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THE DEBATE: Should fluoride be added to our water? Alan Weston on the row that's blown u pin Liverpool.

Byline: Alan Weston

THE long-running debate over whether our water supplies should be fluoridated has been blown wide open again. Liverpool City Council and Merseyside and Cheshire Strategic Health Authority are on a collision course over a motion which the council is set to pass condemning the fluoride used in water supplies as a pesticide.

However, several leading health experts -- including Professor John Ashton, the regional Director of Public Health -- believe fluoridation would help to counteract the worst children's dental health in the country.

Water companies have had the power to fluoridate supplies since 1985, but most have not done so for fear of legal action from consumers opposed to it.

But the Water Bill would allow Strategic Health Authorities to force water companies to fluoridate.

Fluoride supporters believe the chemical helps cut tooth decay but anti-fluoride groups claim it can cause a range of problems, from tooth mottling to cancer, and have threatened to mount a legal challenge on human rights grounds.

Dentists on Merseyside overwhelmingly back the move, pointing out that the average Liverpool five-year-old has 2. 3 decayed, missing or filled teeth. In St Helens and Knowsley, the figure is 2. 5, while in Wirral it is 1. 86.

In contrast, children in the fluoridated West Midlands have suffered far less damage.

But this move has infuriated opponents of fluoridation, who have described the chemical used as a ``toxic waste product''. Other critics claim many countries have abandoned fluoridation without any change in tooth decay rates.

CAPTION(S):

Faye Burleigh, 5, of Netherton, with unfluoridated tap water; Many dentists claim they would have less work to do if water was fluoridated
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Aug 3, 2004
Words:274
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