The Government introduced a new Health Bill (Fluoridation of Drinking Water) to Parliament on the 14th of November with the intention of shifting the power of fluoridation from the local councils to the District Health Boards (DHBs). This was the first reading of the Bill in Parliament and the issue is now due to go to the Health Select Committee some time over the coming months, probably early next year.
This Bill says that our local councils will have to add fluoridation chemicals to the drinking water if the DHB orders them to, and councils cannot stop adding fluoridation chemicals unless the DHB tells them to.
DHBs are contractually obligated to enact Ministry of Health policies, so if the MoH tells DHBs to fluoridate, they will be compelled to do so. The wording of the Bill clearly illustrates how the MoH expects DHBs to accept the MoH’s erroneous opinion of safety and effectiveness. It says the DHBs are legally required to look at (but not legally required to QUESTION) “the scientific evidence around the effectiveness of fluoridation on reducing dental decay” and to “take into account the oral health of their community and the likely financial cost saving.”
We can see by this directive wording that DHBs will not be required to look into the potential adverse health effects of ingesting fluoridation chemicals; how much fluoride people are already exposed to; or how many people have dental fluorosis.
Nor will the DHBs have to take into consideration what the people in that community want. This is at odds with what Jonathan Coleman has previously told us, when he said, “Local residents would still be able to have a say through their DHBs” (see Stuff 12th April). But, DHBs do not usually provide an opportunity for residents to speak to them, as local councils do.
However, we do actually see this as an opportunity to have fluoridation stopped throughout the whole country (see press release). The normal process for new Bills going through Parliament means that we should have the opportunity to make written and oral submissions to the Health Select Committee. Some simple changes to the new legislation before it goes to the Second Reading, such as requiring that DHBs find out how much fluoride the people in their community are getting – could spell the end of fluoridation in New Zealand.
The other issue, of course, is that since fluoridation doesn’t reduce dental decay, then there will be no reason for any DHB to start fluoridation, and all honest DHBs should direct their local councils to stop. The latest New Zealand study looking at dental health and the NZ School Dental data both show that for the vast majority of children there is no difference in decay rates between fluoridated and non-fluoridated areas.
We now need everyone to start writing to their local newspapers, their local MPs and sharing information on Facebook and Twitter. We hope thousands of people will put in a submission to the Health Select Committee when they call for them. We will keep you up to date with what’s happening and when and where to send your submissions – but we can all start preparing for this now.