Fluoride Action Network

Scottish Consumer Council urges ministers to scrap ‘risky’ fluoride plan

Source: Scottish Daily Mail | Scottish Political Reporter
Posted on January 10th, 2002

Ministers were yesterday urged to scrap plans for the fluoridation of Scotland’s water supplies in favour of ‘less risky’ schemes to cut tooth decay.

Watchdog body the Scottish Consumer Council (SCC) warned that pressing ahead with the proposals could expose the public to ‘adverse health effects’.

The Scottish Executive is currently carrying out a consultation on plans to add fluoride to drinking water in a bid to improve children’s teeth.

Doctors and dentists have backed the scheme, but critics claim it could lead to a range of health problems including bone disease and Alzheimer’s.

SCC chairman Graeme Millar said: ‘Fluoridation of drinking water is a form of mass medication which removes an individual’s right to choose. It can only be justified where there is overwhelming evidence of benefit and no significant risk.

‘The safety of fluoride is still the subject of debate. As a result, we do not believe fluoridation can be just- ified.

‘We would urge the Executive to examine alternative measures that may be even more effective and will certainly be far less controversial.’

Supporters of the scheme claim it is the best way of improving the teeth of children in deprived areas, who are three times more likely to have tooth decay at age five than those from affluent areas.

Nationally, 55 per cent of children have rotten teeth before they start primary school. Ministers have an ambitious target of reducing this to fewer than 40 per cent by 2010.

But pressure from the SCC, a watchdog funded by the Executive to champion the rights of consumers, could force Health Minister Malcolm Chisholm to back down.

It believes improving dental services should be a priority instead, citing the difficulty of finding dentists willing to take NHS patients in parts of Scotland as a ‘major problem’.

Mass fluoridation has already been banned in 12 European countries and 50 American cities.

A recent report from the Medical Research Council found that, while there is no reason to think fluoride may be harmful, there is still a lack of research on its effects.

The Executive’s consultation was due to end on December 31, 2002, but was extended to February 28, 2003 after Fife and Lothian health boards failed to meet the deadline.

Announcing the extension yesterday, Deputy Health Minister Mary Mulligan said: ‘This consultation is about taking action on a number of fronts. No single approach will bring about the progress we want. A range of measures is necessary if we want to see real and lasting improvements in our children’s teeth.’

A final decision will be made later this year.


*Note from FAN:
For a further understanding of the Scottish Childsmile program, which was created because of the Scottish Executive’s decision not to fluoridate, go to http://fluoridealert.org/content/childsmile/