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Do We Really Need Fluoride in Water?
By Claire Truscott The Argus (Brighton & Hove local newspaper-UK) Provided by Paul Connett (FluorideActionNetwork)
April 17, 2006
Do We Really Need Fluoride in Water?
Pressure is growing on water companies to add fluoride to our water supply after MPs decided to give health authorities the power to enforce such a move. Dental health workers say it would address a worrying rise in tooth decay, especially among children. But the move has sparked controversy, with many campaigners opposing the proposals because they say it is a poison with nasty side effects and because the move would breach our human rights.
FLUORIDE, or hexafluorosilicic acid, is a by-product of the agrochemical manufacture, too toxic to be disposed of in landfill sites and instead sold on to water companies for use in ten per cent of the UK's water supply.
It is for this reason, in part, that Brighton and Hove City Council passed a motion three years ago, expressing its united stance against water fluoridation.
Councillors’ motion stated: "Fluoride, more toxic than lead and only slightly less so than arsenic, can be harmful to health even in small quantities."
Dental fluorosis, tumours, thyroid complaints, irritable bowel syndrome, and brittle bones are among the suspected side effects.
But The British Fluoridation Society says there is no evidence adding it to our water supply has any side effects, other than a positive contribution to the health of our teeth, and the fact it is a poison is not harmful itself - after all, homeopathy is based on the extreme dilution of poisons.
Campaigners at the National Pure Water Association disagree.
Gary Kemp, who lives in Brighton, said: "It is not even a registered medicament, which means it has never been safety tested. The one part per million asserted as the optimum dose is pure speculation."
The York Review, a report requested by the Government to carry out a scientific review of fluoride and health and which surveyed fluoridated areas of the UK in 2000, concluded 48 per cent of people suffered from dental fluorosis, pitting and mottling of the teeth through excess fluoride.
Councillors, however, cannot stop fluoridation. Since the 2003 Water Act, it is the responsibility of Strategic Health Authorities to decide.
Green councillor Sue Paskins said: "The cure for children having bad teeth is better dental hygiene."
"We've got lots of dentists opting out of the NHS and the Health Authority thinks the answer's not to provide us with dentists but to shove toxic chemicals into our drinking water.
"Unfortunately, a lot of people think their kids won't have holes in their teeth but you achieve that by not feeding them a junk diet of sugar and salt."
More NHS dentists would certainly help stop the decay setting in. A public education campaign to encourage children and adults to look after their teeth would do the same.
There are other solutions too. Brighton dentist, Nigel Jackson, uses ozone technology.
He said: "We use an ozone machine with little suction caps which have no pain at all.
"The machine eradicates all viruses, bacteria and fungi and we seal the teeth with resin to stop decay altogether.
"It's not available on the NHS. I don't know why, it would save them a fortune." New technology has made fluoridation redundant. But like most dentists, Mr Jackson remains in favour of fluoridation in principle.
He said: "The case for it is hugely better than the case against."
The British Dental Association agrees but it has its detractors.
Hardy Limeback is the most renowned example, a Canadian dentist who was in favour but now speaks vociferously against fluoridation.
He believes most dentists are well-intentioned, they just do not know the facts about health problems caused by fluoride.
Dentist Tony Lees, from Herefordshire, agrees. He is one of the few dentists in the UK to speak out against fluoridation.
He said: "Dentists are not being given both sides of the argument. No one will do research into the other side of this.
"Dentists know no better. There are quite a few anti but most just want to get on with their job.
"If people make up their baby milk with fluoridated water, they’re putting huge amounts of fluoride into children and their sensitive, growing bones where fluoride accumulates.
"It's mass medication, you can't control the dosage and at least two per cent of the population are very sensitive to these things.
"I think it's disgraceful, they won't get away with it, people are too clever in Sussex."
It is difficult to ascertain the whole truth.
A Freedom of Information request found the Government gives money to fund the British Fluoridation Society, which then lobbies the Government.
Whatever the health implications, there are many who are against fluoridation in principle. They say it is unethical and contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights and Medicine.
Dr Peter Mansfield, Director of Temple Garth Trust UK, a medical foundation, said: "No physician in his right senses would prescribe for a person he has never met, whose medical history he does not know, a substance that is intended to create bodily change, with the advice, 'Take as much as you like but you will take it for the rest of your life because some children suffer from tooth decay.' It is a preposterous notion."
Campaigner Mr Kemp added: "If a doctor were to force medication on a patient, that doctor would be struck off and possibly even jailed."
"It is a monstrous violation of medical ethics." Reverse-osmosis machines, which prevent fluoride getting into your household supply of water, can be obtained for about £400.
Whatever the answer, the early outcome is clear: There will be a fierce fight if a feasibility study by Mid-Sussex Primary Care Trust goes ahead as reports suggest.
Sonja Bescoby, Mid Sussex director of family health services, revealed the trust was to conduct a feasibility study into fluoridation.
Chairman of the Patient Public Involvement Forum for Mid-Sussex PCT, Tony Reynolds, said:
"There must be a public consultation over something like this. It definitely would be a divisive issue, a real hot potato."