FLUORIDATED water could pose a significant health risk to babies, campaigners warn today as the debate about the future of the nation’s drinking water intensifies.
Organisations opposed to the compulsory fluoridation of drinking water believe more should be done to prevent children eating too much sugar instead of forcing medication on an unwilling nation.
And they claim the fluoride to be added to drinking water is toxic industrial waste which poses a significant health risk.
The comments come as the Green Party today publishes its Truth Decay report outlining the arguments against fluoridation in advance of the Parliamentary vote on the Water Bill scheduled for September 8.
An amendment to the Bill would shift responsibility for decisions about adding fluoride to drinking water supplies from water companies to the health service.
Campaigners claim this amounts to the forcing of “unproven” medication on the nation, in contravention of basic human rights.
Fluoridated water is regarded by many as the most effective measure to prevent tooth decay in children and the dental and medical profession believe such a step will improve the oral health of Wales, particularly in areas of deprivation or where access to NHS dentists is poor.
Dr Richard Lewis, Welsh secretary of the British Medical Association, said, “Every month of delay sees the inequalities in dental health widening.”
And Stuart Geddes, Welsh secretary of the British Dental Association, added, “It is the most effective way of delivering what is a proven public health measure. We are already in an environment where things are added to our food to benefit our health – vitamin D is added to margarine and iodine to salt.”
But the Green Party has hit back at the pro-fluoridation arguments it dubs New Labour propaganda.
In its report the party claims the fluoride to be added to drinking water is hexafluorosilicic acid – a “toxic and corrosive industrial waste by-product derived from the scrubbings of the factory chimneys of the super-phosphate fertiliser industry.
“Fluorides are medically categorised as protoplasmic poisons which is why they are used in commercial rat poisons,” it adds.
The party claims that babies who drink milk formula made with fluoridated water could be ingesting unsafe levels of fluoride and evidence from the Republic of Ireland, which has fluoridated water, has shown that people are 40% more likely to develop cancer than those in Northern Ireland where fluoride is not added to drinking water.
Martyn Shrewsbury, the Swansea-based health spokesman for the Green Party, said, “We might as well present the argument that a significant proportion of the population is depressed so we will add Prozac to drinking water.
“If we really want to prevent tooth decay then we have to educate people about tooth decay and address these large companies that continue to sell products containing too much sugar.”
Neath Port Talbot councillor John Warman, chairman of the Campaign Against Fluoridation, said, “We expect our water to be wholesome and although things are added to it at the moment they are there to maintain the quality of water.
“We will not accept having fluoridation forced on us when there are alternatives in toothpaste or tablets. It is about time the government cracked down on the amount of sugar attacking children’s teeth and focused on dental education instead of enforced medication.”
But Gwynedd GP Dr Jonathan Jones said, “There has never really been any argument against fluoridation but for the free will of the small number of people who don’t want it.”
Angelesy was the last area of Wales to abandon fluoridated water when the chemical was removed in 1991.
In the decade since fluoride was removed, official statistics show that tooth decay among children living in Anglesey has increased by 168%.
If the new Water Bill is passed, including the controversial fluoride amendment, not all areas of Wales will be eligible for fluoridation.
It is understood that fluoridation could easily be accomplished for those areas supplied by large reservoirs, but in areas supplied by smaller water sources the process may not be regarded as cost-effective. Alternatives to adding fluoride to the water supply include drinking milk or using fluoridated toothpaste.