THE TELEGRAPH: Mass medication of the water supply warrants proper discussion

Contained in the Government’s plans for dentistry is a proposal to expand fluoridation in the water supply. Ministers took the decision to order mandatory schemes in the Health and Care Act 2022 with little in the way of public – or parliamentary – debate. Previously, it was the responsibility of local authorities.

Since this involves the mass medication of the water supply, the lack of a wider discussion is surprising.

Many people think that their water is already fluoridated when in fact just 10 per cent of the population is covered by such schemes, predominantly in the Midlands and the North East. There have been no new additions since the 1980s.

In its “recovery plan” for NHS dental care announced this week, the Government said that a water fluoridation programme would be rolled out, expanding first across parts of the North East not yet covered. This would encompass a further 1.6 million people.

Ministers and clinicians are adamant that, after 70 years of fluoridation in some parts of the country, the evidence is strong that the medication is safe. It is less clear that these schemes have markedly improved dental health.

There is always a danger of perpetuating conspiracy theories but, when it comes to putting substances into the water, however benign the Government might argue they are, the public should be fully involved in the decision.

Victoria Atkins, the Health Secretary, told MPs there will be consultations, but ministers reserve the right to override objections. If the Government wants to expand fluoridation then it should be certain that it has the public onside.

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