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Peer questions fluoride evidence

Fresh policy advice is being drawn up about adding fluoride to tap water that will be ‘clear and based on evidence’, the government has revealed

Parliament was told that Public Health England (PHE) has been asked to review the evidence and make recommendations to the Department of Health (DH) by 15 December.

That advice will then be used to update the section on fluoride on the NHS Choice website, which is ‘due for review in January 2014’.

Earl Howe, the dentistry minister, did not express any direct concerns about the current advice available to the public on the controversial issue.

But, in a Parliamentary answer announcing the update, he said: ‘This will include ensuring that the information for the public is clear and based on evidence.’

The move comes after a shake-up that will make it easier for powerful local protest campaigns to block the adding of fluoride of tap water.

The abolition of strategic health authorities (SHAs) has passed responsibility to local authorities, which are more likely to be swayed by opponents of such a policy.

In South Hampshire, fluoridation was expected to be up and running in parts of Southampton, Eastleigh, Totton, Netley and Rownhams next year.

But, in 2012, Southampton council voted against the plans – put forward by the local SHA – following a 6,000-strong petition against the scheme.

And, recently, the Labour-run council suggested it would hold a referendum to give local voters the chance to block the fluoridation – aimed at cutting tooth decay.

The decision to update advice was revealed in a Parliamentary answer to a Crossbench peer, Earl Baldwin of Bewdley, who cast doubt on the benefits of fluoride.

The Earl called for the NHS Choices website to drop its claim that fluoridated water and toothpaste ‘do not cause any harmful side effects to a person’s overall health’.

And he questioned why it made no reference to a 2000 University of York report that found high levels of dental fluorosis in fluoridated areas.

In reply, Earl Howe said a more recent, 2012 study had found ‘far lower levels of fluorosis than those suggested by the York review’.

In fluoridated Newcastle, 0.1% of children had severe fluorosis (and a further 1% had moderate fluorosis) – compared with 0.2% and zero in unfluoridated Manchester.

Earl Howe said: ‘Pending that review, we are advised by PHE that there is no credible scientific evidence that water fluoridation at one part per million, the target level for water fluoridation schemes in England, or fluoridated toothpaste, is a cause of general ill health.’

A PHE spokesman said it was too soon to say what changes would be made to the advice, but added: ‘The York review is an important source of information.’

By parliamentary correspondent Rob Merrick

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Earl Howe is quoted saying: ‘Pending that review, we are advised by PHE that there is no credible scientific evidence that water fluoridation at one part per million, the target level for water fluoridation schemes in England, or fluoridated toothpaste, is a cause of general ill health.’ I note Earl Howe is right in that fluoride is not causing widespread GENERAL health problems. But that does not make it safe for all. As a naturopath practising in recently fluoridated Geelong, Australia almost every week I see clinical evidence of patients experiencing INDIVIDUAL ill health from fluoride toxicity since water fluoridation began. Dentist, doctors and natural health practitioners are seeing these problems too. Unlike asbestos where the characteristic single disease mesothelioma can follow exposure, the symptoms of fluoride toxicity vary from person to person but follow the patterns of common illnesses found with higher fluoride exposure in industry. Skin rash, muscle and joint pain, asthma and gastro-intestinal pain are common in people sensitive to the toxic effects of fluoride from drinking fluoridated water. While medications such as cortisone has proved effective at easing the skin and asthma problems, and morphine has also helped with severe digestive pain, nothing brings proper relief except avoidance of fluoride. When medical recommendations to avoid treatment by having no contact with fluoridated water are made for such patients, the problems for practitioners and patients to carry this out are significant. Nevertheless, it would be the same difficulty as avoiding any other form of dental or medical treatment placed into drinking water. When symptoms are life threatening, such as severe asthma from fluoridated water, if patients can afford to purchase rainwater tanks and can connect the tanks up to the neighbor's roof runoff,(one house roof does not supply enough water) they will do so. For those who can't afford that, purchasing bottled water to drink, cook and wash in makes it much more difficult to totally avoid the fluoride, but can enable such people, while not to be well, at least to stay alive. The number of people suffering from fluoride toxicity in Geelong since it started in 2009 makes it clear that absolutely no form of personal treatment with any chemical should be given through tap water. Every Geelong doctor, dentist or health professional I have spoken to who has had to manage either the adverse reactions to fluoridated water of their patients or themselves has adopted this view. Earl Baldwin of Bewdley is right in calling to question once again the serious mistakes made on the safety of fluoride over the past 60 years.It is time committees too far removed from suffering patients to observe how sick they become familiarize themselves with the medical harm any committee may be causing when supporting the fluoridation of water.