VICTORIA’S chief health officer yesterday ruled out a Geelong referendum on fluoridated water as he anticipated full treatment of supply.
Public health physician Dr John Carnie said the State Government viewed fluoridation as a necessary community health intervention for people of all ages, alongside immunisation, smoking laws and wearing of seatbelts and bike helmets.
Geelong had effectively already voted on the issue.
“We don’t think a referendum is of any benefit because the people who benefit most from fluoride in their water can’t vote, the babies and young children,” Dr Carnie said.
“This is government policy and it was a democratically-elected government, so we’ve already had the referendum.”
Dr Carnie visited Geelong yesterday for meetings where he endorsed fluoride as a safe and effective method of preventing dental decay and associated pain and treatment costs.
He said evidence of its safety as a public health measure was incontrovertible and had been proved times-over throughout the world.
Fluoride in water had advantages to other methods including tablets because a constant low dose of fluoride in the oral cavity repaired damage caused by acid.
“It’s a constant repair kit,” he said.
An internationally accepted dose of one part fluoride for one million parts water provided health benefits without major problems.
Fluoride occurs naturally in Geelong’s water supply but the level will be boosted when Geelong is connected to Melbourne supply via a pipeline forecast for completion in 2011.
The Melbourne water would dilute in Geelong reservoirs.
“That will mean it will not be one part per million,” Dr Carnie said. “Eventually, there would be fluoride in the water to one part per million but there is no timetable set for it.”
Dr Carnie said the Victorian Government viewed fluoridation as an equity issue and everyone deserved benefits.
About 90 per cent of the State’s water supplies could be fluoridated and 77 per cent of those already were.
The Government would pay for capital works on treatment infrastructure and ongoing service costs would be up to water authorities. Dr Carnie said he would decline an invitation to attend a Geelong forum next week convened by anti-fluoride group Water Quality Australia.
“I know what it is, the overseas speaker is well known as extremely, vehemently opposed to fluoride,” Dr Carnie said.