The professional body for dentists in the UK has accused councillors opposed to adding fluoride to Hull and East Yorkshire’s water supply of “peddling myths”.
The warning came after the councillor in charge of finance at Hull City Council, Phil Webster, said there was no chance of the scheme aimed at tackling tooth decay, which sees 400 under-10s needing hospital extractions every year, happening.
Coun Webster claimed fluoridation was “too expensive, undemocratic and unproven”– leading the British Dental Association to urge councillors not to “to peddle myths or alternative facts”.
The association’s health and science chair Russ Ladwa said there was a “clear scientific consensus” that it worked, adding: “If Hull waves a white flag it will be a victory for the professional doom-mongers, that will only discourage communities across England from exploring proposals that could save hundreds of thousands of children and adults from needless pain and distress.”
Former Hull MP and Health Secretary Alan Johnson also weighed in, saying the city needed to shut out “conspiracy theories – the same that stopped parents getting kids innoculated against MMR (measles, mumps and rubella)” and show “courage” to councils like Barnsley and Doncaster waiting on the sidelines to add fluoride.
Public Health England (PHE) models a nearly £22 return on investment for every £1 spent on fluoridation after 10 years. “It’s a no-brainer,” he said. “We have had this science for 100 years.
“We know fluoride, which is naturally occurring in water, if you bring it to the optimum level of one part per million, it has a devastating effect on tooth decay. We medicate water anyway – we add chlorine for cholera, and other chemicals to keep it pure.
“You’d have to be a conspiracy theorist or gone to some strange place politically not to recognise it must be part of the answer.”
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Mr Johnson said PHE would meet the estimated £1.6m capital cost, with Hull Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) paying running costs, of around £330,000 a year.
However that came as a surprise to Coun Webster, who said no one had informed the cash-strapped council.
But he said it would not change his opposition – and if the Government believed in its benefits, they should take the decision.
It could only not be argued as mass medication, he said, if people had an alternative water source.
He said: “I really do respect Alan – but I think he is absolutely wrong. MMR and cholera are in a different league – they are life-threatening.
“It is an absolute must that people get vaccinated.
"People should not have this foisted on them. They should have the right to choose.”