Hamilton City Council votes against science and people

Daniel Adams at Stuff reports:

Health authorities say removing fluoride from Hamilton’s water will result in at least half a million dollars of extra dental treatment costs in the city every year.

In a major victory for the anti-fluoride lobby yesterday the city council voted by 7-1 to make Hamilton the second-largest unfluoridated city in the country.

I don’t support compulsory medication such as the requirement to have folic acid in bread. But I do support the right of the majority of a district to vote to have fluoridation in their water supply. That is not making it compulsory for people to drink flouridated water. People can do do get water from other sources, and can do so if they really don’t want fluoride in their water.

The science is absolutely clear that it is not harmful at the levels used (and in fact exists in water naturally anyway, but at lower levels).

But New Zealand Dental Association president Geoff Lingard said the “crazy” decision was one the city would rue: “Hamilton is going to regret this. It will increase poor oral health. . . It’s going to hit people in the pocket, or there’ll be more people unable to afford care. There isn’t a reputable health body in the world that doesn’t support water fluoridation as a safe and effective means of reducing tooth decay.”

Who needs science.

The decision, reached after less than an hours’ debate, followed a lengthy tribunal which heard the weight of public submissions, many from outside the city, argue for the removal of hydrofluorosilicic acid from the water supply.

It overturns the outcome of a binding referendum in 2006 which saw 38 per cent of eligible Hamilton voters, more than typically vote in council elections, overwhelmingly ask for fluoridation of the city’s water to be continued.

This is what rankles. The Councillors have voted to over-turn the decision of the people. It was a binding referendum. Any change to the result of a binding referendum, should be another referendum. Hamilton voters voted 70% in favour of keeping fluoridation, and they have been over-ruled by seven Councillors.

A Dental Association spokesperson has said:

“The World Health Organisation, the World Dental Federation, and the International Association for Dental Research have all stated that ‘universal access to fluoride for dental health is part of the basic human right to health’. In New Zealand, a central part of the universal right to fluoride is community water fluoridation. The New Zealand Ministry of Health Guidelines and Statements (2010) on fluoridation are clear: community water fluoridation is effective and safe, and community water supplies in New Zealand should be fluoridated at 0.7-1.0 parts per million (ppm) wherever feasible. The 7 Councillors who voted against this in Hamilton were either unaware of this, or disregarded it (as well as disregarding the opinion of their own citizens from a 2006 referendum).

“Those who are unwilling to drink fluoridated water should not be permitted to impose the risks, damage, and costs of failure to fluoridate on others. The ethics and science in support of fluoridation are clear, but antifluoridation arguments often present a highly misleading picture of water fluoridation.

“While the extent of tooth decay has reduced in recent decades, the disease remains more prevalent than other significant health conditions in New Zealand (such as asthma), particularly in unfluoridated areas and among disadvantaged New Zealanders. The recent New Zealand Oral Health Survey found much less tooth decay in fluoridated than non-fluoridated areas. There is generally 0.3 ppm background fluoride in New Zealand (although it varies), and adjusting that to Ministry of Health-recommended levels has a significant effect of reducing tooth decay among people of all ages.

It is nice to see a professional association advocate for the public good, over the interests of their members. More tooth decay would actually mean more income for dentists in dealing with it.

If the majority of residents in an area vote they don’t want their community water supply fluoridated, then that is their right. But to have seven Councillors remove it is wrong.

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