There are mixed opinions from those hooked up to the Brogo-Bermagui town water supply regarding Bega Valley Shire Council’s decision to add fluoride to the system.
On Wednesday, February 21, council voted to seek approval from the NSW Department of Health to add fluoride to the Tantawangalo-Kiah and Brogo-Bermagui town water supplies.
Fluoride has been added to the Bega-Tathra water supply system since 1963.
Although his property isn’t connected to town water, Bob Herdegen of Verona had no objection to fluoridating the water system because it would benefit the wider community.
“I lost a bunch of my teeth to decay when I was younger, so anything that protects against that happening to other people is welcome by me,” he said.
But Bermagui resident Frances Matters disagreed, saying people should have the right to decide what they put into their bodies.
As a mother, she was opposed to her daughter ingesting fluoridated water.
“She brushes her teeth everyday and her toothpaste already has fluoride in it, so I don’t think we need more than that,” Ms Matters said.
Ms Matters regularly drinks bottled water over tap water and would continue to do so once fluoride is added.
For other residents, previous exposure to fluoridated water influenced their opinion.
Poppy Louge moved to Bermagui from Sydney when she was five years old and had to undergo fluoride treatment on her teeth as a child as a result.
“The water was fluoridated in Sydney but not here, so I had to visit the dentist for a couple of years to have my teeth treated,” she said.
“If the water was fluoridated here I wouldn’t have needed the treatments, so I think it’s a good thing they are adding it.”
Jerry Langford has just bought his first home in Quaama and is glad fluoride will eventually be added to his water supply.
As a health professional, he said it was frustrating to see simple health interventions like fluoride and vaccinations opposed by parts of the community.
“I think resistance to fluoride comes down to scientific illiteracy,” he said.
“I grew up with fluoridated water in Sydney and my teeth are better for it.”
A survey commissioned by council found that respondents whose main source of drinking water was the public supply were significantly more likely to be in favour of adding fluoride (77.1%).
Respondents with another normal source of drinking water, such as bottled water or rainwater, were less likely to support adding fluoride (51.5%).
The survey asked, “Do you agree with adding fluoride to the public drinking supply to try to prevent tooth decay?”.
Results published on January 29 showed 66.2% responded ‘yes’, 28.4% responded ‘no’, 5.2% were unsure and 0.2% preferred not to respond.
Council expects it will be a number of years before fluoride is added to the Tantawanglo-Kiah and Brogo-Bermagui water supplies because the process will require extensive capital asset construction, human resource considerations,staff training and policy and procedures reviews.
The fluoridation program will be fully funded by the NSW State Government.