As Ballina Council prepares to vote today on whether to reject fluoridation of its water supply, the state’s health minister has been called on by a local MP to intervene.
Lennox Head-based Liberal MLC Catherine Cusack said, ‘it is time for NSW Health to get off the sidelines, to put its own skin in the game, and to assume control of fluoridation, as recommended in 2006’.
‘It is not just the right and decent thing to do – the message we send, by leaving Rous [Water] and Ballina in the lurch, is a huge setback and a disincentive to any other council considering fluoridation,’ Ms Cusack told The Sydney Morning Herald yesterday.
This week Ms Skinner called in the big guns, summoning the state’s chief medical officer, Kerry Chant, to Ballina to persuade councillors to vote to support fluoridation.
Ninety-six per cent of NSW is now supplied with fluoridated water and the north coast has some of the worst dental health outcomes in the state. Dr Chant said research showed that water fluoridation led to a decline in tooth decay significantly greater than simply using fluoridated toothpaste.
But Ballina Cr Keith Williams, who proposed the bill, said while he appreciated fluoride does have a role to play in preventing dental decay, it is not appropriate to force it onto unwilling residents. About a third of local residents are opposed to fluoride, he said.
‘I don’t dispute the scientific evidence of dentistry that it prevents cavities, but I don’t believe it is appropriate to add a medication to the water supply without everybody’s consent,’ he told the SMH.
The vote will be close, according to another fluoridation opponent, Greens Cr Jeff Johnson, who said the decision to go ahead several years ago was only passed by one vote.
Cr Johnson told ABC radio he knew of ‘at least three other councillors who are against fluoridating the water supply’.
‘Clearly there are alternatives to doing this and I think we should be exploring those alternatives rather than going down this route,’ he said.
Rous Water, which supplies the region, has had plans to build dosing plants for a number of years but these had been on hold during a series of court challenges by anti-fluoridation campaigner Al Oshlack.
Mr Oshlack finally lost his battle this year but Lismore voted to end plans to fluoridate its water this month. Byron Council has opposed the move since 2007.