After four days of submissions, Hamilton City Council has voted overwhelmingly to remove fluoride from the city’s water.
A council tribunal today voted 7-1 to stop the practice of adding fluoride to the public water supply from no later than June 21 when stocks run out.
The council will make annual savings of $48,000 by removing fluoride.
The tribunal was presented with research from experts and interested parties on both sides of the debate, although the majority were against fluoride.
The council will be writing to Health Minister Tony Ryall, expressing its view that public water fluoridation is a health issue which central government should address.
Three councillors who are also on the Waikato District Health Board – Martin Gallagher, Pippa Mahood and Ewan Wilson – did not take part in the tribunal, along with John Gower and Maria Westphal due to previously stated views on fluoride.
Hamilton has been adding fluoride to its water since the 1960s.
Mayor Julie Hardaker said “potential and perceived risks” from fluoridation were raised at the tribunal, while there was no dispute that topical applications via toothpaste were effective against tooth decay.
She felt a telling statistic was that of the 220 litres of water a day used by the average Hamilton person, only about two litres was consumed and the rest went to the wastewater system.
Deputy Mayor Gordon Chesterman said he was not satisfied fluoridation had achieved benefits “beyond reasonable doubt”.
He urged the Government to crack down on sugar-laden drinks, which many tribunal submissions linked to dental decay, suggesting they be taxed like alcohol and tobacco.
He noted only 23 of 67 New Zealand councils still added fluoride as public opinion was changing.
The vote was greeted with applause from about 20 people in the public gallery.
How the money saved by removing fluoride is used will be discussed at the Annual Plan deliberations tomorrow.
Other communities eliminating fluoridation
Hamilton joins a growing number of communities that have voted to reduce or eliminate fluoridation, including New Plymouth, Central Hawke’s Bay, Dunedin and Tauranga.
Dr Jonathan Broadbent, Senior Lecturer in Preventive and Restorative Dentistry, University of Otago and President Otago Branch of NZ Dental Association, said the “decision will undermine public health in New Zealand”.
“We are going in the wrong direction. Right now our nearest neighbors, the Australian State of Victoria, are spending Au$3.6 million build more fluoridation plants across rural parts of their State.
“The World Health Organisation, the World Dental Federation, and the International Association for Dental Research have all stated that ‘universal access to fluoride for dental health is part of the basic human right to health’.
“In New Zealand, a central part of the universal right to fluoride is community water fluoridation.”
Broadbent said while the extent of tooth decay has reduced in recent decades, the disease remains more prevalent than other significant health conditions in the country, particularly in unfluoridated areas and among disadvantaged New Zealanders.