To add or not to add?

Last year, as Ashley Bloomfield resigned as New Zealand’s Health Director, his parting shot was to advise all Area Health Boards to support adding Fluoride to our towns and cities throughout NZ. This is to be done over a 3month -3 year time frame.

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Tauranga city had fluoridated water from 1963 – 1986 until it was lobbied that residents no longer wanted or needed this. The reasons have not changed.

The argument for adding fluoride to our water stems from our general poor oral health statistics, particularly in children under 5 years, with appalling numbers having all their baby teeth removed due to tooth decay. So largely, the dental association are in favour of this being added back into our water supply.

But does ingesting fluoride through water actually make a difference to dental health? It’s pretty well accepted that topically using a fluoride toothpaste can help with tooth decay, brushing twice per day and a healthy low-sugar diet is all great for dental health.

But the debate rages on. Many European countries have banned adding fluoride to their water, due to the belief it is a neuro-toxin and could have links to dementia and interfere with children’s brain development. So, the very group purported to want to help, could in fact be harmed on another level.

Water actually contains fluoride as a natural mineral, however, what they add to the water on a large scale is far from natural. “The industrial chemicals used to fluoridate water may present unique health risks not found with naturally-occurring fluoride complexes. The chemicals – fluorosilicic acid, sodium silicofluoride, and sodium fluoride – used to fluoridate drinking water are industrial waste products from the phosphate fertilizer industry. Of these chemicals, hydrofluorosilicic acid (HFSA) is the most widely used. HFSA is a corrosive acid which has been linked to higher blood lead levels in children. A recent study from the University of North Carolina found that HFSA can – in combination with chlorinated compounds – leach lead from brass joints in water pipes, while a recent study from the University of Maryland suggests that the effect of fluoridation chemicals on blood lead levels may be greatest in houses built prior to 1946. Lead is a neurotoxin that can cause learning disabilities and behavioral problems in children.” fluoridefree.org.nz

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Other health issues could include: cancer, impairing bone strength, kidneys, thyroid, receding gums, depressing the heart, and fluorosis (white spots on teeth).

Some will rubbish these claims. But should we take the risk with our health? I encourage you to do your own research. A good place to start is fluoridefree.org.nz From there you will learn the history of fluoridation in NZ and its worth looking into the research analysis on this topic.

How much is it going to cost our city and can we afford it? A new plant will have to be built and maintained all at the ratepayers expense, it’s a question worth asking.

One of the things I’d like to see is some thorough statistics that compares the dental health of under 5yr olds of a fluoridated city such as Hamilton to the similar population group in Tauranga. Do we mass medicate everyone for the sake of a small problematic population in the ‘hope’ that it improves dental health?

Or do we take a considerable chunk of the allocated funds, resource and educate the at risk families to improve their children’s’ health? To me that’s preferable and a focussed project like this is very measurable.

Finally, Fluoride is hard to filter out of the water and only economically viable for our drinking water vs whole house filtration. Should we lose our democratic choice in this battle, I can offer 3 fluoride removal systems to households and keep them at affordable prices.

But in the interim, I encourage you to do your own research and should you feel strongly about this, begin asking questions of our city council and local MP’s. Hopefully soon we will have an elected council back and our collective voices can be heard.

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