The town of Blackpool, located on the northwest coast of England, began distributing fluoridated milk to about 8000 primary school children, after The Blackpool Town Council approved the program in early 2016. Fluoridated milk is now available via the town’s free school breakfast program.
This program aims to address the problem of tooth health in children, and the Council states that half of the 12-year-olds in Blackpool have at least one decayed, missing or filled tooth, whereas the average for England is 33%, and 41% of 5-year-olds in Blackpool have tooth decay, 13% higher than the national average.
“There is a lot of conflicting evidence about adding fluoride to milk, including that it cancels out the good effects of calcium. You can’t mass medicate children, which is what they are doing. Who is going to monitor how much fluoride children will have in them?” ~ Blackpool Councillor Tony Williams
Councillor Williams voices another concern about how public health officials will monitor the level of fluoride in each child. There is no way to ensure that children will not be over-medicated. Under the fluoridated milk scheme, each 189ml carton will contain 0.8mg of fluoride, which is equivalent to 4.2 parts per million (ppm). For comparison, the recommended safe level of fluoride in water in the U.S. is 0.7 ppm. This was lowered in 2015 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services from the range of 0.7-1.2 ppm, who decided that it was a potential danger to maintain the higher levels.
The Blackpool Council delayed its decision regarding the milk fluoridation scheme when it was initially introduced in 2013 to request additional research into fluoride levels in Blackpool pre-school children, which showed that, “children in the town have lower than normal levels of fluoride in their bodies.”
Unfortunately, the Council did not put into place a system for monitoring the specific level of fluoride in each child, and now the decision to participate is left up to the parents who must encourage their kids not to drink the milk. The program website claims that, “Fluoridated milk is safe to drink.”
The practice of milk fluoridation has been underway in Manchester, England, for many years. The University of Manchester conducted a study in 2015 “to assess the effects of milk fluoridation for preventing dental caries at a community level.” The research team concluded the following:
“There is low quality evidence to suggest fluoridated milk may be beneficial to schoolchildren, contributing to a substantial reduction in dental caries in primary teeth. Due to the low quality of the evidence, further research is likely to have an important impact on our confidence in the estimate of effect and is likely to change the estimate. There was only one relatively small study, which had important methodological limitations on the data for the effectiveness in reducing caries. Furthermore, there was no information about the potential harms of the intervention.” (Source)
The U.K. is among a minority of countries that still use mass community fluoridation tactics, as throughout mainland Europe, the majority of countries have rejected this antiquated practice.
Prevention and reduction of tooth decay across a large population is the main argument for water fluoridation. Many proponents will argue that there is a need to target certain socio-economic areas more susceptible to poor oral health. On the other hand, anti-fluoridation activists will site dozens of scientific studies that debate the safety of water fluoridation and mass medication. Many assert that these practices are actually harmful and amount to medication without consent, a violation of basic human rights.
across a large population is the main argument for water fluoridation. Many proponents will argue that there is a need to target certain socio-economic areas more susceptible to poor oral health. On the other hand, anti-fluoridation activists will site dozens of scientific studies that debate the safety of water fluoridation and mass medication. Many assert that these practices are actually harmful and amount to medication without consent, a violation of basic human rights.