If ever there was legislation being advocated by the New Zealand government, that on growing scientific evidence could harm mental development in young people, it is the Health (Fluoridation of Drinking Water) Amendment Bill now before parliament.

With fluoridation, the ministry is obsessed with dental health and appears to be almost totally blind to the rapidly growing medical science on the neurodevelopmental effect of fluoride on the young, especially prenatal babies. The ministry has been blindsided by the dental profession – especially Dunedin’s Faculty of Dentistry.

“This blinkered approach was clearly demonstrated in a series of answers to requests for information given to me in June 2018,” says Ross Forbes who has been researching fluoridation from well over a decade from the time of forlorn and flawed attempts to fluoridate Kaitaia and Kaikohe.

“The gross lack of Ministry of Health knowledge on the whole-of-body effects of ingesting fluoride is extremely concerning,” he said.

Less than three years ago the ministry did not hold any information as requested under the Official Information Act on the following relevant issues:

• the range of daily water ingestion, and thereby fluoride dose, by consumers of fluoridated water in New Zealand, including specific ranges for infants and children by age, labourers, athletes, and others;

• evidence that fluoridated water is safe at variable dose and dosage levels for lifetime consumption by all individuals without anticipated adverse health consequences;

• advice to the general public on specific foods, beverages or produce that might contain significant concentrations of fluoride such as tea;

• epidemiological research on using fluoride in urine as a biomarker to determine total levels of fluoride exposure in the population before advocating fluoride-based caries prevention programmes;

• duty of care to inform fluoridated water consumers of contraindications when a direct water additive with such identified health risks as fluoride is purposely administered through a community water supply;

• direct ministry advice to health boards and water system operators on providing the general public with warnings on the effect fluoride has on endocrine systems, thyroid functions, kidney patients, the pineal gland and diabetics;

• funding filtering devices for susceptible individuals as a precautionary measure if fluoridation is mandated nationally;

• analysis of the chemical composition of fluoride additives to water supplies;

• reports of compliance with published fluoride quality assurance provisions;

• implications for exports to fluoride free nations if food processed with fluoridated water is significantly increased;

• documentation of persistent advertising campaigns on the bad oral health effects of sugar and sugary drinks within health board districts;

• installation and yearly maintenance costs of a home water treatment system to limit drinking, cooking, and dermal fluoride exposures from baths and showers for a family with one or more fluoride susceptible members;

• cost/benefit analysis comparing Scotland’s Childsmile programme with nation-wide implementation of community water fluoridation; and

• consideration given to stopping all fluoridation measures in New Zealand as a precautionary measure.

The ministry could not directly provide high level evidence that there is scientific near-certainty about the safety of community fluoridated water to all consumers.

With such huge gaps in the ministry’s body of knowledge on the wider human effects of fluoridation there is an urgent obligation on all members of the New Zealand parliament to demand that the Health (Fluoridation of Drinking Water) Amendment Bill be withdrawn pending an independent public enquiry, with evidence taken on oath, on the whole-of-body impacts of community water fluoridation on public health, not just teeth.

“The outcomes of such an enquiry should provide recommendations for more targeted responses to this country’s dental health problems than are now being advocated,” Forbes concluded.

Those promoting the Health (Fluoridation of Drinking Water) Amendment Bill need to think very carefully as their decision impacts the health of every person in New Zealand. At this point the Minister of Health and the Associate Ministers of Health cannot show any level of due diligence that the public would expect. This needs to change.

*Original release online at http://www.voxy.co.nz/health/5/384774