Whether adding fluoride to Patea and Waverley's water is proactive dental care or unwarranted mass medication was the focus of a day-long council hearing yesterday.
One side called it a vital link in the effort to stop poor oral hygiene, the other says the "dangerous toxin" should be kept out at all costs.
The South Taranaki District Council received hundreds of submissions on the issue, but only about 40 people ventured to the Patea Old Folks Hall to face councillors.
Pro-fluoride dental surgeon Sandie Pryor said 2.4 million New Zealanders were drinking fluoridated water.
"It's not killing us," she said.
She pointed to an informal study she did into links between fluoridation and tooth decay, comparing Patea with Hawera.
Hawera's water supply is fluoridated.
A dentist for 30 years, Ms Pryor said the results showed a significant difference between the numbers of decayed, missing or filled teeth in the two towns.
"Patea 15 to 17-year-olds have two to three times the decay rate of their Hawera counterparts."
But submitters arguing against fluoride said it simply did more harm than good.
Patea resident Dianne Burley said adding the chemical to their water would be an unproductive and unnecessary use of the town's rates.
She said that money would be better spent on educating people of the benefits of a healthy diet.
"It is not a solution.
"It's an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff at best, and a fast track to ill health at worst."
Fellow resident Olivia Northcott said she worried about the chemical's effects on her own health.
Suffering from chronic liver disease, Ms Northcott said she was susceptible to any change in her diet.
She had regained 80 per cent of her liver function through eating right and exercise, but feared fluoride would undo all her good work.
"Fluoride is highly toxic to the liver.
"I can't afford to have another toxin added to my body," she said.
Others, including New Zealand Fluoridation Information Service campaigner Mark Atkin, cited concerns over using "toxic industrial waste" on the public.
Taranaki District Health Board medical officer of health Greg Simmons told councillors that water fluoridation was the best way to combat poor oral health.
As part of a five-member TDHB panel, Mr Simmons said as long as fluoride was kept at the recommended level, of between .07 and 1.0 parts per million, it was safe.
He urged councillors to take this "golden opportunity" to think of the greater public good over individual choice.
Earlier this year the Stratford District Council voted unanimously in support of fluoridating their water, while the New Plymouth District Council voted to remove fluoride from its water last year.
The STDC will make its final decision on December 10.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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