A group campaigning to remove fluoride from water supplies is declaring Hastings Fluoride Free Awareness Week from September 10 to 17.

The debate over whether fluoride should continue to be introduced into the Hastings water supply will be the subject of a referendum to be held alongside next year’s council election.

But the Fluoride Free Hastings group said the $30,000 cost of running the referendum could be saved if the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board stopped fluoridation immediately and changed its stance supporting the practise.

Group spokesperson Angela Hair said the money spent on a referendum could be used to teach children how to look after their teeth and eat food such as milk, cheese, seafood, fresh fruit and vegetables which can strengthen teeth.

“Hastings Fluoride Free Awareness Week is an opportunity for people to find out about why the fluoridation programme should stop.”

The group planned for library displays and streets stalls in Havelock North, Flaxmere and Hastings during next week.

Ms Hair said tests to gauge the impact of fluoride levels had never been done in Hastings despite 60 years of the chemical being injected into the water.

“Every person has the right to decide what medications they ingest. Fluoride is added to the water to have a medical effect yet people are not asked if they want this chemical in their water nor monitored for long term toxicity.

“It is almost impossible to avoid fluoride for those who do not want to be exposed to fluoride.”

Ms Hair said the recent decision by Food Safety Minister Kate Wilkinson to not make folic acid mandatory in bread made “a mockery” of the continuing support by the Ministry of Health for the fluoridation programme.

“Clearly consumers in New Zealand want to have a choice about what they put into their body. We believe the same thinking should be applied to fluoride.”

She said many countries are reviewing whether to put fluoride in their water and many stopped because it was “unethical, ineffective and unsafe”.