Southampton City Primary Care Trust (PCT) have just received news that one of the biggest port cities in the United States, San Diego, has decided to tackle tooth decay by topping up the natural fluoride content in the water supplied to most of its 1.2 million citizens.
Both Southampton and San Diego have been largely missing out on the benefits that people enjoy when the fluoride in their water is topped up to the best level for dental health.
Whilst around nine per cent of San Diego’s population already drink fluoridated water, no Southampton resident is currently receiving the protection it offers against tooth fillings and extractions.
Dr Andrew Mortimore, Public Health Director for Southampton City PCT commented: “It is interesting and timely that these two major ports here and in the USA should both be seeking to give their populations the same level of protection that millions of other people already enjoy in the UK and USA.”
“Whilst both San Diego and Southampton are both clearly lagging behind other places that applied fluoridation many years ago, this is an important public health commitment for the future to improve dental health through this safe and effective public health measure.”
Forty-six out of the 50 largest US cities already adjust the fluoride level in their local water supplies, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington DC, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Boston, Houston, Dallas, Atlanta and Miami. Around 171 million Americans – over two thirds of the entire population of the country – are currently supplied with fluoridated water.
Many other major cities around the world are also served by fluoridation schemes, including Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, Auckland, Hong Kong, Singapore, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Dublin, Cork, Birmingham and Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
Some of them started topping up the naturally occurring fluoride content in their water as long as 40 to 50 years ago. Since then, they have been able to monitor the improvements in dental health and satisfy themselves that there are no adverse effects on health.
Dr Andrew Mortimore continued: “Whilst some countries have not decided to adjust the fluoride level in their water, the fact is that many highly popular ‘world destinations’ have been doing for many years what we in Southampton are now proposing to do. Like ourselves, none of them would support fluoridation unless, from a public health perspective, they considered it to be safe and effective.”
“Tens of millions of people living and working in all of these cities around the world are today receiving water that contains one part of fluoride per million parts of water. In total, there are over 350 million people in more than 30 countries who are served by such schemes.”
Referring to the parallel routes along which the relevant Southampton and San Diego authorities have recently embarked, Dr Mortimore said it reflected common concerns that their citizens were missing out on the dental benefits which fluoridated water could offer.
He asked: “Why should the people of Southampton and San Diego, and in particular their children, be denied an opportunity to reduce their risk of tooth decay and having to have those teeth filled or extracted, possibly under a general anaesthetic? When we know that we could significantly and safely reduce those risks, it would be wrong of us not to propose the fluoridation of our water supplies.”
Notes for Editors:
1. Countries with fluoridation schemes in operation
Countries around the world with schemes to adjust the natural fluoride content of their water to the optimum level for dental health include: Ireland, Spain, Poland, the United Kingdom, Serbia, Canada, the United States, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, Guyana, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Peru, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Australia, New Zealand, Brunei, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Fiji, Libya and Israel.
2. The number of people supplied with fluoridated water
The total number of people around the world currently receiving water with a natural fluoride content that has been artificially adjusted to the optimum for dental health is estimated at 355 million.
3. Countries where some water supplies contain enough natural fluoride to benefit dental health (without the need for adjustment)
Countries where some local water supplies contain enough natural fluoride to prevent tooth decay include: Argentina, Austria, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Gabon, Guyana, Haiti, Ireland, Israel, Libya, Malta, Mexico, Namibia, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Poland, Senegal, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Tanzania, Thailand, the United Kingdom, the United States, Uruguay, Venezuela, Zaire, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
4. The number of people drinking water with a high enough natural fluoride content to benefit teeth
This is estimated to be approximately 50 million people.
For more information please contact Matthew Butler, Communications Officer, at Southampton City Primary Care Trust on 023 8029 6930.