Proposals to introduce fluoride into Scotland’s water supply are included in Labour’s draft manifesto for next year’s Holyrood elections.
First Minister Jack McConnell wants to give councils the power to consult on the move in a bid to improve the country’s appalling dental health record.
But scientific experts and politicians last night damned the plans as ‘mass medication’ that could cause long-term damage to public health, especially among children.
Sam Burcher, a senior researcher for think tanks the Institute of Science in Society and the Independent Science Panel, labelled the proposal ‘irresponsible’.
She said: ‘Fluoridation is quite a risky device as it’s a very strong chemical with physiological effects.
It would be better to concentrate on getting more dentists rather than a blanket treatment for everyone.’
About 60 per cent of three-year-olds in Scotland’s poorer areas have dental disease, but previous attempts to introduce fluoride have been resisted by the public.
Senior Labour ministers were keen to go ahead with the plan two years ago, but Mr McConnell was forced to drop it following pressure from his Liberal Democrat coalition partners.
Last night, Euan Robson, health spokesman for the Lib Dems, said: ‘Empowering councils like this runs the risk of mass medication without consent.’
Fluoridation is backed by the World Health Organisation and the British Dental Association (BDA), which has been pressurising the Executive to introduce the measure.
But the Medical Research Council has said further research on the effects of adding fluoride to drinking water is needed. There are concerns about links to dental fluorosis, which causes discolouring of teeth, and damage to major organs.
A source close to the First Minister pointed out the proposals were still in draft form and may not be included in Labour’s final manifesto, which is due to be finalised at the end of November.