FOUR schemes for adding fluoride to tap water across Greater Manchester are being considered.
Health bosses have asked United Utilities to price up four options for the highly controversial scheme to improve the region’s terrible dental health. They argue adding fluoride to the water supply could help improve dental health – it strengthens tooth enamel. But some anti-fluoride campaigners claim it is potentially dangerous mass medication.
The costs of the different projects are being kept a closely guarded secret until September when they will be given to health trusts around the region, who will have to decide if any of the options are cost effective.
If primary care trust bosses decide any of the options are viable, NHS North West will hold a public consultation – expected to last four months – into the plans. The four options are to add fluoride to: The entire north west water supply (84 water plants); water supplied to Greater Manchester (26 plants); Greater Manchester, Liverpool and Blackburn water (42 plants); the 14 largest plants in the region, which supply most of Greater Manchester except for some of Rochdale.
Councils and health trusts across Greater Manchester have publicly supported the idea of fluoridating the water supply since 2005.
Some five-year-olds in North Manchester have an average of three and half decayed, missing or filled teeth. Almost half of five-year-olds in the north west have a filled, missing or decayed tooth.
Salford Council’s Community, Health and Social Care Scrutiny panel met to hear presentations on the issue. More meetings are now expected across the region. Guy Harkin, director of North West Fluoridation Evaluation group, said: “In 2005 the chief dental officer wrote to all PCTs requiring them to consider fluoridation and there are lots of health trusts now looking at the costs involved.”
“The first step is to decide if fluoridation is cost effective.”
Anti-fluoride campaigner Paul Cline said: “I am not against the health authority providing fluoride toothpaste or sprays to children with poor dental health but they cannot justify mass medication of all children, their parents, grandparents and neighbours.”