South Canterbury’s water supplies could be set to be fluoridated if a government bill proposing to give the decision-making power on fluoridation to district health boards is successful.
The South Canterbury District Health Board (SCDHB) has already said, in a position statement, it would work to “actively promote” the fluoridation of community supplies.
Health Minister Jonathan Coleman said in Budget 2017 the Government had committed $12 million over four years to “fund the infrastructure needed to fluoridate more drinking water”.
The Government’s Health (Fluoridation of Drinking Water) Amendment Bill is currently going through its second reading in Parliament.
If made law, the bill would give DHBs the authority to decide if any local government water supplies needed to be fluoridated and direct local councils to do so in 2018.
Coleman said the funding would help cover the infrastructure costs if an area was directed by its DHB to fluoridate its water.
“While New Zealand’s oral health has improved dramatically over the last 30 years, we still have high rates of preventable tooth decay.
“Increasing access to fluoridated water will improve oral health and mean fewer costly trips to the dentist. We know that children have up to 40 percent less tooth decay in fluoridated areas compared to areas without fluoride.
“Public drinking water currently supplies about 85 percent of the population. Of those on public water supplies, 54 percent receive fluoridated water.”
In March last year the SCDHB approved a “position statement on community water fluoridation”. It said it would “work with local and national government, public health organisations and other bodies to actively promote the fluoridation of community water supplies”.
The statement also said the DHB supported “research into the risks and benefits of water fluoridation, and into appropriate alternatives … in communities where fluoridation is not feasible”.
The statement said the DHB “recognises that tooth decay is a preventable disease that is widespread among South Canterbury people of all ages and that it leads to considerable personal, social and economic cost”.
The DHB acknowledged “that a very substantial and reliable body of scientific evidence has found community water fluoridation to be effective in reducing tooth decay levels”.
The Timaru District Council did not answer questions on exactly what infrastructure might be needed if the green light to fluoridation was given.
Council group manager infrastructure Ashley Harper said it was “yet to see the detail of this proposal, but hope it goes some way to addressing the issue of decision-makers bearing the cost of implementation, as opposed to ratepayers”.
“While we welcome support for the initial capital costs for implementation, should the decision be made to go ahead with fluoridation, we would have to see the detail of the policy to see if it provides support for the ongoing operational cost to ratepayers.”
Around 2.3 million New Zealanders currently have access to fluoridated water.
The minister said a recent report by Sapere Research Group found New Zealanders living in fluoridated drinking water areas had a 40 percent lower lifetime incidence of tooth decay among children and adolescents, a 48 percent reduction in hospital admissions for the treatment of tooth decay among children aged 0 to 4 years, and a 21 percent reduction in tooth decay among adults aged 18 to 44 years.
• Original article online at http://www.stuff.co.nz/timaru-herald/news/93372499/south-canterburys-water-could-be-fluoridated-if-bill-passes