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ADA NSW outlines facts on fluoride in response to misinformation campaign in Port Macquarie-Hastings

27 July 2021 
The Mid-North Coast News 

A new television ad will be beamed into lounge rooms across the Mid-North Coast three weeks out from a controversial council opinion poll regarding fluoridation in its drinking water.

Fluoride Free Australia (FFA) has developed a 15-second ad that will promote the removal of “toxic” fluoride from the Port Macquarie-Hastings water supply, a chemical which has been running from household taps and hoses since 2012.

About 90 per cent of homes across the LGA receive fluoridated water with the exception of Telegraph Point, Comboyne and Long Flat residents who do not. It is, according to NSW Health, an adequate prevention of tooth decay in people of all ages – a claim supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and Australian Dental Association (ADA).

But while these advocates support the case for fluoride-flowing water, there are others who do not – including FFA and Port Macquarie-Hastings Council deputy mayor Lisa Intemann.

Earlier this year, FFA provided Port Macquarie-Hastings Council with a one-page document detailing its ‘Yes’ case to remove fluoride from its water source. The case was provided in response to the council’s endorsement for a community poll on whether fluoride should remain, or be removed, back in April.

The poll, which will now be held on December 4 in line with the delayed local government elections, will ask residents “Yes or no: Would you prefer that council stop adding fluoride (hydrofluorosilicic acid) to the public water supply?” But while these advocates support the case for fluoride-flowing water, there are others who do not – including FFA and Port Macquarie-Hastings Council deputy mayor Lisa Intemann.

It is a non-binding poll, and will not achieve change on its own. NSW Health are responsible for administering and removing fluoride, and the matter will need to be directed to them if a yes majority is achieved. The Mid-North Coast News has directed questions to NSW Health on the issue.

Fluoride Free Australia co-ordinator Andrew Parry, who founded the organisation five years ago, is spending up big on TV ads to push the yes case for removing fluoride from the local water supply. He said his organisation is “categorically” against fluoride in drinking water, labelling it “not safe and not effective”.

The strongly worded advertisement asks residents to support removing the “toxic waste … that damages the developing brain.”

“Vote yes to stop fluoridation,” it says. “Visit fluoridefreeaustralia.org.au to find out what authorities are not telling you.” Mr Parry told The Mid-North Coast News ‘We (FFA) absolutely believe it [fluoride] is not effective,” he said.

“We back that up in several ways, first of all the NHMRC, state government and ADA (Australian Dental Association) insist on ignoring many large-scale population-based studies that show there is little or no difference in tooth decay between fluoridated or non-fluoridated water in country areas and regions

“The largest one of those was a WHO (World Health Organisation) funded study involving country area profile database, showing there is no difference in tooth decay with children and teenagers.”

Readers can obtain the facts for and against the fluoride debate, here, before making an informed vote. Voting will not be compulsory.

“Port Macquarie-Hastings Council approached us, because we are the only national anti-fluoride body, and asked whether we would present the yes case for the poll,” Mr Parry said. “Of course we said yes, it took us quite a while because we needed to substantiate every statement that we made, which we’ve done in detail.

Mr Parry said the FFA will start screening the advertisements on Prime7, three weeks out from the poll. It is currently running on YouTube and Facebook. In 2017, the NHMRC released a public statement supporting Australian states and territories fluoridating their drinking water supplies.

The organisation has publicly supported community water fluoridation as a population health measure since 1952, when it was first introduced in Australia, and regularly reviews the scientific evidence on this topic. NSW Health provides a water fluoridation web page that states it is a safe and effective way to help prevent tooth decay in the community.

Yes voter and Port Macquarie-Hastings Council deputy mayor Lisa Intemann said it’ll be up to the new council come December to decide what happens with the results from the vote. “It will provide one important piece of information which is ‘what is the community view on this?” she said.

ADA NSW president Dr Kathleen Matthews said the poll is a complete waste of time. “Holding this community poll, while non-binding, is a huge waste of time, expense and resources,” Dr Matthews said.

“People have every right to question the health benefits of what they put in their bodies. The fluoridation of community water supplies is, however, an effective way to deliver fluoride to all members of the community, regardless of age, individual motivation or socio-economic status.

“Numerous other studies have also illustrated the importance of fluoride in maintaining oral health. There is also strong evidence that water fluoridation reduces both indigenous status-related and income-related inequalities in child oral health.

Dr Matthews also questioned why Port Macquarie-Hastings Council is spending $90,000 on the non-binding poll, despite facing an estimated $40 million repair bill caused by recent floods.

“Council has rejected alternative cheaper options and decided to proceed with this poll, despite this year‘s terrible floods in the area and a 2019 NCOSS study showing one in six Port Macquarie adults aged 25-64 are living in poverty,” Dr Matthews said.

“While it is not for ADA NSW to dictate how council spends money, the indications are there are far more important things Council should be spending money on to benefit residents. Port Macquarie-Hastings residents should also ask if they want funds spent on similar non-binding polls in the future.

“While important, water fluoridation is only one part of maintaining oral health. As well as continuing to drink fluoridated tap water rather than sugary drinks, ADA NSW also urges Port Macquarie-Hastings residents to brush their teeth at least twice a day, floss, minimise sugary treats and see their dentist for regular check-ups.”

For more information on water fluoridation in the Port Macquarie-Hastings LGA, visit council's fluoridation web page.

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