AS a member of the Faculty of Public Health and having been involved in public health practice and research for over 20 years, I was disappointed that our vice-president Dr Steve George should perpetuate a number of myths about the efficacy and effects of water fluoridation.
The York Report did not “fail to find evidence of harm” and the authors have repeatedly stated that it is not possible to confidently claim that water fluoridation is safe or that it reduces health inequalities.
Reference to “mild dental fluorosis” is also misleading. Numerous studies show that there has been a steady increase in cases of fluorosis in fluoridated areas.
In the USA and Eire over a third of children have dental fluorosis and while 20 per cent or so may be mild nearly ten per cent is of a moderate or severe form leading to brown staining and pitting of the teeth and the need for repeated dental treatment as adults – levels confirmed by both the York and Australian Medical Research Council research reports.
Fluorosis of the teeth is an indicator of systemic fluoride toxicity in the body. Water fluoridation clearly contributes to rising levels of fluoride consumption which, as much recent research has shown, means many people – especially babies and young children – are exceeding what is regarded as safe daily limits.
Concerns about this have recently led Eire and Canada to reduce the levels of fluoride in their water supplies from 1ppm to 0.7ppm. The view that there is an ‘optimum’ level of fluoride is not supported by many scientists and researchers world wide.
To say that “Eire has one of the lowest levels of decayed, missing and filled teeth in the western world” because of water fluoridation is clearly misleading as non fluoridated countries have similar low rates. The point is that rates of dental decay have falled in countries with or without water fluoridation at similar rates.
In the UK children living in “disadvantaged and non-fluoridated” areas can have less decay than those in fluoridated areas. In 2005/6 five year olds in fluoridated Gateshead had similar levels of decay as those in Southampton and in 2001, five year olds in fluoridated central Birmingham had higher levels of decay than in Southampton.
Despite there being twice as many children in Liverpool than Southampton – and being more disadvantaged – nearly 200 less children had a general anaesthetic for removing decayed teeth – neither area is fluoridated so clearly there are preventive measures that can help reduce children’s suffering.
As the evidence clearly shows the solution for dealing with dental decay in Southampton is not water fluoridation.
Despite 50 years of fluoridation in the USA, dental decay remains one of the leading causes of childhood ill health. Ninety-five per cent of the world’s population and 98 per cent of people in Europe do not have fluoridated water. Let’s keep Southampton that way too.