Date: 14 August 2013
HCC Cautioned Care Needed with Fluoride Information
Health agencies are cautioning Hamilton City Council to take care with health information about fluoride to ensure the public gets the full facts.
Waikato District Health Board medical officer of Health Dr Anita Bell and Ministry of Health chief dental officer Robyn Haisman-Welsh have written to council chief executive Barry Harris.
The letters note two statements in an information sheet entitled ‘Fluoride’ which was sent out by HCC to ratepayers did not give a full picture.
The council information may give a misleading impression that the Ministry regarded toothbrushing with fluoride toothpaste as more effective than fluoridation.
In fact, the Ministry advises that application by toothpaste provides an additional benefit above that of fluoridated water. It is also important that children use regular strength fluoride toothpaste, not low strength, as the council's leaflet implies.
Dr Bell’s letter says that care needs to be taken with advice about use of fluoride toothpaste in children – particularly that a pea sized amount should be used only in children older than six. In children younger than six only a smear of toothpaste should be used on a brush.
Dr Bell and her colleague Dr Felicity Dumble are part of a small team of health professionals in the Waikato working to ensure the public are receiving accurate and evidence-based information about community water fluoridation ahead of the council referendum.
Fluoride was taken out of Hamilton’s water supply in June after 66 years of having a fluoridated water supply.
“Fluoride is a common and naturally occurring mineral - it is found in air, soil, plants, water and lots of foods,” said Dr Bell.
“It protects teeth, it's safe, it's cost effective, and it's for our children, families and whanau.
“Hamilton residents have been benefiting from drinking fluoridated water for generations -- until June 2013. The only health effect has been less tooth decay.”
Waikato DHB chief executive Craig Climo had this to say on the matter:
“My concern is they’ve sent these leaflets out to all of Hamilton, didn’t seek to check the accuracy of that information, and certainly we the DHB don’t like Hamilton City Council purporting to represent us or what we’ve said.
“And just the way in which these things have been expressed in the leaflet, really shows quite a misunderstanding.”
He said the advice in the leaflet, although produced by well meaning but ill informed people, could actually have been harmful to public health.
“We seem to have been marginalised. From my point of view I feel as though the district health board has been treated as a spectator in all of this and I don’t think that’s appropriate.”
To read the full versions of Dr Bell’s and Mrs Haisman-Welsh’s letters, visit www.waikatodhb.health.nz/fluoride