Cape Town, Aug 19, 2002 (Cape Argus/All Africa Global Media via COMTEX) — THE South African medical and dental establishment has come out in support of the government’s compulsory water fluoridation plan, despite widespread concern that the chemical poses serious health risks.
Responding to a spate of recent media reports on the fluoride controversy, the South African Dental Association and the SA Medical Association said in a joint statement that after assessing the latest scientific information, they were satisfied there is no valid reason for denying the scientific benefits of water fluoridation to the people of South Africa.
Until now, senior government health officials have also declined challenges by fluoride opponents for open, public debates, but Dental Association president Professor Usuf Chikte said at the weekend he had no objection to a debate.
Dr Paul Connett, an international campaigner against artificial fluoridation and professor of chemistry at Saint Lawrence University, New York, has written to President Thabo Mbeki urging him to halt the plan.
Fluoride, as a waste product of the fertiliser and aluminium industries, has been added to the drinking water of several American cities for nearly 50 years in a bid to strengthen teeth and reduce dental decay.
However, the majority of Western European countries are opposed to fluoridation while numerous dentists and doctors have also reversed their previous support.
But in South Africa, the medical and dental associations said: “Water fluoridation is the most cost-effective way of preventing tooth decay.
It is 18 times cheaper than fluoride toothpaste, 50 times cheaper than current preventive measures and 61 times cheaper than filling one tooth.”
The two associations said although tooth decay was a preventable disease it was one of the most common diseases in South Africa.
They said extensive scientific documentation over the past half-century has established S that fluoridation of public water supplies is a safe and cost-effective community-based method of preventing tooth decay.
South African fluoride regulations were published two years ago and could take effect in some parts of the country as early as next month.
They do not permit any exemptions on the grounds of public opposition or health concerns.
However, Saint Laurence University’s Dr Connett described the South African medical establishments’ joint statement as disgustingly ill-informed considering the number of scientific studies which revealed major health risks.