Moves have been made to include a Hastings community poll on water fluoridation at the September local government elections. This three-part series explores the complexities and debate around the fluoridation of water supplies.
It's a substance which residents knowingly or unknowingly ingest each day and has been the subject of long and divisive debates about its health benefits or threats.
Fluoride (F-) is a chemical ion of the element fluorine (F) and is part of the earth's crust. It is a naturally occurring component of mineral salts found in rocks, soil, natural water sources, plants and animals.
According to the National Health and Medical Research Council, water fluoridation is the process of adjusting the amount of fluoride in drinking water to an optimal level to help reduce tooth decay.
The NHMRC supports Australian states and territories fluoridating their drinking water supplies within the range of 0.6 to 1.1 milligrams of fluoride per litre (mg/L).
Fluoride is added to the Port Macquarie-Hastings Council's water supply to achieve a concentration of 1mg/litre.
"The fluoride agent used has undergone safety analysis and certification," it's stated on council's website.
However, there is an active group in Port Macquarie called Citizens Against Fluoridation, whose members say the wider community isn't appropriately informed of all the data, which they say shows the substance can be harmful to people.
In 2019 Port Macquarie-Hastings Council sought legal advice after expert advice cast doubt over the legality of supplying fluoridated water.
The legal advice says fluoridated water is an unregistered therapeutic good under the Therapeutic Goods Act, which binds the council.
"Its supply of fluoridated water is in breach of the Act until fluoridated water is registered as a therapeutic good or excluded from the TG Act," the report at the time said.
"Council is exposed to both criminal and civil penalties."
Council is required to supply fluoridated water unless approval or direction is revoked by NSW Health.
Following council's previous legal advice, a further due diligence legal exercise on the effect of the Amendment Determination has been completed.
"It has formed the view there is no longer a conflict between council's obligations under the Fluoridation of Public Water Supplies Act 1957 and the provisions of the TGAct or the Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Act 1966," council's website states.
Council currently adds fluoride to the Hastings water supply during the treatment process.
This is in accordance with the Fluoridation of Public Water Supplies Act 1957 and the NSW Code of Practice for Fluoridation of Public Water Supplies 2011. The process has been in effect since February 2012.
The decision for poll on water fluoridation to run in conjunction with the September 2020 election was voted on at the Wednesday, February 19 council meeting.
The general manager will report to council in March 2020 and detail the approximate costs, process and proposed wording of such poll, asking whether council should be adding fluoride to the water supply, or not.
Part two of this three part series will highlight the arguments for continuing water fluoridation. Meanwhile part three will outline the arguments against the issue.
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