WITH the great fluoride debate coming to a head this week ahead of Saturday’s major referendum day, a flood of information is filtering through the community about the actual substance that could be added to the Mount Isa water supply.

Mount Isa naturopath Ken Cross said he has investigated the issue and has serious concerns about the safety of the product that the city may soon ingest.

Supported by scientific evidence, Mr Cross said the chemicals used to fluoridate water are not pharmaceutical grade, like those used in toothpaste, but are actually a by-product of fertiliser companies.

“This product will contain levels of arsenic and lead, it is a proven fact,” he said.

With recent news of Mount Isa Water Board employees voicing health concerns regarding the handling of the chemicals and claiming that any fluoride introduced to Mount Isa will contain traces of lead, Mrs Cross said the health implications for residents, especially children could be negative in Mount Isa, an area with higher than average lead contamination issues.

The Mount Isa City Council was briefed on the benefits of fluoride earlier this year by Brisbane Dental Hospital director Doctor Michael Foley and Queensland Health water program director Doctor Greg Jackson.

“Water fluoridation helps to protect adults and children from tooth decay,” Dr Foley said.

“It provides additional protection to fluoridated toothpaste, preventing tooth decay can save your family the pain and discomfort of toothache and the expense required to treat the disease.”

Dr Foley said adding the chemical to the Mount Isa water supply was not only safe, but efficient.

“The co-production of natural fluoride through an already established mining process is an efficient use of our natural resources,” he said.

When the issue was addressed in Cloncurry this year, Mayor Andrew Daniels said that like Mount Isa, a large number of people did not drink tap water, so the cost of continual fluoridation was a waste of money.

“The ongoing cost is one thing…local government shouldn’t have to supply that to the community when it’s easy for them to keep a toothbrush and toothpaste and take care of their own teeth,” he said.

This week’s referendum will give the community the opportunity to vote on whether fluoride is added to the Mount Isa water supply.

If the required amount of people do not vote, the decision will be handed back to the city’s councillors.

At midday yesterday, no more than 200 votes had been recorded.

Returning officer Emilio Cianetti said the votes would be tallied at the close of the polls on Saturday evening.

The tally will be undertaken by council staff, with two community observers and Senior Sergeant Col Henderson present.

The result will be announced on Monday.