RESEARCHERS in York have reignited a fiery debate by accusing the Government of using selective evidence to promote the use of fluoride in the water supply.
The long-running saga has divided the nation, with opinion split over whether we should be subjected to a form of “mass-medication”.
In 1999, the Department of Health commissioned a major review of the evidence by the University of York, with boffins at the city’s campus analysing more than 3,000 research papers.
Today, Professor Trevor Sheldon, pro-vice chancellor at the university, accused the Government of using their findings selectively to give an “over-optimistic assessment of the evidence in favour of fluoridisation”.
Writing in the British Medical Journal, he said his review had actually highlighted the poor quality of evidence surrounding the health benefits of adding fluoride to water supplies.
He said it had showed that the rate of dental caries caused by tooth decay had dropped substantially both in countries which had added fluoride and in those which had not.
It also revealed that there was no absolute certainty that there were no adverse side effects of adding fluoride to the water supply.
Coun Andy D’Agorne, Green Party leader on City of York Council, welcomed the report and said he hoped it would set the record straight.
He said: “If fluoride was added to the water supply because of health benefits it would effectively be a form of mass medication.
“So, if there are any doubts about the adverse effects of this medication, it should not be given to the whole nation. People should be able to choose.”
A spokesman for the Department of Health said: “We keep evidence in this area under constant review.
“This is a very important issue that is of great importance to the nation’s health and we have a team of people working in this area.
“They look at all academic research around the world and we use them to form our judgement.”
The fluoride debate
Pro-fluoride campaigners argued that adding the chemical to the water supply would improve our teeth – saving thousands of children from tooth decay.
But anti-fluoride activists claimed the chemical had potentially harmful side-effects, including mottled teeth, bladder cancer and bone fractures.