- Water companies are calling for the final
decision on fluorodising tap water to be placed in the hands of those who
- Companies no longer want to be responsible
for making the decision - and they want changes in the law so that if fluoride
does turn out to be harmful, they are not legally liable.
- Water UK, which represents the UK's water
utility companies, proposes that the decision should be taken by health
- But the group says a final say would
only happen after consultation with local people.
- At the moment, water suppliers themselves
choose whether or not the chemical is added to their water, but few have
done so due to legal concerns and uncertainty over what the public actually
- Although studies have consistently showed
that areas where fluoride is added enjoy consistently better dental health
- fluoride strengthens tooth enamel - it has been the subject of much controversy.
- Support from NHS Confederation
- Opponents of fluoridation claim it can
actually damage tooth enamel by discolouring it, and can even damage people's
health in the long term.
- But Water UK hope public consultation
by regional health authorities, along with government measures to legally
indemnify water firms who add fluoride, can settle the matter once and
for all. \ Water UK's chief executive, Pamela Taylor, said: "For many
years now, the public has listened to the fluoridation debate without having
the opportunity to take part.
- "If the Government takes the path
we've outlined, there will be real public consultation. Our proposals would
mean that the people who decide what goes into the water are the people
who drink the water in that locality - that to us seems a very sensible
- The proposals have already won support
from the NHS Confederation, which represents health authorities and NHS
- Chief executive Stephen Thornton said:
"Widespread fluoridation would have a massive impact on reducing dental
health inequalities in the UK."
- Mr Thornton said a recent NHS Confederation
survey showed strong support for the issue. 100 health authorities were
asked to give their views on the best way to reduce inequalities in dental
health. Of the half who responded, 70 per cent advocated fluoridation.
- The British Medical Association issued
a statement calling for flouridation of all water supplies.
- The statement said: "Dental health
inequalities are widening. The BMA is calling on the Government to take
urgent action to implement the recommendation in Sir Donald Acheson's recent
report of the Independent Inquiry into Inequalities in Health that water
supplies should be fluoridated, and to make a firm statement to this effect
in the forthcoming public health white paper.'
- Fluoridation is among the world's longest-running
medical controversies, with opponents claiming it is a poison which weakens
bones and discolours teeth.
- Sue King, of the Campaign for Pure Water,
called for a public inquiry into the flouridatioin of water supplies.
- She said: "This is do to with environmental
pollution. A toxic chemical is being added to the water supply and people
should be aware there is a lot of information that they do not have."
- The first place in the world to fluoridate
its water supplies artificially was Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1945.
- A mineral found naturally in soil and
water, fluoride strengthens the tooth enamel, making it more resistant
to attack by the acids formed from sugar.
- It is most effective during the development
of teeth in childhood, when it is taken up into the structure of the tooth
- It exists naturally in all water supplies
but the level can be topped up.
- About 5.5 million people in the UK drink
artificially fluoridated water, mainly in the West Midlands and North East.
- A recent survey by the British Association
for the Study of Community Dentistry found that residents of the West Midlands
enjoyed the best dental health in England.
- Since the use of fluoride toothpaste
became widespread in the UK in the mid 1970s, there has been less dental
decay among children in both fluoridated and non-fluoridated areas.
- Figures released last month by the National
Alliance for Equity in Dental Health showed that in areas with water fluoridation
levels of tooth decay were halved.