Fluoridation in WA

In Western Australia, adding fluoride to the water supply was introduced with the Fluoridation of Public Water Supplies Act 1966. About 92% of our public water supplies are fluoridated.
The Act stipulates fluoride in our water should not exceed around 1 part per million, including pre-existing fluoride levels.

Map showing percentage of population with fluoridated tap water, and when each state introduced it.

Map showing percentage of population with fluoridated tap water, and when each state introduced it.

The fluoridation advisory committee

The 1966 Act established the The Fluoridation of Public Water Supplies Advisory Committee to advise the Department of Health on the issue.
This committee advises the WA Department of Health on fluoridation, and with the minister’s approval, directs all water fluoridation in Western Australia.

Fluoride Free WA has obtained through Freedom Of Information Act requests, heavily redacted copies of the minutes of all of the meetings of the committee since 2000. These can be viewed here.

The identity of the committee members is not made public, and meeting  are held behind closed doors, even to members of parliament, who have on occasion requested to sit in.

According to the Act, the fluoridation committee members must be:

  • Executive Director, Public Health (Chair),
  • A member of the Water Corporation as nominated by their CEO,
  • A CEO of the WA Chemistry Centre, or an analyst appointed by their CEO,
  • A member from the WA branch of the Australia Medical Association (AMA),
  • A member from the WA branch of the Australian Dental Association (ADA),
  • A member from the WA Local Government Association.

The committee members are exempt from liability for anything that happens in relation to their position (section 8 of the Act). The committee has various powers to direct the Water Corporation of WA, however the WA Minister for Health approve their directives. Interestingly, the Act specifically says that no proof is required of the minister’s approval. (section 14 of the Act).

Likewise, any certificate issued by the committee’s analyst does not require any proof of the analyst’s identity or qualifications.

Where do the fluoridation chemicals used in WA come from?

The chemical added to tap water is an unrefined waste product of phosphate fertiliser manufacturing. Large quantities of phosphate fertilisers are used in agriculture.

In WA fluorosilicic acid is supplied by CSBP in Kwinana. FFWA have discovered that some is also imported from China.

From CSBP’s website and Material Safety Data Sheet:

  • Fluorosilicic acid is a co-product of CSBP’s superphosphate manufacturing process.
  • Fluorosilicic acid is used to fluoridate drinking water.
  • Fluorosilicic acid is classified for physicochemical hazards and specified as dangerous in the Australian Code for the Transport of Dangerous Goods by Road and Rail.

This danger was demonstrated locally on 13 September 2013 when some was spilled at the Mundaring Dam resulting in evacuation and decontamination of workers and site visitors.
According to the ABC, 27 people had to be checked over and decontaminated just because it ‘leaked from one containment tank into another’.