Intense debate before Lismore councillors' pro-fluoride vote
AFTER months of debate, presentations from health experts and community members, Lismore Council has re-affirmed its commitment to fluoridating the town's water supply.
It has been a divisive issue for the council and a packed public gallery cheered every time somebody spoke against the mass medication of the water supply or suggested other ways to address the underlying oral health issues.
At the conclusion of the vote, tensions spilled over and one anti-fluoride protestor, Andy Holm, threw a shoe at the councillors, saying it was a mark of disrespect.
Others left the chamber shouting "shame" and saying the council had no right to force fluoride on them.
Those arguing against fluoride (Crs Ekins, Bennett, Smith, Clough and Houston) raised issues of freedom of choice and adhering to the precautionary principal.
"The burden of proof that it's not harmful falls on those taking the action... it's our responsibility where this is plausible risk," Cr Ekins said.
She also said the target group, children under the age of five, were only six percent of the population and that a more targeted approach to reach them was a more appropriate response.
"We're potentially poisoning the whole population to reach a target group of six per cent."
She said she had "real concerns that fluoride will be the DDT of the future."
Those in favour of fluoride (Cr Dowell, Scheibel, Marks, Battista, Ritchie and Meineke) argued that it was a proven way to address tooth decay, particularly in children and those in lower socio-economic groups.
"The human right for children to have healthy teeth outweighs the right of an adult to say 'I don't want it'," Mayor Dowell said.
Good morning all. I know some of you strongly disagree with my pro fluoride vote last night. Please feel free to unfriend me.
- Lismore Mayor Jenny Dowell on her Facebook page yesterday morning
Cr Glenys Ritchie said a combination of fluoridated water with appropriate education and lifestyle choices were the best way to address the issue.
" I have listened carefully for the last three months to information presented to me and I am not convinced there is health concern if the dose is kept to one parts per million," she said.
A second motion put forward by Cr Neil Marks that the council now seek a directive to fluoridate from the Director General of NSW Health was also successful six votes to five.
If a directive is issued, the council would not be able to change its position.
Cr Marks said the council was not passing the buck, but giving Rous Water some certainty before they begin the process of building the dosing plants.
"We've had the debate, we've had the education, now it's time to move on... It's our decision, we own it and it will be our legacy one way or another," he said.