FEW words are as emotive as fluoridation. The letters to the editor column of this newspaper is testament to the passion it arouses; the closer fluoridation of Geelong’s water has become the more strident the debate, the more powerful the arguments against its introduction.
It’s like global warming _ you either agree with it or you don’t and you have experts lined up on both sides of the philosophical divide.
The bottom line for the nay-sayers is that fluoride will be introduced into our water within the next three weeks. The State Government has, on our behalf, decided it is safe, that it is beneficial and, most importantly, it is here. So should we have it, is it a danger to us? Queensland last year was the last State or territory to mandatorily add fluoride to the water and the sun continues to rise.
In a study two years ago by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 14,514 Australians from 15 to 98 years of age were interviewed and 5505 of them dentally examined. The report showed that members of the fluoride generation (born since 1970) had about half the level of decay that their parents’ generation had developed by the time they were young adults.
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For every argument of this weight, the anti-fluoride campaigners have an answer. The most logical and compelling of their arguments is that if people want fluoride, surely they can buy tablets and take them. It’s true but at the same time the government will have 101 arguments about common good and the need for people to be protected.
Tasmania was the first State to go fluoride, more than 50 years ago, and there is little doubt it has delivered in terms of oral health. Since then, Australia has not exactly embraced fluoride but it now has a dominant national presence. There are still pockets of resistance but the more it is introduced and the better the oral health figures, the weaker the arguments against its introduction. There is no doubt the anti-fluoride resistance will continue but, like the yellow-ribboned Save Albert Park movement, it increasingly will lose relevance.
The fluoride debate is not dissimilar to the one we’re having and will continue to have about drinking recycled water. Whether we like it or not, our profligate use of our most precious resource means that in the near future we are going to have to drink recycled water. Major cities such as London and New York have been doing so for years but the resistance in Australia is passionate and vociferous. Three years ago, 66 per cent of Toowoomba residents voted against the introduction of recycled drinking water.
The argument in its favour is the same as fluoride; others have been doing it for many, many years without showing any ill-effects. The proof, if you like, is in the drinking.