At the fluoride meeting there were positive suggestions and alternatives to fluoridation put forward by locals.
Calls for greater community education about healthy eating were made repeatedly. Local resident Noel Manser challenged NSW Health to distribute a show bag of toothbrushes, toothpaste and information to Tenterfield schools as part of a pilot study until 2008.
“Then re-monitor your statistics (in Tenterfield) to see if it’s successful and if so bring it in right across Australia,” Mr Manser said.
Mr Irving said toothpaste manufacturers had carried out such programs before and “they had been found wanting.” He said such programs require ‘behavioural changes’ on behalf of the community, which are difficult to achieve.
Local mother Judith Hayne suggested a school-based program to distribute fluoride rather than compulsory fluoridation. She said that perhaps the Department of Health could look into providing free fluoride tablets to school children that could be given to children at school with parents consent.
She argued that adding fluoride to the water wouldn’t be a really effective way to get fluoride to the children who needed it most, as most children in that group tended to drink Coke and other soft drinks rather than water.
Sticking to their guns
Ringing the embassy
The first question of the evening asked by Tenterfield resident Les Spencer at the fluoride meeting related to a previous comment made by Mr Irving that no country had ever banned fluoride.
Mr Spencer told the panel he had rang the Netherlands Embassy in Canberra that morning and found facts to contest Mr Irving’s previous comment.
“I thought it was odd why so many European countries had banned fluoride,” Mr Spencer said.
Mr Spencer was told by the embassy that the High Court in the Netherlands had found fluoride illegal in 1973 and banned it constitutionally in 1976.
In response to Mr Spencer’s information Mr Irving said, “The information you (Mr Spencer) have is not totally correct. I am not dispelling the Netherlands one.”
Mr Irving put this last comment in context by saying the reason the Netherlands had banned fluoride was political one not a health one.
Mr Spencer said he was happy to ring every European Embassy in Canberra.
“Mr Irving did not disprove me at all,” Mr Spencer said later.
During his question time Peter Robinson implied did not think the Mayor’s ground rules concerning questioning were fair or that the fluoride meeting had been advertised often enough.
Mr Robinson quoted statements against fluoride from the 1999 York Review conducted by the Centre for Reviews and Dissemination at the University of York and funded by the UK Department of Health. He later mentioned a recent thesis written by a Harvard honours student linking bone cancer to fluoridated water. Mr Irving said he had read the paper and said, ‘It had to be investigated.”
When answering various other questions Mr Irving had already made references to Mr Robinson’s article ‘Two kilos of reasons to question fluoride’ that appeared in the Tenterfield Star last Tuesday.
A petition with 180 signatures against fluoridating Tenterfield’s town water supply was presented at the meeting.
Co-organisers of the petition Mike Rudge and Les Spencer said the petition was distributed to five Tenterfield shops and that the number of signatures was not hard to attain. There are plans to re distribute the petition again shortly.
The majority of the anti fluoride signatures came from locals.
A number of Tenterfield mothers took offence in varying degrees at the meeting to what they saw as the NSW Health implication that all Tenterfield children have rotten teeth.
Tanya Cook’s comments focused on getting a dentist back to Tenterfield while Sir Henry Parkes Primary School Parents Association president Jude Haynes wanted fluoride tablets made available once more.
Mrs Hayne said surely scientists could create a dissolvable fluoride tablet, which parents could chose to give to their children.
Jean Braid did not appreciate the bad rap all Tenterfield parents were getting by NSW Health in the media. She spoke about her adult children’s perfectly fine teeth.
Dr Powers responded to Ms Cook’s calls for a dentist by saying that as a rural dentist he wished he could be cloned and there was more of him.
“I’d love to advocate as strongly as I can to get more dentists trained,” Dr Powers said.
Ms Hornibrook said NSW Health is currently under resourced and has to share the responsibility of fluoridating with communities.
“We always have limited resources. We’re trying to let you know we need to work with you and local government to increase prevention. We are very concerned about oral health in Tenterfield,” Ms Hornibrook said.
Less than a dollar per head – estimate
A result of the meeting was the discovery that the cost per head of fluoridating Tenterfield is yet to be calculated.
Mr Irving said he could not say how much Tenterfield would be charged but revealed Nambucca residents are charged $1.20 per head to fluoridate and that it is dependent on population.
Shire Director of Engineering Mr Tony Larkin estimated at the meeting it would be $5000 per annum to operate fluoride and $60,000 for the initial installation.
“It’s less than a dollar per head,” Mayor Pickstone said.