Water fluoridation in hands of health boards

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The decision whether to fluoridate a town's water supply will soon be put in the hands of district health boards.

The decision currently sits with local councils but on Tuesday, Health Minister Jonathan Coleman and Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne announced they would be letting district health boards make the call.

Bay of Plenty District Health Board chief executive Helen Mason said the board remained committed to the fluoridation of water supplies.

"Whilst this is very early days following the announcement, our board will be discussing our approach to it in their upcoming meetings."

Dr Coleman said New Zealand had high rates of preventable tooth decay and increasing access to fluoridated water will improve oral health, and mean fewer costly trips to the dentist for more New Zealanders.

A Bill is expected to be introduced to Parliament later this year. Members of the public and organisations will have an opportunity to make submissions to the Health Select Committee as it considers the Bill.

Fluoride was added to Tauranga's water supply in 1963 and it was removed in 1990.

A non-binding referendum in 1992 resulted in the decision not to reintroduce it.


Fluoridation facts

- Around 2.3 million New Zealanders currently have access to fluoridated water.

- Fluoride occurs naturally in water supplies, however New Zealand levels are generally low compared to other countries, meaning additional fluoridation is needed to generate optimum health results.

- In 2014 the Prime Minister's chief science advisor and the Royal Society of New Zealand, assisted by a panel of experts, concluded there is compelling evidence that fluoridation of water at the established and recommended levels produces broad benefits for the dental health of New Zealanders.

- Fluoridation effectively and safely reduces tooth decay and provides benefits for all age groups. On average, children and adolescents aged under 18 will have a 40 per cent lower lifetime incidence of tooth decay.

- In 2013, more than 40 per cent of all 5-year-olds and more than 60 per cent of Maori and Pacific 5-year-olds had already experienced tooth decay.

- The 2013/14 NZ Health Survey found that 35,000 children between 1 and 4 years had had a tooth extracted in the last 12 months due to decay, and Maori children were 1.6 more times likely to have a tooth extracted than non-Maori.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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