AN EVEN split in opinion on fluoridation means State Government has a long way to go before it should add the chemical to Geelong’s water supply.
But whether the Government takes Geelong residents’ opinions seriously is another matter.
Already Department of Human Services officials have briefed Barwon Water on its plans to fluoridate Geelong’s water.
Barwon Water chairman Stephen Vaughan later told the Independent that all Geelong would be fluoridated after a pipeline connecting Melbourne’s fluoridated water supply to the city’s northern suburbs opens in 2010.
But a random phone poll of Geelong residents found that if fluoridation was a matter of choice, it was likely to be rejected in a referendum.
The poll of 100 people selected at random was conducted last week. It found 36 per cent of respondents favoured fluoridation, while 36 opposed its introduction.
Twenty-eight per cent of respondents were undecided. Many said they either hadn’t thought about it, or didn’t know enough to make a choice.
It’s those undecided residents who the Government and those opposed to fluoride plan to target with a barrage of information for and against fluoridation.
While it promotes the virtues of fluoridation for dental health, the Government is keen to discredit opponents to fluoridation.
A DHS spokesman recently told the Independent that health authorities had “batted away” the arguments of activists opposed to fluoridation, claiming studies they cited as evidence against fluoridation didn’t stand up.
But one respondent to the Independent’s survey provided a strong argument to be concerned about fluoride.
The respondent said he was acutely aware of the threats of fluoride because as an employee of Alcoa he was routinely urine-tested for fluoride poisoning.
Barwon Association for Freedom from Fluoridation has called for a full, independent review of all the scientific evidence regarding fluoridation and its effects on humans.
But State Government says it backs its own scientific advice, which claims it is safe.
It also has an answer for ethical arguments against fluoridation.
A DHS document likened opposition to fluoridation on ethical grounds to the initial opposition to compulsory wearing of seat belts in cars because some people complained it restricted individual rights and freedoms.
It is the Government’s way of dismissing the argument that it’s not ethical to medicate people without their consent.
But in Australia, even immunisation is not compulsory, although medical professionals and health authorities highly recommended it.
So there is freedom of choice for one type of medication but not another.
DHS has cited the World Health Organisation saying universal access to fluoride for dental health was “part of the basic human right to health”.
Universal access is one thing; compulsory consumption is something else.
But people still get a choice.
Just ask new parliamentary secretary for water, Michael Crutchfield. His answer is: don’t drink the water.
But if the Government is going to fluoridate Geelong’s water, will it provide filters so residents who choose not to ingest it can remove it from their water?