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

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