(18/04/10) New fluoridation scheme for Southampton
(18/04/10) The Reports and Archive sections have been updated with further documents and links
(11/07/09) A critique of Prof. Newton's report to South Central SHA has been posted in Reports.
(28/09/08) A critique of the South Central Strategic Health Authority Consultation Paper on Water Fluoridation in Southampton, has been posted in Reports.
(07/09/08) A response to the Chief Dental Officer's 'Dear Colleague' letter of guidance for new schemes, endorsed by scientists from the York review, has been posted in Reports.
(23/06/08) Isle of Man has announced on 12th June that it will not be fluoridating its water supply
(29/04/08) Response to Council on Bioethics report (Public health: ethical issues - November 2007)
(09/02/08) Secretary of State calls for more fluoridation.
Secretary of State calls for more fluoridation
Alan Johnson, in his appeal to Strategic Health Authorities on 5th February for more fluoridation, is an example of a Minister captured by his advisers in a Department that has always had a love-affair with fluoridation. There are many errors in his announcement.
- "Academic studies" do not, as is claimed, "show" that oral health is better in fluoridated areas, nor that the number of children with tooth decay is reduced by 15%. This is because...
- The systematic review from the University of York, relied on in the Department's press release, did not "conclude" that this was the case. It found all the evidence from 50 years of fluoridation in the few countries that practise it to be sub-standard, so that it was not possible to conclude anything. Fluoridation appeared to have some benefits, but all the published studies were open to bias, much of it serious.
- It is not scientifically correct to conclude from differences in tooth decay between Birmingham and Manchester that fluoridation was the cause, unless good studies have been done. The York review showed that these have not been done. There was no study comparing these areas that met even the lowest standards for admission into the review. To make these claims is an example of junk science.
- An "optimum level" of fluoride in water has never been demonstrated. The present 1 part per million was an estimate from a time when there was much less general exposure to fluoride from food and drink.
- It is misleading to claim that "No ill effects on general health have been identified". A recent high-level scientific report from the US National Academy of Sciences has highlighted a number of areas of real concern. The main concern is that, in common with effectiveness studies, no good safety studies have been done either, in a public health treatment reaching millions. The York review made this abundantly clear.
- It is highly misleading to call fluoridation an "effective... way to help address health inequalities". The York reviewers found the evidence for this "of poor quality, contradictory and unreliable" - the worst in the review.
As with most pro-fluoride pronouncements, the selective and inaccurate use of evidence is a problem. It appears that the public cannot be trusted with contrary information. For example:
- No one could guess from the Health Secretary's words that important areas of research into fluoridation's effectiveness and safety remain to be covered, as recommended by York (2000), the Medical Research Council (2002) and the US NAS (2006), to name only the most recent reports. Some of these studies are currently under way, with government support. Yet more fluoridation schemes are encouraged before proper scientific evidence has been gathered.
- Those who believe that fluoridation is "scientifically supported" should look at the York review's website www.york.ac.uk/inst/crd/fluoridnew.htm.
- The public should be aware that major public health bodies, the main players in future local decisions, are already committed to a policy of fluoridation. This bias can be seen in the list of campaigners for fluoridation shown on the website of the British Fluoridation Society and National Alliance for Equity in Dental Health, www.bfsweb.org.
- The public might wonder, if they had been told, about the absence of fluoridation in mainland Europe, and why, if what the Secretary of State says is true, so few European countries decided to fluoridate and of those almost all have given it up. A recent World Health Organisation graph shows declining rates of decay across European countries regardless of fluoridation status.
Fluoridation has been publicly described by the former head of the UK Cochrane Centre (for evidence-based medicine) as "a religion". It is a faith that has been held for so long that health authorities find it hard to retreat in the face of new evidence. That new schemes should be officially urged at a time when the uncertainties and potential risks of fluoridation are becoming more apparent is deeply irresponsible.