GISBORNE District Council is maintaining its stance on water fluoridation in line with Government recommendations, as debate heats up following Hamilton City Council’s decision to remove it from the city water supply.
Hamilton city councillors voted last week and fluoride is expected to be removed from the city water supply from the end of this month.
No such plans are in place for Gisborne, where the water supply has been fluoridated since the mid-1960s.
“We have taken advice from the Ministry of Health, which supports fluoridation,” said Gisborne deputy chief executive Peter Higgs.
Water utilities manager Kevin Strongman said the cost to do this made up just over 7 percent of the annual water treatment chemical budget — last financial year this was around $17,000.
In Wairoa, the water has never been fluoridated although the discussion has come up among Wairoa district councillors many times and the Hawke’s Bay DHB makes regular submissions on the issue. Council chief executive Peter Freeman said one of the main obstacles in Wairoa appeared to be cost rather than opposition.
Mr Freeman said at one stage they got as close as the council approving it but it was never implemented due to the funding option falling through.
The anti-fluoridation group that lobbied for the Hamilton decision is now reported to be planning to lobby other councils to remove fluoride from their water supplies.
Hastings and Whakatane are already planning referendums on the topic during this year’s local body elections.
Of the six main centres in New Zealand, Christchurch and Tauranga are the only other major cities to remove fluoride from the water.
Tairawhiti District Health (TDH) clinical director of oral health David Edgar is strongly in favour of fluoride in the water to improve dental hygiene.
“Fluoride is good for teeth because it helps them to put the essential minerals into the substance and the surface of the teeth, making teeth stronger and resistant to decay.
“It works best at doing this when it is used in low concentrations and relatively frequently, and so fluoridation of water is an efficient, effective and safe way to achieve this remineralisation,” said Dr Edgar.
TDH medical officer of health Geoffrey Cramp agrees and noted regional figures from last year showing 36 percent of five-year-old Maori children in the fluoridated town supply area had no dental caries (cavities), compared to 27 percent in areas where there was no fluoride in the water.
Dr Cramp said the safety of water fluoridation to general health had been extensively looked into in New Zealand, Australia and the UK by scientists.
“These studies have consistently found no evidence of adverse general health effects from water fluoridation.”
Fluoride is a naturally-occurring element found in varying quantities in the air, soil, water, seawater, plants and many foods, and occurs naturally in New Zealand water supplies but at a level that is too low to protect against tooth decay.
According to Wikipedia, New Zealand has fluoridated water supplied to about half of the total population, with Hastings city the first to lead the way in water fluoridation in 1954.
A commision of inquiry was held in 1957 and then its use rapidly expanded in the mid-1960s.
Whakatane and Hastings are having referendums on the issue with their elections this year, and Thames is considering separate water tanks for those who object to fluoridation.