Douglas is a forensic ecologist and toxicologist, who sits on the government inquiry into the Camelford water poisoning of 1988. Here he tells how he is opposed to the adding of fluoride to the public water supply


SHOULD Primary Health Care Trusts be allowed to require water companies to fluoridate public drinking water supplies across the country, if there is a public demand?

Universal fluoridation is now firmly out in the open as government policy, so it was entirely predictable that in March this year the All Party Parliamentary Group on Primary Care and Public Health investigation into water fluoridation dismissed public objections to the practice, claiming that the civil liberties argument does not hold if water fluoridation is safe and efficacious as a public dental health measure.

Even when confronted by evidence that fluoridation is unlawful, an insult to medical ethics, and violates legally protected human rights, they brushed off objections as mere “civil liberty’’ issues, based on unimportant legalistic arguments.

MPs supporting fluoridation, and their narrow-thinking scientific supporters, clearly have a very hazy understanding of the difference between civil liberties and human rights.

Civil means how we relate to the state in which we live. When we agree to a code of civil liberties, we are making a contract of behaviour with the state. Civil liberties are simply permits given to us by the state that limit what we may do within our society.

They are described in the laws written by politicians, and enforced by police and other authorities, using civil powers given to them by the state.

Human rights are quite different – they exist because of who we are, not where we live and the permits imposed by a particular group of politicians.

Authoritarian states often pass legislation that violates human rights, using whatever excuse is currently in favour – the need to control terrorism, protecting public health, economic expediency – you name it, they have used it at some time. New Labour is particularly addicted to such ethical travesties.

Fluoridation chemicals – not fluoride, incidentally – are put into the water supply to treat or prevent bad teeth. Although this government refuses to admit it, this is medication, and as such is rigidly controlled by European law.

The chemicals used are actually registered poisons. They are emphatically NOT registered as medicines, despite their use in medicating dental decay.

You might suppose that legalistic arguments revealing that fluoridation contravenes both domestic and European laws would at least have some impact on the state.

Not in the least – the government is at this very moment attempting to force water companies to add to the water that they will supply to every customer in the land toxic chemicals whose only official legal status is that of poisons.

HOW many parents know that? It really does not matter if fluoridation works or not. Throughout the European Union, if any substance is claimed to have any medicinal value, then it is a medicine, and must be registered as such. Its actual efficacy is irrelevant. The right to refuse such medication is not a simple civil liberty, to be decided at the whim of politicians. It is a fundamental human right, and as such is covered by all the current UK and EU legislation on human rights.

Suggesting that we should be allowed to vote on permitting the public water supply to be fluoridated would itself be a violation of the right of other people to refuse it.

THIS is not England’s sick Parliament, with the prizes all awarded by majority vote. We are all Europeans now, and in Europe, majorities cannot vote to abolish the human rights of minorities, regardless of how large their majority may be.

We already have the absolute right to choose – it is written into the human rights legislation. We do not need Parliament’s permission because it is not within Parliament’s authority to award it as a civil liberty.

When human rights conflict with civil liberties, it is the civil liberties that must be changed to comply, not the rights of the people.

This is precisely the trap that New Labour recently walked into when they threatened to revoke Britain’s agreement to Article 3 of the Human Rights Convention, because it protects the rights of suspected enemies of the state.

Any attempt to remove any of our established human rights would itself now be in violation of both the UK and EU human rights legislation.

Catch 22, Mr Blair!