DCC fluoride policy more secure: mayor

The Dunedin City Council's policy on water fluoridation is more secure after a landmark decision by the High Court in Taranaki, Mayor Dave Cull says.

However, the council is still seeking more information about the risks and efficacy of its own approach to water fluoridation before considering the matter again during budget deliberations later this year, Mr Cull said.

He was commenting after Justice Rodney Harrison yesterday rejected arguments against the South Taranaki District Council's water fluoridation policy by New Health New Zealand.

His decision means local authorities have been given the green light to fluoridate drinking water. He concluded water fluoridation was not a medical treatment, and did not differ fundamentally from other public health interventions aimed at a wider population, such as chlorination of water or the addition of iodine to salt.

Anti-fluoride group New Health New Zealand Inc had sought a judicial review of the STDC's decision to add fluoride to drinking water in Waverley and Patea, arguing the council had no legal power to do so, but Justice Harrison disagreed.

Mr Cull, speaking to the Otago Daily Times, said the ruling would set a precedent for councils across New Zealand and meant the city council's own policy was now on more secure legal ground.

Opponents of fluoridation in Dunedin, who argued against the practice of ''mass medication'', would have to contend with the new ruling, he said.

Mr Cull said the council was still seeking advice from ''credible authorities'', including the Dental School, Southern District Health Board and Ministry of Health, about the risks and efficacy of water fluoridation.

The decision to seek the information was made by councillors last May, along with a decision to lower the target dose added to the city's drinking water from 0.85mg a litre to 0.75mg a litre.

Since then, the actual amount of fluoride being added had regularly fallen below Ministry guidelines, which recommended between 0.7mg a litre and 1mg a litre of water to protect against tooth decay.

Council staff also confirmed in January the information asked for by councillors had not been requested, amid confusion over whose responsibility that was.

Mr Cull said yesterday the request had taken longer than expected ''but it is now being done'', and he hoped to have responses in time for budget deliberations over the next few months.

University of Otago public health dentistry specialist Dr Jonathan Broadbent welcomed the High Court decision.

''This decision reaffirms the legal basis of the scientifically sound practice of community water fluoridation,'' he said.

''The people of New Zealand have the right to benefit from this effective public health practice. Community water fluoridation benefits everyone, especially those New Zealanders who are disadvantaged.''

- chris.morris@odt.co.nz

- additional reporting APNZ

completely wrong approach..

Scrap water fluoridation and use those funds to install tooth brushing programs in schools. When kids arrive to school, they spen a few minutes at a brushing station. They grab their toothbrush and toothpaste from their desk and brush. This way you ensure good habits and flouride is actually in contact with the tooth for several minutes. When kids go home for the day they do their second brushing. Those two brushes a day would be FAR more effective than no brushing and miniscule amount of fluoridated water. This is a no brainer!

Fluoride is for public health

Raymondo: The Judge’s decision was that water fluoridation was not a medical treatment, and did not differ fundamentally from other public health interventions. Your comment about whether it is moral to medicate the whole population isn’t about what is happening here - that is the point of the decision.
“The law cannot decide scientific processes or determinations as being truly efficacious or not”- well no, and that wasn’t what the case was about. As for the efficacy of community water fluoridation in reducing dental caries, the science has decided that it does work.


1 – No, see my 1st comment to Raymondo. The judge was not ruling on (and could not rule on) the efficacy of fluoridation.
2 - The  cost of treating the increase dental decay if fluoride is taken out is a lot more than the total cost of adding fluoride to the water- the Hamilton case had information on that. Dental care for under 18s is funded by the taxpayer, so Dunedin taxpayers are picking up the bill to pay for more fillings in the mouths of kids in non-fluoridated areas elsewhere in the country.
3 - Fluoride incorporated in the enamel of developing teeth makes those teeth more resistant to decay for the entire life of the tooth. There are many studies that show community water fluoridation is beneficial and effective.
4- You do have choice, you may buy bottled water or collect rain water. Children whose parents don’t care for their teeth properly do not have choice, they are powerless. You seem to be suggesting that your personal preference to not be exposed to a safe level of fluoride in the reticulated water supply is more important than protecting the dental health of the rest of the population.


Ramondo12, the real moral quetsion here is whether you have the right to deprive others of good oral health on the basis of your beliefs - which are counter to widespread scientific opinion. You can throw whatever bogus studies you like at the science but don't pretend you have the moral high ground.

Thinking outside the square

A few thoughts:

1. If the court concluded water fluoridation was not a medical treatment, does this not then also show that the argument that it is good for oral health is redundant?

2. What percentage of water distributed around Dunedin is actually consumed by us humans vs used for other purposes such as laundry, cleaning, showers, fed to pets or used in fish tanks?  Sounds like a waste of money from that point of view.

3.  Oral products such as toothpaste and mouthwash state that the product must remain in contact with the teeth for a period of time to be effecive.  If we are simply drinking flourinated water, how is this in any way effective for the intended benefit that it is being promoted to us for?

4. What happened to choice?  I can for example currently  choose to purchase toothpaste with or without fluoride, and my dentist can prescribe high fluoride products if required. Perhaps the councils should simply pay for these products for those who need/want it rather than forcing it on everyone.


Law or science?

Dr. Broadbent, the law cannot decide scientific processes or determinations as being truly efficacious or not. Science decides that, doesn't it?

It's a moral question

Mine has never been a legal but a moral question as to whether it is right to medicate the whole population. That, even the mayor admits, needs clarification as it is a questionable practice.

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