The controversial issue of putting fluoride into Leicestershire’s drinking water supply is back on the agenda.
New legislation currently before Parliament may pave the way for its introduction into hundreds of thousands of homes. Many health experts favour the move, saying it significantly improves dental health, particularly among deprived groups.
However, anti-fluoride campaigners are vehemently opposed to it claiming that it can cause serious health problems.
Today, the Leicester Mercury is launching a debate over the issue. During the course of the next week we will be running a series of articles about fluoridation and gauging your views.
We will be giving the results to health bosses to give them a clear indication of public opinion.
Fourteen years ago, health bosses in Leicestershire voted in favour of putting fluoride into the water supply despite massive opposition.
About 25,000 people registered their opinion in a Leicester Mercury phone poll in just one day – voting 24 to one against fluoridation.
The health authority’s plans ultimately failed after water company Severn Trent said it could not fluoridate the water supply because it was technically impossible to isolate it from that of other counties.
In the past 20 years, no new schemes have been introduced anywhere in the UK, despite efforts by more than 60 health authorities.
Now, the Government is in the final stages of introducing a Water Bill which includes an amendment to prevent water companies from vetoing a health authority decision.
If health bosses were then to call for fluoridation, it could put water companies under pressure to find a way of supplying it.
Dr Paul Cosford, director of health strategy and public health at Leicestershire’s strategic health authority, said the authority was watching developments.
He said: “Before making any decisions about this issue we would seek the views of local people and experts in the field. There is little doubt adding fluoride to water would make a significant difference to dental health, particularly in deprived groups.”
The threat of new legislation has prompted protesters to step up their campaign.
Sue King, from Blaby, founded national pressure group the Fluoride Exposure Network.
She said: “I strongly object to plans to add artificial fluoride to my tap water because it overrides my freedom to choose how I look after my own health.
“It sets a dangerous precedent to use the water supply for mass medication.
”People in Leicester successfully objected before to this crazy plan – they acknowledged the possible adverse effects on our general health and the knock-on effects to the environment. We must keep up the pressure and continue to say no.”
Carol Mander, consultant in dental public health for Leicestershire, said: “Lots of studies have looked at how safe water is with fluoride and all have said it’s safe and it’s effective. The World Health Organisation supports it and it’s in the water naturally.”
Severn Trent water says the difficulties which prevented fluoride being added to the water in 1989 are still a problem today.
The British Dental Association, which represents thousands of dentists across the UK, is strongly in favour of the move.
The cost of any scheme is set against the cost to the NHS of treating decayed teeth and is paid for by the NHS.