dh | 31.08.2003 11:51
by Jan Goodey
21 August 2003
City councils across Britain are lining up in opposition to the government’s proposal to make fluoridation of our water supplies compulsory.
Liverpool, Bradford, Brighton & Hove, Lancaster and Calderdale councils have all officially stated their opposition to the moves, which could become law by the end of the year. In Manchester, said to be first on the government’s fluoridation hit list, Green councillor Vanessa Hall said Manchester Greens will lead a major campaign against fluoridation.
The bill, which comes up for second reading on 8 September, is already causing major distress among individuals. Jane Jones of the National Pure Water Association (NPWA) said: ‘There has been a huge response to this issue. People from all over the country are ringing us up and saying they’re not going to pay their water bills.’
Around 160 MPs have signed an Early Day Motion opposing the plans. They are mostly contesting the amendment which allows unelected health authorities to compel water companies to add fluoride to water supplies ‘where there is strong local support’.
According to the government fluoridated water is the best way to reduce tooth decay among children from deprived areas. But the Green Party remains critical; the party has just come up with a report entitled ‘Truth Decay’, which shows that levels of tooth decay are the same in fluoridated Gateshead and unfluoridated Liverpool. A party spokesperson said: ‘We want a complete ban on the fluoridation of water supplies. We should educate children and adults about the need for a healthy diet, dental hygiene and cutting down on excessive sugar intake.’
Currently in Britain 6 million people, mainly in the West Midlands and North East, drink fluoridated water. Fluoride is a by-product of the aluminium and fertiliser industries and fluoridation is a cheap way for these industries to get rid of a substance which, among other things, contains arsenic, lead and mercury.
Fluoride does inhibit the enzymes that cause tooth decay, but leading scientists claim it has harmful effects which outweigh the benefits. Dental fluorosis, characterised by discoloured, blackened, mottled, or chalky white teeth is a result of overexposure to fluoride in childhood, while a chronic intake of excessive fluoride can lead to severe and permanent bone and joint deformations.
In the US, where 165 million people drink fluoridated water, the National Cancer Institute and National Health Federation have attributed 35,000 cancer deaths a year to water fluoridation. Even the UK government’s own review in 1999 found that 48 per cent of people living in fluoridated areas suffer from dental fluorosis.
Concerned UK water companies have sought indemnities from the government against civil and criminal litigation if fluoridation gets on the statue book. Forensic ecologist Doug Cross said: ‘The current offer of indemnity to water suppliers in the new water bill is illegal and unenforceable since fluoridation is illegal.’
Under the International Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine everyone has the right to choose or refuse any medical or preventive treatment. The use of fluoride to indiscriminately medicate populations could therefore be viewed as illegal – a fact likely to loom large in the subsequent anti-fluoridation campaigns.
For more info: www.npwa.freeserve.co.uk
Anger at plan to add fluoride to water supplies for 13m
Sunday August 31, 2003
Fluoride could be added to the drinking water of another 13 million people by next summer under plans by Ministers to supply major cities with the chemical.
A new amendment to forthcoming legislation will force water companies to add fluoride to water supplies, smoothing the way for the largest extension of fluoridation for almost 50 years. Opponents have condemned the moves, accusing Ministers of mass medication by stealth and a 'nanny state' mentality.
They also claim fluoride has been linked to adverse health affects including cancer, brittle bones and thyroid disease and can cause teeth to mottle.
The Government, however, views its introduction as a way of cutting high rates of tooth decay among youngsters in deprived neighbourhoods. So far 11 per cent of the population - six million people - have fluoride added to their water, mainly in the Midlands. The British Fluoridation Society, a group representing pro-fluoride dentists, said discussions with the Government had indicated a third of the population of England and Wales, just over 19 million, should be supplied with the substance.
Areas identified include central London, greater Manchester, the West Yorkshire conurbation, Cardiff and Southampton.
The Government's amendment - inserted quietly into the Water Bill last month - will wrest control away from the water companies who have traditionally presided over the decision whether to add fluoride to drinking water. In the past, they have turned down scores of requests, fearing legal action from campaign groups. Instead, responsibility will be transferred to the strategic health authorities of England and Wales.
Next week the Bill will be read before Parliament. Ministers and fluoride supporters are confident it will be law by Christmas. From then, strategic health authorities will be encouraged to consider its mass introduction.
A spokesman for the Department of Health confirmed yesterday it would be asking officials to 'consider fluoridating their water as part of their overall oral health strategy'.
France, Italy, Germany, Sweden, Denmark and Holland have all rejected mass water fluoridation. The Belgian government last year even outlawed the sale of fluoride tablets and chewing gum, as concerns over its safety persist. The campaigning National Pure Water Association describes fluoride as a pollutant.
Jane Jones, director of the group and former psychiatric nurse, condemned the amendment as a pernicious attempt to railroad the substance upon an unwelcoming population. She warns that fluoridation indiscriminately raises exposure of people who may already have high levels through toothpaste and diet.
However, supporters claim the substance is unequivocally safe, citing the lack of evidence of adverse health affects that have been recorded amid millions of regular users.
'There is no evidence of any harm. Fluoride is completely safe,' said Sheila Jones of the British Fluoridation Society. Advocates also point to research revealing that children's teeth are three times healthier in and around Birmingham where fluoride is used compared to Manchester where it is not.
The Government's Medical Research Council is examining all existing research on the use of fluoride in drinking water. A report is due in the next month. An earlier inquiry by the NHS Centre for Reviews and Dissemination at the University of York found no evidence of adverse health impacts, but concluded there had not been enough randomised controlled trials into the effects of water fluoridation.