IT won’t appease the small, vocal anti-fluoride lobby but the State Government’s decision to push ahead with fluoridating Geelong’s water is a long-overdue addition to the region’s public health quantum. And even while concerns about medicating water supplies might be understandable, the benefits to be achieved from fluoride far outweigh the minuscule suggestion _ let alone evidence _ of damage that might be wrought on the community.

As the Victoria’s Chief health officer, Dr John Carnie, states: “Children who live in fluoridated areas of Victoria experience considerably less decay than those in non-fluoridated areas.” His argument is backed by a multitude of local agencies, among them: Barwon Health, the Australian Medical Association’s Geelong and district subdivision, Barwon Primary Care Forum, Bellarine Community Health, Bethany Community Support, the Committee for Geelong, Corio Norlane Neighbourhood Renewal, Deakin University’s Faculty of Health Medicine, Nursing and Behavioural Sciences, the General Practitioners Association of Geelong and Glastonbury Child and Family Services.

Others in favour of fluoride include the Australian and National Health and Medical Research Council, the Australian Dental Association, the AMA, Melbourne University’s School of Dental Science, the Royal Children’s Hospital Department of Dentistry, Kidney Health Australia, the Public Health Association of Australia, the Cancer Council of Victoria, Osteoporosis Australia, Arthritis Australia … the list goes on.

With dental waiting lists growing, with the Federal Government dumping Medicare dental treatment rebates for many people, with dental treatment costs expensive and often prohibitive, the pro-fluoride case may well seem a political imperative. But the bottom line seems a lot less conspiratorial; fluoride helps protect teeth _ as a lengthy list of health professionals from the family dentist to the World Health Organisation maintain.

The anti-fluoride lobby has cruelled its own arguments with repeated misleading claims about US dental profession warnings of fluoridated water as toxic to babies _ notably against the American Dental Association _ when no such claims were made. Advertisements the lobby has resorted to running soliciting people with fluoride-related complaints to come forward have further undermined its arguments. As has the lack of any convincing scientific evidence that fluoride in prescribed concentration causes any damage to people of any age.