Fluoride has been added to water supplies across Australia since 1953 to help improve oral health. Yet due to health concerns there are some that suggest we should remove the chemical from our water altogether; including Australian Fluoride Action and South Australian Independent Candidate and Civil Rights Advocate Mark Aldridge. In this article we explore the reasons that led local authorities to add fluoride to our water supplies, as well as explaining how, at certain levels, fluoride may be harmful our health – and finally what you should do if you want to report and remove flouride from your tap water.
As of 2016 artificially fluoridated water is supplied for over 70% of the population in all states and territories across Australia. Used as an oral health aid fluoridation has been used within our water supplies since 1953, two years after it's acceptance across the USA. As Australia has warmer climate than North America our recommended levels vary significantly in comparison, with the current recommended amounts within the guidelines set by Australian Drinking Water at a maximum of 1.5mg/L.
Whilst fluoride is universally regarded as great for oral health, helping prevent teeth cavities, there still remains controversy about whether directly ingesting the substance is harmful to our overall health.
Fluoride in its natural form is not harmful to your health. However artificial fluoride, which is added to water, can contain by-product substances such as fluorosilicic acid, sodium silicofluoride and sodium fluoride. It is these that can be detrimental to your overall well-being and cause the most common side affect of excess fluoride consumption; dental fluorosis and the pitting (staining) of your teeth.
As mentioned Australian authorities have deemed that 1.5mg of fluoride per litre of water is a safe level to avoid any side affects however, it’s worth noting that the world's leading health organisation – the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), recommends a level of 0.7mg per litre as the ideal balance for maintaining oral health, whilst avoiding any unwanted issues.
In rare cases some industry experts (such as Dr Mercola) argue that even at the defined 'safe’ level, fluoride can still, according to several studies, cause health problems affecting the brain and thyroid, as well as bringing about behavioural issues such as autism & ADHD.
Whilst some chemicals can be removed through filtration systems and jugs, fluoride proves to be a more difficult chemical to remove and is only achieved using specialised filters and Reverse Osmosis systems.
Because of this, if you have any questions about the amount of fluoride that is within your tap water the best course of action should be to contact your water supplier. Beyond this each Australian territory has specialist bodies for public health concerns who you can also contact, and are listed below:
Western Australia adheres to fluoride levels of 1 mg per litre and are therefore perhaps more conscious of the potential effects fluoride can have on those who consume it. Read the Government’s fact sheet here.
The Western Australian Health Department can be contacted on 08 9388 4999.
Northern Australia is a territory with a wide array of public bodies that serve individual regions; visit the contact page for the Department of Health for the Northern Territory Government to find out more.
For contact details for The Queensland Government Department of Energy and Water Supply, follow this link.
South Australia water supplies’ fluoride concentrations are maintained in line with recommend levels set out by SA Health; detailed information about this can be found in their 2013-2014 Drinking Water Quality Report. South Australia’s water entities are publicly owned and known as the business entity SA Water, you can contact them via the SA Water contact page.
New South Wales
South Wales adopt a robust approach to the monitoring of all water chemicals, more information on this can be found on the NSW Drinking Water Monitoring Program; you may also contact the NSW Ministry of Health via their contact page.
Victoria has recently revised their Safe Drinking Water Regulations – you can read more about this here. Victoria also undertake an annual report of the water quality throughout the state, download the 2014-2015 report here.
Should you have concerns about your water supply in Victoria, you can contact the government’s dedicated department for their water program on: 1300 761 874 (during business hours); on pager: 1300 790 733 (which is a 24-hour pager service for public health emergencies) or by email: email@example.com.