison,” said chemistry Prof. Joe Schwarcz. “I think a lot of it comes back to just a lack of scientific knowledge, scientific literacy and fear mongering.”

In affluent areas where there’s access to dental care, and people receive advice from dentists on how to counsel their kids to use fluoride toothpaste without swallowing it, then there might be an argument against fluoridation, he said.

Almost two-thirds of Canadians no longer have fluoride added to their municipal water. (Craig Chivers/CBC)

“But in communities which are poorer, where there is no access to dental care and where children are not regularly examined in terms of their dental health, the overwhelming evidence is that you can reduce cavities by putting fluoride into the water,” said Schwarcz, who heads the McGill Office for Science and Society.

Schwarcz said the debate over fluoridation will never end.

“There will always be people who are convinced that some sort of intervention is going to do them harm. We’ve seen this over the years not only with fluoride. We’ve seen them with pasteurization, we’ve seen it with microwave ovens, with cellphones. Any new technology is initially opposed and then eventually of course when its merit is proven the opposition slowly abates,” he said. 

“But it never completely goes away.”

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The ‘Maple Majestic’ wants to be Canada’s homegrown Tesla

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Look out Tesla, Canada has a homegrown electric sedan on the way. Well, that’s if AK International Motor Corporation can drum up enough investment to make its EV a reality. Dubbed the “Maple Majestic,” the vehicle is a battery-electric designed to “excel in extreme climate performance without adversely affecting the climate, as befits a vehicle from Canada,” according to its website.

What’s in a name? — The company says the maple leaf is a “symbol of Canada’s warmth and friendliness towards all cultures,” while “majestic” refers to the country’s “status as a Constitutional Monarchy.”

That patriotism carries over into Maple Majestic’s parent company’s lofty goals. AK Motor founder Arkadiusz Kaminski says he wants the company, which he founded in 2012, to become “Canada’s first multi-brand automotive OEM,” and that the “Maple Majestic is intended to be Canada’s flagship brand of automobiles on the world stage.”

Partnerships are key — “We acknowledge that the best chance for the Maple Majestic brand to succeed, lies in continuing to build the relationship with Canada’s parts suppliers and technological innovators, whether they be academic institutions, corporations, or individual inventors,” the company explains. “We are currently seeking partners in automotive engineering, parts manufacturing, automotive assembly, electric propulsion technology, battery technology, autonomous technology, and hybrid power generation technology.”

In other words, don’t expect to be able to buy a Maple Majestic any time soon… and don’t expect to pour over 0-60 mph times, power output, range, or other key stats, because those don’t currently exist. For now, all we have are pictures and a short video clip. But at least those are arresting.

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PE-backed Quorum Software to merge with Canadian energy tech firm

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Houston-based energy technology company Quorum Software will merge with a Canadian tech firm to bolster its presence in oil and gas services.

Quorum announced Feb. 15 it plans to merge with Calgary, Alberta-based Aucerna, a global provider of planning, execution and reserves software for the energy sector. The combined firm will operate under the Quorum Software brand.

Gene Austin, CEO of Quorum Software, will continue in his capacity as chief executive of the combined firm. Austin, former CEO of Austin-based marketing tech firm Bazaarvoice Inc., became CEO of Quorum in December 2018.

Aucerna co-founder and CEO Wayne Sim will be appointed to the Quorum Software board of directors. Both companies are backed by San Francisco- and Chicago-based private equity firm Thoma Bravo.

“Over the last 20 years, Quorum has become the leading innovator of software deployed by North American energy companies,” said Austin. “Today, Quorum is expanding the scope of our technology and expertise to all energy-producing regions of the globe. Customers everywhere will have access to a cloud technology ecosystem that connects decision-ready data from operations to the boardroom.”

In addition to the merger announcement, Quorum Software announced it had entered into an agreement with Finnish IT firm TietoEvry to purchase TietoEvry’s entire oil and gas business. The agreement, which includes hydrocarbon management, personnel and material logistics software and related services, is valued at 155 million euros, or $188 million, according to a statement from TietoEvry.

“Our three organizations complement each other — from the software that our great people design to the energy markets where we operate,” said Sim. “Our new company will be able to deliver value to our stakeholders, while accelerating the growth of our combined business and the energy industry’s software transformation.”

The combined company will serve over 1,800 energy companies in 55 countries, according to the announcement. With its headquarters in Houston, Quorum will continue to have a significant presence in Calgary and in Norway, the headquarters for TietoEvry’s oil and gas software business. Quorum will have other offices throughout North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

As of Sept. 30, 2020, private equity firm Thoma Bravo had more than $73 billion in assets under management. In late December 2020, Thoma Bravo agreed to acquire Richardson, Texas-based tech firm RealPage in a roughly $10 billion acquisition.

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Piece of Kitchener technology lands on Mars on Perseverance rover

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KITCHENER — A piece of Kitchener technology has landed on Mars, thanks to NASA’s Perseverance rover.

The rover settled on the planet’s surface on Thursday afternoon. It’s been travelling through space since it was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla. in July.

“The whole idea of being on a device that we’re sending to another plant with the express mission of looking for traces of past life, it’s pretty mind boggling actually,” said Rafal Pawluczyk, chief technical officer for FiberTech Optica.

The Kitchener-based company made fibre optic cables for the rover’s SuperCam that will examine samples with a camera, laser and spectrometers.

“The cables that we built take the light from that multiplexer and deliver it to each spectrograph,” Pawluczyk said.

The cables connect a device on the rover to the SuperCam, which will be used to examine rock and soil samples, to spectrometers. They’ll relay information from one device to another.

The project started four years ago with a connection to Los Alamos National Lab, where the instruments connected to the cables were developed.

“We could actually demonstrate we can design something that will meet their really hard engineering requirements,” Pawluczyk said.

The Jezero Crater is where the Perseverance rover, with FiberTech Optica’s technology onboard, landed Thursday. Scientists believe it was once flooded with water and is the best bet for finding any evidence of life. FiberTech’s cables will help that in that search.

Ioannis Haranas, an astrophysicist and professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, said the rover isn’t looking for “green men.”

“They’re looking for microbial, single-cell life, any type of fossils and stuff like that,” Haranas said. “That’s why they chose a special landing site. This could be very fertile land for that.”

“It’s very ambitious,” said Ralf Gellert, a physics professor at the University of Guelph.

Gellert helped with previous rover missions and said it’s the first time a Mars rover has landed without a piece of Guelph technology on it. While he’s not part of Perseverance’s mission, he said the possibilities are exciting.

“Every new landing site is a new piece of the puzzle that you can put together with the new results that we have from the other landing sites,” he said.

“It’s scientifically very interesting because, even though we don’t have an instrument on that rover, we can compare what the new rover Perseverance finds at this new landing site,” he said.

Now that Perseverance has landed on Mars, FiberTech is looking ahead to its next possible mission into space.

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