HEALTH bosses are considering adding fluoride to East Lancashire’s water to combat poor dental health.
The recommendation has come after a review into oral health throughout the area has revealed that rates of severe dental problems in children have remained consistently high since the mid-90s.
Flouride, which the British Medical Association says strengthens teeth, is already added to the water supplies of around 10% of the population.
But is controversial and has been linked to illnesses including osteoporosis.
Under the report’s recommendations, fluoridation would be used alongside a series of public-health measures, including campaigns to reduce sugar in people’s diets, more dentists and increased prevention education in schools.
Fluoridation is reviewed every four years, and has always been rejected in the North West.
But bosses in the area’s two Primary Care Trusts believe there is a strong case for the move this time, under the new health equality agenda, which aims to improve health in deprived areas.
More than half of 12-year-old children in East Lancashire have had cavities, with five-year-olds having an average of two decayed teeth each.The report, by government public health consultant Melanie Catleugh, said: “Fluoridation of public water supplies is widely used in the UK and many countries across the world, and has been shown to be highly effective in preventing tooth decay.
“Adjustment of the level if fluoride in the water to improve dental health has a 60-year history.”
If the change is to be introduced, both East Lancashire PCT and Blackburn with Darwen PCT will have to put a case to the Strategic Health Authority to consult residents.
The authority, which co-ordinates consultations and major health initiatives, has no stated position on fluoridation, and will make its decision based on the evidence provided.
But Brian Jackson, of Colne, national spokesman on fluoridation for Friends of the Earth, urged residents to reject the scheme, calling it “dangerous and unnecessary”.
He said: “It’s a very nasty chemical that is actually toxic, and has been linked with osteoporosis, cancer and memory problems, and we know for certain it actually causes damage to the tooth enamel with dental fluorosis.
“By adding a blanket dosage we have no idea how much each person is having and whether they are safe. Fluoridation is forced medication – it would be like me forcing someone else to take an aspirin because I have a headache.”
The British Medical Association backs fluoridation, saying children in deprived non-treated areas suffer up to two-and-a-half times as much tooth decay as those with water additives.
The oral health review will be discussed by Blackburn with Darwen PCT at its board meeting on Monday, and by the East Lancashire board at its meeting on Wednesday.