Fluoride was supposed to be added to the Hastings water supply a year ago, but it still hasn’t been added, despite the local DHB’s “serious and ongoing concerns” about the impact on dental health.
Hastings District Council removed fluoride from the town water supply since the Havelock North gastro-outbreak in August 2016.
Since the outbreak the dosing system that had been used for fluoride was used for chlorine instead.
Last year Hawke’s Bay DHB said it wanted fluoride returned to the water. It said “community fluoridation remains an ongoing and serious concern” and “reinstatement is a high priority for M?ori and Pacific oral health”.
The council responded by saying fluoride could be added to the supply at its Wilson Road bore in August last year and would be available for its other two bores within “two to three years”.
But it still hasn’t been added to any of the supply.
Council’s group manager asset management Craig Thew said fluoridation hadn’t started because it was waiting on “Worksafe advice on storage requirements”.
“HDC’s plan is to reintroduce fluoride across all parts of the network, once all treatment plant upgrades are in place and operational mid-2021. The DHB has requested information from council as to the potential percentage of households which would benefit from the Wilson bore being activated earlier. The DHB are currently considering this information,” Thew said.
If fluoride is added to the Wilson Road bore it will see 70 per cent of Flaxmere’s 10,000 residents receive fluoridated water.
Hawke’s Bay chief medical and dental officer Robin Whyman said the board was concerned because by 2021 some children will have spent the first five years of their life without a fluoridated water supply.
There were other measures, such as fluoride toothpaste and the community oral health service that would ameliorate the effect, but these would not remove all risk.
“We would expect an increase a risk in the incidence of dental decay in the vicinity of 20 per cent. The youngest children in Hastings would have a risk of dental decay similar to the other non-fluoridated parts of Hawke’s Bay,” Whyman said.
Hastings was the first place in New Zealand to have fluoride added to its urban water as a means of preventing tooth decay, in 1954, but the water supply has been fluoride-free since the Havelock North gastro-outbreak.
Napier does not have fluoride in its drinking water. It was removed from the water supply in Central Hawke’s Bay in 2012.
Three years after fluoridation began in Hastings in 1954, a Commission of Inquiry was held and water fluoridation use rapidly expanded in the mid-1960s. About 60 per cent of New Zealanders have access to fluoridated water.
The decision to add fluoride to water is currently made by district councils, but the Health (Fluoridation of Drinking Water) Amendment Bill currently making its way through Parliament would give DHBs the authority to decide if any local government water supplies needed to be fluoridated and direct local councils to do so. The Bill went through its first reading and select committee stages in 2017 but is still to have its second reading.