Saturday, July 20, 2024

14 councils ordered to fluoridate water supply

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield has directed 14 local authorities to add fluoride to their water supplies.

It is the first time this power under the Health Act has been used since the relevant legislation was amended last year to ensure a national approach to water fluoridation.

Local authorities directed to fluoridate their water supplies will be invited to apply for funding from a $11.3 million fund for capital projects associated with these works.

Dr Bloomfield said fluoridation was proven to be a safe, affordable and effective method of preventing tooth decay.

“Community water fluoridation benefits everyone, but especially children, Māori, Pasifika and our most vulnerable. That’s why it is supported by the Pasifika Dental Association and Te Ao Mārama (the Māori Dental Association),” he said.

“Water fluoridation helps prevent tooth decay, along with brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, eating healthy food and avoiding sugary drinks. Fluoride in water acts like a constant repair kit for your teeth.

“The role of fluoride in water has been well examined around the world – including in New Zealand – over the past 60 years.”

Dr Bloomfield said the Office of the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor recently looked at new information about water fluoridation and found no evidence that it causes any significant health issues at the fluoride levels used in Aotearoa New Zealand.

“Fluoridated water is safe for everyone to drink – including babies and the elderly – and fluoride exists naturally in air, soil, fresh water, sea water, plants and in food,” he said.

The 2009 New Zealand oral health survey showed that children and adolescents living in areas with fluoridated water have a 40% lower lifetime incidence of tooth decay than those living in areas without.

The Health (Fluoridation of Drinking Water) Amendment Act 2021 shifted the decision-making authority on community water fluoridation from local authorities to the Director-General of Health on the basis that it is a health-based decision.

“We estimate that adding fluoride to the water supply in these 14 local authority areas will increase the number of New Zealanders receiving fluoridated water from 51% to around 60%.”

“It’s likely that later this year the Director-General of Health will actively consider whether to issue further directions to fluoridate.”

He said the Ministry of Health will track improvements over time in the oral health of communities receiving water fluoridation.

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