FRESH calls to end fluoridation of water are to be put to the Government by a group of MPs led by Sir Ivan Lawrence, the Conservative member for Burton-on-Trent.
Their action follows a decision reported yesterday, by the toothpaste manufacturer Colgate-Palmolive to make a “goodwill” payment of £1,000 to a 10-year-old Essex boy suffering from dental fluorosis, a condition in which the tooth’s enamel is mottled by fluoride.
Sir Ivan, who has campaigned against fluoride for years, said: “This decision puts the issue back on the map. The pendulum is now swinging against fluoride and I believe that it is inevitable that we shall stop fluoridating water before long.”
He said there was now substantial evidence that fluoride was harmful to health and he was drawing up a report to present to the Government showing that it did more harm than good.
However, pro-fluoride campaigners, including the British Dental Association and the British Medical Association, insist that the tiny amount of fluoride put into water is harmless to health but has a major effect in preventing dental caries in children. About 5.5 million people in Britain, most of them in the West Midlands and the North-east, drink water which has been artificially fluoridated.
Fluoride, a mineral found naturally in soil and water, strengthens the tooth enamel, making it more resistant to attack by the acids formed from sugar. It is most effective during the development of teeth in childhood, when it is taken into the structure of the tooth enamel itself.
Government figures show that the proportion of 12-year-olds with no tooth decay rose from only seven per cent in 1973 to 50 per cent 20 years later.
Campaigners insist this is the result of adding fluoride to toothpaste in the early Seventies coupled with the advantage of adding fluoride to the water in some areas at the rate of one part per million.
A survey by the British Fluoridation Society four years ago found that children from Hartlepool, where the water is naturally fluoridated, had the best dental health in the country while children with the worst dental health lived in areas where the water is not fluoridated. Sir Ivan said yesterday that the improvement in children’s dental health was the result of greater awareness of the importance of dental hygiene and avoidance of sugary sweets and drinks rather than fluoride.
He said: “Fluoride is one of the most toxic poisons known. A fraction of a teaspoonful will kill you and there are a number of studies which shows that it has a variety of harmful effects at much lower levels.”
About 200 parents are already attempting to claim damages from toothpaste manufacturers. They will be helped by documents just declassified in America showing that scientists had evidence in 1944 that fluoride could cause confusion, drowsiness and listlessness.
Noel Olsen, a public health doctor and a council member of the British Medical Association, said fluoride in water reduced dental decay in children by between one-third and one-half and posed no risk to health.
Dr Olsen said:” It is perfectly safe for children to brush their teeth with fluoridated toothpaste even if they live in an area where the water contains fluoride.”