I was interested to read that Jessica Crowe uses water fluoridation as an example of a public health intervention that might provoke local protests, and that therefore overview and scrutiny committees (OSCs) might assist.
While I agree that OSCs have great potential as 'honest brokers' in this (and many other issues), I should like to correct some common misunderstandings about water fluoridation.
First, Ms Crowe.suggests wrongly that 'only under-18s will benefit'. In fact, adults with their own teeth have much to gain from water fluoridation. In general, more adults are keeping more of their own teeth into old age, and several studies have clearly demonstrated that adults living in fluoridated communities keep more of their own teeth longer and have much less trouble with them than those in non-fluoridated communities. This is a benefit not to be dismissed lightly at a time when access to dental services are rarely out of the news.
Protesters in minority
Secondly, she seems unaware that the vast majority of people in the UK actually support water fluoridation. Independent opinion surveys consistently report around 70 per cent.of the general public think fluoride should be added to water if it can reduce tooth decay. Of course there are opponents, and they will protest, but health service managers can be confident that they are a small minority.
Finally, it seems that Ms Crowe is unaware that the 1991 Water Industry Act actually requires Strategic Health Authorities to undertake detailed consultations and assessment of public opinion before proceeding with water fluoridation proposals.
Information on all aspects of water fluoridation are available on the British Fluoridation Society website at www.bfsweb.org/index.html.
Sheila Jones MPH, research and information Officer, British Fluoridation Society.