Fluoride, considered by opponents to be a dangerous waste product and by proponents as a natural trace mineral, was taken out of our water supply most recently on July 23, 1985.

Timaru woman Imelda Hitchcock led the charge to remove it. She blamed fluoride for causing a bowel problem which vanished while staying in a non-fluoridated area in 1974. Spending hours researching and sending endless letters to the newspapers, Hitchcock built a groundswell of support for her view that fluoride was dangerous to humans and should not be added to the water supply. Many debates followed, leading the council to halve the fluoride level.

An uproar ensued, followed by Hitchcock and her supporters going door-to-door, and a doctor offered his views against it. At a council meeting six months later a councillor, who had been pro-fluoridation, unexpectedly crossed the floor, a motion passed and from the next morning it was no longer added to the water.

“Those who support it (fluoride) are political or health organisations. It is hard for the ordinary person to stand up against money and power,” Hitchcock said.

Delighted that fluoride has been gone so long, the long-time campaigner hopes it will be kept out.

“Who wants to put industrial waste products in their bodies? It is a poison.”

The Ministry of Health recommends 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.

Confirming this view is a 2014 “Health Effects of Water Fluoridation: A Review of Scientific Evidence” report from the office of the prime minister’s chief science advisor.

Former Dental Council chairman and former Dental Association president, dentist Mark Goodhew, thinks the removal of fluoride was “regrettable” and the process of doing so was “bizarre”.

“Unfortunately there will be people who forever claim it is part of a government conspiracy.”

He points out that there is 1.0ppm of fluoride in the Pacific Ocean.