Plans to fluoridate water in the northern West Australian towns of Newman and Kununurra are raising concerns for some residents.
Newman resident Rob Richards organised a social media campaign when he became concerned about introducing water fluoridation to his town’s supply.
Mr Richards said fluoridation was potentially toxic and not necessary for dental health.
“If you look at the World Health Organisation data — and this has actually been put into a graph on a pamphlet that’s put out by Flouride Free WA — it shows the trend in dental decay is down in all countries, not just the ones that are fluoridated,” Mr Richards said.
The WA Government hopes to boost the proportion of the population with access to fluoridated water from 91 per cent to 97 per cent in the next 10 years.
It is planning to fluoridate the water supply of Newman and Kununurra in 2017.
Kununurra resident Danny Carter is opposed to fluoridation which he perceives as forced medication.
“My only concern is that I don’t give consent to the Water Corporation to be able to medicate using a chemical, hexafluorosilicic acid, that is a by-product from the fertiliser industry,” Mr Carter said.
Authorities dismiss health concerns
But Dr Michael Foley from the Australian Dental Association said the evidence showed water fluoridation could be safe and provide measurable benefits for oral health.
“The evidence is that people in fluoridated communities have far less tooth decay than people in non-fluoridated communities,” Dr Foley said.
“We know that if we have levels that are at about 0.5 up to one part per million — so, a tiny little bit — it strengthens people’s teeth.
“A little bit of that fluoride will actually soak into the enamel on your teeth, even if it’s only in your mouth for a few seconds, and it makes your teeth more acid resistant, more resistant to decay.”
Dr Foley acknowledged that high fluoride levels could produce negative health impacts, but this was not likely as part of a carefully regulated public health initiative.
“At the levels we’re talking about in Australia, it is a very, very safe public health measure,” he said.
President of the Australian Medical Association, Michael Gannon, agreed that health fears around water fluoridation were unfounded.
“Quite the opposite — not fluoridating water is a risk to our health,” he said.
Mr Gannon dismissed the opponents of fluoridation as misrepresenting the evidence.
“What we do see is selective misquoting of really quite poorly performed research,” he said.