If you ask 1000 people
whether they’re in favour of adding fluoride to drinking water, the result will likely be 51:49. Which
way I couldn’t say, as
it mainly depends on who people
listened to last.
This is a fundamental
problem with asking the public about this controversial issue.On one hand, we
have the anti-fluoride campaigners and on the other we have the pro-fluoride
health professional lobby.
A few years ago, a
colleague wrote a paper , “Fluoridation,
fragmented facts.” Her paper looked at all the past studies on
fluoridation and reached the conclusion that overall the benefit to dental
health was proven but the amount of benefit could not be quantified. Interestingly, her paper has been used by
both sides in the argument to validate their positions.
So where do I sit on this spectrum? As an engineer, not a health professional, I defer to the health professionals in authority
– in this case, the Ministry of Health and its officers. They are the experts and have the resources to assess the public
But what about the anti-fluoridation campaigners and the links they make between ill health and
fluoridation. As an engineer, my input
is not to decide whether they are right or not, that is the responsibility of the
health professionals. My responsibility
is to make sure that any water treatment system we design
will protect the public from overdosing and will minimise the risk to the
operator who has to deal with these unpleasant chemicals.
So what is the
solution for adding fluoride to water?
Firstly, it should not be a decision taken by the public. They simply don’t have access to sufficient information to make a robust informed
decision. Secondly, it can’t be
imposed nationally as the focus on water treatment must
be firstly on making the water safe to drink.Adding
fluoride for dental health must be second to keeping e.coli, giardia and
other matter out of our water
supplies (these can kill you).
Surely our focus must
be on providing drinking water that won’t kill you and then worrying about
dental health later.
This thought leadership article by Iain Rabbits, a Senior Water Specialist Engineer at Harrison Grierson.
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