OUR dentists would love it, but there are seemingly thousands out there who are fundamentally opposed to the fluoridation of our water supplies.
The state of children’s teeth in Wales is lamentable, with levels of decay among the highest in Britain. For the sake of our youngsters, many say, we must add fluoride to our water, and save them from the pain of toothache … and fillings and extractions.
But this is still one of the most vexed topics on today’s health and social agenda – and probably with good reason.
The long-term effects of ingesting fluoride are unknown, with many fearful of the consequences of drinking something not too far removed from a poison.
Some areas have natural fluoride in the water, which is fine. But the additive that would be unavoidable, if fluoridation were to become widespread, is actually hexafluorosilic acid – a substance which gives many water purity campaigners a severe attack of the jitters.
Now this whole issue is fraying tempers once again, because the Water Bill, currently getting its Second Reading in the Commons, would make it easier for water companies to add the chemical to their supplies.
But the key word in this affair is “consultation” – a process which, in too many areas of local government, has something of a bad name. Too often it appears to be a façade aimed at keeping objectors quiet, before reaching exactly the same decision as would have been the case in the first place.
If there is not to be one almighty brouhaha on this most controversial of questions, all those concerned must ensure that the “consultation” is genuine and far-reaching, and that all points of view, many of them passionately held, are taken into account before any decision is reached.
It must be said that the principle of medicating our water supplies is one very much open to scrutiny. If people do actually want fluoride in their diets, they can buy supplements, or they can buy fluoridated toothpaste. We don’t all actually have to have it forced down our throats by officials spreading ever wider the influence of the nanny state.
Maybe this area of debate is so crucial that local referenda might be appropriate, to ensure that consultation reaches every individual who wants to express their opinion. Then, whatever decision is reached in the future, no-one can claim they weren’t asked.