Nelson City Council backs off fluoridation - not confident of legal status

Friday 8 March 2024, 1:27PM

By Fluoride Free New Zealand



Nelson City councillors were advised on Thursday (7th March 2024) that the Ministry of Health has agreed to an extension to the implementation date for fluoridation because of the ongoing legal uncertainty about the directive.

In a letter to the Minister on 15 February, Mayor Nick Smith requested an extension to the implementation date saying “We are proceeding with the engineering work but we cannot be expected to proceed when the latest advice from the Ministry is “the implications of the judgment are being considered”.”

Mayor Smith is obviously not confident that the Ministry of Health’s claim - that fluoridation is a justified limitation of the basic right to informed consent to medical treatment under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act – will stand up in a court of law. 

Or perhaps Mayor Smith, regardless of his public bravado that “he is satisfied about the safety of fluoridating water supplies and the significant oral health benefits”, does not really believe fluoridation is the right thing to do. Perhaps he watched some of the latest court proceedings in the US where US Environmental Protection Agency’s key witness defending fluoridation, agreed that fluoride was capable of causing neurodevelopment harm at levels as low as 2ppm and that current evidence that lower levels cause neurodevelopmental effects is “probably in the suggestive range but is highly uncertain”. Apart from not being certain that fluoride is not causing harm at “low” levels, applying the usual benchmark margin of uncertainty of 10, on the 2ppm hazard level, would mean 0.2ppm was the highest allowable level in water – well below the 0.7ppm to 1ppm range that the Ministry of Health demands. 

This agreement from the Director-General of Health will apply to all 14 councils that choose to request an agreement from the Ministry that they do not need to start fluoridation until at least the 31st December 2024. Claims from mayors and councillors that their hands are tied no longer hold true. 

This should also send a message to councils who are currently fluoridating that they might also be in breach of the Bill of Rights Act and should request that they too be allowed to not add fluoridation chemicals until the matter is resolved.