The Amendment to the Health Act (Fluoridation of water) Bill currently being championed through the New Zealand Parliament by Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne is a stealthy attempt to deny NZ public the right to choose whether or not they want their drinking water fluoridated or natural.
On the surface of it, the Bill seeks to take away the decision making from the city councils (who are required to have public consultation) to District Health Boards (who are not, but instead are expected to enforce Ministry of Health policies and agendas).
While the spin (promoted by unobjective news media) is that it is more appropriate for a health decision to be made by health providers, this ignores the fundamental human right to choose if a person wishes to take medication or not, and the right to have safe, "wholesome" drinking water.
These human rights were enshrined in the 1956 Health Act, which considered it a basic fundamental requirement with the introduction of water fluoridation in New Zealand that communities must not be directed by government to fluoridate.
This is precisely the protective clause which Mr. Dunne, and Health Minister Jonathan Coleman, want to remove.
While technically the change could also allow DHBs to stop fluoridation in their area, it is blatantly obvious that the agenda is to spread fluoridation over as much of the country, which is currently only about half fluoridated, as possible.
At the first reading of the Bill in Parliament Mr. Dunne disgracefully referred to opponents of water fluoridation as "tin-foil hat wearing, pseudo-scientific alien abductees". While he makes use of Parliamentary Priveledge to show his disdain for human rights, and a large section of the New Zealand voting public, repetition of such comments outside of parliament would take intestinal fortitude beyond his means.
Coleman as well has shown disdain for citizens who oppose water fluoridation and confirmed in the public media that he expects the DHBs, whose board members are essentially chosen by him, to increase fluoridation over the entire country.
The Health Select Committee, hearing public submissions in March, generally showed similar bias in their comments and attitudes, including the chair Simon O'Connor (National) and members such as Anette King (Labour), whose condescending, derogatory and ill-informed comments are recorded in Hansard and on video on the parliamentary website.
Of the approximately 1,500 submissions, over 95% were opposed to Mr. Dunne's proposed change to the Health Act, and moreover to water fluoridation, but during oral submissions it became clear that the Health Select Committee members had not bothered to read most, if any of them, in any depth. This raises the concern that while the democratic process is being followed, the agenda has already been decided.
Interestingly, the handful of submissions from pro-fluoridation lobby groups such as the New Zealand Dental Association and related organizations also were generally uncomfortable with the Bill, as they were concerned that there might still be the opportunity for public input to DHB decision making. They appeared to favor a binding decision to be made at a central level, such as the Director- General of Health, enforcing mandatory nationwide water fluoridation.
Given the current state of knowledge on the health risk/benefit equation of water fluoridation, such a decision would be a huge mistake for our country and would indicate a huge lack of due diligence and a betrayal of public trust.
Mr. Dunne's bill has had the effect of bringing some important issues forward for New Zealanders to consider going forward, both about health and human rights and about the democratic process.
The politicians will now be calling on their advisors to explain the submissions to them, and identify the risks.
I would suggest political risks will come ahead of risks to New Zealanders' health for most of them.
Perhaps the upcoming second reading of the bill will throw up a politician who looks past the propaganda and puts New Zealanders' health ahead of political self interest.
The subject of water fluoridation is ripe for a politician with integrity who can separate the facts from the spin to stand up and show others the way forward for all New Zealanders.
I won't be holding my breath.
information on Mr. Dunne's Bill, including submissions made, video and Hansard, are available on the NZ Parliament website.
Follow this link: https://www.parliament.nz/en/get-involved/topics/all-current-topics/bill-seeks-to-extend-water-fluoridation-coverage/
The main argument put forward by New Zealand promoters of water fluoridation is that it might reduce tooth decay in children who do not brush their teeth.
The assumption is that these are kids from poor families, who are overly represented by Maori and Pacific Island ethnicities, and that oral hygiene measures such as tooth brushing are not complied with either because families cannot afford toothbrushes and toothpaste, they are lacking in health education, or the parents are too busy to spend time teaching their kids to clean their teeth.
While water fluoridation is seen by some as mass medication, undermining the individual's freedom to choose or refuse treatment, the public health authorities consider this is overriden by the requirement to act as a "safety net" whereby children (there is no reliable evidence of any benefit to adults) who do not clean their teeth can obtain some protection from tooth decay.
There are a number of problems with such arguments, as follows:
1. It is widely acknowledged that the action of fluoride on delaying tooth decay is topical, not developmental. Swallowing fluoridated water has next to zero effect on making tooth enamel more resistant to plaque acids. Furthermore, the increase in baseline salivary fluoride concentrations in the mouth in children living in fluoridated water areas is generally inadequate to have any cariostatic benefit. see mechanism.
2. if the children are not brushing and the plaque is allowed to grow on the tooth surface, it will act as a barrier to fluoride penetration towards the enamel surface, so ingesting fluoride at 0.7-1ppm is a poor substitute for cleaning.
3. Any minimal benefit which could occur by a small increase in the uptake of low level fluoride would be completely overpowered by factors which encourage tooth decay, such as sugar in drinks and food. Therefore ingesting low levels of fluoride is a poor substitute for diet education g for children and caregivers.
4. We do not know how much water such "target" groups actually drink. They may not drink water at all, so they will not gain any effect from such a method of delivery.
5. The recommended amount of toothpaste for children to apply twice daily is the size of a grain of rice until age 3, and the size of a small pea until age 12. A 100gm tube of toothpaste should therefore last 3 to 6 months. The cost of two packs of cigarettes would supply a child with toothpaste to last for their entire childhood.
6. Systematic Reviews of research have repeatedly not found any reliable evidence of water fluoridation addressing social inequalities. see York Review and SCHER review
7. New Zealand school dental data do not suggest any "gap closing" between Maori and PI, and "Other" groups from water fluoridation.
8. Increased decay rates in Maori compared to European may also relate to other factors such as less access to care, urban/rural distribution, SES, Education Levels, and earlier emergence of teeth in Maori, which means comparing decay at a particular age Maori teeth have been present up to 18 months longer, therefore more opportunity to decay. Such factors are more plausible than lack of fluoride, and fluoridating the water supply will not effect these factors either. Which could explain why we see no difference in the data.
But could it cause harm?
Assessments of total fluoride intake suggest that Maori and Pacific islanders, as well as low socio-economic groups are not only more likely to have a poorer diet, with less Calcium (which helps to reduce the bioavailability of free fluoride ions) but are much more likely to have a higher daily intake of fluoride, so having fluoridated water increases the risk of chronic overdose
This has been linked to increased risk of neurological (brain)disorders, hypothyroidism, asthma and diabetes, all diseases where Maori and PI groups are overrepresented.
There is therefore a real possibility that water fluoridation could be increasing the social inequalities in general health.
Are there alternatives?
Tooth decay is caused by too much sugar and lack of oral hygiene. Preventive programs in many countries which target the at risk groups for tooth brushing and education programs have been shown to be most effective at reducing tooth decay in children, and in developing good habits which, like the "teach a man to fish" parable, last a lifetime.