COMMUNITY water fluoridation started in the US nearly 64 years ago.
Every year since, the number of US communities fluoridating their local water supplies has steadily increased – today, some 16,500 water systems provide fluoridated water for the benefit of America’s children and adults.
Approximately 195 million people now drink optimally fluoridated water in the US. Forty-three of our largest 50 cities are fluoridated, including New York, Los Angeles, Boston, San Francisco, Miami, Chicago and Washington DC.
So for UK residents travelling to the US, the chances are that they will almost certainly be drinking I fluoridated water during their stay.
In October 2007, when the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California commenced fluoridation of its entire supply net work, an estimated 11 million additional Californians stood to benefit for the first time from this public health measure.
And San Diego (California) city councillors voted unanimously to authorise the city’s mayor to proceed with fluoridation of water supplies for the 90 per cent of San Diego’s population not already benefiting.
Fluoridation is supported as a safe and effective method of reducing tooth decay in children and adults by the US Public Health Service, the American Medical Association and the American Dental Association.
As in the UK, we have our anti-fluoridation groups. Like yours, they make all manner of claims that are unsupported by any credible scientific evidence. They often use scare tactics to oppose a tried and tested public health measure (fluoridation) that was declared by the US Centers for Disease Control to be one of the ten great public health achievements of the 20th century.
Opponents wrongly claim that fluoridation is ineffective. In the past eight years, three major scientific reviews of the evidence have shown that fluoridation does make a significant difference to dental health (the UK’s own York report, a US task force review published in 2002 and an Australian National Health and Medical Research Council report in 2007).
Of course, now that over 70 per cent of the US residents connected to public water supplies are drinking fluoridated water, it has now become more difficult to make accurate comparisons between fluoridated and non-fluoridated areas.
Many beverages and food products made with fluoridated water in our major cities are widely distributed to people living in non-fluoridated areas. Called the ‘halo effect’, the benefits of fluoridation stretch well beyond the areas that are technically ‘fluoridated’. Children and adults living in non-fluoridated areas now experience less tooth decay because of this.
As someone who has devoted his professional life to improving the public’s health, I commend fluoridation to the citizens of Southampton.
I drink fluoridated water every day and have no concerns that it may be harmful to me, my family or anyone else. I also have no doubt that the fluoridation of Southampton’s water would result in a measurable reduction in children’s teeth decay within five or six years after it began.