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A group fighting the fluoridation of New Zealand water supplies is taking its battle to the Court of Appeal.
New Health NZ Inc today filed a notice of appeal against a recent High Court decision upholding the lawfulness of water fluoridation by councils.
New Health NZ chairman David Sloan says the High Court was wrong to ignore fundamental human rights and its ruling must not be the final word on the issue.
"The judgment, as it stands, has very worrying implications for all New Zealanders. While fluoridation is the only form of mass medication at present, the High Court has effectively paved the way for further such practices," Mr Sloan said.
"A significant number of New Zealanders are already hugely concerned by this issue. Our decision to pursue this case reflects the importance of ensuring we all have the basic human right of choosing what goes into our bodies."
Earlier this month, a High Court judge ruled that local authorities had the legal right to fluoridate drinking water.
New Health New Zealand had sought a judicial review of the South Taranaki District Council's decision to add fluoride to Patea and Waverley's drinking water.
It alleged the council had no legal power to do so, and the decision breached the right to refuse medical assistance. But Justice Rodney Hansen rejected the group's claims.
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 water chlorination or adding iodine to salt.
Mr Sloan said the High Court ruling effectively enabled councils to use water supplies to deliver chemicals for therapeutic purposes. Chemicals for the purpose of birth control, mood disorder and vaccination could legally be added to the water supply at the whim of local authorities, he said.
The decision also permitted public health measures to override individual consent, provided they were delivered in a way that did not involve a medical practitioner.
"Based on the High Court ruling, if a person is prescribed 1mg of fluoride by a medical professional, they are receiving medical treatment. If they consume the same amount through the reticulated water system, they are not receiving medical treatment, just treated water. That distinction is ridiculous,'' Mr Sloan said.
New Health NZ's view, and the basis of its appeal, is that the fluoride being used in the water supply came within the definition of a "medicine'' under the Medicines Act and that it was "medical treatment'' under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.
While fluoride worked by brushing your teeth with fluoridated toothpaste, it did not work by swallowing it mixed in water, Mr Sloan said. There was no reason to effectively force people to drink fluoridated water.
Mr Sloan said the fluoride used in the water supply was a by-product of the superphosphate industry, which also contained arsenic, mercury and lead.
Bottle-fed babies and infants were particularly exposed to the risk of dental fluorosis, Mr Sloan said. He urged New Zealanders to check their teeth for white specks and mottling, which could be evidence they had suffered from fluoride poisoning as children.
Over-consumption of fluoride also potentially caused other health problems such as skeletal fluorosis, thyroid problems and lowered IQ, Mr Sloan said.
New Health had written to the Ministry of Health asking it to take urgent and immediate steps to regulate the fluoridating chemicals as a medicine. These steps included licensing the manufacturer and having the Minister of Health approve the substances as a "new medicine''.
"Fluoridation is a deeply flawed policy and practice and it is time to consign it to the dustbin of history. The evidence in support of fluoridation is weak.
"I am confident New Zealanders will soon come to accept the considerable body of reputable scientific evidence that establishes that water fluoridation is far more harmful than its purported benefits,'' Mr Sloan said.