Cumbrians against Fluoridation has campaigned for the last eight years against what it claims is the use of an untested, unresearched chemical in the area’s drinking water.
West Cumbria is one of around 30 areas to have fluoride added to its water supply – the only place in the county where the water is treated in such a way.
Now Health Secretary Alan Johnson has urged the NHS to consider fluoridating tap water in areas with poor dental health, to help prevent tooth decay.
He has also pledged £42m to get the idea off the ground.
But co-founder of Cumbrians against Fluoridation, Dianne Standen, has questioned the logic of adding fluoride to the water supply instead of letting people get it by brushing their teeth.
She said: “If that money was to be spent in actually targeting the areas of need, then the best thing they could do is get out there and supply them with free toothpaste and toothbrushes.
“I was unaware of the damage fluoride and water fluoridation can do to teeth until two of my children showed strong signs of dental fluorosis. They went on to have the affected teeth removed and veneers put in place.
“Although the damage done to their teeth was very visible, what is more disturbing is that there is no knowledge of the impact excess fluoride may have had on their developing bodies and how it will affect their health over time.”
She said the added chemical is of a much higher concentration than that of natural fluoride, which is usually used in toothpaste to give healthy teeth.
But the Department of Health said academic studies show oral health is better in areas where tap water is already fluoridated and that the number of children with tooth decay decreases by 15 per cent.
The government funding will be split into £14m a year for the next three years to be shared by those health authorities who, following consultations, find the local community is in favour of fluoridation.