A comprehensive report on the safety and efficacy of community water fluoridation aims to put to rest concerns and misinformation over the public health intervention.
The addition of fluoride to community drinking water to improve dental health has been taking place in New Zealand since 1954 and currently more than half the population receives fluoridated water. However, community water fluoridation (CWF) has been a high profile issue in recent years with several councils removing fluoride from public water supplies in the face of intense lobbying from anti-fluoridation groups. At the core of opposition to CWF is concern over the potential health effects of fluoride.
Now a new report, jointly commissioned by the Royal Society of New Zealand and the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor, draws on an extensive review of the scientific evidence to conclude that the levels of fluoridation used in New Zealand are safe and effective in reducing tooth decay.
“The process for the review was rigorous,” said President of the Royal Society of New Zealand Sir David Skegg. “It included an extensive evaluation of the scientific literature by a panel of five experts, as well as one lay observer with local body experience. The resulting report was reviewed by three international experts and by the Director of the National Poisons Centre.”
The final report, titled Health Effects of Community Water Fluoridation: a review of the Scientific Evidence, concluded that CWF was effective in reducing tooth decay (particularly in populations with poor levels of oral health) and posed no significant health risks at the levels currently used in New Zealand.
“The public can be reassured on the basis of robust scientific data, that the implementation of this public health measure poses no risk of adverse health effects,” said Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor, Sir Peter Gluckman. “It is worth noting that dental health remains a major issue for much of the New Zealand population, particularly in communities of low socioeconomic status.”
The report deliberately avoided addressing any broader philosophical or ethicalissues around CFW, choosing only to focus on the health and efficacy considerations. The authors of the report suggested that a similar review be undertaken every 10 years to ensure that that ongoing research can be used to inform policy decisions.
Visit Health Effects of Water Fluoridation for full report, executive summary and a list of contributors.
The report has been widely covered by the media. Examples include:
Dominion Post: No health risks from fluoride, study finds
3 News: Fluoridation review finds no health risks
Radio New Zealand: Fluoride deemed safe to drink
Newstalk ZB: Dentist unconvinced by water fluoridation review
MSN NZ News: No health risks from fluoridation: review
Rotorua Daily Post:Fluoride study: Call for a Rotorua rethink
3 News: Fluoridation review disputed
The Press: Let the fluoride flow – experts
NZ Herald: Fluoride ‘safe and effective’ – expert review
TVNZ News: Fluoride ‘safe and effective’ in community water – report
Yahoo NZ News: Scientific review deals blow to anti-fluoride campaigners