People living in Marlborough who are opposed to having fluoride in the public water supply should drink bottled water from supermarkets so the rest of the community can benefit, Nelson Marlborough medical officer of health Ed Kiddle says.
The controversy around putting fluoride in the water supply was similar in many ways to the immunisation debate, Dr Kiddle said. All the evidence backed water fluoridation and immunising young children but people had the right to choose, he said.
It was about finding a balance between the greater public good and individual choice, he said.
“The evidence is very good for putting fluoride in the water supply and people should be able to choose if they want fluoride in their water,” he said.
“Those who don’t want fluoride should source their water elsewhere – like bottled water.”
However, Dr Kiddle stressed he was against bottled water for environmental and sustainable reasons.
Putting fluoride into a region’s water supply was a good debate to have, though, he said.
“We need to have the debate around the balance for individual choice and public good. I think the majority of people like helping their fellow man and their community. [Fluoride] actually benefits people right across the population.”
The value of immunisation was down to the population uptake, Dr Kiddle said.
People who didn’t vaccinate their children were “piggy-backing” on others who opted to immunise, which stopped diseases from circulating, he said.
“The majority of children are vaccinated, so there are less diseases,” he said.
“As well as individual protection, if you value the health of the community and doing good for the community, that’s another reason to support vaccination. It brings up the same debate . . . the debate between public good and individual choice.”
Having safe drinking water was important, though, and district councils worked hard to ensure a good quality water supply, he said.