EAST Lancashire’s leading public health expert has backed proposals to add fluoride to the region’s drinking water.
Dr Ellis Friedman, director of public health for NHS East Lancashire, said it would be unethical not to add the controversial mineral to supplies, as it had been shown as the most effective way of dramatically improving dental health.
Primary care trusts and councils have been asked by the strategic health authority NHS North West to consider further investigation of fluoridation, and NHS East Lancashire backed plans for a widespread consultation on the issue.
A scheme which would cover East Lancashire along with the rest of the North West would cost up to £102 million, and up to £6.4 million in annual running costs.
Anti-fluoride campaigners, who claim the additive can cause serious damage to teeth, said they feared any consultation would be biased towards the pro-fluoride side.
Consultations with doctors, dentists and the public look set to begin within months, and some local councils including Hyndburn and Pendle have already registered their opposition to fluoride.
Dr Friedman made his support clear at the trust’s board meeting on Thursday, where directors had given speakers from both sides of the argument 10 minutes each to make their cases, before voting on whether to back a full consultation on the issue.
He said: “Fluoridation of the water at a population level is much more effective than any other mechanism for improving the dental health of deprived people, and therefore you have to ask whether it is ethical to withhold this effective treatment from the population.
“In principle I am in favour and see no reason not to proceed with it.”
His comments were echoed by Sheila Jones, of the British Fluoridation Society, representing supporters of the scheme. She said the additive had led to a 19 per cent fall in young children with cavities after being introduced in the West Midlands in the 1970s.
But Doug Cross, of UK Councils against Fluoridation, said putting the additive in water meant mass, unregulated medication that he understood to be illegal under European medicines law.