Medical and dental specialists told a public meeting in Patea that fluoridating water in the town was vital for the health of local children’s teeth.
Patea Community Board chairman David Honeyfield said there was a marked difference in public reaction between Tuesday’s Patea meeting at the Old Folks’ Home and one in Waverley on Monday at the community centre.
“It really is all about the socio-economic difference between these two small South Taranaki towns.
“It’s quite marked, especially with an issue like this one,” Mr Honeyfield said.
From these public meetings, the South Taranaki District Council is calling for submissions on whether fluoride should be added to the towns’ water supply.
There will be a public hearing on November 26 before the results of the submissions are announced on December 8.
Taranaki District Health Board speakers led by Dr Greg Simmons gave the positives of putting fluoride in the water supply, while the Fluoride Action Network spoke about the dangers and why it shouldn’t be added, Mr Honeyfield said.
Mr Honeyfield said it meant information at both meetings was very contradictory.
“I suppose it’s up to your personal beliefs in the end,” he said.
In South Taranaki only the Hawera water supply is fluoridated with hydro-fluorosilicic acid. Fluoridation started in the 1970s using sodium fluoride.
Mr Honeyfield said the fluoride issue was vastly different between Waverley and Patea.
“You’ve got Patea, which really needs the help fluoride can give its children’s teeth, and Waverley who are not really bothered.”
Patea, with its tiny population of 1000-1200, has several families of small children who need the protection for their teeth, he said.
“Look, we’re a low socio-economic town with an absolutely fantastic community. These people know what they need, and healthier teeth is what the Patea children need.”
However, though medical professionals are urging fluoridation, Fluoride Action NZ Supporters oppose it because they say fluoride is a toxic substance. The argument is that around 50 per cent of all ingested fluoride accumulates in people’s bones, which can cause them to develop skeletal fluorosis.
“Fluoride is ineffective and harmful,” they say.