Lismore residents are baring their teeth over it and NSW Labor wants to compel it, so we find out what other countries do
Oliver Milman theguardian.com, Monday 16 September 2013
So how do other countries compare?
USAGrand Rapids in Michigan became the first city in the world to have fluoridated drinking water in 1945. Now, more than 204m people in the US have access to fluoridated drinking water – roughly two thirds of the population.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention proposes that 80% of Americans should have fluoridated water by 2020, hailing it as “safe, effective and cost saving”.
CanadaCanada has been held up by anti-fluoride campaigners as a standard bearer for a fluoride backlash. Rates of water fluoridation vary wildly between provinces – about three quarters of the population in Ontario, compared with just 4% in British Columbia – but several high profile decisions have bolstered the anti-fluoride cause.
About 30 Canadian municipalities have banned fluoride in recent years, most notably the region of Waterloo in 2010, followed by Calgary in 2011.
New ZealandThe New Zealand government says it “strongly” recommends the adoption of water fluoridation. About half of the population has access to fluoridated water. However, Christchurch’s mayor has ruled out adding the substance to the city’s “perfect” water and Hamilton voted to remove fluoride in June.
UK and IrelandJust 10% of the UK’s population – or about 6m people – get either naturally fluoridated water or artificially added fluoride.
Like other countries, there are regional variances – West Midlands provides fluoridated water to 84% of the population, compared with just 2.6% in Yorkshire.
Meanwhile, Ireland is one of the more enthusiastic adopters of water fluoride, with nearly three quarters of the population having access to fluoridated water, although it appears the tide is turning, political party Sinn Fein recently backing a bill that would introduce a prison term of up to five years for adding fluoride to the water.
Continental EuropeJust four European Union countries back fluoride on a national scale, and nations such as Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden have discontinued water fluoridation.
Anti-fluoride activists claim the example of continental Europe shows the widespread unease over the health impact of fluoride, although in some cases governments have stopped adding it due to the adoption of other methods to improve dental health.
There are pockets of fluoride uptake – 11% of the Spanish population, for example. But, significantly, Germany halted its water fluoridation in the 1970s and France never started.
However, proponents state that no country has banned the practice outright and point to the fact that many European nations add fluoride to salt.
BrazilWater fluoridation has been taking place in Brazil since the 1950s, and the government has recently ramped up efforts to provide fluoridated water to as many cities as possible.
About two thirds of Brazilian cities now have fluoridated water, and studies show that results have generally been positive.