HEALTH chiefs will be told today that adding fluoride to water supplies in more parts of Cumbria would be illegal.
Around 130,000 people in West Cumbria already receive fluoridated water but the NHS Cumbria board are set to decide whether to make plans that could lead to fluoridation in South Cumbria.
Changes to the law in 2003 gave primary care trusts the chance to consider water fluoridation as a way of reducing tooth decay and NHS Northwest is asking the county’s primary trust, NHS Cumbria, whether they want to look at in-depth proposals.
Supporters of the scheme say it would improve dental health but anti-fluoridation campaigners say forcing fluoride on people is against the law and causes other problems.
Liz Vaughan and Doug Cross, from Lowick, will address an NHS Cumbria meeting in Kendal today on behalf of UK Councils Against Fluoridation, which was formed in Barrow in 1988 and resulted in 26 councils throughout Lancashire and Cumbria joining to oppose fluoridation.
Mr Cross said: “Fluoride is classed as a medicine but it doesn’t have a licence and it is a criminal offence to supply an unlicensed medicine, as is consulting with the public to perform an illegal act on them.
“The material the board have been given doesn’t tell people about the damage fluoride can cause. We have put in an official complaint.
“It doesn’t actually stop dental cavities but can cause a disease called dental fluorosis which causes stained and pitted teeth. Everybody has the right to refuse medication. They are talking about reducing dental inequalities but fluoride will increase dental inequalities.”
They will also tell the board that fluorosis can only be fixed by veneering, which can’t be performed on people under 21, isn’t free on the NHS, only lasts up to seven years and damages tooth enamel.
NHS Northwest would have the final say on the proposal but the move would only happen following a public consultation next summer.
The trust’s leading health professionals will recommend the board approve a deeper look into the scheme.
In a report set to go before the board Eric Rooney, a consultant in dental public health at NHS Cumbria, said: “Children in the North West have some of the worst dental health in England, and Cumbria is no exception. Water fluoridation is one possible intervention to improve dental health.”
The report highlights a review of water fluoridation by the University of York, which suggests that fluoridation of drinking water supplies does reduce tooth decay prevalence and severity but the degree is not definitive and effectiveness varies.
Dr John Ashton, Cumbria’s director of public health, said: “The vast majority of doctors and dentists in the UK, endorse the fluoridation of drinking water as a safe way to improve dental health.”