Fluoride debate goes on ice

JANINE RANKIN
Last updated 12:00 04/02/2014

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The fluoridation debate in Palmerston North has been put on ice until the High Court rules on whether the practice is legal.

The city council's planning and policy committee yesterday recommended a wait-and-see approach.

A decision on a case taken against the South Taranaki District Council claiming that fluoridation is mass medication against tooth decay, being administered without informed consent - and is therefore illegal - is expected soon.

The meeting received a $10,000 review of fluoridation issues that was commissioned after a flurry of submissions to last year's annual plan calling for a review.

The report, presented by water engineer and consultant Andrew Watson, was anchored by three international reviews of scientific studies that concluded fluoridation was effective in reducing tooth decay. He said he was satisfied the science was clearly in favour of fluoridation, especially as a means of protecting the oral health of children from poorer families where high-sugar diets and poor teeth-brushing standards increased the risk of decay. But he accepted there were grounds for debate about whether water was the best way to make the benefits of fluoride available, because it took away personal choice.

Wellington dentist Stan Litras also made a presentation, arguing fluoridation was not effective, safe or cheap.

"It makes no significant difference to decay rates."

It was topical application of fluoride in toothpaste rather than swallowing it that made the difference, he said.

Two people also made public comments - Matthew Willey in favour, and Sasha Unverricht against.

Mayor Jono Naylor proposed the whole discussion should be deferred until the court decision was released.

"If the outcome is that it is deemed illegal, it is a moot argument whether you believe in it or not." He said the issue was a complex one but it was only worth having the debate if the court ruled it was lawful.

The committee was unanimous in delaying the discussion.

Fluoridation opponent Rachel Keedwell said after the meeting that councillors had done the wisest thing.

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- Manawatu Standard

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