THE region’s general practitioners have backed calls to put fluoride in Cairns’ drinking water, saying it would prevent long-term health problems and possibly chronic disease.

A survey by FNQ Docs, a representative group comprising private GPs, showed that almost every one of its members wanted Cairns Regional Council to review their decision to remove the mineral from the water supply.

The group’s doctors were surveyed last year after the council voted in favour of removing fluoride, which was added to the water two years earlier.

“More than 95 per cent of the doctors who participated in the survey said fluoride should remain in the drinking water,” FNQ Docs chief executive officer Peter Cook said.

He said many survey respondents had also commented that there was evidence fluoride treatment prevented long-term dental problems.

“They were concerned that those in our community most at risk of poor dental hygiene were the least likely to use other sources of fluoride, which could lead to chronic disease in the future,” Mr Cook said.

The survey asked for feedback on the council’s decision.

One GP wrote: “Poor people have bad teeth, rich people have good teeth. With the council’s decision, the poor people are going to suffer the most”.

Mr Cook also said fluoridated water provided positive economic outcomes, with a University of Adelaide study showing that every dollar spent on fluoridated water saved individuals between $12.60 and $80 each in future dental costs.

Cairns Division 5 Councillor Richie Bates last month said reports of high rates of tooth decay among local children were a wake-up call for council, adding that he wasn’t opposed to a referendum on the issue.

But earlier this month Mayor Bob Manning was reluctant to put water fluoridation to the public vote for fears it would create too much “angst” within the community, which he said polls showed was split 50/50 on the issue.

But FNQ Docs are just hoping their advice will be noted.

“While our voice went unheard last time this decision was made, perhaps this time around council will take into consideration the voice of general practice,” Mr Cook said.