Anti-fluoride activists yesterday vowed to fight any bid by the State Government to force rural communities to fluoridate their water.
Roy Grange, of the Ballarat Anti-Fluoridation Association, said adding fluoride to water was akin to compulsory mass medication.
“Doctors can prescribe a medication but they can’t force a patient to take that medication,” Mr Grange said. “We have a Government forcing medication of people.”
Health Minister Bronwyn Pike told The Age she might legislate next year to make fluoride compulsory – unless rural water boards acted – in a bid to reduce tooth decay and curb growing public waiting lists for dental treatment.
Yesterday, she issued a statement saying the Government’s policy endorsed fluoridation where there was community support. “I personally support fluoridation of drinking water, based on overwhelming scientific and medical research and support,” she said. “Fluoridation of water supplies has an unsurpassed history of benefits in reducing dental decay and loss of teeth . . . I’m asking communities to get involved and consider the undoubted health benefits of adding fluoride to water supplies.”
About 75 per cent of Victorians drink water containing fluoride, most of them in Melbourne, where the water was fluoridated 25 years ago. But most rural areas – including the major centres of Geelong, Ballarat and Wodonga – do not have fluoride.
Australian Dental Association Victorian president David Curnow said Ms Pike’s comments were welcome.
“The proposed extension of the benefits of fluoridation will provide long-term health benefits,” Dr Curnow said.
“The addition of fluoride to our drinking water since 1977 has had a significant impact on reducing the number of dental cavities in all people. This makes fluoridation one of the most impressive prevention initiatives.”
Mr Grange said opponents would fight the threat of fluoride. “It’s something that’s brought up. We attack it, and it lapses.” He said a recent letter from former health minister John Thwaites assured him that fluoride would not be introduced without the co-operation of the community. “But that’s the unfortunate part: they don’t consult with the community,” he said.
Mr Grange said fluoride caused bone and teeth problems and led to misalignment and overcrowding of teeth, leading to expensive orthodontic treatment. He said it was a big money-maker for dentists.
The chairman of the Anti-Fluoridation Association of Victoria, Glen Walker, said fluoride was a poison and its addition to water supplies breached an aspect of the constitution on compulsory medication.