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Ministry of Health supports fluoridation bill

Posted at 11:00am Wednesday 07 Apr, 2021

Sodium fluoride is often added to water and toothpaste.
Sodium fluoride is often added to water and toothpaste.

A Government proposal to amend legislation related to drinking water will make fluoridation of water in Rodney and Kaipara more likely.

Treatment plants in Warkworth, Snells Beach and Wellsford could theoretically be used to fluoridate reticulated water.

Although Auckland, Waitakere, Manukau and Franklin are all fluoridated, the former Rodney District is not.

In 2019, Watercare head of operations Priyan Perera told Mahurangi Matters that it had not revisited fluoridation since the formation of the Supercity.

“Watercare adds fluoride to Auckland's drinking water supplies based on requests from  former local councils,” he said.

“Water supplies operated by the former Rodney District Council were not fluoridated prior to amalgamation in 2010. This position has not changed.”

The Kaipara District also does not fluoridate its reticulated water at treatment plants in Maungaturoto and Ruawai.

But the Government proposal would take decision-making on fluoridation of water out of the hands of Watercare's controlling body Auckland Council and Kaipara District Council, and transfer it to the Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield.

Dr Bloomfield is also the chief executive of the Ministry of Health. The Ministry is an ardent supporter of water fluoridation, believing it to be the most effective public health measure for the prevention of tooth decay.

“This amendment will ensure that the Bill continues to recognise that community water fluoridation is a health-related matter, while ensuring a nationally consistent approach to decision making based on scientific evidence,” a spokesperson said.

However, the spokesperson would not be drawn on specific plans for a national roll-out of fluoridation.

The Ministry did say that an oral health survey in 2009 showed that children and adolescents living in areas with fluoridated water had 40 per cent less tooth decay than those without.

Associate Health Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall expects the Health (Fluoridation of Drinking Water) Amendment Bill to be passed into law by the end of the year.

“Right now, only around 2.3 million New Zealanders have access to fluoridated drinking water,” she said.

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