DOCTORS’ leaders in Wales yesterday stepped up a campaign for fluoride to be added to water supplies to combat tooth decay.
It followed a call by Westminster health secretary Alan Johnson for fluoride to be added to more water supplies in England.
Welsh secretary of the British Medical Association Dr Richard Lewis said the doctors’ group had been in favour of the fluoridation of mains water supplies for many years.
“The evidence shows that water fluoridation is one of the most effective ways of reducing tooth decay
Mr Johnson urged the NHS to consider fluoridating tap water for those areas with poor dental health.
About £14m a year of extra funding will be made available over the next three years by the Government to strategic health authorities in England who find that the local community is in favour of the introduction of fluoridation schemes, following consultations.
Academic studies show oral health is better in areas where tap water is fluoridated and the number of children with tooth decay decreases by 15%.
Children in fluoridated Birmingham had half the cases of tooth decay than children in non-fluoridated Manchester.
Mr Johnson said: “Fluoridation is scientifically supported, it is legal, and it is our policy, but only two or three areas have it and we need to go further in areas where dental health needs to be improved.
“But there are people who hold strong views on this subject, so it is important that any proposed schemes are fully and widely consulted on.”
In 2000, the University of York published a report which concluded the fluoridation of water increased the number of children without tooth decay by 15%. It also concluded children in fluoridated areas had, on average, 2.25 fewer bad teeth than in non-fluoridated areas.
Fluoride was last added to the water supply in Wales 17 years ago and when water fluoridation was stopped in Anglesey in 1991, tooth decay rose by 68%.
Opponents claim adding fluoride to the water is a form of “forced mass medication”.
Wrexham’s Labour AM Lesley Griffiths called for a national debate in Wales on the controversial issue.
First Minister Rhodri Morgan said: “I have no objection to a debate to try to work out whether the arguments are sufficiently strong, especially given the poor dental health that we have in Wales.”