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News / April 30, 2009

Children pay the price for non-fluoridated water

by Guy Hiscott

Northern Ireland children pay the price for fluoride-free water with high rates of decayed teeth, the chief nursing officer Martin Bradley warned at a conference held at Queen’s University Belfast this week.

Mr Bradley said: ‘Fluoride is a big public health lever which we have great difficulty in pulling and it does make a difference.’

In Northern Ireland, politicians rejected the measure over 10 years ago, believing it was best to minimise the amount of non-essential additives in the water.

In the Republic there is a decay rate of one tooth per child compared to over two in Northern Ireland, one of the worst in Europe.

It is estimated it costs £60 million a year in Northern Ireland to repair decayed teeth but if fluoride was used in the water it would cut that rate by 40%, producing a saving worth over £20 million.

Entitled Children and Young People in a Changing World, the event was organised by the School of Nursing and Midwifery at Queen’s and was be attended by delegates from universities and the health sector both locally and from across the world.

Professor Linda Johnston, head of the School of Nursing and Midwifery at Queen’s, said: ‘The conference is an exciting step for Queen’s, for Northern Ireland, and for the international network of practitioners with a special interest in children and young people.

‘This conference is yet another example of the commitment of the health, education and policy forums of Northern Ireland to developing the health and well being of its future generations.’