A push towards potentially removing fluoride from Tasmanian water supplies would not be legally enforceable, health authorities suggest.
The Kentish Council wants state legislation changed to allow councils to run elector polls about fluoride in drinking water.
The Local Government Association of Tasmania general meeting agenda for July includes a motion from Kentish seeking LGAT support for that.
The motion said changing the Fluoridation Act as suggested would allow Tasmanians to “participate in information sharing and debate” and “state their informed position” about fluoridation through a referendum.
Kentish said supporters of the practice said it promoted healthy teeth and gums, but opponents believed fluoride regularly consumed over extended periods could lead to a range of health issues.
The Health Department said the National Health and Medical Research Council strongly recommended fluoridation of drinking water as an effective, safe way to prevent dental cavities.
Apart from a generally mild problem with the appearance of teeth, the department said scientific evidence refuted other alleged negative outcomes from fluoridation listed by Kentish.
The department said an elector poll was not a referendum.
It said an elector poll would not bind a council, let alone a water authority, which must comply with a minister’s decision to fluoridate.
The minister is advised by a fluoridation committee, appointed by the minister.
Acting director of public health Scott McKeown said: “In 2007, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), the peak Australian health research body, commissioned a systematic review of fluoridation.”
“This review involved collating and interpreting a large amount of high quality scientific evidence.
“This review concluded that fluoridation of drinking water is the most cost effective and safe way to protect the teeth of children in our community from decay.”
He said the NHMRC this year would release an updated statement on the effectiveness and safety of drinking water fluoridation.
“The safety of water fluoridation has been confirmed by the World Health Organization, the World Dental Federation and the International Association of Dental Research,” he said.
“The benefit of water fluoridation also continues to be endorsed by other health organisations, such as Osteoporosis Australia, Arthritis Australia, the Public Health Association of Australia and the Australian Academy of Science, and a majority of Australian academic research.”
He said legislation required TasWater to add fluoride to its drinking water supplies.
“This takes place in a very controlled way and involves a rigorous quality assurance and monitoring program, including daily measurements to ensure the fluoride levels remain in the safe optimum range.
“This range is based on the health values as contained within the NHMRC Australian Drinking Water Guidelines.”