Ballina mayor David Wright voted against his personal opinion at yesterday’s council meeting to reconfirm fluoridation of the shire’s water supply will go ahead as planned.
A motion by Cr Keith Williams to oppose fluoridation was defeated 8-2, with only Cr Williams and Greens Cr Jeff Johnson supporting it.
The motion followed a similar one passed at Lismore City Council’s meeting this month and follows an announcement by health minister Jillian Skinner that she will consider a range of measures to ensure all public water supplies in NSW are fluoridated.
‘This is the first time I have voted about fluoride,’ mayor Wright said.
‘Council had already made a decision and invested a great deal of money in supporting the decision and I don’t think my personal opinion, at this time, should override the decision that had already been made. This is why I stuck with the vote against the motion.’
Cr Wright said that it would have been very easy to make it 7–3.
‘I thought I should put my position out on the line and that’s what I did.’
During public access Ilga Sleja, the head the Ballina Fluoridation Free Network, spoke against what she said was a ‘flippant disregard of civil rights’.
She presented to Council a list of 134 municipalities who have, since 2010, ceased to add fluoride to their water. Apart from what she sees as the health issues caused by fluoride, Ms Sleja feels that public consultation was insufficient.
‘I do believe that choice, above all else, is being removed from the community.’
Cr Williams spoke at length in support of the motion.
‘I am not going to talk about the “evils” of fluoride, but Council’s responsibility to provide clean, safe water,’ he said in his opening comments.
‘We have to ensure that our water complies with the Australian Drinking Water Standards and there is no requirement to add fluoride to reach those standards.’
Cr Williams went on to say that there would be problems if at some time if the future, fluoride proved harmful in the long term. ‘How we define harm is a point in time,’ he said.
‘This point in time says there is no harm. There is no such thing as a medication that has no side effects. There are always other things to consider.’
Cr Williams said that he had listened to the information presented by various experts at a meeting on Tuesday evening and he granted that they provided convincing opinions but that no-one was infallible. He also presented comments from his own extensive research against the use of fluoride, but he said that consent was very much the issue.
‘There is undoubtedly a risk that if fluoride is added to the water, something will happen. We don’t know what. My concern is that we will end up with children with bright smiles and dull eyes.’
Many of the other councillors spoke in favour of the fluoridation of local water, citing evidence from communities where the general dental health had improved since fluoridation and the poor quality of the teeth of local children. Cr Susan Meehan spoke of a six-year-old who needed the removal of an entire set of baby teeth and a nine-year-old whose breath was putrid from decay.
Though the mayor did vote against the motion, he said that personally he thought a choice should be available for the community.
‘Look, I think fluoride is good for your teeth, but a lot of the debate said that children here have bad teeth. My children were brought up here and they have got fantastic teeth. I think that the addition of anything to the water is out of the norm. That’s personal. Be that as it may, I think I had to show leadership and go against the motion.’
Mayor Wright says he agreed with Cr Williams when it comes to the community giving consent about the content of the water. ‘I think for the Department of Health it is the cheap option and an easy option. Years and years ago I asked if they could put in water filter systems for people as an alternative water supply and they said no. I believe that’s against people’s rights.’