Southampton residents face fluoride row
A health authority in southern England is planning to add fluoride to the drinking water of almost 200,000 residents in an attempt to improve the health of children's teeth.
The board of the South Central Strategic Health Authority, which covers towns including Southampton, is due to make a decision on February 26th, but not everyone is happy about the move.
While many health experts argue that adding fluoride will help improve children's teeth, critics believe it is a coercive form of "mass medication" with unproven benefits.
If fluoride is added it will increase the concentration of the chemical in Southampton's water twelvefold, from 0.08 parts per million (ppm) to one ppm.
Southampton Primary Care Trust believes this would "significantly improve the dental health of local people, particularly children", in a city that has some of the worst dental health in the country.
Fluoride is added to most brands of toothpaste but those with poor dental habits consequently fail to benefit from it. Fluoride works principally by making teeth more resistant to decay: in fluoridated areas 15 per cent more children have "decay-free" teeth.
Barry Cockroft, the chief dental officer for England, describe fluoridation as the "perfect public health measure", but others have expressed concern about health problems arising from fluoride exposure.
A petition has been set up to protest against the measure. At time of writing 283 people had signed up.
Health authorities can now force water companies to add fluoride to water supplies. Six million of England's 45 million residents reportedly receive fluoridated tap water.
Dental health is a serious concern in the UK. Last week LotusFlower reported on findings that one million people had carried out "DIY dentistry" because of lack of access to a National Health Service dentist.
What do you think? Should fluoride be added to drinking water? Should people have a choice? Should the UK think of the longer term and provide better dentistry services?