CAMPAIGNERS have criticised moves that could pave the way for fluoride to be added to drinking water supplies across South Yorkshire.
Regional chiefs at the Yorkshire and Humber Strategic Health Authority have begun a consultation exercise to discuss the pros and cons of adding the chemical added to water supplies in the region.
The measure is intended to help reduce tooth decay for adults and children, but it is an issue that has ignited huge controversy over the years as many people are opposed to being made to drink the chemical.
It is understood that up to 50,000 homes on the edge of Sheffield, as well as others the Doncaster area, already have fluoride in their tap water as they are supplied by Severn Trent Water, which has added the chemical for years.
The rest of the region is supplied by Yorkshire Water, which has so far not added fluoride – but that could change following a new public consultation exercise.
However, a spokesperson for National Pure Water Association said: “Unlike other chemicals used to make water safe to drink, fluorosilicic acid is added to treat people.
“Severn Trent already medicates millions of customers without their individual, informed consent.
“Administering fluorosilicic acid to people without their informed, individual consent constitutes an act of mass assault.”
A spokesperson for NHS Yorkshire and the Humber said the Department of Health had published guidance in 2008 to help improve dental health and reduce health inequalities.
One option to be considered was to fluoridate the local water supply.
Studies by the NHS have found that children living in areas where water contains fluoride suffered an average of 15 per cent less tooth decay compared with those in non-fluoridated areas.
She said: “The feasibility study is the first stage of an extensive process and will establish if topping up the natural level of fluoride is technically feasible.”
Kate Jones, Director of Dental Public Health, NHS Sheffield said: “Water fluoridation is a safe and effective method of improving dental health.
“The areas of Sheffield where residents receive fluoridated water from Severn Trent are receiving small amounts of fluoride – 0.4 parts of fluoride per million parts of water.
“The recommended level is around 1 parts of fluoride per million part of water.
“Early work on the impact on dental decay levels in the homes in Sheffield where the water is fluoridated suggests a beneficial effect.”
She added: “In Sheffield there are many children suffering from tooth decay. Water fluoridation has been shown to have an effect over and above that of other sources of fluoride including toothpaste.”