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Qld council's fluoride removal 'misguided'

AAP logoAAP 28/09/2016 Jamie McKinnell and Melissa Grant

Queensland's government is facing calls to make water fluoridation mandatory after another council decided to remove fluoride from its supply.

Mackay is the latest council in the state to make the controversial choice, with councillors voting 6-5 in favour.

It came as Australian dentists warned an unacceptable number of children were being admitted to hospital to treat preventable tooth decay, citing lack of access to fluoridated drinking water among the reasons.

The decision in Mackay has angered health organisations, with the state government being urged to again make water fluoridation mandatory.

The former Newman government passed legislation allowing individual councils to decide whether to have fluoride, after the previous Bligh government insisted it be added to supplies.

Australian Dental Association spokesman Dr Michael Foley said the decision in Mackay was "dreadfully misguided".

But he said he wasn't angry with the council as its decision was only made possible by the former Newman government.

"That legislation was an appalling piece of legislation," he told AAP.

Dr Foley said the government had a responsibility to act on the "lunacy legislation".

"Councils across Queensland, and mayors, have said repeatedly 'why are we making this decision, we don't have the expertise'," he said.

His calls were echoed by Australian Medical Association Queensland chairman Dr Shaul Rudd.

"Every government has responsibility for public health," he told AAP.

But while it supports fluoridation, the Queensland government has no plans to make it mandatory.

"Consistent with our election commitments the decision whether to add fluoride to water supplies will remain with local councils," a government spokesman said.

Mackay Mayor Greg Williamson said his council's decision followed "a good debate" on Wednesday morning and two opinion polls indicating residents were in favour of the move.

ReachTEL polled 1137 Mackay residents and found 39 per cent supported fluoridated water, 46 per cent were opposed to it and 14 per cent were undecided.

An online council poll attracted 573 responses, with 262 people in support of fluoridated water and 309 against it.

The move would likely cost "some tens of thousands of dollars", Mr Williamson said.

"Over the course of the next week or so, the fluoride will be gone from our water supply," he said.

In May 2013, the council voted 8-3 to resume putting fluoride in the water supply, three months after discovering employees had stopped adding it without the knowledge of the executive.

The former Newman government handed councils the power to decide on fluoridation in late 2012 after backbencher Jason Woodforth described it as a "brain-altering poison".

Within months, six councils had removed fluoride from their systems, including the Cairns City Council, which described it as "involuntary medication".

Several others have since followed suit, including the Rockhampton and Gladstone councils.

According to Queensland Health, 24 of Queensland's 77 councils still add fluoride to one or more of their water supplies.

The department supports the fluoridation of drinking water as an effective, efficient and safe measure to prevent tooth decay.

More than 150 major health organisations, including the World Health Organisation, support water fluoridation.

A three-year University of Queensland study released last year showed levels of tooth decay in children dropped 19 per cent in the Logan-Beaudesert area since the introduction of fluoridation.

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