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Are anti-fluoride campaigners the new anti-vaxxers?

Federal and State Governments, health authorities, scientists, medical experts and the World Health Organisation all agree that we need fluoride to be part of our drinking water.

But a local council in NSW has decided it knows way more than all these ‘expert’ types and has decided to ban fluoride from their water supply.

*Head. Table.* Let’s take this from the beginning, shall we?

Earlier this week, a report from the Sunday Telegraph revealed that dental decay is at its highest-ever level since fluoride was originally added to drinking water. This is largely due to children increasingly consuming only bottled water, which has no fluoride in it.

It has subsequently been reported that Lismore Council, in Northern NSW, has voted against introducing fluoride to the town’s water supply. This is despite the fact that, according to the most recent dental health survey, children in northern NSW already have the worst teeth in the state, with nearly double the number of decayed/missing/filled teeth as compared to other children.

96% of NSW has fluoride. But Lismore says no.

Lismore Council’s decision is already having a negative flow on effect. Their next-door neighbours, Ballina Shire Council, have now decided to reassess their stance on fluoride, with a vote to be held at a council meeting tonight. If Ballina Shire decide to ban fluoride, they’ll join not only Lismore Council, but 17 Queensland councils, who have already voted against fluoride being part of the drinking water supply this year.

But why is this all happening? Why has a sunny-climate war against fluoride suddenly commenced?

Anti-fluoride activists.

They’ve been working hard across Australia for years now, to either delay the introduction of fluoride to the water supply or, where possible, just prevent it happening altogether.

These activists claim that fluoride can – amongst many other things – contribute to arthritis and bone cancer, damage the developing brain and discolour children’s teeth. Merilyn Haines, the president of one activist group called Queenslanders for Safe Water Air and Food, claims that fluoride is used as insectide to kill cockroaches and ants.

It’s important to take a moment to note that none of these anti-fluoride claims are backed up by scientific evidence. But Australian health experts are still having to waste time and energy fighting against the idea that fluoride is bad for you.

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This morning on the Today Show, their resident psychologist Jo Lamble even compared these activists to the anti-vaccination movement. Both use scaremongering tactics to promote dangerous ideas that are backed up by dodgy ‘evidence’ and unscientific conclusions.

A decline in children’s oral health has been linked to drinking bottled water

Australian health authorities, as well as the World Health Organisation, all recommend the presence of fluoride in drinking water in order to reduce tooth decay and dental disease.

They say that there are no proven negative effects on people’s health from drinking fluoride as part of their water intake.

Health Minister Jillian Skinner has said there is “absolutely no doubt” about the benefit of adding fluoride to water.

Dr Andrew McDonald, the NSW Opposition’s Health Spokesman, said that the Lismore decision was “complete madness”.

Dr Kerry Chant, the NSW chief medical officer, is so passionate about the importance of fluoride, particularly to child dental health, that he has travelled to Ballina this week to lobby councillers to vote based on science not scaremongering.

Dr Michael Foley spoke with The Daily Telegraph today about why councils might be blindly following the recommendations of anti-fluoride activists:

“Most councils don’t have much expertise when it comes to public health and the weighing up of scientific evidence,” he said.

“It just gobsmacks me when a council will listen to a scaremongering campaign from people who I would very kindly call fringe groups, and then they go running scared.

“I don’t want to hammer councils … but these decisions are just dumb.”

Th decisions of local councils to ban fluoride have prompted many calls for the State Government to take control of fluoridation. After all, 96% of NSW already has access to fluoridated water and if local councils are falling victim to these scare-mongering campaigns (with no legitimate scientific evidence behind them) it’s certainly cause for concern.

Health Minister Jillian Skinner has  announced that she will ask NSW Health to prepare a discussion paper, looking at whether the state government should take over fluoride responsibility.

She said: “NSW Health will engage Local Government NSW in the process of preparing the discussion paper. Public comment will be invited… I have absolutely no doubt about the value of fluoride in our water supply, given the clear evidence of its benefit in oral health.”

It seems that far too many local councils are drinking not enough fluoride and too much Kool-aid.

Does your water supply have fluoride in it?

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