The anti-fluoride lobby is calling for fluoride to be licensed as a medicine in another bid to ban it from the nation’s tap water.
Campaigners have lodged this latest complaint while they await the outcome of a judicial review on adding fluoride to tap water in Southampton, prompted by a resident who was against the plans by the city’s health bosses.
The fluoridation move itself followed a public consultation in 2008 in which more than 10,000 people had their say.
Earlier, health chiefs in Southampton had released pictures of children’s rotten teeth to back up their plan and in the hope of improving the city’s poor dental health statistics, especially in more deprived areas of the city.
Since then, campaign group Hampshire Against Fluoridation (HAF) has called on the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to examine whether fluoride needs to be treated in the same way as other medicines.
The MHRA rejected this, believing drinking water to be covered by different legislation and therefore not within its remit.
But politicians have now suggested the agency be censured for allegedly breaking the law by refusing to test the chemicals involved.
Hampshire MEP Caroline Lucas and New Forest East MP Julian Lewis have both written to the parliamentary and health service ombudsman, demanding an investigation.
If successful, it could mean fluoridation will be halted across the country while the chemicals are tested.
HAF chairman John Spottiswoode says because health bosses argued fluoridation is needed to improve dental health, they have admitted it is being used as a medicine, adding that it is ‘immoral and illegal to medicate anyone without consent’.
Mr Spottiswoode said: ‘It is clearly being used for a supposedly medical reason (to reduce cavities) and Lord Jauncy some time ago ruled that this is a medicinal use.
‘It is also clearly a medicinal use under the European law (applicable in the UK). Therefore, the MHRA is required to licence fluoride for use in water to medicinal standards. This, in turn, means that the fluoride needs to pass medicinal standard test to prove that:
• it works to reduce cavities significantly in the population, with a controlled dosage level
• it is safe without any dangerous side effects, even for ‘at risk’ people (young, old, kidney patients, thyroid patient, etc.)
• it is supplied to medicinal purity standards (without the radionuclide and arsenic contamination currently common).’
He adds: ‘Incredibly, fluoride has never been subjected to these tests. Therefore, everyone drinking fluoridated water is being experimented upon and there could be serious health side-effects as have been identified in research. It is a major health scandal that so many people are being put at risk.’
In a response to the call, a spokesperson for the MHRA said: ‘The MHRA is aware of a complaint that has been made to the health ombudsman about the MHRA’s decision not to classify fluoridated water as a medicinal product.
‘The MHRA believes that drinking water clearly falls within the definition of food and notes that there is specific legislation to control drinking water which is administered by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. That legislation is not part of medicines legislation.
‘The MHRA considers that neither the fluoride added to drinking water nor the resulting fluoridated water is a medicinal product. Claims made for non-medicinal products fall outside the MHRA’s jurisdiction.
She added: ‘The MHRA will await communication from the health ombudsman on this issue if necessary.’
The government is keen to roll out the fluoridation of the UK’s tap water in areas not already affected – but this latest move could stall plans.
The anti-fluoride complaints are gathering momentum elsewhere in the country.
Joy Warren, of West Midlands Against Fluoridation (WAAF), waded into the debate.
She said: ‘I heard today that my MP has sent my complaint about the MHRA’s high-handedness to the health service ombudsman. The complaint has been registered. I can only hope that others in the anti-fluoridation networks throughout England have also done the same and that some of their MPs have also forwarded their complaints to the ombudsman’s office.’