Thursday, 7 February 2008

Daily Telegraph exposes some truth about water fluoridation

In the Daily Telegraph 05/02/2008 there was this article below and yesterday a follow up article, also below, exposing some truth about water fluoridation - see also the previous blog entry on this site holding a comment from a Safe Water Campaign member to the Telegraph.

Alan Johnson: 'Supply fluoride to every family'

By Lewis Carter

Every family should have fluoride added to their tap water supplies to stop tooth decay in children, Alan Johnson, the Health Secretary, will tell health authorities on Tuesday.

Mr Johnson will urge them to increase the number of people who have the mineral pumped into their homes from six million to 53 million, to cover all of England and Wales.

Fluoride should be added to every family's tap water, says health secretary
Adding fluoride to tap water can lower the rate of tooth decay

Mr Johnson says the substance will provide a "dental health boost" to children who do not brush their teeth regularly.

The controversial proposal will reignite the debate over the health impact of fluoride, with research suggesting it can cause bone cancer, birth defects and bone fractures.

Dentists say fluoride strengthens the tooth enamel, making it more resistant to decay. It also cuts down the amount of bacteria on teeth.

Mr Johnson said: "Adding fluoride 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."

The Department of Health (DoH) says children living in areas such as Birmingham, where fluoride has been added to the water for over 40 years, have half the rate of tooth decay compared to those living in areas without, such as Manchester.

The DoH also says a review by the University of York in 2000 found water fluoridation increased the overall number of children without tooth decay by 15 per cent.

But Dr Peter Mansfield, a member of the NHS-funded review's advisory panel, warned against a nationwide implementation of fluoride in tap water.

"The problem is that there is a lot of research on this subject, but none of it is conclusive - certainly not conclusive enough evidence for fluoride to be pumped into every household," he said.

"Studies have linked it to numerous health problems."

He added it was likely families were already getting significant levels of fluoride through using toothpaste and drinking tea.

Fluoride is already added to water supplies in areas of north-east England and the West Midlands. It also occurs naturally in some areas of the country, such as East Anglia.

Three British water companies currently add fluoride to water to supplies: Severn Trent, Northumbrian and Anglian.

Arguments about adding fluoride to tap water have rumbled on for decades. Campaigners argue that the substance it too unsafe to be manually added to water supplies.

A spokesman for National Pure Water Association warned that Johnson's plans were unsafe and amounted to "medication without consent".

The DoH will ask Strategic Health Authorities to consult with local communities before pressing ahead with the plans.

It says the latest evaluation of research in Britain identified no ill effects from fluoride.

Mr Johnson's plans, which will not be enforced in Scotland, are endorsed by the British Dental Association.

Protective element

• Fluorine is an element that occurs naturally in all water. Scientists say the compound fluoride helps protect teeth against decay.

• Fluoridation is the process of raising the concentration of fluoride within the water supply to the optimum level for improving dental health.

• Only one in 10 of Britain's population is covered by the so-called optimum level.

• An estimated 300 million people in 39 countries drink artificially fluoridated water.

Alan Johnson 'misleading' over fluoride benefits

By Rebecca Smith, Medical Editor
Last Updated: 2:32am GMT 07/02/2008

Alan Johnson, the Health Secretary, has been accused of overstating the benefits of adding fluoride to water in the fight against dental disease.
# Leader: Alan Johnson fights over fluoride

Tooth decay in children across Europe has fallen irrespective of whether there is fluoride in the water, authors of a report have said.

Mr Johnson has called for it to be added to all water supplies in the United Kingdom in an attempt to reduce the number of people seeking dental treatment. He said children in Manchester, where water is not fluoridated, were twice as likely to have tooth decay as those in Birmingham, where it is added.

Mr Johnson said a review of evidence by York University had found that adding fluoride reduced the number of children with tooth decay by 15 per cent.

But the authors said their findings have been used selectively and the impact of adding fluoride to water supplies was unclear. They accused the Government of giving "an over-optimistic assessment of the evidence in favour of fluoridation".

"The Department of Health's objectivity is questionable," said Sir Iain Chalmers, the editor of the James Lind Library in Oxford, and Prof Trevor Sheldon, the deputy vice-chancellor at York University, who conducted the review.

They said tooth decay in 12- year-olds has reduced across Europe irrespective of whether there is fluoride in the water.

The countries with the biggest drop in childhood tooth decay - Sweden, Netherlands, Finland and Denmark - do not fluoridate the water.

They said levels of tooth decay have fallen greatly in the past 30 years.

"This trend has occurred regardless of the concentration of fluoride in water or the use of fluoridated salt, and it probably reflects use of fluoridated toothpastes and other factors, including perhaps nutrition."

Evidence about the potential harm of adding fluoride to the water - some studies have suggested a link to bladder cancer and hip fractures - was not of sufficient quality to draw firm conclusions, Sir Iain and Prof Sheldon said.

Writing in the British Medical Journal, they said: "Evidence on the potential benefits and harms of adding fluoride to water is relatively poor."

Across the United Kingdom 5.5 million people use water with added fluoride and another half a million use a water supply where it occurs naturally. Over the next three years, £14 million will be available to strategic health authorities which decide, after local consultation, to add fluoride.

Mr Johnson said: "Fluoridation is scientifically supported, it is legal, and it is our policy, but only two or three areas currently have it and we need to go much further in areas where dental health needs to be improved.

"It 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."

A spokesman for the Department of Health said it "made no apologies" for "promoting the benefits to oral health which fluoridation offers".

"No evidence of risks to general health have been identified at the 1 part per million concentration used for artificially fluoridating public water supplies," he said.

"Nevertheless, the department is committed to further research to strengthen the evidence base on the effects of fluoridation."