Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Letter in Evening Post

This letter just got star billing in the Bristol Evening Post:

In a recent reply to my letter concerning the hazardous nature of the chemical additive used to ‘top-up’ the relatively harmless calcium fluoride found in most water sources, Jeremy Williams, Corporate Affairs Director for Bristol Water, sought to clarify the legal position. “In the past,” he said, “health authorities could ask water companies to fluoridate, but the companies could refuse. Under new legislation, the health authorities have the power to compel companies to fluoridate, after local public consultation.”

It is important for us to understand that the public consultation is not an option; it is built in to the legislation. During a 2008 on-line Labour Party health phone-in, Health Minister Alan Johnson, attempting to pacify a woman asking awkward questions, declared, “Nobody will be forced to have fluoride…we are going to consult.” He could just as easily have said “We are obliged to consult” because that is now the law in this country.

We have seen how that law has been interpreted in round one of the new wave of fluoridation strategies. The people of Southampton, in terms of protest letters, angry exchanges with health officials in focus groups; and 12 thousand signatures on a petition headed ‘Say No to Undemocratic Fluoridation’, firmly said NO to it. The total weight of opposition came out at 72 per cent and that, in all commonsense justice under the law, should have been the end of it, especially as the petition form carried the rider:

‘Gordon Brown said it is vital that local people make the choice themselves.’

However, 12 unelected members of the Strategic Health Authority voted YES to compulsory fluoridation and its Chairman, announcing the outcome on BBC Radio said “We are absolutely convinced”… referring to the alleged benefits of fluoride on dental health. The fact that a large proportion of well-informed local people were not convinced, absolutely or by any comparable measure, meant nothing to him and his members.

Since the public consultation is part of the law, I submit that the spirit of that particular law, giving the people the right to choose, underscored by a statement from our Prime Minister, has been severely compromised, and on that basis the water company cannot be legally obliged to proceed with feasibility studies pending a fluoridation scheme. To continue co-operation with the SHA in what is effectively an illegal activity against the wishes of its customers, incurs, for the officials concerned, the risk of individual prosecution. That liability could well devolve upon the scientists and technicians charged with the task of adding and regulating the fluoridating agent. A fluoridation scheme for the island of Guernsey, I was informed last week, was abandoned because the technical personnel refused to handle the chemical.

B J Seward
Safe Water Campaign