FAMILIES are set to be let down by both teams vying for Cairns Regional Council, with neither wanting to commit to adding fluoride to the city’s water supply.
This is despite Mayor Bob Manning of the Unity Team and mayoral candidate Jim Brooks from Connect Cairns declaring they both personally support water fluoridation.
A growing chorus of health professionals has been pleading for fluoride to return to local taps, saying it is the best way to prevent the high rate of tooth decay in Far North Queensland.
Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service figures show public dentists carried out more than 26,167 fillings across the region last year, nearly 50 per cent of which were for children.
Many of these children are treated at James Cook University’s Cairns-based dental clinic, including some as young as four years old.
Cairns Regional Council made the decision to remove the fluoride from Cairns’ water supply in 2013, after it had been introduced for just two years.
Queensland’s Chief Medical Officer Dr Jeannette Young said research showed water fluoridation was a simple yet highly effective way of providing protection for teeth.
“There are no negative benefits to adding fluoride to water systems and, in fact, it occurs naturally in some areas of Queensland,’’ she said.
“Cities such as Townsville have been adding fluoride to their water for decades.
“Health practitioners know that if people have healthy teeth, they tend to be healthier overall.”
Townsville’s water supply has been fluoridated since 1964.
A Queensland Health report released in 2012 found Townsville children had some of the lowest rates of tooth decay in the state.
Health Minister Cameron Dick said the Palaszczuk Government supported the fluoridation of water because there was clear evidence pointing to its health benefits.
“We know the benefits from having fluoride in water, and we will continue to speak with councils about this,” he said.
“Consistent with our election commitments the decision whether to add fluoride to water supplies will remain with local councils.”
More than 150 reputable health and scientific organisations across the world, notably the World Health Organisation, support fluoride.
Australian Dental Association fluoridation expert Dr Michael Foley said the difference between cities that had fluoridated water and those that did not was “chalk and cheese”.
“It’s just wrong when a proven preventive measure that has now been in place around the world for more than 70 years is ignored by local councils,’’ he said.
He urged councillors to tune out the “noise” from anti-fluoride lobby groups who had a habit of bombarding local governments with false facts.
“They claim that water fluoridation is poison and it’s neurotoxic, it causes cancer, it causes kidney disease and causes this and that and the other thing,” he said.
“Many councils just throw up their arms and say ‘obviously the science is divided’, or ‘obviously there is a groundswell against it, we don’t want to touch it with a barge pole’.
“That is a flawed decision.”