New Zealand: Anti-fluoride TV commercials stir debate

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New Zealand: Anti-fluoride TV commercials stir debate

Water fluoridation is a contentious topic in many of the countries in which it is still practised. Two controversial TV commercials by anti-fluoride group Fluoride Free NZ have now fuelled the debate in New Zealand. (Photograph: Africa Studio/Shutterstock)
Dental Tribune International

Dental Tribune International

一. 15 八月 2016


CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand: After airing two national TV commercials, anti-fluoride initiative Fluoride Free NZ is facing claims of misleading the public in the messages delivered. In New Zealand, about half of the drinking water supply is fluoridated, mainly in order to help prevent tooth decay. However, the measure has sparked numerous legal and political battles by anti-fluoride groups in the past.

The commercials have been crowdfunded by the group through the Givealittle website and were aired on 31 July on TV3. According to Fluoride Free NZ spokesman Don Church, the goal of the campaign is to make people aware of fluoridation. “Particularly the waste ad—most people aren’t aware where this chemical is coming from, or what it is that is going into community water supplies,” Church said.

The ad referred to by Church describes fluoride as a “toxic chemical handled by workers using hazmat suits”. The second advert compares New Zealand’s fluoridation with other countries, stating that globally only 4 per cent of the world still fluoridates its water and 98 per cent of Europeans do not have fluoridated water. Both TV commercials are part of a wider campaign that includes a televised debate on Face TV.

Commenting on the adverts, Daniel Ryan of pro-fluoride group Making Sense of Fluoride said that the simplicity of Fluoride Free NZ’s message ignores the inevitable complexities that accompany many scientific topics. “There is much scaremongering and misinformation around fluoridation on the internet and in alternative media. It is easy for the public to become confused about the evidence, and start to believe that fluoride is harmful,” Ryan said.

As reported by, Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) boss Hilary Souter expects complaints about the ads. The ASA does not take positions, Souter said, but ads may not actively mislead the public. In the past three years, the authority had fully upheld six of eight complaints against the group. One of the complaints was partly upheld, while one was rejected.

In spite of the controversial discussion around the topic, the New Zealand Ministry of Health strongly supports water fluoridation as a safe, effective and affordable way to prevent and reduce tooth decay across the entire population. It recommends between 0.7 ppm and 1.0 ppm of fluoride as an efficient way of preventing dental caries in communities receiving a reticulated water supply.

Take a look at the Fluoride Free NZ commercials here:


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