Healthy living

Fluoridated drinking water

What is fluoride and what is fluoridation?

Fluoride is a mineral that is found naturally in all water sources, including fresh water and sea water.  It is also found naturally in a wide range of food items including tea, fish and rice and is a normal part of the diet.

When present in drinking water at the optimum level, or used in dental treatments, fluoride can promote dental health by helping to prevent tooth damage and decay.

Water fluoridation is simply the process of adding fluoride to the water supply to an optimum level that allows everyone to enjoy its beneficial effects.

Is drinking water in Western Australia fluoridated?

Yes. Water fluoridation was introduced in Western Australia in 1968. Currently, around 91 per cent of the WA population is provided with fluoridated drinking water, principally in the Perth metropolitan area and most larger regional centres.

Who supports fluoridation of drinking water?

Water fluoridation is supported by an extensive range of authoritative health research organisations and public health agencies in Australia and worldwide, including the:

What are the benefits of drinking fluoridated water?

Fluoride at the optimum level helps protect teeth against decay in people of all ages, from very young children to the elderly, by helping to strengthen teeth and repair damage caused by early decay.

Fluoridated drinking water particularly benefits children and those on a lower income, as it is delivered directly into the home at no incremental cost.

It contributes to a suite of oral health initiatives that include healthy diet, good oral hygiene, appropriate use of fluoridated toothpaste and regular dental check-ups.

Are there any adverse health effects from drinking fluoridated drinking water?

No. Sound evidence and research, as well as more than 60 years of experience around the world, including over 40 years in Western Australia, has clearly shown that the optimum amount of fluoride in drinking water simply poses no risk to health.

Are there guidelines for fluoride levels in drinking water supplies?

Yes. The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), Australia’s peak public health policy organisation, specifies a maximum level of 1.5 milligrams per litre for fluoride in drinking water.  (One milligram per litre is equivalent to one part per million.)

The World Health Organization also sets a maximum guideline value of 1.5 milligrams per litre for fluoride in drinking water.

This guideline value has been set to protect children from the risk of dental fluorosis from higher levels of fluoride.  Fluoride added to drinking water for the protection of teeth is always kept well below this level.

See the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (external site) for further information.

How much fluoride is added to drinking water?

The optimum level of fluoride in fluoridated drinking water supplies across WA is set to achieve the best dental health outcome for the community within the water supply district.

The optimum level is recommended by the statutory Fluoridation of Public Water Supplies Advisory Committee, based on guidelines published by the National Health and Medical Research Council.

The optimum level ranges from 0.6 to 0.9 milligram per litre, with a maximum of 1.0 milligram per litre established in the Fluoridation of Public Water Supplies Act 1966 (external site). The optimum level for the Perth metropolitan area is 0.8 milligram per litre, with a range of 0.7 to 1.0 milligram per litre.

The level of fluoride added to public drinking water supplies in Western Australia is similar to other areas in Australia with a similar climate.

Are fluoride levels in drinking water supplies in WA monitored?

Yes. Drinking water supplies in Western Australia are monitored on a continuous to weekly basis to ensure that fluoride levels do not exceed the legal limit.

How can I find out if my drinking water has been fluoridated?

In WA, fluoride is added to drinking water in the Perth metropolitan area and most larger regional centres, including Geraldton, Kalgoorlie, Broome, Derby, Karratha, Esperance, Collie, Manjimup and Albany, as well as a number of smaller communities supplied from the same source or treatment plant as the regional centres.

Some regional centres in WA have naturally occurring levels of fluoride in the water supply.

The Water Corporation (external site) can provide more information on the water in your particular area.

Is bottled water fluoridated?

In most cases, the answer is No, although some bottled water products contain naturally occurring fluoride from the source.

Australian food regulations do permit the voluntary addition of fluoride to bottled water, so long as the total amount of fluoride is within the range 0.6 – 1 milligrams per litre.

Any bottled water with added fluoride that is sold in Australia must be clearly labelled with a typical analysis and words stating that the product contains added fluoride.

This labelling allows consumers to make informed decisions about their drinking water.

Can I remove fluoride from my drinking water?

The optimum fluoride level in public drinking water supplies, which is less than 1 milligram per litre, is a safe and effective way of helping to protect teeth against dental decay, and it is not necessary or desirable to remove the fluoride.

Nevertheless, distillers and filtering systems containing ion exchange resins, activated aluminium or reverse-osmosis membranes have been shown to be effective and will remove most of the fluoride from water. These filters, however, are quite sophisticated and expensive to purchase, install and operate.

More information about removing fluoride from water can be obtained from a professional water treatment company.

Remember

  • Community water fluoridation is an important, cost-effective public health measure which plays a critical role in reducing dental decay and improving oral health.
  • The benefits and safety of fluoridation of public drinking water supplies is supported by overwhelming scientific evidence.
  • Water fluoridation is widely practised throughout Australia, and is supported by an extensive range of major public health organisations in Australia and worldwide.
  • The fluoride levels in drinking water supplies in Western Australia are maintained at safe and effective levels and are regularly monitored.

More information

Water Unit
Environmental Health Directorate
Department of Health
PO Box 8172
PERTH BUSINESS CENTRE WA 6849

Telephone: 9388 4999
Email: ehinfo@health.wa.gov.au  


This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

Link to HealthyWA Facebook page