One of the campaign platforms quietly on the agenda in the heated London mayorial campaign may be fluoride.
The scuttlebutt is that Frank Dobson, the Labour candidate, is running on a not very well publicised pro fluoride campaign that, if elected, he intends to fluoridate the water of London. Dobson has long been a supporter of fluoride and supported fluoridation of water as Health Minister.
Of course, if he won the election tomorrow, Dobson wouldn't be able to fluoridate the water supply at the moment even if he fervently believed it would keep every last London child's teeth pearly white. The national law is such that no one in national office can insist on fluoridation.
Since the 1980s, water companies have had the power to veto fluoridation even if requested by a local health authority, if they so wish. Most of them choose not to suffer the hassle of the anti fluoride lobby. Also, water companies don't much like fluoride. It corrodes their machinery, mucking up all those jets and valves. Besides being expensive, this leaves them open to all manner of problems and potential legal issues should too much fluoride escape into the water supply as a result. The water suppliers like to look like reasonable men protecting your democratic right to refuse fluoride, but the bottom line is they avoid fluoride because it's the soft option. This is one reason why fluoride was withdrawn in the North West of England.
Whether or not Dobson adds fluoride to his mayoral agenda, there is no doubt that Britain faces a threat of fluoridation. A government White Paper last year called for a review of all studies of fluoridated water to determine the benefits, any adverse effects and the cost in relation to the advantages. If fluoride is proved to be beneficial, safe and cost effective, the law would be changed. If a health authority requested fluoride, a water company would be obliged to accommodate.
Very democratically, that review of all available data on fluoride has been put on a Website, and can be visited and commented on by every last citizen of Britain (www.york.ac.uk/inst/crd/fluorid.htm) yes, "fluorid" is right; someone didn't know how to spell it.
For all the supposed science claimed by the pro fluoride lobby, the evidence the government has been able to collect is surprisingly weak, according to the National Pure Water Association weaker than anyone imagined. The quality is also apparently rather poor. (It must also be said that the evidence that fluoride causes fluorosis, while greater, is also poor, although it does appear to occur in surprising low levels of fluoride in the water. The evidence that fluoride causes cancer and hip fracture in these particular studies is also said not to be conclusive.)
The most surprisng turn in the data is the evidence that a tenth of our exposure from fluoride occurs from water, with nine tenths from other sources. This, in effect, drives a stake into the heart of the pro fluoride position. Even if the evidence shows that fluoride prevents tooth decay (and it doesn't), the bulk of protection, if there were any (and there isn't), doesn't come from fluoridated water.
Usually, less than half the voters bother to get out and vote in the mistaken notion that there is nothing that they can do to change the course of their lives. In this case, by voting against Frank Dobson, you may be casting a vote against poisoning our water supply with an unproven and dangerous substance that is already in overly plentiful supply. This is no time for complacency. Make sure to voice your opinion on the government's Website, then vote. And come to our dental and fluoride conference on election evening, May 4 to add your voice to many thousands complaining about yet another poison the government is trying to put in our mouths.