CAMPAIGNERS have welcomed a delay in plans to fluoridate the North West’s water supplies.
NHS North West said it was too expensive and time-consuming to pursue a programme of fluoridation or consultation exercise.
The strategic health authority assessed the feasibility and affordability of a regional scheme from 2008 to 2009.
It concluded that the cost would be around £200million over a period of five or six years – with annual operating costs of £6million.
NHS North West is to be abolished under NHS reforms, with responsibility for new schemes moving to local councils.
It said: “In transition it is unlikely that NHS North West would have the workforce capacity and capability to support a high quality, authoritative consultation exercise.”
Water fluoridation is the addition of the chemical compound fluoride, which can prevent cavities by strengthening enamel on teeth, to a public water supply.
Supporters say it is an effective way of reducing tooth decay, which benefits both rich and poor.
But opponents maintain that it can be damaging, citing the risk of fluorosis or mottling of teeth.
They also argue it infringes human rights as it violates ethical and legal rules which prohibit medical treatment without consent.
Brian Jackson, of East Lancashire Friends of the Earth, has been campaigning against water fluoridation for more than 25 years.
He believes it is dangerous and does not protect teeth.
He said: “If people want to apply fluoride to their teeth that is their business but we should not be forced to ingest it.
“They can buy the toothpaste or ask for tablets from their chemist.
“NHS North West has said there is no money, there is no time, there is no expertise and there is no excuse for this go ahead.
“Fluoridation is not going to happen around here any time soon, in which time we will continue our work to ensure it never does.”
But dental surgeon Mark Wilkinson of Glen Lyon Dental Practice, Accrington, said the decision was a ‘blow’.
He said: “We have one of, if not the worst rates of dental decay in the country in East Lancashire, so I would say this is a bad thing.
“We do know if you get too much fluoride it’s not good for you, but we’re talking about tiny amounts in drinking water.
“It would be a help to get fluoride in the water but it’s not the only way you can get it.”
He suggested alternatives like fluoride toothpaste or drops, but said he feared some children in East Lancashire would suffer the effects of poor dental care due to low family income.
He said: “Even with these available there will still be a lot of kids in this area who get rotten teeth through a lack of dental care, because not everybody gets access to these drops or even to toothpaste believe it or not, as some people cannot afford it.”