§ Mr. Shersby
To ask the Secretary of State for Health what is his policy towards the use of fluoride as a means of arresting and preventing dental caries; what evaluation he has made of its effectiveness as an agent; and what measures he is adopting to ensure that it is available to population groups most at risk.
§ Mr. Freeman
The Government's view is that fluoridation of drinking water constitutes a safe and effective means of reducing tooth decay. Evidence of the efficacy of fluoridation in this country is well documented and recent studies confirm the view that further reductions in caries levels in children's teeth, over and above the general decline in caries which has occurred, are achievable through fluoridation of domestic water supplies. These benefits are particularly cost effective in areas where caries levels are otherwise high.
The Government believe it right that decisions on fluoridation should be taken at a local rather than national level. The Water (Fluoridation) Act 1985 imposes a statutory duty on district health authorities to engage in widespread public consultation before any decisions on the implementation of fluoridation schemes are taken. While it is our general view that we should support local initiatives, it is the task of the district health authority to weigh the advantages of fluoridation when deciding to ask water 873W undertakers to fluoridate water supplies in the area. The final discretion whether to agree to fluoridation must, however, rest with water undertakers who need to be satisfied that the health authorities' proposals are technically feasible.