Public pressure has led Kapiti Coast District Council to reduce fluoride dosing in its town supply.
A deeply divided council decided in June to retain the use of fluoride in the water supply for Waikanae, Paraparaumu and Raumati, but voted on Thursday to reduce its use of the chemical.
The council voted to cut its use from 1 milligram per litre to 0.7mg/L and to make public tap supplies of non-fluoridated water available in Paekakariki and Otaki.
Fluoride opponent, councillor Lyndy McIntyre, moved to reduce “mass medication” after asking council staff for a report which was released yesterday, recommending the continuation of fluoride for oral health but with a reduced level of 0.8mg/L.
The council voted to reduce it further.
“I have been intensely lobbied by people in the community who say they have no choice but to have their water medicated against their will. There is enough research to be very concerned about the effects of fluoride on bottle-fed babies and children under the age of six.”
Councillor Peter Daniel had led the charge against fluoride, and yesterday he called for the council to stop using it completely. His motion was lost.
“It is poisonous. It is not about teeth, it is about the toxic effect on people’s bodies, especially bottle-fed babies.”
However, councillor Peter Ellis told the meeting he was a fan of fluoride and voted against reducing its level.
“My children were all brought up with it and there is nothing wrong with their health. There are a lot more dangerous things than a little bit of fluoride in the water.”
Mayor Jenny Rowan, who voted in June against adding fluoride to the town supply, voted yesterday to reduce its use.
The 0.7mg/L level was within Health Ministry guidelines for a safe amount of fluoride to add to water for oral health purposes.
She was unsure last night if the slightly lower level would make any discernible difference to people’s oral health, saying the issue was more complex than just fluoride and also involved diet.
Wellington region medical officer of health Stephen Palmer said the Health Ministry recommended using fluoride in drinking water at a range of 0.7 and 1mg/L for oral health.
“By going below 0.7 you would basically do away with the protective effect of fluoride on everybody’s teeth.”
Whether 0.7 or 1mg/L of fluoride was added to water should make no difference to the protective effect, Dr Palmer said.
Fluoridation stoushes have broken out in other communities for decades, with many oral health experts claiming it is vital in reducing tooth decay in young and elderly people. Opponents claim it has toxic effects and causes tooth discolouration.
In 2004 a study, co-authored by Canterbury District Health Board community dental service clinical director Dr Martin Lee, compared five-year-olds and 12-year-olds in fluoridated Wellington and unfluoridated Canterbury.
Wellington kids had less tooth decay at five and 41 per cent less at 12.
In New Zealand, fluoridated drinking water tends to fall between 0.7mg and 1mg per litre.