Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham): The Question is that the amendment be agreed to. Does the noble Baroness wish to seek leave to withdraw it?

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: I thought that I had to move it before I withdrew it.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees: I would not wish to intrude on the work of the Committee by in any way embracing the role of a Speaker, but in fact the noble Baroness had two options: one would have been not to move the amendment; the other, which she has quite properly chosen, is to have moved it, in which case she is quite right—in those circumstances, leave to withdraw needs to be sought.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: Given that I shall bring back the amendment on Report and give the Minister time to consider it, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees: Is it your Lordships' pleasure that the amendment be withdrawn?

Noble Lords: No!

The Deputy Chairman of Committees: I hear voices; I think on my right. Is it your Lordships' pleasure that the amendment be withdrawn?

Noble Lords: No.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees: The Question is that the amendment be agreed to. As many as are of that opinion will say, "Content"; to the contrary, "Not-Content". I think the Not-Contents have it.

Amendment negatived.

[Amendment Nos. 10 to 13, as amendments to Amendment No. 1, not moved.]

The Deputy Chairman of Committees: The Question is that Amendment No. 1 be agreed to.

The Countess of Mar: As might be anticipated by those who know me, I rise to oppose the amendment. As I said earlier, I have lived in the Severn Trent river authority catchment area since before it started to fluoridate the water supply 40 years ago. My daughter, born 40 years ago, has no dental caries, but my granddaughter, who has never lived in an area where

9 Jul 2003 : Column 326

the water supply was fluoridated, has dental fluorosis. Her teeth are affected. I wonder what has happened to her bones and other organs.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: Would noble Lords please allow noble Lords who are speaking to be heard?

The Countess of Mar: I very much appreciate what the noble Baroness has said.

I am not unsympathetic to the plight of children who have dental caries. For five years during the mid-1960s, I worked in the casualty department of my local hospital. Seeing tiny children whose milk teeth had not yet all erupted coming in for total dental clearances was not a pleasant experience. Their screams of terror before the anaesthetic took effect still haunt me. The sight of a mouthful of blackened stumps where there should be shiny white teeth was awful. However, I am not satisfied that mass medication as proposed by the Minister is the right answer.

We have been told that fluoride occurs naturally in some water supplies, and it does. It occurs as a relatively insoluble calcium fluoride. I understand that in most water supplies it occurs at levels of about 0.01 to 0.03 parts per million. At slightly higher levels, it is toxic. For example, in India, where levels of between 0.7 and 13 parts per million occur, large numbers of the population are crippled by skeletal fluorosis by the time they are 40.

The amendment authorises health authorities to request water authorities to put into our water supplies hexafluorosilicic acid, or disodium hexafluorosilicate. That chemical is a waste product of the fertiliser industry. Its environmental toxicity was first recognised in the early 1950s in the US. In Florida, the creation of multiple phosphate plants in the 1940s caused damage to vineyards and citrus groves. A former president of Polk County Cattlemen's Association said:

    "Around 1953 we noticed a change in our cattle . . . We watched our cattle become gaunt and starved; their legs became deformed; they lost their teeth; reproduction fell off; and when a cow had a calf, it was affected by this malady or was stillborn".

The following report appeared in a 1969 article in Good Housekeeping:

    "The blight had affected cattle too. Some lay in the pasture, barely able to move. Others limped and staggered on swollen legs, or painfully sank down and tried to graze on their knees . . . Ingested day after day, the excessive fluoride had caused tooth and bone disease in cattle, so that they could not tolerate the anguish of standing or walking. Even eating and drinking was an agony. Their ultimate fate was dehydration, starvation and death".

Environmental damage is known to occur at exposures of as low as one part per billion. Here we are talking about putting one part per million in our water supplies. Eventually, environmental legislation forced the agrochemical industries to put scrubbers in their chimneys to strip particulate and recovered compounds from waste gas. Every time I think of

9 Jul 2003 : Column 327

scrubbers, I think of the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, when I asked her a question many years ago.

Baroness Trumpington: Thank you very much!

The Countess of Mar: The recovered compounds include hexafluorosilicic acid and disodium hexafluorosilicate, which are very toxic compounds.

As recently as 2000, Dr J William Hirzy, senior vice-president of the US Environmental Protection Agency, said of these chemicals:

    "If this stuff gets into the air, it's a pollutant; if it gets into the river, it's a pollutant; if it gets into a lake, it's a pollutant; but if it gets into your drinking water system, it's not a pollutant. That's amazing. There's got to be a better way to manage this stuff".

Are we content to be the sink for a waste product of the chemical industry? The safety data sheet for hexafluorosilicic acid, produced by Rhone Poulenc of Ghent, states:

    "Do not let this chemical enter the environment . . . Dispose of this product as a hazardous waste. Consult the supplier to see if he will take it back. [It] causes burns. Hazardous reactions may occur on contact with many chemicals".

These compounds are listed as poisons in the Poisons Act 1972.

In 1995, a spokesperson for the Department of the Environment wrote:

    "There would appear to be no standard for the discharge of fluoride to the environment . . . but it is regarded as a dangerous substance under the EC Dangerous Substances Directive and as such pollution must be reduced . . . Research is to be carried out to define acceptable limits for fluoride [for discharge to sewer and in treatment processes] in the future, but when such work would be complete and published is indeterminable".

Dental fluorosis is believed to affect an average of 48 per cent of children in fluoridated areas. I believe that that also applies to Birmingham. Since the beginning of the 20th century, fluorosis has been observed in patients suffering hypothyroidism. Do we imagine that the fluoridated water that we ingest leaves its fluoride on our teeth and has no further effect on other parts of our anatomies? About half the fluoride we ingest is accumulated in our bones. They may at one stage get stronger, but then they become brittle. No long-term research has ever been conducted into the systemic effects of long-term exposure to compounds of fluorine. Certainly there has been no attempt by our National Health Service to establish the levels of fluoride in the bodies of people who have lived for many years in fluoridated areas.

As well as being concerned about the effects of long-term exposure of the human population to fluorides, I am concerned about the ethics of mass medication. I am concerned about the effects of watering farm livestock—a milking cow drinks 30 gallons of water per day—with medicated water. I am concerned about the effects of pouring billions of gallons of water into our sewers and watercourses daily, with the resultant contamination of the environment.

We know that we are talking about a very toxic chemical. One part per million sounds a very small amount. However, we must take into account the fact

9 Jul 2003 : Column 328

that many people will use toothpaste with added fluorides, that many foods and drugs contain such compounds, and that for those who live in industrial areas, manufacturing processes may result in airborne pollution. Some may be exposed to quantities much higher than would be considered safe for the taking of drugs, which are subject to rigorous tests under clinical conditions. All safety studies on fluoride to date have been conducted using pharmaceutical grade sodium fluoride, not industrial grade silicofluorides.

I could say much more on this matter, but I will not. I rest my case.

6.15 p.m.

Lord Fowler: The noble Countess is not making too many friends on this side of the House today. My noble friend Lady Trumpington—

Baroness Trumpington: I can speak for myself.

Lord Fowler: Having served with my noble friend for two or three years, I know perfectly well that she can speak for herself, and she most certainly will. The noble Countess confused me with the noble Lord, Lord Newton, and I would like to tell the Countess of Margate that I in no way regard that as an insult—

The Countess of Mar: I thank the noble Lord for giving way. I apologise profoundly for mistaking his name. Perhaps the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, remembers a question about dioxin, which she answered when she was on the Front Bench on this side, and that she made a big joke when I asked her about scrubbers in chimneys.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page