The city of Basle in Switzerland is preparing to end the fluoridation of municipal drinking water in the autumn. The local parliament has voted to stop the practice, due to high costs and lack of evidence that fluoride cuts tooth decay.
Basel is the only Swiss canton to add fluoride to its drinking water, a practice that was started some 50 years ago in a bid to tackle tooth decay.

In Switzerland, each municipality has its own drinking water supply, and was responsible for adding the precise quantity of fluoride recommended to prevent tooth decay. In very large quantities fluoride can be poisonous and even the addition of small amounts are claimed to cause dental fluorosis or mottling of the teeth. The true impact of this has long been a source of contention among scientists.

The other smaller municipalities found the costs associated with administering the practice too high. Now Basle’s officials have decided that the evidence that fluoride can stop tooth decay is far from concrete and want to see an end to the practice. In fact, a local government report found that tooth decay had increased in Basle’s children between 1996 and 2001.

“Statistics showed that the number of caries were falling before the introduction of fluoridation,” Dr Urs Buxtorf of the Basle City and Canton laboratory told edie. “Also, for every 1,000 litres of drinking water that is supplied to homes, only two litres are drunk, which means that most of the fluoride in the environment goes back into the environment.”

Other means of preventing tooth decay were therefore seen as more effective for tackling the problem by most people involved in the debate apart from, for example, certain dentists, Dr Buxtorf explained.