A New Plymouth grandmother is lobbying her district council to bring back fluoride now for the sake of those who can’t look after their teeth themselves.
In November the Health (Fluoridation of Drinking Water) Amendment Act 2021 was passed, taking the right to make decisions on community water fluoridation away from councils and giving it to the Director-General of Health.
New Plymouth controversially ditched fluoride from its water supplies in 2011 and orders to reintroduce it are expected to start being made later this year.
But Pip Abernethy Priestley is pushing for fluoride to be put back in now.
She has a 6-year-old grandson who is severely autistic. Going to the dentist is too stressful for him and he needs help cleaning his teeth.
Fluoride in the water will help children like him and those living in poverty to have better teeth, she said.
‘’I’ve read the science and I also completely trust the scientists and dentists who promote fluoride. Our local medical officer of health Dr Jonathan Jarman always endorsed it.’’
The Ministry of Health (MoH) has not instructed NPDC to reintroduce fluoride into the district’s water supplies yet, NPDC three waters manager Mark Hall said in an emailed response to questions.
“We’ve given information about all four water supplies to the MoH, and we’re awaiting confirmation from them.
‘’In the meantime we’re investigating the infrastructure options to enable us to do this.’’
The changes to the New Plymouth water treatment plant could cost in the region of $250,000, Hall said.
Depending on the timing of the ministry’s instruction, the costs could be included in the next Annual Plan or 10-Year Plan.
Hall didn’t respond to questions around the costs of putting in the infrastructure for Inglewood, Oakura or Okato, but in a letter he wrote to the ministry in March he estimated it would cost around $100,000 for each.
If the ministry directed them to add fluoride it would take around two years to have it up and running.
The ministry was committed to increasing community water fluoridation coverage across the country, a spokesperson said in an emailed statement.
‘’Water suppliers will be required to fluoridate a water supply if directed to do so by the Director-General of Health. Those already fluoridating are required to continue to do so.’’
As a result, community water fluoridation coverage in New Zealand could increase from around 50% to over 80%.
The Director-General is likely to commence issuing directions for some supplies this year, the spokesperson said in an emailed response.
In June 2018 South Taranaki District Council won a landmark legal fight to add fluoride to the water supply in Patea and Waverley.
South Taranaki District Council decided to add fluoride in December 2012. Stratford District Council’s water is also fluoridated.