PENDLE Council should follow its policy of previous decades and keep fluoride out of our water, say members.
The recommendation, to be forwarded to the full council, was made by the council’s Scrutiny and Overview Committee after a 90-minute debate.
In favour of fluoridation was Dr Ellis Friedman, of the Primary Care Trust, who said despite sustained effort, expertise and money spent on dental education and other aspects of dental health, health professionals were failing in the fight against tooth decay in children.
A survey of five-year-olds in the North West in 2005/6 showed nearly half the children had an average of two decayed, missing or filled teeth – higher than the rest of England. The figure for East Lancashire was worse and Pendle was sixth from the bottom of the entire survey with 54% of five-year-olds having or having had dental caries in an average of 2·53 teeth.
The only proven, safe answer, insisted Dr Friedman, was the introduction of fluoride into water. Next month, Primary Care Trust chief officers from all over the North West will meet to discuss strategies to consult “key stakeholders”, which include local councils.
However Friends of the Earth representative Mr Brian Jackson, of Winewall, said he intended to demolish the doctor’s arguments.
Hydrofluosilic acid, he said, was listed under the Poisons Act 1972 and would be added to our water. It was a waste by-product of the aluminium and pesticides industries and caused dental fluorosis, which stained and/or pitted teeth, leading to more dental problems. Research linked it to bladder cancer and other diseases. It was accumulative and was not a qualified success in the long-term arrest of caries.
Mr Jackson argued the real reasons for the high evidence of caries could lie with parents not teaching their children how to look after their teeth, poor dental education, wrong diet – and a lack of access to NHS dentists. His views were shared by Coun. Gary Bird, who felt the answers laid with more dentists and better education.
Coun. Maureen Bell said it was unethical to add fluoride to the water.
Coun. Chris Tennant said he worked in animal husbandry and a medical claim was being made which would not be allowed in the animal health industry. Couns Howard Thomas and Smith Benson said the fluoride debate had been going on for decades in Pendle. Coun. Thomas considered they should stay with the old decision not to allow fluoridation but Coun. Benson said he would like to know more about these future consultations.