Fluoride in court
MUCH of its time is devoted to investigating violations of international law, upholding whaling conventions and resolving maritime boundary disputes but if a group of Port Douglas residents has its way, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) could soon be called on to stop the compulsory fluoridisation of the local water supply.
A Cairns solicitor is working with local residents to prepare a brief to launch a “landmark case” in the ICJ, also known as the World Court.
Residents will argue the requirement of the State’s water fluoridisation regulation constitutes a breach of their human rights.
Already, a temporary reprieve has been secured as the Cairns Regional Council delays its planned introduction of fluoride into the Mossman and Whyanbeel water supplies which was to have begun yesterday.
The council has asked Queensland Premier Anna Bligh to defer for two years fluoride being added to drinking water pending the outcome of future court proceedings.
Division 10 councillor Julia Leu has defended the right of citizens to exhaust “every legal avenue available to them” including an appeal to the ICJ.
“There is a lot of interest from within the Douglas community and beyond in the outcome of what will be a landmark case,” Cr Leu said.
Friends of Douglas Shire representative Michael Gabour said he supported the push to bring the matter before the ICJ although he was not a party to it.
He said fluoridisation may pale in comparison to the scale and gravity of human rights breaches such as genocide and other crimes against humanity usually dealt with in international jurisdictions but that did not mean it was “mutually exclusive”.
“There is an issue of human rights at stake here, it’s a genuine case of policy without consent which I believe should be tested in the courts where the issues can be properly aired and adjudicated,” he said.
Mr Gabour said while ever an “open question mark” existed about the safety of fluoride, the decision about whether it should be included in drinking water should be left to personal choice.
“It’s a case of people needing to take personal responsibility for their own health - not mass medication by the state. If people want better dental health, there’s plenty of toothpaste available without adding fluoride to our water,” he said.
But Port Douglas dentist Les Krassovich said nobody would ever make such an argument if they had witnessed or experienced the physical or emotional impact of dental caries, or tooth decay, on young children.
Dr Krassovich said it was a procedure he had never needed to perform on a child under five prior to moving to Port Douglas 17 years ago from South Australia.
“I am not a scientist,” Dr Krassovich said.
“I can only make comment based on my own clinical experience.”
“I see the effects every day and it’s the hardest thing a dentist has to do, to administer anaesthetic for the first time to a child and operate on them to perform, in many cases, multiple extractions.”
Dr Krassovich said fluoridation by itself was not a “panacea” but was part of a solution which also required better education about dental hygiene and nutrition.
The Gazette has been made aware of numerous reports which claim fluoride is known to have caused significant, negative health impacts including joint stiffness and pain, bone cancer, hip fractures, thyroid function and even lowering intelligence levels in children.
However, Queensland Health has indicated numerous studies and reviews have confirmed the safety and effectiveness of fluoridation.
Chief dental officer Dr Rhys Thomas said “many myths and falsehoods” had been circulated in the community despite water fluoridation being endorsed by more than 150 major health organisations around the world.
Dr Thomas said Queenslanders had the highest level of tooth decay in Australia and the lowest level of access to water fluoridation.