The use of fluoride in toothpaste is now so widespread that people’s total exposure to the chemical is no longer known, leading scientists said yesterday.
A report from the Medical Research Council, commissioned by the Government, could put into question Labour’s plans to change the law to encourage more fluoridation in the fight against tooth decay.
The MRC report says that fluoride toothpaste use has risen so much in 20 years that the earlier research on its safety is out of date and needs to be done again.
Anti-fluoride campaigners say the MRC report has failed to look at the toxic effects of other chemicals used in water fluoridation. They claim that fluoride can cause cancer and osteoporosis as well as mottling of teeth.
The MRC recommends new research that will look for any differences in the effects of fluoride on health depending on whether people live in areas with artificial fluoride in the water or not.
That includes research on osteoporosis, a disease on which there is contradictory evidence on the effects of fluoride, and into cancer, although evidence suggests that fluoride in the water does not cause it.
Dr Paul Harrison, chairman of the report working party, said: “Use of fluoride in toothpaste has become extremely widespread and we think that has changed the picture.”
The MRC found no evidence that fluoridation damaged the immune and reproductive systems, child development, the kidneys or the gastro-intestinal tract.
About five million people in England drink fluoridated water, mainly in the West Midlands and the North East.