The policy of adding fluoride to Hamilton’s drinking water is again up for discussion this week, after four councillors’ attempts to remove it earlier this year were defeated.
The issue is back as councillors hear presentations canvassing differing opinions on water fluoridation at a workshop on Thursday.
Councillors stopped short of making a quick decision to remove fluoride from drinking water – for annual savings of $40,000 – during draft annual plan deliberations in February as they did not have enough information.
City planning and development committee chairman Dave Macpherson claims his colleagues will no longer be able to use that excuse to delay making a decision over the issue at the next round of plan hearings.
Councillors who voted supported fluoridation say they are open minded going into this week’s workshop, which includes presentations by Fluoride Action Network director Dr Paul Connett and Waikato DHB chief medical officer Dr Felicity Dumble.
While councillors John Gower, Dave Macpherson, Roger Hennebry and Angela O’Leary argued in February the public had the right to choose, they ultimately lost the motion.
Mr Macpherson claimed a lack of information on the subject was a convenient excuse for some councillors.
“Most of them have had that information in the past. I think it was an excuse,” he said.
“I often hear those comments they don’t want to hear any more and they are sick of it.”
He said the council workshop, which is open to the public, would put a stop to any excuses.
Fluoridation was seriously looked at in 2006 following a $160,000 referendum, but the decision was taken to keep the status quo. The city council has been adding hydrofluorosilicic acid (HFA) to the city’s water since 1966 to protect teeth from decay.
Councillor Pippa Mahood, who has always voted for including fluoridation said she was open to hearing new information.
Councillor Maria Westphal is opposed to flouridation, but, like councillor Gordon Chesterman, feels the public should decide through a referendum.
Mr Chesterman said he would not be forced into making a decision based on two speakers.
“I wasn’t particularly aware this was back on the table for discussion. I wasn’t ready for a major debate on fluoride – this has just come out of the woodwork.”
The council follows Health Ministry recommendations of dosing water with between 0.7 and 1 milligrams of HFA per litre of water.
Anti-fluoride expert Dr Connett, who has spent 15 years researching the issue and is the co-author of a book The Case Against Fluoride, said science backed the so-called “loonies” opposed to fluoride in water.
“It’s a bad medical practice. The evidence it causes reduces tooth decay is very weak indeed.”
The Waikato District Health Board declined to comment before this week’s workshop, but referred the Waikato Times to its 2009 position paper supporting the use of fluoride in drinking water.