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Council to make health authorities responsible for fluoride

Council gains support to make health authorities responsible for fluoride

5 March, 2013

Local Authorities in the Wellington region have resolved to take a remit to the Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) national conference proposing to make health authorities, rather than local councils, responsible for deciding whether fluoride is put into local water supplies.

Kāpiti District Council sent the remit to the group of councils; known as the Zone 4 group, which supported the need for a debate and resolved today to take the Kāpiti remit to the (LGNZ) Conference in July. The remit reads:

That Local Government New Zealand urge the Government to amend the appropriate legislation so that the addition of fluoride to drinking water supplies is not a decision that is left to the Local Authority.

Kāpiti Coast District Council is about to consult with its community about whether to continue adding fluoride to the water supplies of Paraparaumu, Raumati and Waikanae, as part of Annual Plan deliberations. Council resolved late last year to seek support from LGNZ to shift the decision making to national health authorities.

Mayor Ross Church says, as long as councils are involved, decision-making falls to lay people without scientific knowledge, who are open to being influenced by strong lobby groups.

“We believe the appropriate government agency should ultimately be responsible for any decision associated with the use of fluoride in the public water supply. It’s hard to see any local government decision-making is needed in what is clearly a national health issue.

“As long as councils are left to deal with fluoride, they will continually come under pressure to review the policy and potentially have to spend ratepayers’ money fighting judicial reviews and legal responses to any decision they make.”

Why Council has raised the issue (supporting text from remit)
Kāpiti Coast District Council is responsible for providing treated drinking water to its community and does this via several water treatment plants located across the district. The Council undertakes this activity in compliance with the Health Act 1956 and associated New Zealand Drinking Water Standards. This involves the addition of fluoride to the water supplied to the Waikanae, Paraparaumu and Raumati communities.

Council was first approached in 2010 by the Fluoride Action Network who oppose the addition of fluoride to any drinking water supplies. There then followed a lengthy debate where both advocates for and against the use of fluoride presented information to Council. This included presentations from medical practitioners, scientists, community health professionals, community members and representatives from the MoH, all presenting views on the use of fluoride. Ultimately, the Council made a decision to reduce the amount of fluoride used but to continue with its use.

Again, in 2013, Council received a number of submissions from the Fluoride Action Network to cease the use of fluoride and again the debate for and against the use of fluoride is to be heard as part of this year’s Annual Plan process. It is expected that Council will again hear evidence from numerous experts on the pros and cons of fluoride.

There is a significant amount of both positive and negative literature available and numerous experts with medical credentials willing to present the case in opposition and in support of the addition of fluoride to drinking water supplies. This issue is not specific to the Kāpiti Coast District Council and there are currently several other Local Authorities involved in the debate on the continued use of fluoride in drinking water supplies. It is also an issue that has been continually raised by anti-fluoride proponents nationally for several years. There are numerous Councils who have incurred costs and spent time on considering an issue that by its own admission, the MoH considers to be an issue of national importance.

This Council has incurred costs and expended a significant amount of staff time on the issue of fluoride over the last four years and it is an issue that continues to be debated across the country. The MoH supports the addition of fluoride to drinking water supplies and yet there is no mandatory requirement within the drinking water standards to require its use. This then leaves the decision on what is supported by the MoH as a National Public Health issue to be made by elected officials, who are reliant on conflicting expert advice.

Background
Water fluoridation is a public health intervention undertaken by water suppliers at their discretion. There is no regulation that requires the addition of fluoride to a water supply. The Ministry of Health (MoH) public information on water fluoridation states that: “Water fluoridation is a proven public health measure to reduce dental caries.”

The MoH Drinking Water Standards 2005 (Revised 2008) recommends that for oral health reasons, the fluoride content for drinking-water in New Zealand should be in the range of 0.7 to 1.0 mg/L. This figure was based on advice from the World Health Organisation.

The amended Health Act 1956 No 65 (as at 26 June 2009), Section 69O, 3C states that: Standards issued or adopted (under that section) “must not include any requirement that fluoride be added to drinking water.” This clause then leaves the decision on the use of fluoride up to each individual water supplier.

ENDS

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