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June 30, 2022

Byron fluoride debate inflames passions

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Story & photos Eve Jeffery

More than 250 people attended an event in Byron Bay last night, chaired by journalist and broadcaster Mick O’Regan, to hear a debate on the very contentious issue of water fluoridation.

The first of the ‘Critical Conversations’, a series of talks on topics chosen for their relevance and importance, hosted by the Community Centre, tackled the issue of the introduction of water fluoridation to the Byron Shire water supply. O’Regan said that this particular issue was ‘pushing the series off at the deep end’.

‘I think everyone in the room realises that the issue of water fluoridation is one that arouses passions and fervently held opinions,’ he said.

‘It’s also a subject about which many people, myself included, are genuinely seeking more information. Tonight we have an opportunity for that information to be presented, considered and discussed. This is not a town hall meeting, we are not taking a vote, we are not drafting a resolution. This is an opportunity for information. To be blunt, it’s an opportunity to listen.’

Byron Shire councillors will meet in a closed session next week to discuss the issue. Council is currently opposed to the idea of fluoridation.

‘Oral health crisis’

The event featured guest speakers from both sides of the debate. The supporters of fluoridation: Dr Brendan White, vice-president of the Australian Dental Association; Professor Alison Jones, a clinical toxicologist; Dr Kerry Chant, chief health officer for NSW; and epidemiologist Professor Wayne Smith.

First to speak was Dr Brendan White, who said he was motivated to get involved with supporting fluoridation after arriving in Byron Bay 18 years ago, after having lived in Adelaide, which has water fluoridation, and noticing how many children he was having to treat for serious dental health issues.

‘In Adelaide I would expect to find one diseased tooth in a class of preschoolers,’ he said. ‘When I was involved with my children’s preschools here, I found at least ten diseased teeth in these classes. Nine years ago I initiated the process to seek fluoridation for our community.

‘We do have an oral health crisis in our area. The North Coast Area Health Service says the decay experienced in five- to six-year-olds is the worst in New South Wales.’

The state’s chief medical officer, Dr Kerry Chant, spoke about legal and technical aspects of water fluoridation, about funding and about the current coverage in the state. She also spoke about the safety and effectiveness of fluoridation.

‘The current legal mechanism in New South Wales is basically there are two routes by which a local council or authority or water utility can seek to be fluoridated. Firstly they may make a decision in the local council and seek approval from the director-general of health for approval to fluoridate or they may defer to and seek advice and a direction from the director-general of health.

‘Water fluoridation in NSW was first introduced in Yass in 1956,’ she said of the state coverage. Sydney water was fluoridated in 1968. Now, approximately 96 per cent of NSW receives fluoridated water.’

Dr Chant outlined the reasons for the decline in decay as being an exposure to fluoride.

‘Water fluoridation accounts for 70 per cent of the reduction. Twenty-six per cent is attributed to the use of fluoride toothpaste and two per cent to fluoride tablets.’

As time ran out in in the pro-team’s half hour limit, Prof Alison Jones kept her speech brief, saying she would have more information to impart during the question period.

Speaking against fluoride were: former Lismore mayor and former chair of Rous Water Dr Ros Irwin; Merilyn Haines, retired medical laboratory scientist and president of Queenslanders for Safe Water; dentist Dr Robert Gammal, a past president of the Australian Society of Oral Medicine and Toxicology; Brunswick Heads dentist, Dr Marcus O’Meara; and former Byron Shire councillor Richard Staples, who was also formerly a member of Rous Water.

Local dentist opposes fluoride

Conscious of the half-hour limit, speakers orated in sharp rapid-fire succession to impart as much information as possible.

Local dentist Dr Marcus O’Meara said that he came from a long line of dentists.

‘I am a fifth-generation dentist,’ he said. ‘My father was a dentist in Ireland pre and post water fluoridation and he did notice a difference in the dental caries in kids’ teeth at that time. Pre-fluoridation it was common to come for a routine check-up and get a couple of fillings. Post-fluoridation he noticed more and more kids coming through and not needing fillings and this was a trend worldwide at that time in the countries that fluoridated.’

Dr O’Meara said in the past most toothpastes didn’t contain fluoride but that currently 95 per cent of  toothpaste sold has fluoride in it.

‘Improvement in caries prevention and education in oral hygiene has meant that the benefits of water fluoridation have been well and truly diluted. The facts are there for anyone to see. The glory days of water fluoridation in the 50s and 60s and 70s, when teeth were bad and music was good, are over. Nowadays we are better putting our resources into making dentists available.’

Merilyn Hayes opened her statement with a list of chemicals used in water fluoridation.

‘There is sodium fluoride, sodium silicofluoride and hydrofluorosilicic acid,’ she said. ‘They are waste products of the aluminium and phosphate fertiliser industry.’

She said that two of the chemicals, sodium fluoride and sodium silicofluoride, are sourced from China.

‘China does not fluoridate.’

Dr Ros Irwin says that the proponents of water fluoridation are suggesting that though they are dealing with facts, opponents  are dealing with opinions. She quoted a press release where the chair of the Northern Rivers General Practitioners stated: ‘The facts are that fluoride is the best way of protecting the community’s oral health.’

‘It seems to me like an upfront denial of the evidence-based science that actually contests this so-called fact,’ said Dr Irwin.

Richard Staples said that some people might think that this is an issue that councillors instigate.

‘Rous Water is a water authority. It’s not the councils who administer the fluoridation; it’s the water authority.’

Dr Robert Gammel began by giving the audience his web address – www.robertgammal.com.

‘I have written a submission to government that has 390 scientific published, peer-reviewed references,’ he said. ‘The only thing I heard from the proponents of fluoride is totally anecdotal. There is not one published scientific paper presented.’

He then rushed through much scientific evidence to refute the supporters’ arguments. He next went through a long list of health problems that he said were caused by fluoride, then concluded with the plea that people go to his site and read the paper.

The evening concluded with a round of questions, none of which appeared to show any support for the addition of fluoride to the shire’s water.

Council to consider

Council will consider the information from experts next Wednesday.

Echonetdaily spoke to mayor Simon Richardson before the forum and asked why it was that Council was not hosting the event. Cr Richardson said that Council had already made a choice against the introduction of fluoride to the shire’s water and if that view changed there would be more community consultation.

‘Council’s position is clear,’ he said. ‘We don’t support water fluoridation, so until someone says otherwise, that’s our position.’

Cr Richardson says that councillors would ‘workshop’ the issue.

‘I guess councillors themselves, because it is topical around the region, want to have a session where experts on every side can give their advice freely without concerns of being abused from the back row. We want a workshop setting where we can ask questions. We were very open to supporting a community event.’

~ Photos Eve Jeffery

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  1. If people want to use fluoride they should have the choice to go to the dentist and get a fluoride treatment. Alternatively they could purchase a pharmaceutical grade fluoride and give themselves and their families the recommended dose. The fluoride that is being put into water in Australia is a toxic waste product, it is not a pharmaceutical grade product. The fluoride that our government intend to dose us with is highly corrosive and must be carried in rubber lined tankers. The adverse effects of this toxic chemical on babies less than 6 months old are now being given some credit. In the US mothers who give milk formula are being told to use purified not fluoride water. Europeans don’t want and won’t have it. We do not need to follow yet another big mistake that big business is pushing us toward.

    Once the fluoride is put in our water we have no choice but to be guinea pigs to see if we and our children have the kidney and other body function to deal with this toxic waste product. We could buy untreated water but what would we use for bathing. I guess we then put in a tanks. Would we still get a water rate notice and bills?

  2. Did you get your answers Mick? Of course the “no agenda, no bias” ABC has already got a pro-flouride policy. The pro-flouride kept the story nice and simple for us country folk but when the anti-flouride presentation totally discredited their ‘argument’ the debate got plain embarrassing. I even started to feel sorry for them until I remembered what they are trying to do. Three memorable pro-flouride quotes – “our science is good but yours isn’t”, “flouride is a supplement and not mass-medication” and ‘”it comes from a Chinese mine but we test it for safety”.

  3. I see this issue of fluoride in our water supply, as being similar to the problem of holiday house letting in the Byron Shire. Everybody has a view on the subject and council knows that whatever decision it makes it will be unpopular with one side.
    I believe that good or bad, a decision should be made ASAP otherwise we’ll still be talking about these issues in years to come. Why not have a trial period, say 12 months and review the issues afterwards.

    • Ray
      Sinclair….a 12 month trial run wouldnt even giver us a clear understanding of the negative health impact ! ..thyroid problems, gland probs, bone cancer etc, etc , will take a longer time to detect, and have a good look at the NRC Feb. 2013 survey on Fluoridated rep. of Ireland and non-fluoridated northern Ireland…after reading that study you wouldn’t even suggest a trial run…lets do a one year trial run on heroin use…well we don’t have to, its all out there…decline in bad oral health has been identical in fluoridated or non fluoridated countries ! website W.H. O. !

  4. When I grew up we took fluoride tablets. Why cant people take responsibility for themselves?. If they think its good take the tablets. If they think its harmful don’t take the tablets.

    It all seems to be heading in the same direction where the choice is taken out of the hands of the individual.

  5. We can perhaps accept that fluoride is beneficial for kids, however once it is in tap water everyone is drinking it and adults don’t need it.
    Parents can get their own treatments from their dentist for their kids.
    If fluoride is added to our water supply it will be a boon to the bottled water industry (read Coca Cola.P/L)
    Add increased pollution from plastic bottles that one cannot refund.
    Our Council must stay strong and not buckle under to pharmaceutical companies and big business and keep our water pure.
    Or, as Peta says, buy a tank

  6. No, fluoride is hazardous for kids. Children are more vulnerable to fluoride’s neurotoxicity than adults, and dental fluorosis is very common in children who have been forced-fluoridated. The fluoride concentration of breast milk is extremely low at around 0.004 ppm, thanks to a biological mechanism which keeps it out, almost certainly for the protection of babies. The evidence of any benefit is very weak, and based on poor quality research.

  7. The forced-fluoridation experiment is medical malpractice on an industrial scale. Fluoridation chemicals are the only medications which are delivered via public water supplies, and appear to be the only such medications in history. Medicating public water supplies with any chemical violates the ethical principle of informed consent, is entirely indiscriminate, results in the random dosing of residents since the fluoride dose received from water and other sources is uncontrolled, and is environmentally irresponsible because the vast majority of tap water is not ingested, so the environmental load is vastly greater than it needs to be. Medicating public water supplies means that politicians are subjecting everyone to treatment which no doctor can legally impose on anyone, and is surely the most ham-fisted method of drug delivery ever devised.

    Medicating public water supplies with fluoridation chemicals is especially egregious, because fluoride is a cumulative toxin with a half life in the body of around 20 years, there was no good quality scientific research which indicated that forced-fluoridation was anything but dangerous and useless in the 1940s and there still isn’t any, the best quality scientific research which has been conducted indicates that forced-fluoridation is in fact both dangerous and useless, the fluoridation chemicals which are used are industrial grade rather than pharmaceutical grade, and fluoride is not biodegradable. The forced-fluoridation experiment is immoral, illegal, irrational, archaic, pseudoscientific, and not worth the risk.

    The following are some good sources of information: the Fluoride Action Network website, Declan Waugh’s work, the books The Case Against Fluoride and The Fluoride Deception, the 2006 US National Research Council report Fluoride in Drinking Water: A Scientific Review of EPA’s Standards, and the peer-reviewed journal Fluoride.

  8. I don’t want fluoride in my water. My family has thyroid problems. Google thyroid and fluoride and ask yourself how you would feel if you can’t afford to buy in water. Or if you don’t like the waste that goes with bottled water. Don’t listen to people who say the fluoride can be filtered out. They are wrong, at least when it comes to people on pensions who can’t afford the huge expense of the very advanced filters that can take out some fluoride.

    In the Northern Rivers the decay problem isn’t with every child, it’s caused by the minority of parents who let their children drink soft drink and don’t teach them to brush. Fluoridating the water isn’t going to do much for those children but it will hurt mine.

    When I was in the north west of the state there used to be a free school dental service that called and saw every child every two years and they all had fluoride applied directly to their teeth. That seemed a rather good way of doing things, making sure all children were protected. Why aren’t they looking at something like that?

  9. And i just wanna smoke some Herb,(organically grown of course) and I am criminalised for my choices. The fluoride debate is such a pathetic diversion, 98 % of the fluoride goes down the drain and into our rivers. And it aint even the pure form of rock fluoride which is a natural substance(as opposed to a waste product of the fertiliser industry) which is added to our drinking water.

    Well done Byron Community, I look forward to the Landline program which will show more of the truth through the body language of those experts who are ‘propoisoning’ the population.

    Freedom of choice,

  10. Thank you Bay FM for broadcasting it live, I was at home and had a fantastic time hearing and learning about it. What a fantastic example of democracy the forum was.

  11. If governments and councils stubbornly persist with fluoridation against reasonable concerns based upon the hundreds of scientific studies showing negative effects from fluoride ingestion, the only way to deal with this problem may be for people, en masse, to refuse to pay for their poisoned water. After all, if you buy a food and discover it’s contaminated, you will be refunded. If harm results from that food, you are entitled to sue for damages.

  12. Dr. Chant should be ashamed of himself. He should know as well as any educated person that drinking fluoridated water does nothing for the teeth. My family lived in Qld. and never had fluoride and have very good teeth. I have cousins in Sydney and t2 of them have false teeth and the others have spent hundreds of dollars on their teeth. It has nothing to do with drinking fluoridated water, it is all to do with good oral health, good diet and not too many sweets. I live in Gladstone and we have had fluoridated water since 2009 and I get very angry because I have suffered skin problems since then and now I have to sponge bath. I only found out recently what the cause was. Not too many Doctors will tell you what the problem could be because then they won’t make any money. There is a woman in Gladstone who was very sick ever since fluoride was introduced in our water and it only took 2 days of her not drinking the water that she was better. She would have died as she had severe stomach problems and could not even go out. Why are there so many children in NSW with Dental fluorosis? Perhaps Dr Chant could answer that. I would love to know. Why are there so many Dental Implant Clinics advertising heavily on radio in Sydney? From my knowledge, we never had any in Queensland but it won’t be long now, they will be advertising here as well. We have a 4 year old boy born in Gladstone who has dental fluorosis. I believe that if someone is suffering because of the actions of another, they can take legal action against them. Fluoride will be in the same boat as Asbestos in the very near future. Why would anyone want to even put one drop of a toxic chemical waste in their glass of water?

  13. Do you know that fluoride is the toxic by-product of Alumimium. So toxic that they do not know what to do with it. So why not give it to the ignorant sheeple instead. It will keep them docile and obedient. Why not look up the NAZI’s and fluoride. Please awaken yourself to the real purpose of fluoridating the water. DO YOUR HOMEWORK before making such unwise comments.


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