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Volume 477: debated on Friday 13 June 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what plans he has to monitor the effects on health of ingestion of fluoride; (208968)

(2) what research his Department has (a) commissioned and (b) evaluated on the relative prevalence of thyroid disease in fluoridated areas.

Under section 90A of the Water Industry Act 1991, strategic health authorities (SHAs) are required to monitor the effects of fluoridation schemes on the health of persons living in the fluoridated area and publish reports containing an analysis of the effects on health at four-yearly intervals. The West Midland Public Health Observatory is leading on the compilation of a set of standard indicators which can be used by SHAs in fulfilling this responsibility. This approach would use information on concentrations of fluoride in drinking water and intakes from dietary studies to estimate ingestion of fluoride. We understand that in compiling proposals the observatory is considering whether thyroid disease could be monitored using such routine data sources.

A review “Water fluoridation and health” undertaken by the Medical Research Council of the need for research on the effects of fluoridation and published in 2002 ascribed a low priority to further research on thyroid disorders. We will consider the need for further research on thyroid disorders in the light of any recommendations which may be made by the observatory.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has to assess public opinion on proposals to fluoridate water in the North West of England. (208969)

It is for strategic health authorities (SHAs) to decide whether to undertake consultations on proposals for new fluoridation schemes. We understand that the North West SHA has been working with the primary care trusts in the area to assess cost, benefits and technical options, but has not yet decided whether to proceed to a consultation.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what budgeting allocation has been made for the proposed implementation of water fluoridation in the North West; and from which budget. (209375)

Funding for the investigation, public consultation, installation and operation of any fluoridation scheme would be agreed locally between the responsible strategic health authority (SHA) and participating primary care trusts, drawing upon their local national health service budgets, and the relevant water company. In addition, the Government announced in February 2008 that up to £43 million would be available from centrally managed NHS capital funds over the three years 2008-09 to 2010-11 to assist SHAs with the capital cost of establishing new fluoridation schemes which have been supported by local communities, or refurbishing plant to maintain existing fluoridation schemes.