POOR dental health and deprivation across Burnley and Pendle is forcing NHS chiefs to look into increasing the level of fluoride in the public’s water supply.
However, this has sparked debate among campaigners who consider fluoride a toxic chemical linked to osteoporosis and cancer.
Health bosses say there is an obvious link with tooth decay and poor standards of living across East Lancashire, which is among the 100 most deprived areas in England, with Burnley the most deprived, ranking 37th in the country.
The British Dental Health Association says fluoride can help dental health by strengthening tooth enamel, making it more resistant to decay, yet objectors consider it a forced medication which will do more harm than good.
Angry campaigners joined health officials at East Lancashire’s PCT meeting to voice concerns, but were told the discussion is at its early stages and advice and evidence would be sought before any decisions were made.
Kathy Reade, chairman of the PCT, said: “We obviously take this seriously and need to respond following considerable investigation and after seeking advice.
“I would suggest we invite your organisation to come and present its findings on fluoridation, as well as members of the public who are of course welcome.”
Mr Brian Jackson, a national spokesman on fluoridation for Friends of the Earth, warned the board his group would pursue the campaign against fluoride and would contact lawyers if necessary.
He said: “Fluoride is nasty toxic waste and never should be in drinking water. It’s virtually ineffective, we know for certain it actually causes damage to the tooth enamel with dental fluorosis, and it has been linked to many medical problems including arthritis, hip fractures, osteoporosis, dullness of the intellect and mainly bone cancer.
“There has not been enough research done and I’m confident that if this
was stopped and more research was carried out independently it would be found to be too risky.
“Fluoridation chemicals are, or contain, prohibited poisons, as specified under the Poisons Act and the Poisons List Order.”
A report from Government public health consultant Melanie Catleugh is in favour of fluoride. The report says poor dental health among children in East Lancashire has been high since the mid 1990s and five year-old children have an average of two teeth affected by decay.
If water fluoridation is accepted by the PCT, a request will be made to the Strategic Health Authority to pursue the feasibility of the scheme.
Under the report’s recommendations, fluoridation would be used alongside a series measures to address oral health, including actively helping reduce sugar in people’s diets, stopping smoking and tobacco use, and increasing the availability of dentists.