Select Committee on Health Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum by The British Fluoridation Society (PH 6)


  Despite an overall improvement in dental health over the past 30 years, tooth decay remains a significant public health problem in the UK. Inequalities in dental health remain wide with children living in the poorest communities continuing to suffer unacceptably high levels of tooth decay.

  Water fluoridation is the single most effective public health measure available to health authorities to reduce unacceptably high levels of tooth decay, and has been recognised as such by successive governments since the mid-1960s.

  Sir Donald Acheson's Independent Inquiry into Inequalities in Health recommends the fluoridation of the water supply based upon its proven ability to reduce inequalities in dental health.

  Successive governments have failed to secure the benefits of a fluoridated supply for many communities where the need remains.

  The 1985 Water (fluoridation) Act is widely acknowledged to be a failure. A judicial review of Northumbrian Water's decision not to extend fluoridation in the North East confirmed that current legislation allows water companies wide discretion to act only in the interests of shareholders and not in the interests of the public health. [4]In Parliament the Minister for Public Health stated that "We cannot allow decisions on the principle of introducing a fluoridation scheme to be taken by a body that is accountable to its shareholders rather than its local population". (Hansard, 6 May 1998).

  The health services and the water industry have jointly called on government to amend existing legislation.

  In its public health White Paper Saving Lives: Our Healthier Nation, the government makes a commitment to amend existing legislation to ensure that water companies no longer hold discretion on decisions of whether to implement health authority's fluoridation proposals.

  This commitment is subject to the outcome of the independent systematic review being conducted by the University of York NHS Centre for Reviews and Dissemination. Publication of the review is imminent and preliminary draft results confirm benefits and show no evidence of harm from this public health measure.


  On publication of the systematic review of the safety and benefits of water fluoridation the government should act swiftly to address the legislative deficit so that health authorities, local authorities and the populations they serve are given the option of implementing this public health measure.

July 2000

4   Regina versus Northumbrian Water Ltd, ex parte Newcastle and North Tyneside Health Authority (1998). Back

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