THE Chief Medical Officer for NSW Dr Kerry Chant was accosted and threatened in Lismore on Tuesday evening after she gave a submission to Lismore city council on the benefits of fluoride.
In the car park, after the council voted to reverse a ban on fluoride, Dr Chant was told by an anti-fluoride protester: “We know your face, I have friends in Syria, do you know of Sarin gas.”
Opposition Health Spokesman Andrew McDonald raised the threat in parliament today as he introduced his bill calling on the O’Farrell government to remove the jurisdiction of fluoridation of the water supply from local to state government.
“This is the chief medical officer, this should never happen again,” Dr McDonald said.
Dr Chant and several health professionals were heckled during the heated debate on Tuesday night by a gallery packed with anti-fluoride protestors. Council voted on a rescission motion against last month’s ban 6 to 5 in favour of fluoride, leading to the heated exchange.
Lismore paediatrician Dr Chris Ingall witnessed the abuse by the woman.
“I heard what the woman said, she said we have friends in Syria and do you know of saran gas, Dr Chant was trying to be nice to her. Kerry handled it professionally, calmly and expertly and we walked away and that’s when she started screaming abuse at us,” Dr Ingall said, calling on more security.
“I’d like to see heightened security at meetings where fluoride is discussed and our elected representatives could be more active in supporting our townsfolk who want fluoride because we are under fire,” Dr Ingall said.
Mayor Jenny Dowell said she was very embarrassed and had written an apology letter to Dr Chant on behalf of the community.
Last month the council voted against fluoridation of the water supply which has been stalled since 2007 by failed legal challenges by protestors, but last nights’ rescission motion will finally put fluoride back on the table.
While addressing the chamber on the benefits of fluoridation, the NSW chief medical officer Dr Kerry Chant was heckled by the gallery packed with anti-fluoride residents and protestors, prompting the Mayor Jenny Dowell to interject and call for order. “There are no harms proven,” Dr Chant said as the gallery shouted ‘not true, not true’.
High profile local doctor Sue Page gave an impassioned presentation showing slides of the rotten teeth of children she had encountered in her work.
“I am sick of seeing children’s teeth like this,” Dr Page said, adding the district had almost three times the rate of children having to have decayed teeth extracted under anaesthetic. This evidence drew jeers from the crowd.
Dr Page also presented compelling evidence in the change in children’s teeth before and after fluoride was added in the Blue Mountains, showing a four-fold reduction in holes in teeth.
The council chamber heard from former mayor and anti-fluoride activist Ros Irwin who argued that accepted scientific evidence had been influenced by ‘four lobby groups’ including the sugary food industry, the phosphate fertiliser industry, the aluminium industry and a government who thought fluoride was cheaper than a good dental program.
Pediatrician Dr Chris Ingall told the chamber every child on the ward at the local hospital “almost always had dental caries” compared to children in Sydney, where the water is fluoridated.
He also challenged the detractors to come up with evidence in Australia of actual harm caused in the 95 per cent of the state that had fluoridated water.
“Where are the thousands of studies from Sydney saying fluoride is doing anyone a disservice? Children from Sydney have beautiful teeth,” he said, again drawing scoffs from the crowd.
Mayor Jenny Dowell said she hoped the vote put the issue to rest and agreed with the Daily Telegraph’s call for fluoridation of the water supply to be a state decision.
“This is a health issue and it should be run by the health department, it should not be a local government decision because it becomes a political issue and councillors have been pressured by the anti-fluoride lobby, they have been bombarded by anti-fluoride groups from overseas,” Clr Dowell said.
Clr Dowell said she had also written an apology letter on behalf of the community to Dr Kerry Chant after she was accosted in the car park by protestors after the meeting.