Fluoride Free WA has eye on Yanchep water

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Professor Paul Connett warning of fluoride's potential side-effects at a Fluoride Free WA meeting in Yanchep. Picture: Anita McInnes

By Ingrid Jacobson

STEVE Smith is a financial advisor but despite citing economic reasons for taking fluoride out of public water, his biggest concern is its effect on people’s health, especially children.

That’s why the North Metropolitan candidate and his party are keeping a close eye on Yanchep which presently doesn’t have hexafluorosilicic acid, commonly known as fluoride, added to its water supply.

Like other Fluoride Free WA candidates vying for seats during next Saturday’s State Election, Mr Smith views it as a health-threatening toxin, rather than a harmless aid to protect public teeth.

As does New York Professor Paul Connett who recently headlined a debate hosted by the party in Yanchep warning of fluoride’s potential side-effects.

The retired scientist’s big message was that fluoride is impeding brain development in children, especially babies, the latter especially so when fed with bottled formula.

There were also warnings of a host of other problems to public health, as well as to the environment, the latter in the form of contaminated groundwater.

“Over 300 scientific international studies are raising red flags that fluoride is reducing IQ levels in children by five per cent,” Mr Smith said.

“But there’s not many green flags which is why much of Europe has stopped putting fluoride in water.

“It’s been nearly 50 years since the State Government decided to add it to our water and there has been no review since then.

“That was back in the days when we were also being told that smoking was safe and asbestos was good.”

Professor Connett is the co-author of The Case Against Fluoride _ How Hazardous Waste Ended Up in Our Drinking Water and the Bad Science and Powerful Politics That Keep It There.

The retired scientist, whose areas of expertise are environmental chemistry and toxicology, also headed meetings in Perth and country WA, part of an Australian tour backed by the national Fluoride Free party.

“More and more leading scientists like Paul Connett are coming out against the addition of fluoride to water,” said Mr Smith.

“When you look at what it is – a highly toxic byproduct from the fertiliser industry which magically becomes fine to add to water, it doesn’t add up.

“In 2014, it was classified as a neurotoxin which means that it may be similar to lead and mercury in having no safe threshold.

“It doesn’t add up for our health, and also economically, which is another aspect of the government’s refusal to review its policy on fluoride that  we are questioning.”

Mr Smith is referring to the cost of WA’s water fluoridation bill which he estimates to be about $3 million.

“In WA, this product is sourced from an organisation in Kwinana which is owned by Wesfarmers.

“If that organisation was to dump it in the ocean, in rivers, dams or on land, it would be illegal.

“But the Water Corporation buys the product off them and it can then be legally added to drinking water as it’s no longer determined to be a hazardous waste product.

“When you think that 90 per cent of water consumed in households goes down the drain and therefore into the environment, it makes no sense.

“If that organisation had to dispose of it in an environmentally-friendly way, it would cost millions.”

Mr Smith was drawn to the party in the hope his grandchildren would be able to grow up in a healthy environment and to have the choice of safe products to consume.

He buys water by the container from a company that re-uses the  bottles and believes it’s the best way to avoid adding to another environmental issue – plastic pollution.

Mr Smith said that since swapping tap water for bottled, his thinking has been clearer and a few niggling health issues that “come from being on the wrong side of 50” have been resolved.

But as he points out, it still doesn’t take him and others out of the all-encompassing fluoride cycle.

“That coffee you have, that beer at the bar, the fluoride absorbed into your skin when you have a shower.

“What we are saying is that the public should have a choice as there’s no way to avoid this chemical.”

In line with its call for choice, Fluoride Free WA is also advocating for public education on the issue.

It wants warnings put on Water Corporation bills, council bills, in childcare centres, nursing homes and other facilities stating the potential health risks of fluoride.

A member, or members in parliament, would give it more power to push for these aims and following a recent preference deal with other micro parties, Fluoride Free’s East Metropolitan candidate John Watt’s chances are looking bright.

Mr Smith says he wasn’t involved in the preference deal that was put together by Glenn Druery.

As vice president of the party, he views his strength as being able to understand the elaborate processes required in dealing with government bodies.

It’s a talent he puts down to being a financial advisor for 10 years, dealing with the often complex legislation and regulations handed down by the Australian Securities and Investment Commission.

Laughing at the suggestion that his bean counter background makes him a bit of an unlikely guess for a Fluoride Free candidate, the self-described “boy from Belmont” admits he’s far from the cliche of the “tree hugging greenie”.

“They call people like me a conspiracy theorist,” he said.

“But I’m not – I’m just someone who has researched the facts, a Joe Citizen who wants to get off Facebook and take it to the frontline.”

Part of that is talking down criticism that Fluoride Free is a one-issue party, with this would-be politician insisting that the party’s platform is part of a bigger picture.

“If a government can’t get the basics right like health and environment, how the hell can it get anything else right.

“How can anyone prioritise other issues ahead of the water you drink, the food you eat and the air you breathe.”