The UK government seems determined to press ahead with planned extensions of water fluoridation schemes in the UK. This is despite many warnings and much evidence of the hazards of fluoride as well as the rumoured reluctance of water companies to risk exposure to lawsuits.
It’s also a blatant disregard of the Medical Research Council’s recommendations for further studies on various aspects related to the consumption and use of fluoride. The MRC plans to change the law by incorporating an amendment to the water bill, which may be brought before the House of Commons before the summer recess. If passed, this would force water companies to add fluoride to drinking water in areas where there is substantial local support for such measures. At present, around 10 per cent of the UK has fluoridated water supplies.
The ostensible reason behind the government’s plan is to reduce tooth decay in young children, which is particularly severe in deprived inner city areas. However, the UK government’s intentions go against current trends and thinking concerning water fluoridation in America and Europe. About 70 cities in the US have abandoned water fluoridation since 1990. As for Europe, with the exception of one small part of Spain, the continent is now free of water fluoridation. Last April, after 41 years of fluoridated water, the Swiss city of Basel stopped fluoridation largely due to a lack of study evidence that it was effective. During those 41 years, dental caries in children had not fallen, but had actually been on the rise.
These trends have followed the scientific evidence that fluoride doesn’t prevent tooth decay. A recently published study concluded: ‘It may . . . be that fluoridation of drinking water does not have a strong protective effect against early childhood caries (ECC)’ (J Publ Health Dent, 2003; Winter: 38-46). In New Zealand, which has fluoridated its water for years, children have some of the worst teeth in the world: some 58 per cent of teenagers and 47 per cent of 5 year olds have serious dental decay. After fluoridating their water, the NZ government scaled down its dental service in anticipation of reduced dental decay – an act that eventually proved premature.
An array of new evidence also shows that fluoridating water ruins teeth. Dental fluorosis – tooth mottling and discoloration from too much fluoride – affects 48 per cent of people in areas with fluoridated water supplies (NHS CRD Report no 18, 2000). Despite this known side-effect of water fluoridation, the cosmetic dental treatment required for one in every eight cases is not covered by the NHS. It can cost £200 per tooth to ‘correct’ fluorosis and the procedure has to be repeated at least every six years.
Besides ruining teeth, fluorosis presents real dangers to health. Especially worrying is the repeated association between water fluoridation and cancer.
Although the studies relating cancer to fluoride initially used animals (Cell Biol Toxicol, 1988; 4: 311-24) and don’t necessarily apply to humans, the epidemiological evidence is compelling.
In Fluoride: The Aging Factor (Health Action Press, 1993), John Yiamouyiannis quotes Dean Burk, of the US National Cancer Institute (NCI), as saying: ‘. . . fluoride causes more human cancer deaths, and causes it faster, than any other chemical’.
In a study covering 13-17 years comparing 10 fluoridated and 10 non-fluoridated US cities, Burk and Yiamouyiannis found a fluoride-linked increase in cancer deaths of around 10 per cent. These results were confirmed by the NCI. The NCI also found that, as fluoridation increased, so did oral cancer – by 33-50 per cent/year in fluoridated areas – or 5000-7500+ additional cases of mouth and throat cancers.
Another worrying aspect is an association between fluoridation and osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, in young men. Copious evidence shows that fluoride weakens bones. But one study revealed that fluoride at very low levels has an effect on the male hormone testosterone (IRCS Med Sci, 1983; 11: 813-4), a hormone involved in bone growth in boys, but not in girls. This rare bone cancer has increased dramatically in young men – particularly those aged 0-19 – in fluoridated areas of the US. Such a rise in the rate of this cancer has not been seen in non-fluoridated areas (US Publ Health Service, 1991: F1-F7). The New Jersey Department of Health also found that osteosarcoma rates were three to seven times higher in fluoridated areas than in non-fluoridated ones (NJ Dept Health, 8 November 1992).
After careful analysis of much data, John Yiamouyiannis concluded that fluoridation is linked to a 70-per-cent increase in bone cancer, especially osteosarcomas, in men under 20.
Ultimately, fluoridating water is not just about health, but human rights as well. In a recent paper, environmental analyst Doug Cross and Dr Robert Carton not only stressed that these measures violate medical ethics and human rights legislation (such as the Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine and the Human Rights Act of 1998). They also question the legality of water fluoridation. Silicofluorides used for this purpose are not registered as medicines, but are listed in only one piece of legislation in English law – the Poisons Act of 1972, as Part II Poisons – and, as such, are subject to strict controls (Int J Occup Environ Health, 2003; January).
Doug Cross has informed many members of the UK Parliament of these facts. It remains to be seen how much notice they will take when the matter is brought before the House of Commons in early July.
Doris M. Jones