James Ihaka

James Ihaka is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Group to continue lobbying for fluoride removal

A special tribunal yesterday voted 7 to 1 in favour of removing fluoride from the city's water supply following four days of submissions. Photo / Thinkstock
A special tribunal yesterday voted 7 to 1 in favour of removing fluoride from the city's water supply following four days of submissions. Photo / Thinkstock

A group that helped to convince the Hamilton City Council to remove fluoride from its water supply says it will continue lobbying other councils throughout New Zealand to do the same.

Fluoride Action Network New Zealand spokeswoman Mary Byrne praised a Hamilton City Council special tribunal decision yesterday that voted 7 to 1 in favour of removing fluoride from the city's water supply by June 21.

"Those councillors did not have an axe to grind and they have proved to be very brave considering the way some of the media have been treating them," said Ms Byrne.

"They have listened to all the evidence - we had doctors, dentists and scientists and an oncologist telling us about the harm from fluoride and we all agreed it doesn't work by swallowing."

Ms Byrne said other cities throughout New Zealand were discussing the removal of fluoride from their water supplies and her organisation would "definitely" be a part of their conversations.

She said there were just 22 of 67 councils throughout New Zealand still using fluoride as an additive in water supplies.

"Whakatane and Hastings are holding referenda already, Palmerston North have put aside $10,000 to look at fluoridation and the Kapiti Coast District Council said they were going to review fluoridation but they haven't decided how."

The issue has divided opinion with public health and dental experts coming out in favour of community water fluoridation.

The New Zealand College of Public Health Medicine president Dr Julia Peters said the benefits of community water fluoridation were most pronounced for those at risk of poor oral health; Maori and Pacific people and people living in deprived areas.

She said community water fluoridation programmes had been running in countries with low natural amounts of fluoride in drinking water supplies for over 50 years.

"There is consistent evidence of the effectiveness and safety of these programmes in protecting and improving oral health in these communities regardless of the social, economic or cultural group."

An online Herald poll showed readers were in favour of retaining fluoride in water supplies with 64 per cent of 4400 people saying it should not be ditched opposed to the 27 per cent who want it gone.

A special tribunal yesterday voted 7 to 1 in favour of removing fluoride from the city's water supply following four days of submissions.

Dr Felicity Dumble, Waikato District Health Board's medical officer of health, said the decision discounted the opinion of the vast majority of dentists and doctors locally and in New Zealand.

She said associated oral health inequities based on ethnicity and socio-economic status would also increase.

Mayor Julie Hardaker, who tabled the motion to remove fluoride, said the issue was a public health matter that central government needed to determine.

But deputy mayor Gordon Chesterman said there was "a lack of clear proof" of benefits in fluoridation as well as a continuing reduction in support for it.

- NZ Herald

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