With a referendum on whether or not to keep fluoride in Hastings’ water less than four months away, both sides of the debate are convinced they can win.
Less than one third of New Zealand’s councils put fluoride in their reticulated water supply. However, the councils that do add fluoride have large population bases, therefore more than 50 per cent of New Zealanders drink fluoridated water.
Hastings District Council is the only Hawke’s Bay council fluoridating water.
Last month, Hamilton City Council voted 7-1 to stop putting fluoride into its water supply, bringing the number of council’s still fluoridating down to 22 out of 67, said Fluoride Free Hastings spokeswoman Angela Hair.
National group Fluoride Action Network said that with referendums coming up in Hastings and Whakatane “this figure could very well end up being 20 out of 67”.
Fluoride Free Hastings was “delighted” with the Hamilton result, Ms Hair said.
“For people who are sensitive to this poisonous chemical, this decision may make a significant difference to their health. It is very difficult to avoid fluoride when it is added to the water supply.”
She said people should be able to choose to apply fluoride to their teeth, using fluoride toothpastes or dental treatments.
“Mass medication does not take into account the amount of water that people drink, their sensitivity or their ability to detoxify the fluoride. Babies fed formula mixed with fluoridated water are more at risk because of their small body weight.”
The Hawke’s Bay District Health Board, in response, said it was “disappointed” at Hamilton’s decision, and it did not change the board’s desire to keep fluoride in the Hastings water supply.
“Hawke’s Bay District Health Board continues to retain confidence in the safety and effectiveness of community water fluoridation and recommends its continuation,” said oral health clinical director Robin Whyman.
He said the board would continue to supply information on the benefits of fluoridation.
“It is a decision for the public to make, but we feel the public should, and will, stay with fluoride.”
The board’s information drive would grow nearer to the referendum, Mr Whyman said.
The referendum would be held at the same time as the Local Government elections, in October.
Hastings voters who receive council water in their homes will be asked to choose between two options: I vote for the urban water supply being fluoridated, or, I vote against the urban water supply being fluoridated.