Council votes to end fluoridation

March 1, 2002

Ashburton's town water supply will no longer be fluoridated from April on the casting vote of Mayor Murray Anderson.

With his council tied six votes all at its meeting yesterday, Mr Anderson said he could not be sure that fluoridation benefited all residents, and cast his vote to end the practice.

The council debate had swirled around the competing arguments of freedom of choice and the medical establishment's support for fluoridation.

Most urban ward councillors backed a motion by Cr Robin Kilworth to continue fluoridation, but in the end the votes of rural councillors John Leadley, Bev Tasker, Ken Lowe, and Darryl Nelson combined with the Mayor's vote to decide the issue.

Of the urban councillors, only Kelvin Holmes and Neville Truman voted to stop adding fluoride to the town supply.

The council has been swamped with information about fluoridation since a petition of 827 signatures was presented last year calling for it to be stopped.

Anti-fluoride campaigner Don Church said yesterday that the fact that fluoridation made no difference to dental health had won out. During the months-long debate, campaigners have raised the spectre of cancer and bone disease resulting from fluoridation.

Dentists and the Ministry of Health advised the council to continue the practice.

Mr Anderson said he believed fluoridation was safe, but the debate came down to individual rights.

It appeared possible that fluoridation benefited some people but not others, he said.

"That's where I have not got the real knowledge of being able to dictate to a community and say `there is no doubt'."

Cr Kilworth said it was an issue where they were damned either way, but just 827 people had signed the petition to stop fluoridating out of 11,000 electors.

"Do we have the right to take it out because 827 people asked us to when by far the majority of people who use this water every day have not asked to?" she said.

Cr Bede O'Malley said the campaign to end the practice had been too shrill in labelling it mass medication, while Cr Derek Glass said fluoride had nothing but beneficial effects.

Mr Anderson suggested ending fluoridation from July 1, but the council voted to end it on March 31.