Hastings district will reintroduce fluoride to its drinking water in the coming weeks for the first time since the Havelock North water crisis.
All other districts in Hawke’s Bay remain fluoride free at this stage.
Hastings District Council stopped adding fluoride to its water supply when it began adding chlorine in 2016.
It plans to reinstate it by the end of December. It will be the first time in over seven years any district in Hawke’s Bay has added fluoride to its water supply.
Experts say fluoride is an effective method to prevent tooth decay, and a Havelock North dental hygienist says a seven-year wait for it to return may have negatively impacted on children’s teeth.
Wairoa, Tararua, Napier and Central Hawke’s Bay councils do not have fluoride in their drinking water, and the latter two councils told Hawke’s Bay Today they have no plans to introduce it.
Tararua District Council is preparing to add fluoride to the Dannevirke water supply in mid-2024, after being directed to do so by then Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield.
Fluoride can be a contentious issue and the likes of Central Hawke’s Bay District Council removed it from its water in 2012 following opposition.
Well over half of all councils throughout New Zealand do not have fluoride in their water supply.
Bloomfield made an order in July last year to some councils to add fluoride to their drinking water, a move that was praised by dentists, but came under fire from pressure groups.
The High Court recently ruled directives given to a dozen councils last year were unlawful.
However, the Ministry of Health says the court ruling does not quash the directions for the 12 councils to fluoridate, and those orders remain in force.
It remains unclear whether health officials will push ahead with more directives in future, such as for Wairoa.
Hastings District Council took the topic of fluoridation to a referendum in 2013, and residents supported keeping it in the water.
Havelock North dentists Joshua Stening and Jason Lee, of Smilehaus Dental, said they welcomed the return of fluoride to the local water supply.
“Fluoridation is one of the most effective ways that we can help protect teeth against decay,” Stening said.
“It strengthens the tooth and can even remineralise early decay and, in low concentrations, there is minimal risk of any harmful effects.”
Lee said for someone to get a lethal dose of fluoride from fluoridated drinking water, they would have to drink “10,000 glasses in a single sitting”.
“It is equitable, effective and safe,” Lee said.
Smilehaus dental hygienist Rachel Perrott said the seven-year pause in fluoridation may have negatively affected children’s teeth.
“Basically, no one under the age of 7 in our communities has had the benefits of fluoride strengthening the enamel as the teeth have been forming.
“Teeth are still forming up to 8 years old, so kids as old as 14 may have been negatively affected from the lack of fluoride in their tooth enamel.”
The Hastings council paused fluoridation after the 2016 Havelock North water contamination disaster, as the council opted to put chlorine in the water.
The council did not have the facilities to add both chlorine and fluoride.
“Since then we have been working on the infrastructure … that will enable us to add both fluoride and chlorine to the supply,” with funding coming from the Government, a council spokesperson said.
“The addition of fluoride will resume as soon as the infrastructure enables it, and that is expected to be before the end of 2023.”
A fluoride-free supply point will be available for anyone who wants to use it.
*Original full-text article online at: https://www.nzherald.co.nz/hawkes-bay-today/news/fluoride-set-to-be-put-back-into-hastings-water-for-first-time-since-2016/RIT2DT3JBZHLRBFZM4ZWRGUQRE/