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UK Against Fluoridation

Friday, November 25, 2016

House of Commons

Alan Johnson Labour, Kingston upon Hull 

Photo of Alan JohnsonAs I have said, only a minority of health inequality issues involve the Department of Health, but I want to highlight one that quite certainly does. The biggest cause of the hospitalisation of children between the ages of five and 14 is dental caries: 33,124 children went into hospital to be anaesthetised and have their teeth extracted in the past year. Incidentally, that is 11,000 more than for the second biggest cause of the hospitalisation of children, which is abdominal and pelvic pain. Believe it or not, it was the 12th highest cause of hospitalisation of tiny children below the age of four.

This is a health equality issue. Almost all the children who went into hospital were from deprived communities, including 700 from the city I represent. There is a safe and proven way dramatically to reduce tooth decay in children, and it also has a beneficial effect on adults. It involves ensuring the fluoridation of water up to the optimum level of 1 part per million. The cost of fluoridation is small. For every £1 spent there is a return to the taxpayer of £12 after five years and of £22 after 10 years. The evidence—from the west midlands and the north-east, and from countries across the world—has now existed for many years. A five-year-old child in Hull has 87.4% more tooth extractions than one living in fluoridated Walsall. The whole medical profession, the dental profession, the British Medical Association and the Department of Health have recognised that for many years.

In Hull, we intend to fluoridate our water as part of a concerted policy to tackle this element of health inequality. We need the Department of Health to show moral leadership by encouraging local authorities in deprived areas to pursue fluoridation, and supporting them when they do. The Health Secretary retains ultimate responsibility for public health, including ill-health prevention. This is one issue on which he can begin the process of reducing hospital admissions by encouraging preventive action and, in terms of health inequalities, giving poor kids prosperous kids’ teeth.

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