Fluoride Action Network

Hastings: Concern for babies sees reduction in fluoride

Source: Hawke | June 30th, 2010 | By Jolene Williams
Location: New Zealand

Levels of fluoride in Hastings tap water are to be reduced after a European Union health study found high levels of fluoridated water were risky for babies under 6 months old.

According to the European Union’s Scientific Commission on Health and Environmental Risks, infants’ milk formula should not be made with water that had a fluoride level over 0.8 milligrams per litre.

Hastings tap water had 0.9mg/l, a level set earlier this month.

The EU report also said children between 1 and 6 years old were at risk if they consumed more than half a litre of fluoridated water a day and used more than the recommended amount of fluoridated toothpaste.

Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule said the Hastings District Council was working to reduce fluoride levels in the district’s water supply to 0.7mg/l following the EU report and advice from the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board. Fluoridated water in other regions fell between the Ministry of Health’s recommended levels of 0.7mg/l and 1.0mg/l.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) acting chief dental officer Tim McKay said the ministry was considering the commission’s findings and will consider evidence available to a New Zealand context.

Mr McKay also said recent clinical advice on the use of fluorides in New Zealand confirmed there were no safety concerns using fluoridated tap water to make up infant formula.

Fluoride Action Network New Zealand (FANNZ) spokesperson Mary Byrne said overexposure of fluoride could lead to dental fluorosis (mottling), the first sign of other health problems.

Babies were most at risk because of the ratio of body weight to fluoride intake.

“If people are exposed as a baby, the damage done is irreversible. Their teeth will be damaged for life. And is it only their teeth? There’s not enough research been done into the long-term effects.”

The MOH stated small levels of fluoride strengthened the surface of teeth, which made them more resistant to tooth decay.

This is backed up by the European Union report which stated “fluoride, either naturally present or intentionally added to water, food and consumer products (toothpaste) is generally considered beneficial to prevent dental caries”.

Ms Byrne said fluoride had no health benefits and FANNZ advocated it “created more health problems than it is alleged to fix”.

Mr Yule said fluoridated water was always a controversial issue. But after advice from the District Health Board and the results of the European study, he was happy with the council’s decision to continue its use.