Fluoride debate fires up tonight
A LEADING Queensland medical professional has joined the local debate on fluoridation, as residents on the Southern Downs prepare to have their say on whether to keep the controversial additive in the region's drinking water.
Brisbane Dental Hospital director Michael Foley, who will present a case at the Warwick Town Hall tonight arguing in favour of keeping fluoride, told the Daily News water fluoridation was a proven public health measure to reduce tooth decay in the community.
"Reports show we spent $80 billion on dental care - that's more than all canc
ers combined and mental health care. It's massive," he said.
"Research shows people in regional areas have substantially more tooth decay than those in the cities."
As both sides of the debate face off at tonight's public information session, Merilyn Haines from Queenslanders For Safe Water said she will argue that water fluoridation is "forced mass medication".
"It's unethical without the consent of the community - forced on Queenslanders by the Bligh Government," she said.
"It's widely acknowledged that the act of fluoridation isn't typical - most of the world's countries don't do it and 20 councils have rejected it."
With both sides claiming to have evidence of benefits and risks, Dr Foley dismissed the claims by Mrs Haines as scare- mongering by a fringe group.
"I respect the right of people to have their opinions, but as a medical professional I'm entitled to get annoyed when people attack facts of matters of public health," he said.
"I don't accept her argument has equal validity.
"That's what bugs me about giving credit to fringe groups - particularly when public health is an issue."
One of the biggest arguments to be presented by the Queenslanders for Safe Water according to Mrs Haines is that fluoride can harm vulnerable members of the community.
"The biggest concern is for bottle-fed babies and people with kidney impairments," she said.
"We're calling for health studies to be done; it's already been proven that tooth decay has come down dramatically in unfluoridated countries."
Supporters of fluoride however are arguing that the science and studies have been done to show the benefits of keeping fluoride in drinking water.
"I'd argue the science is 99-1," Dr Foley said.
"Every reputable health and scientific professional will say it's not a 50-50.
"Some of the top organisations in Australia support fluoridation including the Cancer Council and the Rural Australasian College of Physicians."
Both sides of the debate are hoping they can sway water ratepayers in Stanthorpe, Warwick, Yangan and Allora, who will have their say on the issue with a survey in coming weeks.
"I'm hoping residents will listen to what we have to say," Mrs Haines said.
"I'm hoping more than 50% would say yes to an end of fluoridation on the Southern Downs."
Dr Foley said he was hoping residents would make an informed decision based on the facts.
"I would be disappointed if people on the Southern Downs were swayed by this fringe group," he said.
Mr Foley and Mrs Haines will present their cases for and against fluoridation at a council-run meeting at the Warwick Town Hall tonight from 5.30pm.