The Ashburton District Council will publicise anti-fluoride information prior to a Methven referendum on the issue later this year.
This has raised the ire of the Canterbury District Health Board, which plans to ask the council to reconsider its approach.
The council claims it is neutral in the contentious fluoride debate, and will put “both sides” in front of the public. But health professionals have accused it of bias in favour of anti-fluoridationists.
A referendum date has been decided, it will be August 2. Voting documents will be delivered to Methven residents July 11 to 14.
Canterbury District Health Board medical officer of health Daniel Williams said he will formally ask the council to reconsider publicising anti-fluoridation claims “which fly in the face of the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence”.
Council corporate services manager John Rollinson announced the referendum date to Methven Community Board members at their six-weekly meeting on Monday, and presented them with information which had been distributed to Ashburton ratepayers leading up to that town’s fluoride referendum in 2006.
The information, published in the council’s District Diary which is delivered to Mid Canterbury residents, included half an A3 page contributed by anti-fluoride campaigner Don Church.
Mr Rollinson suggested the council post out similar information to Methven voters, and Methven Communtiy Board members nodded their approval. However, councillor Ken Lowe was concerned about the cost and board members instead decided to distribute the information to each household as a supplement in the community newspaper Snowfed.
After the meeting dental surgeon Justin Wall said the information reflected councillors’ views.
“They are not neutral because their actions have been against the status quo (of having fluoride in the water).”
The information was in fact propaganda, he said.
“What happens in a situation like that you are validating stuff that’s patently incorrect. By publishing it you are making it valid and that’s wrong,” Dr Wall said.
An example was an American study summary which suggested teenage boys in fluoridated areas were more prone to bone cancer. However, the study was conducted by a PhD student whose professor never validated it because it was poor science. Anti-fluoridationists held the professor up as evidence of a pro-fluoride conspiracy.
“There’s no conspiracy,” Dr Wall said.
Dr Williams said if the council believed there was “any truth in the claims that Mr Church makes about fluoridation, then it should stop fluoridating the Methven water supply immediately.”
Link to page of information published by council prior to Ashburton referendum: http://www.ashburtondc.govt.nz/NR/rdonlyres/1010D9E8-BD68-4F9F-A250-04879890C918/40937/ddfeb07Page45.pdf