Lismore residents will soon get fluoride in their water after Lismore City Council rejected a last-minute bid by Greens Cr Vanessa Ekins not to go ahead with the planned building of dosing plants by Rous Water.
A packed gallery reacted strongly and began walking out as the majority of councillors declared their faith in NSW Health’s claims, made at a workshop last week, that there is no harm associated with fluoride.
A shoe was thrown into the centre of the council chambers as a sign of disrespect for the decision.
Cr Ekins failed by one vote to get her motion passed (Crs Dowell, Schiebl, Marks, Battista, Meineke and Ritchie against).
She said she wanted to prevent fluoridation on the grounds of ‘lack of evidence of community support, the inconclusive science and the compulsory nature of artificial water fluoridation’.
Cr Neil Marks’ subsequent motion to refer the decision-making process to the state government was passed with a majority of one (Crs Ekins, Bennett, Clough and Houston).
It is the third time that the council have voted on the issue this year.
Cr Ekins said that neither dosage nor concentration can be guaranteed.
She referred Council to a recent case in Jindabyne where the community were overdosed with fluoride for four days. She also noted there had been some 12 breakdowns in the last few years at the nearby Casino fluoridation plant.
Cr Gianpiero Battista asked Cr Ekins if she immunised her children, without making any reference to the fluoride debate.
Cr Ekins answered that she did not immunise her children as babies and referred to recent court cases in Italy and USA where ‘the pharmaceutical companies have paid compensation to families who have injected their children with MMR immunisation as babies and they have autism. It has been admitted publicly, with millions of dollars paid in compensation.’
Cr Marks said Rous Water tests for heavy chemicals. Cr Ekins replied that Rous may not be able to afford to do ongoing tests.
‘Rous currently only tests for 25 chemicals in the water supply out of a known 250 pesticides and herbicides that are used in our catchment, because of the cost involved,’ she said.
Cr Marks said his core belief was that ‘fluoride is an acceptable risk if a risk at all… this is our legacy which we will have to own; you don’t have to like it, it is what happens with democracy’.
Cr Smith declared that his children are ‘fully vaccinated’ and went into the fluoride debate ‘on the fence’.
He added that ‘vaccination is an accepted health measure that is undertaken around the vast majority of the world where fluoridation is not’.
‘I cannot support fluoridation as the questions still remain, when I can’t answer them I can’t give my support,’ Cr Smith said.
‘Where there were 15 countries in the world fluoridating there are now only eight, and about to go to seven,’ Cr Smith said, ‘and why aren’t there dental health problems in those countries that are not fluoridating?’
Cr Glenys Ritchie declared herself a pro-fluoride councillor and said that with all the information and research she is still ‘not convinced there is a discernible risk of harm if the dosage levels of a maximum level of 1ppm in the water supply are rigorously maintained’.
Cr Ritchie did not perceive the anti-fluoride movement as an ‘overwhelming lobby group’ in the Lismore local government area (LGA).
She is currently investigating ‘opt-out’ options with Rous Water for residents who do not want fluoridated water, such as water tank rebates and potentially bringing the fluoride concentration down below 1ppm.
Cr Greg Bennett declared that he is neither for or against fluoride but he does support pro-choice.
Cr Marks invited the mayor to speak on the issue.
Cr Dowell acknowledged that it was Human Rights Day, and ‘the human right for me is that children should have healthy teeth and the 15 per cent increase in dental health outweighs the [rights of] adults to say they don’t want fluoridation’.
Cr Ray Houston does not support fluoridation for two reasons.
‘I am pro-choice; this is Human Rights Day and it is a fundamental human right,’ said Cr Houston. ‘The other issue I have is this is a very scatter-gun approach to reach a very small group of people.’
Cr Battista said that children were not represented in the chamber.
‘Thank you for the doctors and specialists who every day are faced with instances of children with terrible teeth… these kids get picked on for their bad teeth,’ he said.
Cr Ekins added that she knows ‘children who have been picked on and teased because of fluorosis’.
Cr Clough acknowledged that all councillors are concerned about dental health in the community but challenged the solution of medicating the whole community.
‘There is no guarantee of the dosages,’ said Cr Clough. ‘A friend of mine did a survey of his son’s class and 48 per cent don’t even drink tap water.’
Cr Ekins said she had been approached by the Head of Toxicology at SCU who expressed concern over research coming out showing impacts of fluoride on invertebrates and other living things in our environment.
‘We are not testing for this, we are only worried about our teeth; it does not make sense to me at all,’ said Cr Ekins, ‘I am concerned fluoride will be the DDT of the future.’
She wrapped up the debate by claiming that ‘sugar is the real enemy… we also have epidemics of diabetes and obesity’.
Mayor Dowell confirmed this morning that there are currently no plans to extend fluoridation to Nimbin.