HEALTH chiefs in Hull have agreed unanimously to further investigate controversial plans to add fluoride to the water supply of more than 340,000 people to address some of the worst rates of tooth decay in the country.
Hull Council’s Cabinet is expected to rubberstamp the Health and Wellbeing Board’s recommendation at a meeting on November 28.
The proposal, which would affect up to 87,000 people in the East Riding, has already caused an outcry. Today around 20 people demonstrated outside the meeting, claiming studies implicate fluoride in serious illnesses.
But officials believe it is the best way of tackling poor dental health, along with other measures including supervised brushing. Nearly 38 per cent of five-year-olds in Hull have tooth decay (six per cent down from 2011/12) and around 400 youngsters a year have to have teeth removed at hospital under anaesthetic.
Officials accept the rate is improving, but say it is not fast enough.
The meeting heard that two options had been explored in an initial study. The first - costing £1.6m - would use treatment plants at Tophill Low and Keldgate in Cottingham, to add fluoride to Hull’s water supply, with an “overspill” affecting around 87,000 people. Villages including Anlaby, Willerby, Cottingham, Dunswell, Hessle and the Holderness plain up to Hornsea could be affected but Beverley would be excluded.
The second “more technically challenging” option would require four “dosage centres”. It would reduce the numbers getting fluoride added to their water but would cost £2m. Both carry running costs of around £330,000 a year, paid for by the councils.
The Lib Dem opposition will claim in a motion tomorrow that it amounts to “mass medication” and that there has been a “total lack of transparency.”
But chair of the health and well bring board Coun Colin Inglis told The Yorkshire Post: “No reputable medical organisation or scientific body has said anything other than it is safe and effective. Lack of transparency is nonsense. It has been in the forward plan for months. It is not medication, it is a naturally occurring mineral, which is in water anyway - just not at the optimum level.” Coun Inglis added: “If the East Riding objects we can’t make them pay for it. They get a free ride as they often do on the back of Hull.”
The next stage is to ask Yorkshire Water to come up with an “operable and efficient scheme”. Hull Council would also inform East Riding Council, who get three months to respond, before a minimum of three months of public consultation begin. A final decision would rest with Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
The plans will be discussed by scrutiny councillors on Friday. Chair Coun Coun Danny Brown said: “It is absolutely crucial we go through proper consultation. I want to ensure before we make a decision that we have all the information, for and against.”
John Pickles, of Hull for Pure Water, said: “It is an endocrine disruptor, it’s terrible for the thyroid and really poorly targeted because children who really need this don’t drink water from the tap. It misses the target.”
And campaigner Joy Warren insisted councillors needed “to read round the subject more.” She added: “It’s a multi-factional issue, involving human rights, medical ethics, human health and big money.”