Fluoridation endorsed by Hutt health board

PAUL EASTON
Last updated 05:00 22/03/2014

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Two former Lower Hutt mayors have been accused of holding a health board to ransom during a tetchy debate on fluoridation.

Hutt Valley District Health Board endorsed fluoridation yesterday as an effective way of fighting tooth decay. Local drinking water supplies already fluoridated should remain so, a position statement said. "Where local supplies are not fluoridated, local authorities are encouraged to implement water fluoridation programmes as soon as possible."

During the debate, board member Ken Laban said the "articulate, informed and intelligent" anti-fluoridation lobby was being taken too lightly. "They're turning up for a gunfight and we're turning up with water pistols."

Health board member David Ogden, a former Lower Hutt mayor, said he was ambivalent about fluoridation. "But the Ministry of Health has been weak and our presentations have been weak."

Another former mayor, John Terris, said the report played down the anti-fluoridation lobby and lacked balance. "This is not a group of lunatic fringe people."

Ogden accused board chairwoman Virginia Hope of stifling debate after he was not allowed to speak to a proposed amendment. "That is what we're here for, for goodness sake. Just because you don't like me - it's a badge of honour every time you interrupt me."

Hope said Ogden and Terris were slowing proceedings down. "The two of you are holding this board to ransom." She told Terris he had already given his opinion "and you have no more right to give it any more airtime than anyone else".

The board adopted the fluoride position paper, which will be used as a reference by local councils.

Prepared by Regional Public Health, it was adopted by Wairarapa District Health Board, and will be considered by Capital & Coast DHB next week.

Most residents in reticulated parts of Lower Hutt, Porirua, Upper Hutt and Wellington get fluoridated water. Masterton has fluoride in its water, while Carterton and South Wairarapa do not.

This month, anti-fluoride campaigners New Health NZ lost a High Court battle to stop the South Taranaki District Council adding fluoride to drinking water in Waverley and Patea. Justice Hansen said it was within the council's legal power, and right mind, to add fluoride to drinking water.

Hamilton councillors decided last June to remove fluoride from the water supply but the decision was rejected in a referendum held during the October local body elections.

The Kapiti Coast District Council voted earlier this year to consult the community on continuing to add fluoride to water in Raumati, Paraparaumu and Waikanae, rather than face a costly referendum.

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Last year, Hastings residents voted resoundingly in favour of retaining fluoride in their water.

Wellington City Council follows Ministry of Health guidelines on the matter, that fluoride in recommended quantities is the "most effective and efficient way of preventing dental caries in communities receiving a reticulated water supply".

THE FLUORIDE DEBATE

SUPPORTERS SAY

Fluoride is proven to reduce tooth decay.

There are no proven health risks at levels used.

The 2009 Ministry of Health oral health survey suggested children, adolescents and adults living in fluoridated areas had less decay than those in non-fluoridated areas.

There was no significant difference in rates of dental fluorosis (marking of teeth from exposure to excessive fluoride) between fluoridated and non-fluoridated areas.

OPPONENTS SAY

It causes dental fluorosis, increased rates of cancer, premature birth, kidney problems, heart disease, low IQ, bone problems, thyroid damage and other health issues.

The small benefit to dental health does not outweigh the risk.

WHAT IS FLUORIDE?

Fluorides are mineral compounds of the element fluorine. One compound, sodium fluoride, occurs naturally in water. It can be used in pesticides and aluminium production.

In the 1930s, researchers in the United States found a link between sodium fluoride and resistance to tooth decay.

At levels between 0.7 parts per million and 1.2 parts per million, teeth are strengthened without producing dental fluorosis, which causes stained enamel. In high concentrations, sodium fluoride is harmful. A lethal dose for humans is about 5 to 10 grams.

New Zealand was the second country to fluoridate water, in 1954, after the US.

- The Dominion Post

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