PUBLIC water supplies in Kaitaia and Kaikohe could be unfluoridated for up to a year, while the Far North District Council awaits the results of a two-year fluoridation trial aimed at reducing tooth decay.
Councillors have deferred a Northland District Health Board request to extend the trial, which ended on March 31, until the council has asked the public whether to continue fluoridating the towns’ water.
Their decision last Thursday was in line with a draft long-term council plan commitment to consult the community about fluoridation.
Councillors also decided against signalling their intent to change the draft plan to allow consultation to go ahead before results are available, even though these won’t be ready until next March.
Council chief executive Colin Dale said a ‘misunderstanding’ had arisen between the council and the board about its monitoring of the trial.
“The council understood a survey and-or data analysis would take place before, during and after the fluoridation of Kaitaia and Kaikohe water supplies to evaluate its effectiveness.” said Mr Dale.
Board rural health advisor Dr Neil Croucher tol councillors that the study of dental decay in children aged five, six, 12 and 13 was a monitoring survey, not a clinical trial designed to determine if fluoride was effective.
“This is an intervention that has been occuring for the last 60 years and there is 60 years of research throughout the world which shows it is a proven public health measure.”
The board didn’t promise to have definitive results at the end of the two years when it offfered the council a health ministry fluoridation subsidy in 2006, said Dr Croucher.
“I was quoted by the council and in the newspapers straight after that saying we may see a difference in two years, but it would require four to five years to see results.”
The board planned to release a report comparing dental decay rates in Kaitaia and Kaikohe before and after the trial next March.
“This is going to be written to international research standards, so it is robust and it can be open to scrutiny and challenge. I’m sure it will come through with a win on both.”
He said that discontinuing water fluoridation in the towns jeopardised the likelihood of further health gains.
“The longer fluoride remains out, the more we lose the benefits of the last two years, because there have been health benefits.”
Health ministry chief dental officer Dr Robin Whyman said 61% of New Zealanders, who rely on reticulated water supplies, drink fluoridated water.
“All large cities in New Zealand, except Chrischurch, are fluoridated. That’s an important thing to bear in mind when you’re thinking about your community.”
Rawene anti-fluoride campaigner Jackie Pou was one of about 10 campaigners at the council meeting.
She said the council should reject the board’s offer of a $58,000 subsidy to continue fluoridating the water supplies for another two years.
“The trial was dependent on results proving fluoride’s benefit. No benefit has been proven. There should be no further fluoridation,” said Ms Pou.
The council would be violating people’s civil rights if it continued to mass medicate them against their will, she said.
“With vaccinations, informed individual consent is required. With fluoride, there is none.”
Whangarei dentist and fluoride researcher Laurie Brett said that discontinuing the trial would give those oppsed to it time to educate councillors about water fluoridtaion.
“There is huge concern about the health risks, despite what these government people tell you.”
Countries that had ceased using fluoride outnumbered those that were using it, said Mr Brett.
“The huge body of evidence internationally shows this is a failed public health measure.”
Kaitaia grandfather Des Mahoney said Northland children had high dental decay rates because the board did not provide enough dental services in rural areas.
“My grandson went to Pukepoto school for five years and he did not see one dental nurse.”