In April, Bedford’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee unanimously recommended that fluoride should NOT be added to Bedford’s water.
This followed a protracted two-year debate. Bedford Council will now have to consult Bedfordshire County Council and the Secretary of State will eventually be involved in their decision. The issue could then go out to consultation and the public will be asked to respond within 3 months.
A video made by Fluoride Free Bedford includes footage of the council reflecting on this important decision.
Councillor Anthony Forth (below) issued the following statement:
“I would like to propose that following the review process, this committee recommends a termination of the existing water fluoridation scheme, subject to the necessary consultations that are outlined on pages 26 to 28.
“I think that the evidence in favour of water fluoridation does seem extremely dated… On the other hand, a number of the pieces of evidence of dis-benefits are not as scientifically rigorous as we might like.
I think that as a group we’re happy to accept the Precautionary Principle that there isn’t strong evidence for re-introducing fluoride, so therefore we should not go ahead.”
Professor K.K. Cheng (professor of epidemiology, University of Birmingham) and his colleagues Iain Chalmers, editor, and Trevor A Sheldon, professor and pro-vice chancellor. co-authored Adding fluoride to water supplies: US National Library of Medicine: National Institutes of Health,
They reflected, in similar vein, that public and professional bodies need to balance benefits and risks, individual rights, and social values in an even handed manner. Those opposing fluoridation often claim that it does not reduce caries and sometimes overstate the evidence on harm. On the other hand, the Department of Health’s objectivity is questionable—it funded the British Fluoridation Society and, along with many other supporters of fluoridation, it used the York review’s findings selectively to give an overoptimistic assessment of the evidence in favour of fluoridation: Wilson PM, Sheldon TA. Muddy waters: evidence-based policy making, uncertainty and the “York review” on water fluoridation. Evidence Policy 2006: 2:321-31.
In response to the Medical Research Council recommendations, the department commissioned research on the bioavailability of fluoride from naturally and artificially fluoridated drinking water. The study had only 20 participants and was too small to give reliable results. Despite this it formed the basis of a series of claims by government for the safety of fluoridation.
The Cheng study ends: “Against this backdrop of one sided handling of the evidence, the public distrust in the information it receives is understandable. We hope this article helps provide professionals and the public with a framework for engaging constructively in public consultations”.