Whether adding fluoride to water is good dental care or unconsented mass medication is set to be redebated in the Wellington region.
About 22 people turned up at the Greater Wellington regional council chamber yesterday to lobby councillors to stop adding fluoride to the region’s water supply.
They were among submitters speaking at hearings for the council’s draft annual plan, and were among 45 people who submitted on the fluoride debate, mostly as members of the Fluoride Action Network.
Greater Wellington spends about $185,000 a year adding fluoride to water to bring it to levels recommended by the Health Ministry to help maintain dental care.
Residents in Petone and Korokoro do not have fluoride in their water after Hutt City Council requested it be kept out of the Rahui reservoir.
Submitters argued yesterday that fluoride was unnecessary and did more harm than good. They cited recommendations from American dental organisations that fluoridated water not be used when mixing milk formula for infants.
Sarah Fox brought along her children Oliver, 12, and Jacob, 10, to show the impact of too much fluoride.
The children suffered from dental fluorosis, a direct result of being bottle-fed from Wellington tap water as babies, she said.
“Both of them were almost exclusively bottle-fed from birth on Wellington water.
“Their teeth have white patches, crumbling brown patches, and they’re very, very weak.”
Their school dental nurse had assumed they must have sucked on toothpaste to be exposed to that much fluoride, she said.
It was wrong to force fluoride on people without warning about potential side-effects.
Councillors declined her offer to have the children circulate the room, baring their teeth.
Submitter Kurt Shanley said that, as long as there was controversy over fluoride use, it should be kept out of water.
“The onus of proof isn’t on proving the fluoride is bad for you, it’s proving it’s not.”
Councillors questioned whether it was up to them or the Health Ministry to address the matter, as policy was regularly reviewed by the ministry.
Submitter Mary Byrne said it was up to the council. “Why do you keep doing it just because they say so?”
After the hearing, council chairwoman Fran Wilde said the council would have to take a long look at the matter in light of the number of people who had made submissions.
But no changes were likely to be made for this year’s annual plan, she said.
“I don’t think we would withdraw fluoride instantly without doing a full assessment. The question will be whether we look any further at the issue.”