A Leading West scientist is heading a nationwide campaign to block Government plans to add potentially harmful chemicals to the country’s water supplies, it was revealed last night. Chemist Dr Jenny Duckworth says the health of the nation could be put at risk if companies are allowed to press ahead with plans to add fluoride to household water.

Local authorities across the UK are opposed to mass fluoridation and have won the backing of pressure groups and politicians.

And Steve Webb, Northavon MP, says he is not convinced the Government has won the argument and will be voting against the crucial Water Bill when it comes before the House of Commons next Monday for its second reading.

The Liberal Democrat carried out a straw poll on the issue in his South Gloucestershire constituency and found many people have deep concerns about fluoride.

He said: “On a point of principle, I am wary of imposing something on people that they may not want. Once you fluoridate the water supply, people who are opposed to its use are left without any option.

“The burden of proof must be on the Government to prove it is safe, if it wants to add chemicals to our water supply. They have not done that so far to my satisfaction.” Pilning-based Jenny Duckworth, a leading member of the Safe Water Information Network, said: “We see this as a breach of human rights because the adding of fluoride would be seen as medication and people cannot be forced to take medication.

“But there are a number of health problems related to fluoride in water as well, including thyroid problems.” The row over fluoride is likely to come to a head in the Commons next Monday, even though the Government has won the backing of the British Medical Association.

If the bill is supported by MPs on Monday, then it would be become law in the autumn and the power to decide whether fluoride is used on a mass scale will be passed on to local health authorities.

Experts argue fluoride can help cut down on tooth decay, but opponents have labelled it mass poisoning and point out many European countries have turned their backs on the chemical.

Peers voted in favour of smoothing the way for water companies to put fluoride in their supplies when the bill was debated in the Lords during the summer.

Opposition has been spreading across the UK with some councils, including Brighton, Bradford and Lancaster, passing motions opposing the Government’s plan.

Criticism has also come from the Green Party and the National Pure Water Association who have both stepped up their campaigns to mobilise public opposition.

Margaret Wright, the Green Party’s spokeswoman on the issue, said: “If people knew that the chemical used in fluoridation is a toxic waste product, they would be horrified. The fluoride added to drinking water is hexaflurosilic acid. It comes from the pollution scrubber liquor used to clean chimneys in phosphate fertiliser factories and has never been safety tested for human consumption.” She added: “If the new Water Bill goes through unamended, strategic health authorities will be able to compel their local water company to fluoridate the supply.

“The Water Bill will require health authorities to consult and ensure a majority of local people are in favour before they fluoridate. But this is a matter of medical ethics and it is the standard accepted practice that the patient must have the right to refuse treatment.” A water industry source said: “We are not talking about the benefits or disadvantages of fluoride. We just want it recognised that it’s a decision for health authorities to take after consultation with consumer bodies. But there has to be genuine consultation.”