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Poisoned by Fluoride

By Malcolm Reid, Glasgow Evening Times, 20th September, 1994.

A TOP Glasgow dental scientist is set to join a legal battle on behalf of British children poisoned by fluoride.

Dr Josie Beeley, who admits dentists once regarded her as "almost a heretic", is backing a joint move by around 250 children hit by dental fluorosis to take on the giant toothpaste firms in the courts.

Her action comes after a difficult summer for the pro-fluoride lobby and its ongoing battle to win the hearts and minds of the public.

And her decision to offer her services as an expert witness highlights a subtle change of direction in the decades-old battle between opposing sides in the great fluoride debate.

The row has historically centred on the fiercely controversial issue of water fluoridation.

But now Dr Beeley, senior lecturer in oral biochemistry at the University of Glasgow, has nailed her colours to the mast in an emergent new focal point of the argument - the fluoride supplements market.

Further evidence is coming to light of the potential risks posed to young children by products like fluoridated toothpaste, tablets and drops.

Dr Beeley has offered her support to the growing number of families throughout the UK bidding - including one in Bearsden - to wage a legal battle against the makers of these goods.

They hope to win compensation for their children, who suffer from the increasingly common chronic fluoride poisoning syndrome, dental fluorosis.

The condition, which causes the teeth of affected children to become irreversibly mottled and stained, often arises when toddlers unintentionally swallow fluoridated toothpaste while brushing their teeth.

And she told the Evening Times she believed there was a "substantial problem" inherent in the practice.

"When I realised how much fluoride was in my son's toothhpaste, and where it was going if he didn't spit it out", she explained "I saw that if I didn't do something, he was going to get fluorosis."

In a 1993 article in the British Dental Journal, Dr William Rock, of the University of Birmingham's school of dentistry warned of the dangers to young children of swallowing fluoridated toothpaste, particularly if they live in a part of the country with fluoridated water supplies.

Dr Rock's paper points out that the majority of fluoride toothpastes in the UK contain 1000 parts per million of fluoride, and several have a level as high as 1500ppm. By comparison, the maximum for water fluoridation is only 1ppm.

Recent developments may reopen the bitter arguments which raged throughout Strathclyde in the lead up to the regional council's decisive rejection - by 56 votes to 16 - of water fluoridation in June, 1993.

Thirteen children between the ages of 4 and 13 had previously been denied legal aid for their individual cases, because the cost could not be justified.

At the High Court in London in July, Justice Dyson agreed with that decision by the Nottingham Legal Aid Board.

However, he said solicitors should advertise to determine the number of potential victims and to see if a multi-party action could be cost effective.

Court

The firm - Freeth, Cartwright, Hunt and Dickins subsequently acted on that advice.

As a result, they now have the names of around 250 fluorosis victims, and have just submitted a fresh legal aid application.

Dr Beeley now plans to help, inviting them to join the growing number of families - including one in Bearsden - who plan to mount court action.


Victim of the hidden danger

A FLUORIDE health scare involving scores of Lanarkshire toddlers was highlighted by the Evening Times last year.

It was part of our campaign to oppose the fluoridation of Strathclyde's water supplies.

We revealed how a regional education boss dramatically called a halt to a fluoride programme at Calderhead Nursery in Shotts after a Glasgow University molecular biologist warned of dangers.

Horrified doctors hit out at the practice, claiming the toddlers might have been exposed not only to the risk of fluorosis, but also to osteosarcoma (a rare, usually fatal, bone cancer) and osteoarthiritis (pain and stiffness throughout the joints).

We also revealed how one of the top dentists behind the nursery programme - Lanarkshire Health Board's chief administrative dental officer Bob McKechnie - had himself previously warned of the dangers of fluoride overuse.

Said Julian Middleton, one of the solicitors handling the children's case: "A lot of them are at a very sensitive age and are very self conscious about this strange appearance to their teeth."

Sensitive

One of his clients Is Bearsden youngster Douglas Woods (13). He has not been the target of jibes at school - but his mother Christine campaigned successfully to have fluorosis warnings put on toothpaste and fluoride supplements packaging.

Such warnings did not exist 12 years ago whom she gave Douglas fluoride drops and tablets.

She said: "The approach to fluoride supplements is changing. The advice now is to use to use them only when really necessary, and not as a general health measure. That's progress."

Scots cases are being dealt with by Glasgow solicitors L. and L. Lawrence of 18 Woodside Terrace.

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