The mood at a public meeting in Byron Bay last night was overwhelmingly opposed to fluoridation.
Fluoridated water is provided to 96 per cent of people living in NSW but it’s never been in Byron’s water supply despite a health department survey showing two thirds of people in shire would support the move.
The crowd at last night’s meeting was told the region was facing an oral health crisis with rates of childhood tooth decay amongst the worst in the state.
Many health authorities believe fluoridation is the best solution to that problem, that assertion was repeatedly questioned by members of the crowd.
Opponents of fluoride are linking the additive to cancer, dementia and brain damage.
South Coast Dentist Robert Gammel believes the risks of fluoride are real.
“Not just brain damage but developmentally on the brain of the foetus, it will interfere with the growth and number of neurones, how did I come to that conclusion, I read the science. The pro-fluoride people are talking about fluorosis a minor side effect, fluorosis is poisoning,” Dr Gammel said.
He said the best water for teeth was un-fluoridated.
“My anecdotal statement says that the best teeth I see are on rainwater, the next best are people drinking normal city water and the worst teeth are those from fluoridated areas,” Dr Gammel said.
But a medical specialist has described the mythology and fears around fluoridation of drinking water as ‘nonsense’.
Wollongong University’s Dean of Medicine and Toxicology , Professor Alison Jones told the crowd that there was no evidence to support such claims.
“The mythology around the source of the fluoride and that it must be necessarily contaminating drinking water with high concentrations of heavy metals that’s simply not true.
The Australian drinking water is routinely and systematically checked and the mythology around that is as I am suggesting, nonsense,” Professor Jones said.
Dr Robert Gammel said he’s opposed to fluoride based on his extensive reading of medical reports and evidence.
“How did I come to that conclusion? I read the science, I go to Med-line, I download the published references, the peer reviewed journals, I have read the (US) National Research council from 2006, I’ve read the report from the study on Ireland, I do a lot of reading (and) I have observed personally,” Dr Gammel said.
Another medical expert questioned the skills of those opposed to fluoride.
Professor Wayne Smith from the NSW Health Department said speakers such as dentist Robert Gammel didn’t have the scientific training needed to compare and contrast fluoride evidence.
“There are levels of scientific evidence, unfortunately Dr Gammel is not trained to assess, critically appraise that scientific literature, you actually need lots of training in epidemiology and critical appraisal and methodology to understand what the level of evidence is and how to integrate that evidence into public health policy,” Professor Smith said.
Byron Shire councillors are due to get a private briefing on the issue later this month.