Letter | Fluoride vote’s been taken. It’s time to move on

I WAS very disappointed to read Keith Sullivan’s letter (“Give us back the council we expect”) in the Review last week. It would appear to reflect very much the “poor loser” syndrome.

At last month’s council meeting, Mr Sullivan congratulated the council on its approach to the whole water fluoridation debate. He certainly has done a backflip.

It would be good if we could allow truth to prevail.

Fifty-three per cent of the Oberon local government area residents want to see Oberon’s water fluoridated, 35 per cent do not want the water fluoridated and 12 per cent have no opinion, according to the NSW Department of Health’s telephone survey.

The phone survey used scientifically valid methodology, with the data weighted to accurately reflect the demographics of the community, to ensure the results were representative of the views of the community as a whole.

Dental therapist, Jennifer James, who works in Oberon and Bathurst, stated during the debate that Oberon’s dental health is twice as bad as nearby Bathurst. “The difference out here working, is that you see twice as much tooth decay in children, twice as many fillings, twice as many extractions. That is a comparison we can make weekly in Bathurst and Oberon,” Ms James stated. "What people don't see are parents crying because they don't understand why their children need teeth taken out." 

Why is the local evidence, freely volunteered by health professionals, who work with the local population, being ignored by the anti-fluoride lobby?

Twenty-two Australian organisations sent letters of support for fluoridating the town’s water supply to Oberon Council. They ranged from the Australian Dental Association, the Australian Medical Association and the NSW Council of Social Science to the Royal Flying Doctor Service, the National Health and Medical Centre, Kidney Health Australia, Arthritis Australia and the National Rural Health Alliance.

These organisations are respected and professional and what’s more, they care about the Oberon population’s teeth and general health. Can anyone believe, in all honesty, that these organisations are wrong?

NSW Health estimates that for every $1 spent on fluoridation, the state saves $18 on associated health costs from ongoing dental decay, which continues over a patient’s lifetime. Tooth decay also affects general wellbeing, which means people with teeth and gum problems are unhealthier than the general population. 

Ninety-seven per cent of NSW residents have access to fluoridated water.

For too long, Oberon residents have been denied the proven benefits of water fluoridation.

The “1000 submissions” referred to in Keith Sullivan’s letter were a combination of submissions and petitions, many of which were from the same people.

One person against fluoridation sent 45 items of correspondence! The petitions also were seriously compromised by the fact that they contained names that were illegible, names that were entered more than once, and names that were from non-residents of the Oberon LGA, including visitors from other towns and interstate! 

Mr Sullivan stated in his letter that “councils have the responsibility to ensure that due process is seen to be followed and that [councillors’] personal beliefs do not damage … community harmony”.

Council bent over backwards to ensure that due process was followed. The councillors agreed to invite representatives from both sides of the fluoride debate to address council.

These representatives were listened to and their submissions were read. The majority of councillors came down in favour of adding fluoride to the water, after deliberating over all the information and evidence supplied. Personal beliefs had nothing to do with the final decision.

The decision was made on the basis of the facts presented. Just because you don’t agree with the final decision, it is very poor form to accuse the councillors of taking anything other than an informed and well-considered stand. It is simply democracy at work.

Mr Sullivan’s reference to “almost party like alliances” is both mischievous and disingenuous and reflects very poorly on his motives.

We have seen enough of noisy minorities influencing important public issues. I would like to urge the residents of Oberon LGA to put their faith in the respected Australian organisations which support fluoridation and take note of the verifiable evidence supplied in volumes in support of fluoridating the town’s water supply. 

There is no place for scaremongering and hearsay, paraded as fact. Nor is there any need for unsubstantiated character assassination.

Footnote: Sodium fluoride is an inorganic compound with the formula NaF. It is a colourless or white solid that is readily soluble in water. It is a common source of fluoride in the production of pharmaceuticals and it is used to prevent cavities.

Jennifer Capel