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Heated fluoride debate could push region to the polls

Candice Jones has a drink in Memorial Park as the debate about fluoride in town water flares.
Candice Jones has a drink in Memorial Park as the debate about fluoride in town water flares. Renee Pilcher

GYMPIE residents may be heading back to the polls sooner than expected in the wake of a push to get fluoride out of the region's water supplies.

Town water at Gympie and Tin Can Bay has been fluoridated for the past two years, but some people have moral, ethical and safety concerns about the practice, which has been common in developed countries since the 1940s.

Fluoride reduces tooth decay in children and adults.

But those opposed to it argue it may cause serious health problems, is not effective enough to justify the costs and has a dosage that cannot be precisely controlled.

Health and dental organisations worldwide have endorsed its safety and effectiveness.

Councillor Ian Petersen wants a referendum held in the Gympie region on whether or not people want our water supply fluoridated.

But his motion lost out to Deputy Mayor Tony Perrett's suggestion that the Gympie Regional Council first seek advice from health professionals and the State Government on fluoridation and whether the council is allowed to stop fluoridating under the Queensland legislation.

"I am strongly opposed to the concept of compulsory mass medication, especially in a situation such as fluoridation where the detrimental impact far outweighs the very minimal benefit," Cr Petersen said.

"There is already a background level of fluoride in most water sources and I believe the natural level is quite significant in Gympie's case.

"Adding to that level would seem to be a pointless exercise when one considers that probably in excess of 90% of that fluoridated water is used for watering gardens, washing cars and flushing toilets.

"Perhaps that is a good thing."

Cr Petersen said the council had, in the past and at very low cost, provided free fluoride tablets for people who chose to use them.

"That process avoids forcing fluoride upon our community, which in my view is a much fairer outcome," he said.

"Despite my strong and fundamental opposition to compulsory fluoridation, I believe the democratic process is best served by the above motion which gives our community the option.

"Two amendments to the local government legislation by the LNP should be noted: the Premier has suggested that some councils would be allowed to opt out.

"Gympie is not one of them but there is an indication of some flexibility. And the new legislation allows councils to conduct referenda."

While some councillors supported his idea, others were concerned at the cost of a referendum.

Others said the real issue was that Queenslanders were not given the chance to vote on compulsory fluoridation in the first place.

Cr Petersen's motion will lie on the table.

Gympie Times

Topics:  fluoridation, fluoride, gympie regional council, health, ian petersen, local government


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