Marlborough District Council is avoiding a debate on water fluoridation “like the plague”, according to the mayor.
Alistair Sowman said the controversial issue divided opinion and the Government should take the lead on the issue instead of pushing decisions on to councils.
The mayor was speaking as Nelson Marlborough’s principal dental officer Rob Beaglehole said the issue should be devolved to district health boards.
Dr Beaglehole told a board meeting of the Marlborough Primary Health Organisation it was a “political hot potato”. “It is not for mayors or for councillors to decide, it needs to be devolved to the district health board,” he said. “It is not on the radar at the moment in the board.”
Dr Beaglehole said water fluoridation cross-cut populations and was of benefit to children, the elderly and lower socio economic groups.
Tooth decay was the No 1 cause of hospital admissions in the Nelson Marlborough Health Board are, he said.
Last year 240 children went under general anesthetic to have a tooth or teeth removed. The average age of patient was 5-years-old.
While fluoridation would not mitigate the effects of drinking sugary drinks, he said improved oral health was critical to general health.
“No amount of fluoride will protect teeth against sugary drinks but it does reduce populations’ decay rate and has a huge impact.”
Mr Sowman said the decision should be made by central government. “Council are avoiding the issue like the plague. It is very divisive in the community. The government are hell bent on it, they should show leadership.”
Last year Nelson Marlborough medical officer of health Ed Kiddle said those who were opposed to fluoride in the water should drink bottled water from supermarkets so the rest of the population could see the benefit.