Fluoride Controversy Rages; Is Adding Chemical to Our Water Supply an Abuse of Human and Civil Rights?

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Byline: MADELEINE BRINDLEY

AN apple a day keeps the doctor away, or so the saying goes. But the question the nation is now asking is whether a glass of water a day will keep the dentist's drill at bay.

The controversial subject of adding fluoride to the water supply is firmly back on the health agenda with opinion as divided over the subject as it was when the policy was stopped in Anglesey more than a decade ago.

Is it a legitimate means of protecting children's teeth against decay or does deliberately adding a chemical to our water supply constitute a fundamental abuse of our human and civil rights?

Doctors and dentists are calling on the National Assembly to exert pressure on the UK Government to fulfil its pledge to reintroduce the policy but significant question marks still hang over the amount of fluoride the human body can absorb. A report published by the influential Medical Research Council yesterday recommended more research is carried out before any action is taken.

But is it really necessary to introduce fluoride back into the water supply given the advances in dental technology and that most toothpastes today are sold on the basis they contain fluoride?

Whenever fluoridation is debated the Anglesey experiment is held up by proponents as proof positive that the policy actually works.

Adding fluoride to Anglesey's water supply was gradually stopped between 1987 and 1991 resulting in a steady increase in the number of decayed, filled or missing teeth in five-year-olds.

In the last decade dental decay in children has risen by 168pc on the island and not even fluoride toothpaste has been able to reverse the trend.

Fluoridation is also seen as a way of ensuring everyone has access to dental healthcare. By adding the chemical to the water supply - at one part per million - everyone, regardless of where they live, will reap the benefits.

The number of children registered with a dentist and the rates of tooth decay vary widely depending on where you live in Wales - five-year-olds in Penderry, Swansea, have nearly six and a half times as many decayed, missing or filled teeth as those in Rhiwbina, Cardiff, prompting the Assembly to declare that dental decay is increasingly becoming a disease of relative poverty. …