Opposition to the adding of fluoride to Scotland’s water is overwhelming, it emerged yesterday.
Thousands have raised objections to any move by the Scottish Executive to introduce what has been described as mass medication.
The possible introduction of fluoride into the water supply resulted in an almost unprecedented response to an executive consultation exercise, with only last year’s land reform proposals attracting such a similarly massive postbag. About 1700 letters and e-mails were received, along with more than 1000 pre-printed campaign postcards and several petitions with more than 6500 names.
While support for such a step came from sources within the medical and academic world, the mountain of responses contained an outpouring of public condemnation, much of it from parents and grandparents.
They expressed anger and “revulsion” at such a step and claimed a measure that would lead to “funny water” had no part in a civilised society.
Many warned that ministers could face court challenges on human rights grounds. Several calls for a referendum on the issue were made.
The depth of anti-fluoridation feeling was shown in one response which likened such a move to “enforced sterilisation of all physically and mentally-disabled people”.
The consultation document, Towards Better Oral Health in Children, drew a mountain of submissions from around the world with some, including ones from Hawaii, Australia and France, opposing fluoridation while others, many of them NHS primary care trusts in England, advocating it would be a good step for Scotland to take.
Ministers were forced earlier this year to extend the consultation period after claims that insufficient time had been allowed for responses.
Among those in favour was Graham Ogden, professor of oral and maxillofacial surgery at Dundee University dental school, who, in a “get fluoride into water” call, demanded “an end to the arrant nonsense peddled by antifluoridationists”.
The Scottish Association of Clinical Dental Directors said the consultation document illustrated well the poor oral health endured by many Scots children.
It said it believed there was much scientific evidence to support “both its efficacy and safety” and that it was an extremely cost-effective measure.
The west of Scotland branch of the British Society of Paediatric Dentistry said it would be a major step towards prevention of dental decay, while the Greater Glasgow Area Dental Committee maintained the early introduction of fluoridation would be “a major way of reducing caries levels and narrowing the inequality gap.”
Colwyn Jones, consultant in dental public health at Highland NHS Board, said of fluoridation: “It’s going to reduce the misery, pain and disfigurement that tooth decay showers down on people.”
However, not everyone is convinced. Dawn Smith, of Linlithgow, had opposed fluoridation for a number of years since both her children, particularly Carena, her teenage daughter, were affected by the condition.
Carena, on the advice of her dentist, took daily fluoride supplements, but now requires life-long treatment for extreme tooth insensitivity.
Her mother said: “Water fluoridation would effectively deny us, and everyone else, what we all consider the right to safe drinking water.”
An spokesman for the executive said the findings would be revealed in the summer and the executive would respond “in due course”.
*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/