|“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
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
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
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
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