Another legal defeat for NZ anti-fluoridation activists

By Ken Perrott 09/10/2014 3


The NZ High Court has thrown out the appeal from an anti-fluoride group against the decision rejecting their request for a decision against community water fluoridation. The original case claimed that fluoridation violated human rights legislation and was beyond the legal power of councils. The rejected appeal claimed that fluoridation was prevented by the medicines act.

Latest in string of defeats

Justice Collin’s decision is just the latest in a string of defeats for the anti-fluoridation movement in New Zealand.

Earlier this year the Hamilton City Council reversed its previous decision to stop fluoridation. This came after a referendum held alongside the 2013 local body elections decisively supported fluoridation. Similar referenda in Hastings and Whakatane also supported fluoridation. The local bodies national conference this year resolved to ask that the fluoridation issue be taken out of councils’ hands and handed over to central government departments. This was also a recommendation from the Parliamentary Health Committee last year.

This current high court junction resulted from an appeal against the High Court 2013 rejection of action by the “natural health” industrial lobby group New Health NZ to prevent fluoridation In South Taranaki. And in August the Royal Society of NZ and the office of the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor released a review of the scientific issues around fluoridation which supported its efficacy and safety. This review was partly commissioned by local bodies and will no doubt strengthen their resolve to resist future pressure from anti-fluoride activists.

All this means that the anti-fluoride organisations had lost much of their credibility with local body councils they formerly had. Serious moves to remove the issue from council consideration also weakens the activist strategy.

Fluoridated water not a medicine

In the current decision Justice Collin’s pointed out that in the Medicine Regulations 1984 “every reference to a medicine in this Schedule applies … only if the concentration of the medicine is greater than 10 milligrams per litre …”.  But, “when fluoride is added to domestic water supplies within the maximum allowable concentration of 1.5 mg/l the concentration of fluoride in domestic water supplies will be well below the concentration threshold required for fluoride to be a medicine in Schedule 1 of the Regulations.”

This “leads to the conclusion that the concentration threshold for fluoride in Schedule 1 of the  Regulations is so vastly higher than the maximum allowable concentration of fluoride in domestic water supplies that, when fluoride is added to domestic water at the authorised levels, it falls outside of the definition of “medicine” in the Act.” However, “fluoride would be a medicine under the Act if it was added to domestic water supplies in concentrations of 10 mg/l or more.”


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