THE debate on fluoridation is heating up, and as Warrington Primary Care Trust nears decision time, the voice of the opposition is getting increasingly loud.
Friends of the Earth, along with health groups ranging from The US Kidney Foundation to thyroid specialists, are gearing up to fight plans to add fluoride to the water supply.
This month in Southampton the council and PCT have been debating the pros and cons of adding the chemical to water as the city moves to public consultation on the issue.
The decision made there is likely to affect the rest of the country.
In Warrington, the primary care trust is expected to make an initial decision in the summer before putting the choice to public consultation.
The PCT has said in the past that adding fluoride to the water may help combat dental problems and save money in the long run.
But some medical evidence suggests fluoridation can do more harm than good.
In 2000 a study by the University of York said that fluoride in water can lower levels of decay, but that the benefits ‘come at the expense of an increase of fluorosis’, which is a condition where teeth become mottled and yellow.
Fluoride is classed as a poison under the Poison Act 1972, and in the 1930s was used to treat over-active thyroid glands because of its repressive effects.
The worry is that additional fluoride would affect healthy thyroid glands, said Dr Barry Durrant-Peatfield, the UK medical advisor to Thyroid UK.
Advocates of fluoridation argue that fluoride in water would be so diluted that its effects as a poison would be negligible, and that the positive effects far outweigh the risk. But other countries that have fluoridated water have had mixed reactions.
“America has done a bit of a U-turn,” said Dina Baird, a member of Warrington Friends of the Earth.
“They used to really push it but now they say they don’t recommend that infants are given it for making up formula,” she said.
“How are mothers here going to access clean water? Who is going to pay for their filtered or bottled water?” she asked.
Warrington PCT is keen to stress that a decision has not yet been made.
“The PCT is awaiting a report from the North West Fluoridation Evaluation Group (NWFEG), which is consulting on the technical feasibility and costs of water fluoridation in the north west,” a spokesman said.
NWFEG’s outcome is expected this summer.
“Thereafter, each PCT board will need to consider whether it wishes to see the introduction of water fluoridation into any part of its area, and if so, ask the Strategic Health Authority to undertake a public consultation in line with the relevant legislation,” the spokesman added.