Be careful: experts

A LOCAL DOCTOR, dentist, naturopath, and scientist all urged caution when addressing a meeting in Ballina last week on the fluoridation of water.

The meeting was held at the Ballina RSL Club and was called by the Ballina Anti-Fluoridation Network, formed by Ballina resident Ilga Sleja. About 100 people attended and signed a petition directed to local councils and Rous Water.

Ballina Shire Council had previously given its support for water fluoridation, but three councillors, David Wright, John Felsch and Margaret Howes, have lodged a rescission motion to reverse support for the move.

These three councillors plus two others, mayor Phillip Silver and Keith Johnson, were present at the meeting.

Paul Callinan, a medical scientist and Lennox Head naturopath, said that fluoride did work on teeth and helped teeth resist dental decay.

But he said a topical application ? directly onto the teeth ? such as in fluoride tablets made from naturally occurring calcium fluoride, was better than systemic ingestion.

"I don't believe putting it in the water is the best way to go," he said.

He also said fluoride worked best for children aged six to 13 years and did not work on emerging teeth still in the gum.

Dr Meng Yeo urged caution, saying that history had demonstrated time and again that 'official bodies can get it wrong'.

"So many credible voices are expressing concern that perhaps it is not prudent to go in this direction, rather than rushing it," Dr Yeo said.

He said more than 90 per cent of European countries did not have fluoride in the water.

A Newrybar dentist, Andrew Taylor, and Byron Shire resident and scientist Jo Immig both spoke strongly against fluoride. Dr Taylor was concerned about the effect fluoride had on magnesium in the body, and that it could play havoc with the bone system.

Ms Sleja appealed directly to councillors at the meeting not to introduce fluoride and Lismore chiropractor Dr Colin Locke showed a video on fluoride.

Speakers raised other concerns, including accurate dosage, the effect on the environment, freedom of choice and the cost of implementing fluoridation.

The night highlighted the need to have all current medical opinions available to councillors to make informed health decisions.

However, Mr John Irving, northern project manager oral health, responded this week by saying once it was in the water, fluoride did work topically and benefited people of all ages.

He said there was no evidence that optimally fluoridated water had a negative effect on bones.

Furthermore, Australia's two peak bodies on osteoporosis and arthritis 'did not have a problem' with water-supply fluoridation, he said.

Although the majority of Euro- pean countries did not have fluoridated water, fluoride was present in salt and milk, he said.

As for costs, he said the public health benefit would far outweigh the cost of fluoridation, estimating the cost would be less than $1 a head per year; the cost benefit would be more than $30 a person per year in saved dental expenses.

He dismissed claims of increased lead levels in the water, saying lead concentrations in water would be 'pathetically small'.

He said the Health Department tested water every day to ensure that it complied with water drinking guidelines.

The next meeting and information night on fluoridation will be at Lismore Workers Club, tonight, July 13, at 6.30pm.

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