While those against adding fluoride to the shire’s drinking water continue to petition Bega Valley councillors, the advice from experts is it is of great benefit, medically and financially.
The question over whether to fluoridate the entire shire’s drinking water supplies is based on current and peer-reviewed advice by NSW Health and the Australian government’s National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)
NHMRC, whose expert advice is included in council’s public documentation open for submission, states firmly that current reviews show “community water fluoridation within the current Australian range does not cause harm”.
“Fluoride occurs naturally in all Australian water supplies, but in most places the levels are too low to help reduce tooth decay,” its September 2016 report states.
“NHMRC...still strongly supports its 2007 advice that water fluoridation is safe and effective in helping to prevent tooth decay in the ranges recommended for use across Australia.”
The report does acknowledge “some people may experience a slight change in the cosmetic appearance of their teeth due to an increase in the overall intake of fluoride” (mild fluorosis) but that this “has no effect on the function of teeth”.
Fluoride was first added to Australian drinking supplies – including in Bega – in the 1960s. Currently around 93 per cent of the NSW population has access to fluoridated water supplies through the various water utilities in the state.
In examining the possible health effects of water fluoridation in humans, NHMRC contracted the Clinical Trials Centre, University of Sydney, to conduct an independent evidence evaluation of all of the relevant scientific research on water fluoridation.
One of the reported findings was that “consistent evidence” showed water fluoridation at current Australian levels “is associated with decreased occurrence and severity of tooth decay by 26-44% in children, adolescents and adults”.
“Over 60 years of research supports the conclusion that fluoridating water helps to prevent tooth decay, by protecting against damage and helping with the repair of teeth,” the NHMRC reported.
It is also stated water fluoridation is cost-effective, with recent Australian studies showing that for every $1 spent on fluoridation, between $7 and $18 is saved due to avoided treatment costs.
An extensive independent review of more than 60 years of research found water fluoridation at levels used in Australia does not cause any negative health effects. These studies reported on cancer, Downs syndrome, IQ, mortality, muscle and skeletal effects, chronic kidney disease, heart disease and high blood pressure, kidney stones, low birth weight, muscle and skeletal effects, thyroid function, and self-reported health outcomes (gastric discomfort, headache, insomnia).
The submission period on the proposal to fluoridate the shire’s water supplies has been extended to April 7. To comment, visit www.begavalley.nsw.gov.au and scroll down to “Have Your Say”.