Fluoride Action Network

Wales to steer clear of fluoride in water

Source: Western Mail | April 1st, 2005 | By Daniel Davies
Location: United Kingdom, Wales

WALES is not going to follow parts of England and introduce more fluoride into the water supply, it emerged yesterday.

Despite calls from dentists to begin fluoridation it is not on the cards just yet.

An Assembly spokeswoman said, “The Welsh Assembly Government has no current plans to introduce fluoridation schemes.”

Some places in England with fluoridation schemes, such as the Midlands, have much lower rates of tooth decay than Wales.

Dentists rounded on the Assembly Government yesterday for not improving the condition of children’s teeth. The Children’s Dental Health survey for 2003 found there was no improvement in the number of primary schoolchildren with rotten teeth since 1983.

The survey is done every 10 years. Researchers check the teeth of five, eight, 12 and 15-year-olds in schools to asses the dental health of the UK’s children.

Fluoride does occur naturally in the water. Fluoridation schemes increase it to the optimum level to fight tooth decay – about one part per million.

Wales did have one of the earliest fluoridation schemes in the UK, on Anglesey. It ran from the mid-1950s until it was withdrawn in the early ’90s.

Studies by health professionals showed children’s teeth were more likely to decay after fluoridation plants were closed.

However, the subject remains controversial. Tory politicians say it should be a matter of personal choice and oppose the idea of medication through the water supply.

Jonathan Morgan AM, Conservative health spokesman, said, “We would not support fluori-dation. We don’t support mass medication without the support of those people who are to be given it. I buy toothpaste with fluoride in it because that’s my choice.

“I think it’s a step that would not be welcome. We should be doing more to get dentists to set up in Wales.”

The law states fluoridation cannot be introduced until it is discussed with the community.

Last week Parliament set down regulations on consultations in England, opening the door for more health authorities to fluoridate the water supply.

In Wales, drawing up rules on consultations is the Assembly’s responsibility. Sheila Jones, spokeswoman for the British Fluoridation Society, which the NHS funds to promote fluoridation, said Wales is lagging far behind.

“Even if they had the money they are not in a position to go ahead because the Assembly has yet to devise an approved mechanism of regulation,” she said.

The Assembly spokeswoman said, “We will learn from any experience of implementing the consultation regulations in England.”

Plaid Cymru also prefers to talk about why Wales does not have enough dentists. It is less likely to alienate potential voters who might be sceptical about fluoride in the water supply. And it is easier to blame the Labour Assembly Government.

Rhodri Glyn Thomas AM, Plaid’s health spokesman, said, “I think there are a lot of other things we should be doing before we look at that option.”

He said the persistently high number of children with rotten teeth – 71% of eight-year-olds had obvious decay, it was revealed yesterday – was “plainly down to the fact that it is virtually impossible these days to get registered on an NHS practice”.

Dentists have been hammering out a pay deal with the Assembly Government. The product of protracted negotiations on a contract were due to be announced this month.

Meanwhile, the Assembly Government is going to spend money on “sealant” instead of fluoride.

Children in poor communities – who are more likely to have rotten teeth – will get their teeth “sealed”, under an Assembly Government policy. Teeth are covered with a thin plastic coating to protect them against decay.