Health bosses have been attacked over fresh plans to add fluoride to the town’s water supply, reopening a controversial 38-year-old debate.
A Bolton MP and councillor have criticised the move by regional health bosses to make fluoridation of the North-west’s tap water a priority.
They claim there are still serious question marks over the use of the chemical and it should only be added to supplies if the public asks for it in a referendum.
The last time the town voted, in 1968, a massive 82 per cent said no to the plans. Bolton was the only town in the country to hold such a vote.
Health bosses say mass medication is the only way to reduce tooth decay in children under five by half.
The Greater Manchester Health Authority knows it faces a battle. It said that it would need to “overcome substantial barriers prior to successful implementation.”
It is waiting for the results of a medical research study, with the outcome expected in three months time. If the dossier recommends that further research is required, the region will be put forward as an “obvious candidate” for a pilot programme.
But the news has caused anger among campaigners against fluoridation, including Bolton North East MP David Crausby.
Mr Crausby said: “It is not up to the Greater Manchester Health Authority to make this decision. I will be asking questions in parliament and will be pushing for a referendum in Bolton.
“There should be widespread consultation with the public, not just people who regard themselves as speakers for the public.
“If they say attitudes have changed, then test it – hold another referendum, then we will know for sure. Let the people decide.”
Derek Schoular, chairman of Bolton’s dental committee, welcomes plans for fluoride to be added to the water. He said most dentists wanted to see a reduction in tooth decay, which he described as “rife” in Bolton, with most five-year-olds having an average of three bad teeth.
In fluoridated Birmingham, children have only one bad tooth by the time they are five, claims Mr Schoular.
He added: “The Local Dental Committee fully support fluoride in the water. We want to see the end of tooth decay on the scale that we are seeing it in Birmingham.”
Bolton Council is part of the North West Councils Against Fluoridation. Liz Vaughan, from the campaign, said: “The people of Bolton will want to fight this. There is stacks of evidence to suggest that fluoride damages our health.”
Cllr Bob Ronson said fluoride was highly toxic and mistakes could be made.
He said: “The water board have refused to put it in the water because the Government will not cover them if there is any possible damage. I think that says it all.”
Bolton Evening News
May 14, 2002
OPINION – Here we go again.
The debate about adding fluoride to the water supply is about to receive another airing.
Our letters postbag is set for another bashing now that the Great Manchester Health Authority has announced that it wants to make fluoridation of the North-west’s tap water a priority.
It is convinced that mass medication is the only way to achieve a 50 per cent reduction in tooth decay among the under fives.
Organisations like Bolton’s dental committee agree entirely, but this view has been contested vigorously in Bolton for more than 30 years and you can bet that the anti-campaigners will be active once more.
The regional health authority is looking forward to the results of a medical research study due to be published in three months’s time.
If it recommends that further research is required, the region will be put forward for a pilot programme.
Should this be suggested Bolton – which voted against fluoridation in a 1968 referendum – can be expected to resist the idea strongly.
Bolton Council is part of the North West Councils Against Fluoride body and supports the view that there is a great deal of evidence to suggest that fluoride can be damaging to health.
This newspaper, over the years, has been against compulsory medication and sees no reason to change its mind at this stage.
It looks as though the medical establishment is embarking on new efforts to convince us that the experts know best.
But even it is wins the argument – and there are plenty who say it will not – the obstacles to mass fluoridation are pretty steep.
Bolton North-east MP David Crausby is already calling for a new referendum in Bolton and there could be a similar scenario in some of the other North-west towns which could be affected.
But the biggest problem blocking the way for the fluoride lobby is the fact that a privatised water company, United Utilities, would be responsible for adding the chemical.
It clearly has to look after the interests of its shareholders and will take some convincing that implementation costs – and possible compensation claims – are worth the risk.