A plan to extend the fluoridation of tap water for the first time in 30 years to combat tooth decay has provoked a backlash from those who deem it “mass medication”.
A battle is raging in Hull, where the scheme is being considered, as scientists and campaigners clash on the future of dental and public health, amid claims that more research is needed.
Public Health England (PHE) says that fluoridation is a “safe and effective” measure, but opponents claim there is no control over the dosage and allege that it may be linked to dental mottling, bone density problems, thyroid and pituitary gland disorders and even certain cancers.
Some areas of the country, mainly on the east coast, have high levels of naturally-occurring fluoride in the water but six million people, a tenth of the population, live in areas with fluoridated supplies.
The practice was introduced in Birmingham in 1964 and other areas, including Newcastle, Cumbria, Cheshire and Lincolnshire, followed suit. However, if Hull goes ahead, it would be the first new agreement since 1982 when the Birmingham scheme was extended to cover three quarters of the East and West Midlands.
“Somebody, somewhere is pulling the strings and saying, ‘We want it rolled out throughout England, it’s a damn good idea, a good idea to get rid of this nasty, hazardous waste — let’s just run it through our bodies and into the sea,’ ” said Joy Warren, co-ordinator for the UK Alliance Opposed to Water Fluoridation. She said that more research into the effects of fluoridation was needed before the scheme was rolled out.
In its 2014 review, PHE found that children in the most-deprived communities experienced a 32 per cent reduction in tooth decay at five years old and a 26 per cent reduction at 12 years old if drinking water was fluoridated. The latest proposal, from Hull’s Health and Wellbeing Board, was discussed at a Labour group meeting two weeks ago. In November, it will be discussed at a council meeting and if approved, it will ultimately go to public consultation.
Professor Stephen Peckham, professor of health policy at the University of Kent, agreed that more research was crucial. “PHE say there’s no evidence of harm,” he said, “but in fact that’s incorrect and if you read systematic reviews you will find papers which say they found harm from ingesting fluoride and others that say there’s no harm. It’s not to say it’s harmful — it’s inconclusive.”
John Morris, a water fluoridation expert at the PHE, said that World Health Organisation guidelines allowed for 1.5mg of fluoride per litre in drinking water to protect teeth.
*Original article online at https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/city-split-over-fluoride-in-tap-water-z27hdqngb