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Who gets fluoride and who misses out?

RAIN DANCE: Rain is on the way but not enough to fill the tanks.
RAIN DANCE: Rain is on the way but not enough to fill the tanks. Max Fleet

UPDATE: HEALTH experts will press their cases with Toowoomba Regional Council before a final decision on whether to retain water fluoridation at Mt Kynoch is made on Tuesday.

"I would be surprised if the decision does change," water and waste portfolio leader Cr John Gouldson said.

"(But) we are bringing up (representatives from) Queensland Health on Monday to address council."

Renowned American anti-fluoride advocate Professor Paul Connett had also planned to have his say on
Saturday, but busy schedules meant councillors had to cancel the date.

One of the biggest issues for council has been mapping out exactly who gets fluoridated water and who misses out - and to what degree.

As it stands, 80 per cent of homes in Toowoomba receive the full recommended dosage.

The remaining 20 per cent receive varying degrees due to blending with untreated bore water.

"Houses in the City Central area rely 100 per cent on bore water, so they receive no fluoride," Cr Gouldson said.

"The problem we face is that we have to work out where the pipes are.

"Does it cut off at James St or Herries St?

"That is a concern and we will address that."

A report presented in City Hall has allayed fears that continuing to run the Mt Kynoch fluoridation program would not be cost-effective, costing only $10,000 a year in both chemicals and labour.

By opting not to extend the program to outer townships without existing infrastructure, council is eligible for a $143,000 reimbursement from the State Government.

Who gets it?

  • Toowoomba (not city centre)
  • Highfields
  • Cabarlah
  • Meringandan East
  • Oakey
  • Jondaryan
  • Kingsthorpe
  • Gowrie Junction
  • Gowrie Mountain
  • Meringandan West
  • Goombungee
  • Cotswold Hills
  • Torrington
  • Glenvale
  • Charlton
  • Wellcamp
  • Westbrook

Who misses out?

  • Toowoomba City centre
  • Clifton
  • Crows Nest
  • Hodgson Vale
  • Millmerran
  • Pittsworth
  • Wyreema

Mass medication concerns spark councillor opposition

Councillors who voted against the fluoridation of Toowoomba's water supply cited concerns over mass medication as the main reason for their opposition.

Councillors Bill Cahill, Anne Glasheen, Ros Scotney, Nancy Sommerfield and Mike Williams all argued that local goverment should not force medication on residents.

Those opposed found themselves in the minority when the issue was put to a vote, with council resolving to retain fluoridation by a vote of 6-5.

This is how those against explained their opposition:

Bill Cahill: "The guts of this issue for me ... is about allowing people to have freedom of choice. It is not council's job to mass medicate based on proposed health benefits.

"Council is not the health department. Aside from costs ... - and there is some conjecture in my belief around the continued costs - I think the crux of the matter is about allowing people to have a choice.

"Council's charter is to provide a safe water supply and that's it."

Anne Glasheen: "My beef with the whole exercise is that health is the State Government's responsibility.

"If the State Government wants to fluoridate our water, they will mandate and pay and tell us we have to do it.

"They have passed the buck to local government so that we cop the flak.

"With Mt Kynoch's water supply, I'm not supporting this motion because if we are doing something, we should be doing it properly.

"You say 80 per cent of town gets it. If we are going to fluoridate our water, we need to make sure that everybody gets the right dose."

Ros Scotney: "I feel I can speak with 23 years of knowledge in dental health. I'm not against fluoride for children by way of drops ... or tablets for expectant mothers and children from the suggested age of three to 13.

"It is true that it has a wonderful effect on their teeth. Fluoride in the water does concern me.

"One child may drink several glasses of water a day and others may drink very little. We, as adults, don't need fluoride.

"It is another chemical enforced on us and there is the possibility of machinery breakdown or overdoses of fluoride into the system."

Nancy Sommerfield: "There are such divided thoughts on the beneficial versus detrimental impacts on our bodies (that) it doesn't seem very democratic to me.

"We have freedom of speech, but our people don't get to choose whether they have fluoride in their drinking water or not. Some people have said to me, "Well, they don't have to drink it".

"My comment back to them is that not everyone can afford to buy water - it is dearer than petrol. Five other councils across Queensland - Cairns, Doomadgee, Tablelands, North Burnett and South Burnett - have taken the vote and have agreed to discontinue it.

"Please give my argument serious consideration when you take this informed vote today."

Mike Williams: "Water is different from salt or bread or any of those other things we put additives in, as we are the only supplier of water in our region.

"I'm a believer of choice and really believe people should have that choice.

"My core philosophy is that we should not have Big Brother dictating what is good for (us).

"I'm a believer that, as it is a commodity in which we are a monopoly, we should be giving people the opportunity to make up their own minds."

Those in favour of water fluoridation said they supported the initiative because of the long-term health benefits:

Paul Antonio: "My children had fluoride tablets when they were young and they have very good teeth. The recommendation of the Australian Dental Association is very clear.

"I will guarantee, in the broader aspect of Toowoomba, the young people who most need dental health are not getting it.

"For me, it is all about parental responsibility."

Sue Englart: "I was overjoyed to read the report because I did not know that we've had fluoride in our water from 2010. I'm quite excited about the fact that my teeth have improved in that time.

"I really believe that if we don't go ahead with this, it will be the poorer end of our community who will suffer - those who can't afford to have good dental checks. 

"I would actually hang my head in shame if I thought $1 million of infrastructure that we have got from the State Government was left to die. It is their responsibility for public health, not local councils'.

"But we need this . . .  it's something good for our community."

John Gouldson: "Like Cr Williams, my position has been backwards and forwards on this issue. I have come down on the side of voting for this motion because I believe the it is the best option.

"It is flawed. Part of me would like to see an amendment... (saying) we would take out an educational campaign, so at least our ratepayers each know individually what their dosage is.

"Professional people are in favour of it. The (Health) Minister himself is in favour and his department is basically in favour, despite the fact that they have washed their hands of it. I think that's a blessing.

"There are some things in government (in which) we want more say. We are going to have our say here today."

Geoff McDonald: "I'm very concerned about the process we're going through here. It has been mentioned on four occasions about the State Government... that we should have additional briefings on both sides.

"It has been mentioned that there is a general consensus from the community and... that we are taking the choice away from the community.

"I would much prefer between now and (our next meeting) to have Queensland Health here.

"I've heard anecdotal stories that the Minister is for it... but I would be making a decision ill-informed if we didn't have that."

Carol Taylor: "I agree with previous speakers that this is a State Government responsibility handed to Local Government, and I think that's a cop-out. As a councillor, I don't believe I'm qualified to asses the health benefits or otherwise...

"How do we, as representatives of this community, assess the views of the silent majority? That's the problem - we always hear the squeaky, noisy people for and against.

"Unlike Cr Glasheen, I've been overloaded by the people against and their scare tactics.

"In the interest of benefiting those who need it most ... I support the continuation of the fluoridation of the water system as it is at present, recognising the imperfections (for a) very small percentage of the community."

Chris Tait: "It is not a complete solution, but it is a partial solution. I believe it's the financially responsible thing to do. We've all been lobbied, particularly by the anti-fluoride people, and heard some comment about that.

"I believe there are positive health benefits, particularly for children who may not otherwise be exposed to fluoride. They're the ones that need it the most - underprivileged children, in particular.

"Fluoride is added in other states and has had a positive effect... We talk about putting an additive in water, but we put additives in other things.

"For instance, iodine in salt, folate... to bread. We do put chemicals in other things for positive effects.

"Therefore, this is no different. For the purpose of the public benefits, I support it."

YESTERDAY: A single vote has swung a decision for Toowoomba to continue its water fluoridation program at Mt Kynoch.

The resolution came down to the wire as each member of council's water and waste committee made a conscience vote on the issue yesterday.

Toowoomba dentist Dr Rob Sivertsen applauded the choice, but was shocked the treatment plant's existing $1.02 million fluoridation infrastructure came so close to abandonment.

"My main concern with those five against is that I'm not sure there was adequate consultation with recognised experts in the field," he said.

The program's continuation means 80 per cent of Toowoomba residents will continue to receive the recommended dose, though none within the city centre.

Oddly enough, City Hall itself receives no fluoridated water as it relies on bores for its supply.

The decision will need ratification by a full meeting of council on Tuesday before it is set in stone.

Cr Sue Englart said scare tactics from anti-fluoride campaigners were rife throughout the decision process.

"We have many Luddites that continue to believe the world is flat... It still seems easier to peddle fear than it is to sell the truth," she said.

Dr Sivertsen met with four councillors prior to yesterday's vote - Mayor Paul Antonio, Cr Chris Tait, Cr John Gouldson and Cr Nancy Sommerfield.

"I (also) met with (Minister for Health) Lawrence Springborg on Saturday evening," he said.

"He is basically supportive of the maintenance of the status quo

"In other words, if there is existing water fluoridation, he doesn't want it removed."

Councillors voting on either side were exasperated that the decision was ever theirs to make.

Dr Sivertsen echoed the sentiment.

"Issues related to public health measures need to be delivered at either the Federal or State Government level," he said.

The cost of continuing the program at Mt Kynoch is estimated at $10,000 a year - $8000 for chemicals and $2000 for operations.

Fluoride will not be extended to outer districts where infrastructure is not already in place, saving an estimated $70,000 a year.

For:

  • Mayor Paul Antonio
  • Cr Sue Englart
  • Cr John Gouldson
  • Cr Geoff McDonald
  • Cr Carol Taylor
  • Cr Chris Tait

Against:

  • Cr Bill Cahill
  • Cr Anne Glasheen
  • Cr Ros Scotney
  • Cr Nancy Sommerfield
  • Cr Mike Williams

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Fluoride is here to stay

11.06am

MORE than 80 per cent of Toowoomba residents are set to continue receiving fluoride in their tap water after council's water and waste committee voted in favour of continuing the program.

The decision was always going to be down to the wire.

Six councillors voted to continue the program, outweighing the five votes to cease operations.

The votes will need to by ratified by a full meeting of council next Tuesday, but shows just how divisive the issue has become.

The decision would mean all operations at Mt Kynoch will continue.

Any plans to extend the program to any outer-lying areas that do not already have the necessary infrastructure in place would be annulled.

Voting for continuing the program:

  • Mayor Paul Antonio
  • Cr Sue Englart
  • Cr John Gouldson
  • Cr Geoff McDonald
  • Cr Carol Taylor
  • Cr Chris Tait

Voting against continuing the program:

  • Cr Bill Cahill
  • Cr Anne Glasheen
  • Cr Ros Scotney
  • Cr Nancy Sommerfield
  • Cr Mike Williams

Topics:  australian medical association, dental health, fluoride, health, medication, toowoomba, toowoomba regional council



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