A debate over fluoride was heard at Hastings District Council yesterday with Mayor Lawrence Yule indicating councillors may reconsider holding a public referendum.
Anti-fluoride activists and Hawke’s Bay District Health Board representatives presented both sides of the debate on adding fluoride to the district’s water supply.
The water supply in Hastings currently has fluoride added.
Mr Yule said fluoridation was not an easy issue.
“A lot of councils try to stay away from it, but while we’re on my watch, I’m keen to get a resolution going forward,” he said.
Mr Yule added there were six new councillors around the table since the council voted narrowly against taking the issue to a public referendum last year.
Yesterday’s meeting was intended to inform councillors about the issue and their options, which could include keeping the status quo or proceeding with a referendum, but that decision would be “two to three months away”.
The meeting was prompted by the nationwide tour of world renowned anti-fluoride campaigner Paul Connett from America.
Dr Connett, founder and director of international organisation Fluoride Action Network, drew on research that claimed fluoridated water had negative health effects and negligible oral health benefits, contrary to advice from mainstream organisations such as the Ministry of Health and New Zealand Dental Association.
Dr Connett also questioned the ethics of mass medication and speculated on why health agencies continued to push fluoridation in the face of contradictory studies.
He believed public health agencies were scared of losing credibility if they reneged on fluoridating public water supplies as they could lose support for other health policies that relied on public trust such as vaccinations.
HBDHB representatives drew on studies to argue fluoridation was an effective method of preventing dental cavities and to discredit studies that supported anti-fluoride claims.
Former Ministry of Health chief dental officer and clinical dentist Robin Whyman said dental decay was not a disease of the past and fluoride was one of the “basic building blocks” of dental care.