The study, “Health Effects of Water Fluoridation: a Review of the Scientific Evidence”, was released late last month after being commissioned by the NZ Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor Sir Peter Gluckman and Royal Society of New Zealand President Sir David Skegg.
It found that the levels of fluoride used in a number of municipalities in NZ created no health risks and provided protection against tooth decay - a claim previously made by Cook Islands Chief Dental Officer Dr Danny Areai.
The study is known to have been making the rounds in Government circles, through an article published late last month in the New Zealand Herald.
The review looked at the scientific evidence for and against the addition of fluoridation to public water supplies, looking at safety factors and purported benefits.
“The report and its executive summary are very clear in their conclusions,” reads the report. “There is compelling evidence that fluoridation of water at the established and recommended levels produces broad benefits for the dental health of New Zealanders.”
The report does acknowledge dental fluorosis - a change in the appearance tooth enamel – as a side effect, but downplays its potential effect.
“There are no reported cases of disfiguring fluorosis associated with levels used for fluoridating water supplies in New Zealand,” the report reads.
“Our assessment suggests that it is appropriate, from the scientific perspective, that fluoridation be expanded to assist those New Zealand communities that currently do not benefit from this public health measure – particularly those with a high prevalence of dental caries.”
The addition and use of fluoride in public water systems has generated controversy around the world.
Detractors describe its use as “mass medication” administered without informed consent, and argue it contributes to health issues such as kidney and bone problems.
A number of commentators have voiced concerns with its possible use in the Cook Islands, claiming that fluoride is linked to reduced intelligence and retarded neurological development in infants and children.
In a submission made earlier this year to an official involved with the Te Mato Vai water infrastructure project, Areai said children between the ages of three and five are beginning to exhibit signs of tooth decay – something that could be prevented with fluoride use.
Ministry of Health (MOH) Secretary Elizabeth Iro has said in a previous interview that a public education campaign outlining its merits could eventually lead to its introduction in the water supply at some point in the future.