A High Court judge has ruled it is legal for local councils to fluoridate drinking water [see decision].
Justice Rodney Hansen today rejected New Health New Zealand’s complaint that South Taranaki District Council fluoridating water in Patea and Waverly was illegal and a breach of the right to refuse medical treatment.
Justice Hansen ruled fluoridation does not constitute medical treatment, which he said he viewed as a “direct interference with the body or state of mind of an individual and does not extend to public health interventions delivered to … the population”.
Fluoridation is akin to chlorinating water or adding iodine to salt, and not illegal, he said.
New Health, a non-profit organisation that says it advocates for consumers, also claimed the council had not taken into account relevant considerations when making the decision to fluoridate, which Justice Hansen also rejected.
“There is … a plenitude of evidence to show that the council carefully considered the detailed submissions presented and reached its decision after anxious consideration of the evidence and careful deliberation”.
New Health New Zealand will appeal the decision, chairman David Sloan said.
“No other public health measure removes a person’s choice in the same way as fluoridation,” he said in a statement.
The Ministry of Health recommends the addition of fluoride between 0.7 and 1.0 parts per million in drinking water.
It says fluoridation “helps to reduce tooth decay by strengthening and rebuilding tooth enamel” and at the recommended levels poses no health risk.
Minister of Health Tony Ryall said he welcomed the High Court decision.
“The decision means the government will continue to support local bodies when they decide to use fluoride,” he said.
Hamilton City Council says it will now vote on whether to continue to keep fluoride out of the city’s water supply, or reinstate it.
Last year the council passed a resolution to defer its decision on the fluoridation of Hamilton’s water supply until the High Court decision regarding South Taranaki District Council was made.
“We’ll be reviewing all the information to enable us to decide what the next steps for Hamilton will be,” says Hamilton Mayor Julie Hardaker.
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