Professionals praise fluoride

Joining forces to advocate fluoridation of the local water supply are (l-r) Lismore GP Andrew Binns, paediatrician Dr Chris Ingall, authordontist Paul Standish, president of the Australian Dental Association Far North Coast Branch Brendan White, Dr Sue Page from the Department of Rural Health and Lismore dentists Dr Ken House ands Dr Emma Coulter.

A group of local doctors and dentists have joined forces to hit back at anti-fluoride campaigners, saying their arguments are based on misinformation and they are playing on peoples fears.

The group wanted to reassure the community that despite negative media attention, fluoridation was the safest, most effective and most equitable way to reduce tooth decay in the community, particularly amongst children, who are the most vulnerable.

Responding to claims made by former Rous Water chairman Habib Habib that no documented trial had ever been conducted to demonstrate fluoride was safe for human consumption, the group said the best study was simply life itself.

Fluoride has been in water supplies in NSW for 50 years and no negative effects have been observed, said Dr Brendan White, a Lismore dentist and president of the Australian Dental Associations Far North Coast Branch. The only side effect thats ever been reported is fluorosis, a mild white speckling of the teeth, which is not commonly visible to anyone other than your dentist and cant continue to occur after the teeth are fully formed at about the age of eight.

Asked about the issue of mass medication and the philosophical belief that people should have the right to choose whether they ingest fluoride, Dr White said sometimes, as in the case of smoking bans and random breath testing, you had to make a personal sacrifice for the greater good.

There is a small cost in free choice for a large benefit to the community, and the people who get that benefit are the young, the disadvantaged and the isolated those with the least voice, said Dr White. Water is chlorinated and treated for all sorts of diseases, and all wed be doing is adjusting naturally occurring levels of fluoride so it has a health benefit. If we could do a similar thing to the water to stop diabetes, and it was a naturally occurring substance and was supported by the majority of the population as water fluoridation is, wed support that too.

However, it appears not all doctors are as convinced as Dr White. Ballina GP Dr Meng Yeo said he believed the jury was still out on whether water fluoridation is safe. He said there needed to be greater public consultation and a decision should not be rushed through.

This should be an open and transparent process so people can see both sides of the issue you have to respect your community and their intelligence, and allow them to make an informed decision once they have all the facts, Dr Yeo said. If any doubt exists about the safety of water fluoridation we really should not be considering implementing this as a mass strategy. It would not be prudent to implement this strategy at this time of uncertainty and when so much controversy exists.

Around 150 people attended a public anti-fluoride meeting at the Lismore Workers Club last Thursday, while a meeting in Ballina last night (Wednesday) attracted about 100.

On Saturday Lismore councillor Vanessa Ekins gathered 400 signatures in two hours from people opposed to fluoridation, which she will present at the next Council meeting on Tuesday, July 11.

At this meeting councillors will debate a motion put up by Crs Ros Irwin, Vanessa Ekins and John Chant which calls for a referendum, while Ballina Council will debate a rescission motion when they meet on July 27.

The Freedom from Fluoride Association Lismore Branch has now planned another public anti-fluoride meeting for next Thursday, July 13, at the Lismore Workers Club. It starts at 6.30pm.

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