The Sunday Times Sarah-Kate Templeton, Health Editor
ALAN JOHNSON, the health secretary, will this week tell health chiefs in areas of England with the highest rates of tooth decay to add fluoride to the water supply to improve the dental health of poor children.
Johnson will argue that adding the mineral to tap water is necessary to prevent tooth decay among children who do not brush their teeth regularly.
The health secretary believes the measure is needed to cut health inequalities between children in affluent families whose tooth brushing is supervised and in households where children may not even own a toothbrush.
“I want the NHS to do much more to prevent rather than just treat disease,” Johnson said.
“Fluoridation is an effective and relatively easy way to help address health inequalities – giving children from poorer backgrounds a dental health boost that can last a lifetime, reducing tooth decay and thereby cutting down on the amount of dental work they need in the future.
“We have a duty to help the areas with the worst records on tooth decay to discuss this issue and take the necessary steps to improve their dental health.”
However, the blanket fluoridation programme will be opposed by campaigners who say the entire population will be forced to take “medication” because a minority fail to brush their teeth.
The National Pure Water Association said: “By presenting fluoridation as a means of preventing tooth decay, Alan Johnson confirms the practice is medication. Fluoridation is carried out by water companies in violation of their customers’ human right to refuse consent to any medical intervention.
“Fluoride is only being added to prevent tooth decay among a relatively small proportion of the population, mostly children in deprived areas who do not brush their teeth. These children are already being identified and treated in more effective ways.”
Some doctors argue that while adding fluoride to water supplies would cut levels of tooth decay among poor children, the long-term medical consequences are unknown.
Johnson points out that in the Irish Republic, where more than 70% of water is fluoridated, the average number of decayed, missing and filled teeth per child is just 1.3 compared with 2.3 in Northern Ireland, where fluoridation has not been implemented.
Fluoride is already added to water supplies in areas of northeast England and the West Midlands. Fluoride also occurs naturally in the water supply in some areas.
In America, 70% of people use fluoridated water and it has been added to the supply of all US cities. In Australia the figure is 67 per cent.
Of Britain’s 10 primary care trusts with the best child dental health, seven have some fluoride, natural or added, in the water supply. In all 10 of the primary care trusts at the bottom of the tooth decay league table, tap water is not fluoridated.
Primary care trusts in Notting-ham, Manchester, Westminster and Bradford, which have some of the highest rates of cavities in children’s teeth, are likely to be earmarked for fluoridation.
Water fluoridation is known to cause a condition called fluorosis, discolouring teeth. There are also medical fears that consuming fluoride for years may increase the incidence of bone fractures and cancers.
A study from Taiwan found a high incidence of bladder cancer in women in areas with a high natural fluoride content in water.
Last year three academics accused the government of using inadequate evidence to promote the use of fluoride. They said there was not enough evidence to conclude that the benefits of water fluoridation outweighed the risks.
The government is also considering adding folic acid to bread to help to prevent babies being born with birth defects.
Health on tap
– About 5m people in parts of the West Midlands, Yorkshire and Tyneside receive water with added fluoride
– Britain’s first fluoridation scheme was introduced in Birmingham and Solihull in the mid1960s
– In America about 70% of people have fluoridated water and the compound has been added to the supply of all big cities. In Australia the figure is just less than 70%
– Fluorides are naturally occurring minerals that can strengthen the tooth enamel, making it more resistant to decay. They also reduce the amount of acid produced by bacteria on the teeth
Have your say
The National Pure Water Association has repeatedly asked the UK Department of Health to cite one scientific or laboratory study from anywhere in the world which proves that fluoridation reduces tooth decay in humans. They have failed to do so. The fact is that there is not a single scientific or laboratory study from anywhere in the world which proves that fluoridation reduces tooth decay in humans. There are, however, hundreds of published scientific papers which show that water fluoridation is dangerous to human, animal, plant and aquatic life, which is no surprise considering the relative toxicity levels of the substance.
That list of dangers to humans reads like a medical dictionary such are the effects noted in scientific papers from around the world. These include collagen disruption leading to breakdown of collagen in bone, tendon, muscle, skin, cartilage, lungs, kidney and trachea, and the inhibition of antibody formation in the blood and confusion of the immune system.
Fluoride kills red blood cells and damages gastric mucosa resulting in the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. It is implicated in genetic disorders, low IQ levels in children, pre-senile dementia and Alzheimer's disease, premature ageing and thyroid disorders due to its disruption of iodine in the body. Fluorides have also been used as drugs for modifying human behaviour and moods.
It has also been argued that fluoride increases cancer rates. In a recent study it was found that, pro-rata, 40% more people contracted bone cancer in the Republic of Ireland, which is fluoridated, compared with non-fluoridated but otherwise similar Northern Ireland.
adam, bradford, uk
This must be stopped, there is growing evidence that the immediate effects of fluoridation have adverse effects on the pineal gland, endocrine system with long term adverse effects on bones and teeth.
There is absolutely no way that a safe limit to the amount each person would receive can be controlled.
I have personally written to Allan Johnson asking who will be held responsible since the laws governing the supply of water have been radically changed to mitigate any legal liability of the water companies.
I have also written to my Strategic Health Authority asking if they intend to implement the scheme and if so, when they will be holding their public consulation.
The first patents relating to Fluoride I understand were for instecides and rat poisons.
This situation is truly Orwellian, we have our Health Service mass prescribing a poison.
Even more interesting is that the principle ingredient of Prozac is a fluoride derivative.
David, High Wycombe, Bucks
Fluoride addition in whatever form is toxic, period! It is impossible to compare dental carries statistics between regions as many factors such as sugar ingestion and regular brushing etc have a greater bearing on the health of teeth. Email evrybody you know to say NO to this poison ….contact your MP, your water company and even the ignorant Health secretary .. this must be stopped … it is FORCED "medication"!!
C Radclyffe, Pontypridd, UK.