Letter | Allow children of Oberon the benefits of fluoride

AMONG all the tools in the hands of power station engineers, local government engineers and others is the use of dispersion. Power stations produce enormous amounts of heat which is dispersed through cooling towers and large bodies of water. Towns and cities consume vast quantities of water supplied by large catchment dams and then dispose of waste effluent through sewage treatment works through the use of dispersion. Dispersion allows our built environment to provide places fit for habitation and reduce the risks to the inhabitants so that they are not exposed to dangerous levels of pollution and contaminates.

Countless internal combustion engines, incinerators, industrial furnaces, etc within our communities produce toxic exhaust gasses which are discharged into the atmosphere we breathe. Levels of toxic gasses and fumes are again reduced to safe levels by dispersion. I haven’t noticed too many people in Oberon Street keeling over from all the exhaust fumes of all the vehicles travelling up and down the street – dispersion at work again!

Chemicals which are found in phosphate rock comprise many dangerous ones such as arsenic, cadmium, chromium, mercury, nickel, lead, copper and zinc. During the process of the manufacture of super phosphate, these chemicals must be in higher concentrations than is safe to consume. Oberon Dam, which was completed 60 years ago, has a catchment area which comprises approximately 11,500 acres of pine plantations and 22,500 acres of farmland. Presuming that super phosphate has been spread on the farmland every second yearm then a reasonable estimate of the tonnage spread over the last 60 years amounts to 40,000 tonnes. This presumes that over many years the super has been absorbed within the ground and leached into the ground water and eventually has been slowly discharged into the dam water. This water has subsequently been ingested by the population with no apparent effects. Another example of the theory of beneficial dispersion.

What about people who drink a lot of coffee during their working day? It is claimed that a person of average weight of 75 kilos would have to drink approximately 75 to 100 cups of coffee over an eight hour period to obtain a lethal dose of caffeine. This means that one cup of coffee would have to be consumed every five minutes. You would have to either have a death wish or the constitution and willpower of a rhinoceros to achieve such a feat. Maybe 10 to 15 cups a day might do you in over a number of years, but generally speaking, the amount of coffee consumed is controlled to relatively low and harmless levels.

If fluoride was to be added to Oberon’s water supply at the rate of one part per million, as recommended by government health authorities, this would equate to 10mls (two teaspoons) being added to 100 truckloads of water with each truckload being of 10,000 litre capacity - a significant dispersion.

Now for those who feel that it is their right to refuse to have medication forced upon them, consider another fundamental situation regarding Oberon’s water supply. Since the introduction of a potable water supply to the Oberon township, the water has been treated with a toxic chemical – chlorine - to eradicate pathogens and harmful bacteria to make the water safe to drink without fear that it can cause you any ill-effects. I don’t imagine there have been too many deaths recorded as a result of drinking chlorinated water. Our friend dispersion again.

Similarly, many people enjoy a refreshing dip during the hotter months of the year in the Oberon swimming pool. Water in this facility is kept free of contaminants and pathogens by the addition of chlorine. Many of our children are compelled to learn to swim and do so in the hope that by learning to swim they will gain a skill which may some day save their life. Nobody much seems to regard the Oberon swimming pool as a place of danger or a place where one could ingest lethal doses of poisonous water. Maybe your hair may change colour slightly, but that’s about all.

What seems to be missing from the whole argument raging at the moment about fluoridating Oberon’s water supply is the fact that most of us have developed over the years a keen sense of that which is clearly dangerous and that which is not.

Sure, there are arguments about the toxicity of some chemicals and the benefits that other chemicals have to offer. Provided that the dosage rates of drugs and medicines are closely monitored and regulated by our medicos, and our air purity is monitored and controlled from the burning of fossil fuels to provide our transportation, our power supply, the manufacture of essential materials and foodstuffs, the filtration and purification of our water supplies then we can expect to enjoy a reasonably safe and secure lifestyle. Within this framework there also exists a responsibility for each one of us to ensure that we manage what we ingest and have a regard for our healthy survival and enjoyment of life. Some will naturally tend to push the boundaries and, despite all the warnings, will smoke to excess, consume inordinate amounts of alcohol, eat unhealthy diets, and use illicit drugs. The result may be the development of serious and often fatal diseases such as stroke, heart disease, cancers, diabetes, mental illnesses and the like.

Also within our community one of the greatest responsibilities rests with those who assume the mantle of parenthood. Parents are duty bound to give their children the best start in life that they can manage and to equip them with the life skills, education and opportunities to enable them to lead healthy, productive and satisfying lives.

Healthy teeth are of vital importance in this quest. As a parent I have raised my children as best as I could and now am proud that my three sons are happily married with children and are shouldering their responsibilities to the upcoming generation. The water which they drank during their formative years was fluoridated. To this day, as they approach their fourth decade, they all possess beautiful strong teeth and have none of the problems of dental decay and problems due to poor dental health.

The sad reality is that not all the children in the Oberon LGA will have that opportunity, however, those within the township of Oberon will certainly benefit as well as some from outlying villages who attend schools in Oberon where they can drink good, clean water.

Councillors now grappling with the issues surrounding the question of fluoridating Oberon’s water supply must surely grasp the nettle and vote for fluoride. It’s not all right to look back at decisions made by past councils and to meekly bend under the weight of the threat to community harmony and the spurious arguments of those who have railed against the sensibility of taking the next step. What is needed is the courage to see the clear benefits that fluoridation can give to the future generations of our young people, as has already been demonstrated in many other communities across the nation. As time passes and the improvement of dental health in our children becomes clearly apparent, the angst and concerns of the population will change to one of gratitude and the realisation that at last something positive has been the result. 

Please allow the children of Oberon the same benefits that my children have enjoyed.

Ewen Stewart