A ten-month debate at Bega Valley Shire Council came to an end this afternoon with councilors voting to add fluoride to the shire’s remaining water supplies.
Council has been adding fluoride to the Bega-Tathra system since 1963, today’s six – two result in the chamber will see it added to two of Council’s remaining water supplies.
The long process has been characterised by conflicting science and at times hostile debate, which was on show again at today’s council meeting.
Before a public gallery of around 30 people, five community members addressed councilors urging them to reject the idea, most suggesting that Council would face legal action if they proceeded.
“I do not give council permission to introduce this toxic substance as mass medication without choice into my water supply,” Merriwinga resident, Sean Burke said.
Negative health impacts have been a real fear of those opposing the introduction. Reduced IQ, thyroid complaints, cancer, fertility problems, arthritis, and kidney disease have all been raised during the course of the debate.
“Imagine the outcry if you were to add some other medicine to the water?” Bermagui’s Anthony Hereford argued.
Pambula’s Fraser Buchanan, speaking for the Bega Valley Residents and Ratepayers Association suggested the recent NSW Health phone survey on the issue was biased in favour of fluoride.
Five hundred residents were quizzed over the summer holidays and asked, “Do you agree with adding fluoride to the public drinking supply to try to prevent tooth decay?”
“Step up and show you are unwilling to be part of a contrived process,” Mr Buchanan urged Councilors.
Above: Some of those who attended today’s meeting of Bega Valley Shire Council. Photo: Ian Campbell.
The validity of the survey was a theme that run through the discussion, however some councilors were clearly swayed by the results – 66.2% responded ‘yes’, 28.4% responded ‘no’, 5.2% were unsure and only 0.2% preferred not to respond to the survey.
Today’s decision for Bega Valley Shire Council was prompted by NSW Health asking regional water utilities who don’t already incorporate fluoride into their water treatment processes to do so as a prevention of tooth decay.
With 96% of the state fluoridated, NSW Health is moving on the remaining 4% and is providing all the funds needed for the Bega Valley to come on board.
Councilors Cathy Griff and Jo Dodds argued strongly for those in the room campaigning against the idea.
Cr Griff moved a motion to defer the decision pending legal advice but that was defeated.
“Sugar is the problem,” Cr Griff said.
“The case is building against fluoride, I would like to think we could lead the way.”
Despite a general acceptance among councilors of the benefits of fluoride in preventing tooth decay, many also seemed frustrated at the conflicting science presented during the course of the debate with both sides undermining the quality of each others research.
“This triggers in me the precautionary principle,” Cr Dodds said.
“There is too much evidence of risk.” Cr Liz Seckold said, “I will always advocate for the socially disadvantaged.” “I am sick of being bullied by the anti-fluoride brigade You can read the rest of Ian's first hand account of the meeting and determination in the RiotACT at THIS LINK *This article first appeared on RiotACT