LEVELS of fluoride in Burnley’s water supply could be increased in a bid to improve the town’s dental health.
The controversial move, particularly aimed at socially deprived families, was discussed by health bosses at a meeting of East Lancashire Primary Care Trust Board.
Board members heard cases for and against fluoridation and backed a recommendation to ask the North West Strategic Health Authority to carry out further investigations into the feasibility of a water fluoridation scheme.
Dr Ellis Friedman, NHS East Lancashire public director, said all PCTs in the North-West have been asked if they want the Strategic Health Authority to explore the possibility of adding fluoride to the public water supply.
“We are not in a public consultation process at this stage but believe in having an engagement process and, if required, would be fully supportive of a public consultation process,” he said. “There is going to be a lot of debate about fluoridation today and in the future.
“Firstly, I believe fluoridation is safe. Secondly, fluoridation of the water supply is effective at individual level and thirdly it is effective at population level, especially for the deprived population.”
Dr Friedman added fluoridation was the most effective way of improving oral health within communities.
It is reported fluoridation could reduce the number of children and adults with tooth decay, abscesses caused by tooth decay and the number of people admitted to accident and emergency departments with poor dental health. Half of children in Burnley and Nelson have some form of tooth decay.
But critics said, rather than improve teeth, an increase in fluoride would lead to one in eight children suffering from dental fluorosis, fine lines on the surface of teeth enamel.
Speaking at the Trust board meeting, Liz Vaughan from the UK Councils Against Fluoridation said: “The aim is to reduce inequalities but it actually increases inequalities as people who need cosmetic dentistry for dental fluorosis will have to pay.”
Representatives from pressure group Fight Against Fluoridation also called for debate surrounding the issue before any decisions are made, claiming fluoridation is an “infringement of human rights” and has not been proved to be safe.
The final decision on whether to introduce fluoride into Burnley’s water supply will be made by the Strategic Health Authority, after a public consultation has taken place.