The South Canterbury District Health Board (SCDHB) may be set to throw its support behind fluoridating water supplies.
The controversial issue was raised at the DHB’s community and public health committee meeting on Friday, where members voted to recommend a position statement to the full board.
If approved, the statement would mean the SCDHB would work with other organisations to “actively promote” the fluoridation of community water supplies.
It acknowledged that a “very substantial and reliable” body of scientific evidence had found community water fluoridation to be effective in reducing tooth decay when used at the recommended levels.
The Ministry of Health recommended between 0.7 parts per million and 1.0 ppm of fluoride as a safe, effective, and efficient way of preventing dental caries in communities receiving a reticulated water supply.
The SCDHB position statement was unequivocal about the “widespread” issue of tooth decay in South Canterbury.
“The South Canterbury District Health Board notes with concern that while there have been improvements in child oral health, substantial inequalities exist among children in the South Canterbury region that mirror those seen nationally.”
Tooth decay was a preventable disease that led to “considerable” personal, social, and economic costs, it stated.
The DHB would also support research into the risks and benefits of fluoridation, as well as appropriate alternatives to water fluoridation in communities where fluoridation was not feasible.
All but one member of the committee voted in favour of the recommendation, meaning it will be forwarded to the full board.
Paul Annear voted against, saying tooth decay was a “major problem” but fluoridation should be a personal choice.
Fluoride, considered by opponents to be a dangerous waste product and by proponents as a natural trace mineral, was taken out of Timaru’s water supply in 1985.
The committee’s decision has already been slammed by a long-time anti-fluoride campaigner.
Imelda Hitchcock led the charge to have it removed, and she was critical of the committee’s proposal to support fluoridation.
“Why would you want to put a poison in your drinking water?” she said.
“It’s like swallowing sunscreen to prevent melanoma.”
She blamed fluoride for causing a bowel problem she suffered, which vanished while staying in a non-fluoridated area in 1974.
It was misleading to say fluoride was safe, she said.
“Whoever in their right mind would want to put a toxic waste substance in their body?
“There’s a lot of money to be made out of fluoride, it’s wicked.”
She likened fluoride to alcohol and tobacco, and believed people were more concerned about the potential risks involved than in the past.
“We’re a sick nation. People are more concerned about their health.”
The only areas in Canterbury with a community water fluoridation schemes are Burnham Military Camp and Methven.