A proposal to spend $15,000 so people who want fluoride-free water can fill containers from one of Palmerston North’s artesian bores has drawn scorn from both sides of the debate.
The city council spends just over $40,000 a year adding fluoride to the city’s water supply, a practice which was a hot topic for submitters on the draft Annual Plan.
Fluoridation drew 56 of the 187 submissions received. Of those, 29 were opposed, 25 supported continuation, and two were undecided.
The council received a $10,000 report last year outlining the issues around fluoridation, and decided to take no action until the outcome of an appeal against a High Court ruling that councils were acting lawfully by fluoridating water.
But in response to submissions, council staff have suggested installing taps at two bore stations in the city where those who opposed drinking fluoridated water could collect from an untreated supply.
The committee of council yesterday recommended adding $15,000 to the coming year’s budget to provide the fluoride-free water from just one of the artesian bores.
Cr Annette Nixon suggested starting with one tap, and monitoring whether there was demand for another.
No submitters had requested that option, but Mayor Jono Naylor said it was a reasonable response.
Crs Adrian Broad, Leonie Hapeta and Tangi Utikere voted against the proposed extra spending.
Fluoride Action Network spokeswoman Mary Byrne said the suggestion showed the council was missing the point.
She said it should take responsibility for acting on evidence that opponents had provided that showed fluoride was harmful, and that any benefits it had for dental health came from brushing with fluoride toothpaste, not from swallowing it.
“It’s a shame the council is delaying until after the court case, which could go on forever and a day.
“Regardless of the outcome, even it it’s shown it is legal, that does not make it right.”
Byrne said offering taps where people could get water without fluoride “if they are really all that bothered” sent a message that the council was not taking the issue seriously.
But Massey University chemistry graduate Steve Wrathall, who wants the council to continue fluoridation, said it was ridiculous to bow to anti-fluoride arguments.
“The overwhelming research shows it is good for dental health, and the alleged health risks simply don’t exist.”
Wrathall said the council was just “kicking for touch”.
“If people want to read and believe nonsense on the internet, they should collect their own fluoride-free water without the rest of us having to pay for it.”
He said it was unfortunate that so many people who were “moderately in favour” of fluoridation remained silent, or were overwhelmed by the vocal opponents and what appeared to be scientific arguments.