232013Jan

Water Fluoridation and the Council’s Role

Early in my term a vocal advocate of removing fluoride from our water sent a number of emails to me petitioning my support for his cause. The emails appeared to be a mix of well-considered scientific support for the anti-fluoridation lobby combined with sensationalist conspiracy theories. Of course, determining a position given the nature of conjecture is a challenge for a local councillor on many issues but a matter allegedly affecting the health of so many citizens demands our attention, regardless of the existence of a fringe view. Today, the matter has escalated to the front page of our local tabloid and even grabbed the attention of its busy editor, Peter Gleeson. Whoever says the Bulletin doesn’t play a role in shaping the public’s perception of our city is kidding themselves.

So let’s clarify a few things.

Firstly, I don’t believe there’s a conspiracy to poison citizens by fluoridating them to sickness or death. Let’s get that out of the way. (Phew!)

Secondly, let’s clarify the role of the Council and the role of the State Government in ensuring water comes of out of the tap in our homes. The State government is responsible for the Water Supply. They own the assets holding the bulk water (dams and desalination plants) and Council pays them for the water, like a retail agent. The ratepayer pays our Council for their use of the water and delivery of the water, generally according to the volume used. In addition, the taxpayer actually pays the state to put fluoride in their water supply. Even though it’s hard to see the cost the taxpayer pays the state, it’s still there on the balance sheet. Ultimately the decision for Council discussed today in the Bulletin is whether Council should bill the Gold Coast ratepayer for removing the fluoride from the water the Gold Coast taxpayer has effectively approved the State to include. I’m opposed to this idea on the grounds that it appears to me as hopelessly bureaucratic and doesn’t align with the ongoing dialogue I’ve been having with residents about delivering efficiencies in our local government that can be passed along as financial savings on their behalf. $10 million seems excessive to reverse a state decision. 

I have followed a number of interactions between Dr Karl Kruszelnicki’s twitter profile and punters who have asked his position on fluoride in the water supply. Now, Dr Karl is an analytical thinker and his scientific qualifications are available for anyone to read online. Although his area of expertise is not hydrology or dentistry, he has medical qualifications. He also deals with a plethora of unorthodox ideas openly and transparently and that’s my grounds for referring to him. The retweeted dialogue follows;

Q: Does the fluoride in our water have any negative effects?

Dr Karl: Yes, but much less than the positive effects. 

Notwithstanding Dr Karl’s view informing my opposition to Council allocating ratepayer-funded budget to the removal of fluoride from the water supply, I’m actually supportive of the individual retaining their own rights to medicate. It’s a delicate balance, I know, given the grounds for support of fluoridation by many dentists are so widely available. Frankly, with the volume of water we do not use for drinking so significant, if a government authority determined that the risk of tooth decay was significant, I’d suggest an alternate vehicle than the water supply to deliver any solution to deteriorating or sub-standard dental health. Perhaps a levy on soft drink or confectionary companies funding direct action in communities with sub-standard dental health could be an alternate model?

I encourage interested residents to contact their relevant State government representative or the Minister responsible for Water Supply or Health in Queensland to voice their position regarding chemicals added to our water for supposed health benefits. Personally, I’ve purchased a water filter for use at home on our main tap to purify my own water supply.

Regardless of any proposed solution I might suggest, it’s not my role as a local Councillor to deal with dental health or water supply. And as a representative of the community in a level of government subordinate to the State government, it is my obligation to spend my time and resources focussed on that which voters in my area have endorsed my leadership (Roads, Rates, Rubbish plus Urban Planning, Plumbing and Drainage including water delivery, Community Group Support, and Gold Coast specific economic growth).

I’d really like to get back to that and I’m enjoying the challenge every day.

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