5 Aug 2009

Daily Echo - We're not too dumb to decide

We're not too dumb to decide
By Cllr David Harrison
Leader of the New Forest Liberal Democrats
OLGA Senior urges us all to believe that adding fluoride to our tap water is a good thing. As director of communications for the Strategic Health Authority (SHA), she cleverly leaves her most powerful arguments to last, telling us that such proposals are supported by the British Dental Association, The British Medical Association and the World Health Organisation.
I thought it might be useful to give some critical thought to the points she makes. In the first place, I don't really think that the British Dental Association would be appropriate experts to comment on all the long-term effects of medicating the entire population. They have something of value to add about what they think would be the likely impact on teeth. If people were no more than teeth, their view would be significant.
So, what of the British Medical Association? Olga Senior claims unqualified support for the plans. However, a quick check of their website reveals that they only support such moves after appropriate public consultation. It must seem obvious that a consultation that started off with one arm of the NHS actively promoting the benefits, while another arm of the NHS was claiming to be open-minded and willing to listen is hardly appropriate consultation.
Olga leaves out of her article the inconvenient truth that, despite the expensive promotion, 72 per cent of those expressing an opinion clearly said they did not want fluoride added to the water. Surely no doctor could feel justified and comfortable in medicating a majority of the population who are against the plans. Want fluoride? Then brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste!
So, that leaves the World Health Organisation. Do they, as Olga implies, think that fluoride should be added to the tap water wherever it is needed in the world? I invite anyone reading this to visit the World Health Organisation website and read some of the published research on the subject.
I'm not being especially selective but you will see that there appears to be no evidence that any of us actually need fluoride. It is present naturally in water and food at different levels, depending on geography. It is extremely toxic at high dosage levels. This is hardly the ringing endorsement one might expect.
I do not buy the argument that the SHA is merely following procedures in a proper way. Clearly Parliament did not anticipate a situation in which an unelected and unaccountable quango would think it right, as good stewardship, to impose this upon an unwilling public.
With all local MPs, including the minister for local government, saying that the plans should be put on hold, you might think that the SHA would concede, rather than setting aside a further £400,000 of badly needed health funds to fight off legal challenges.
Perhaps the greatest sin Olga makes is in suggesting that we are all too dumb to understand the science, that we just believe inaccurate information and the conspiracy theories. It needs politicians, who have a little more respect for the abilities and opinions of the people, to be making decisions as important as this.

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