More than 120 residents raised banners and posters and passionately voiced their stand against the addition of fluoridation to Mount Gambier’s drinking water during a protest march down Commercial Street on Saturday morning.
Leading the group, march organisers Russell Smith and Sharon Stafford were followed by protestors chanting “no to fluoride” and “fluoride is poison” as they walked from Vansittart Park to the Civic Centre, where more supporters joined them for an anti-fluoride rally.
Passing the protestors, motorists joined in by blowing their horns and yelling “tell ‘em”, and “good on ya” from open car windows.
The protest came as a fluoridation plant is being constructed at the Blue Lake in preparation for the addition of fluoride to the lake’s drinking water supply from July to help fight tooth decay.
Also in the crowd was Dr Andrew Harms, former state president of the Australian Dental Association (ADA)?—?who stepped onto a block of limestone symbolising what protestors claim is the environmental damage fluoride could do to the environment?—?to deliver his speech to the crowd.
Dr Harms, who once supported the addition of fluoride to drinking water, but said he later resigned from the ADA when he found evidence that fluoride was a poison which caused illnesses such as rheumatism, expressed his disappointment at government officials’ lack of interest in listening to the people.
“I attend anti-fluoride protests all over the country and not once have I seen any Federal, State or council officials attend these rallies?—?not even councillors or mayors,” he said.
But Mount Gambier Mayor Steve Perryman, who had been quietly observing proceedings, quickly interrupted the speaker by raising his hand and introducing himself to the crowd.
“The mayor of Mount Gambier is here,” Mr Perryman said, causing an unexpected outburst from members of the crowd.
“Come on Steve, tell us then what is your stand as mayor on this?” they shouted.
Mr Perryman told the crowd that council had no authority over health and water supply issues.
“Council has in the past 10 to 12 years been consistent in its position that the State Government should allow the community to decide whether water should be fluoridated,” Mr Perryman said drawing applause.
Meanwhile, Health Minister John Hill implied in a statement to The Border Watch yesterday that community consultation on fluoridation was closed.
“The debate on fluoridation was settled in the rest of Australia over 30 years ago and fluoride has been added to the water in metropolitan Adelaide since 1971,” Mr Hill said.
“Consultation on this matter (took part) in Mount Gambier in June 2005 as part of the development of the SA Oral Health Plan.
“This consultation included a well-advertised public meeting and the publication of a consultation paper outlining the benefits of water fluoridation.
“In 2004, children in Mount Gambier had 40pc more dental decay than children in the Riverland, where the water’s fluoridated.
“Poor dental health is also linked to a range of wider health conditions, including heart disease in later life, so there will be long-term benefits for all the people of Mount Gambier.”