GIPPSLAND Safe Water Alliance (GSWA) members will join concerned citizens from across Victoria this weekend to develop a state-wide strategy opposing fluoridation.
Alliance spokesperson Shane Elson said in response to the Bracks Government’s refusal to consult with and listen to community concerns about artificial fluoridation, a state-wide, coordinated approach to the issue would be organised.
Mr Elson said groups had formed across Victoria in response to the announcement in May 2005 that the government would introduce artificial fluoridation in to a number of water supplies.
Groups from Ballarat, Warrnambool, Geelong, Daylesford, Wangaratta, Horsham and Wodonga will meet with Gippsland Safe Water Alliance members in Melbourne on Saturday to begin planning the state-wide campaign.
The meeting of regional groups will plan strategies based on swinging or marginal seats and will target sitting Labor members in those areas.
“Neither the GSWA or the regional body will endorse candidates but we will support those who oppose artificial fluoridation or will call for the full review of it,” Mr Elson said.
“The Queensland Government has recently backed down and put a five year moratorium on forced fluoridation because the voters in that state don’t want it.”
Labor MLA for Morwell Brendan Jenkins said he did not feel threatened by the GSWA plan.
“I’d feel threatened if the people of Gippsland didn’t have the opportunity to have a fluoridated water supply, the same as people in Melbourne,” Mr Jenkins said.
“This is an essential public health issue that has the overwhelming support of the health profession.”
Mr Jenkins said the Federal Coalition was behind the supposed demise of the public dental health system.
“If the group is targeting Labor it is effectively throwing its weight behind the party that dismantled the public dental health system.
“For GSWA to politicise the issue and give support to the Coalition who dismantled the public system is outrageous.”
Mr Jenkins said the provision of fluoride in the water had, for all intents, been supported by all the political parties except for a couple of isolated calls for consultation after the deadline, including that made by Nationals MLC for Gippsland Province Peter Hall.
He said claims by the GSWA that the Bracks Government had refused to consult with the community regarding fluoridation were “not fair”.
A number of briefings were held for people with concerns about fluoridation, he said.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Victoria’s chief health officer, Doctor Robert Hall, said the GSWA had misrepresented information supplied by Dr Hall.
In an article printed in The Express on 9 February the GSWA said a letter received by the alliance from Dr Hall said an “undesirable cosmetic effect” caused by artificial fluoridation was expected.
“The letter from Dr Hall referred to by the GSWA and quoted in The Express contained serious misrepresentations,” the spokesperson said.
“The 1998 Melbourne University study of dental fluorosis prevalence in Melbourne school children found 70 per cent of the sample were normal, 15 per cent had questionable fluorosis and 15 per cent had signs of very mild or mild fluorosis.
“Further, the letter also stated that the study found that `this degree of dental fluorosis is of no public health concern and the Melbourne water fluoridation program is strongly endorsed’.
“At no stage was it intimated that an `undesirable cosmetic effect’ in 30 per cent of the population was expected.
“Motling of teeth can be caused by a range of things, one of which is the fluoridation of drinking water supplies.”
The spokesperson said the Department of Human Services included a detailed section on fluorosis in the community booklet on water fluoridation distributed last year to more than 48,000 households.
“It is also well known that fluorosis occurs in areas where there is no fluoride in the water, which is why we urge caution about use of fluoridated toothpaste and fluoride tablets for children.
“Fluoridation of drinking water supplies has been proven to be safe and effective.”