A DENTAL expert has questioned Cairns Regional Council’s costings for fluoridating the city’s water supply.
The council says it spent approximately $2.8 million – including $1.9 million in funding from the State Government – to add the tooth-strengthening chemical to Cairns’ water.
This included the installation of fluoridation equipment across the city’s four water treatment plants in 2009 and 2010. According to CEO Peter Tabulo, ongoing operational costs were about $300,000 a year.
Fluoride remained in Cairns’ water supply for about two years, before the council decided to remove it.
This was based on advice from the Local Government Association of Queensland, that suggested “involuntary medication” must not be introduced without community consent.
The council, at the time, bypassed a public vote, choosing instead to dismantle the fluoridation equipment.
Since then, medical professionals have renewed a push for water fluoridation in Cairns, with recent health figures showing nearly half of children who visited public dentists last year needed to have fillings.
Both Cairns Mayor Bob Manning and mayoral candidate Jim Brooks personally support fluoridation, but neither are willing to commit to adding the chemical to the city’s water supply.
Mr Tabulo said no costings had been done by the council regarding the reinstallation of fluoridation equipment.
“Council is aware of arguments on both sides of the fluoride debate,’’ he said.
“The standing policy of council is that fluoride is not added to the region’s water supply.”
Australian Dental Association fluoridation expert Dr Michael Foley said the council’s figures concerning ongoing costs of adding the chemical to the city’s taps were “surprising”, compared to relatively cheaper costs in NSW.
“Whatever the actual costs are, it is very difficult to deny that fluoridation saves far more in dental costs than in capital and ongoing costs,’’ he said.