Memorandum by The British Fluoridation
Society (PH 6)
SUBMISSION TO THE HOUSE OF COMMONS HEALTH
SELECT COMMITTEE INQUIRY INTO PUBLIC HEALTH
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. 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
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
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
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.
4 Regina versus Northumbrian Water Ltd, ex parte
Newcastle and North Tyneside Health Authority (1998). Back