Fluoride to save nation’s teeth

October 29, 2008 at 2:12 pm

Health officials have called for an extension to water fluoridation schemes as part of a plan to help reduce tooth decay in young children. If successful, fluoride supplements could be added to water supplies in large parts of Southampton and Cumbria.

Critics of the scheme are afraid that adding fluoride to public water supplies could result in an increase of fluorosis (teeth discolouration), despite the fact that much of North and Central England has been drinking fluoridated water for some time with no ill effects.

The ‘Hampshire against Fluoridation Group’ believes that fluoride is a “vicious, nasty poison” that can bring about a plethora of health problems, including irritable bowel syndrome, rashes, and nausea. Principal on their list of gripes is a growing concern about whether fluoride accumulates in the body.

Public opinion of fluoridation schemes has been consistently good, with questionnaires often returning results of 65 – 75% in favour. The British Dental Association (BDA) has also been a vocal proponent of the plans but unless the government can produce conclusive evidence that fluoride has no harmful effects on the body, the scheme will continue to face opposition.

Unfortunately, the nay-sayers aren’t just worried; they’re terrified. Some groups believe that fluoridation schemes mark the start of a move towards clandestine medical operations whereby the government can medicate the population from behind closed doors. Brian Donohoe, a Labour MP for Central Ayrshire, is a vociferous opponent of the plans: “I don’t think anything should be added to the water as a medicine because it’s the beginning of the end. What’s to stop the government adding other things as medicine?”

The British Fluoridation Society wants to add fluoride supplements to an additional 20% of UK water sources, bringing the total up to 30% overall.

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Starbucks accused of wasting millions of litres of water

October 15, 2008 at 4:01 pm

Starbucks, which prides itself on its green credentials, has been heavily criticised by environmentalists and customers alike for wasting 1.63 million litres of water each day in its UK outlets, the amount equivalent to that consumed by an average size town such as Matlock in Derbyshire.

If you want a more emotive comparison, the 23.4 million litres wasted worldwide in Starbucks outlets would be enough to satisfy the needs of the 2 million Namibians suffering drought conditions at the moment.

The reason behind this wastage seems to be a dubious health and safety regulation, designed to minimise the risk of bacteria building up in taps at the coffee shops. Staff are not allowed to turn off the taps in the sinks used to wash utensils, on the grounds that this would allow bacteria to breed in them.

Jacob Tompkins of Water Wise, an independent agency, has slammed the practice saying that the likelihood of a build-up of bacteria is remote if Starbucks are carrying out their cleaning procedures efficiently. Starbucks has defended the regime saying that they need to balance water conservation with customer safety.

There is no doubt, however, that the revelations will come as a great embarrassment to the company which trumpets its green credentials, stating in its corporate social responsibility report that it has “established high standards for environmental responsibility”.

Starbucks are no strangers to controversy, however, and managed to bounce back after the Guardian reported in 2006 that the company was using its corporate weight to stop Ethiopian farmers copyrighting their coffee beans. It will be interesting to see what steps the company takes to limit the damage done by this most recent embarrassment.

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National Trust reports on water issues

October 10, 2008 at 1:54 pm

Water is an important part of our lives, not only for the necessary aspects such as drinking, cooking and using domestic appliances, but also for relaxation such as gardening, water sports and fishing, or just walking along a river bank or sitting at a lakeside with a picnic. As far as the leisure aspects are concerned, the National Trust depends more than most on a good water supply for the upkeep of its many beautiful properties, as well as supporting the wildlife native to this country. It is now about to publish a report about the water-related issues facing it in the 21st century.

Over a quarter of NT properties are home to mammals, birds and fish which depend on water, whether it be ponds, streams or rivers. Food sources and breeding sites are put at risk through drought and fish die because of low oxygen levels. The Trust is now restoring wetlands, bogs and streams in appropriate areas in order to hold rainwater and release it slowly to avoid both droughts and floods.

At some properties, drought resistant plants have been introduced and water butts and similar devices installed to make the most of rainwater, whilst gardeners are now watering at different times of the day to conserve water. Low water usage toilets and water-pressure reducers are also doing their part to reduce the amounts used.

The Trust faced a bill of £1.46 million after last year’s floods and measures are being taken to reduce future risk, including turning a previous canal back into a stream with a natural floodplain.

For information on the challenges faced by the Trust on climate change see here.

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Southern Water comes off the worst of the water companies

October 1, 2008 at 11:17 am

Water water everywhere… but not a drop to drink. The water board must have had it with the floods and droughts here in the UK. Poor old Southern Water in Worthing, West Sussex have come out worst in a recent poll of all UK water boards and have notched up a pretty embarrassing 50,000 complaints in the last 12 months.

According to the industry regulators, The Consumer Council for Water (CCW), out of the 273,000 complaints received by water companies over the last year, over 20% were directed at Southern Water. It was a pretty bad year for Southern Water, to say the least. It wasn’t too long ago that they found themselves with only around 19,000 complaints in a year. This makes the new figure quite a rise. Last year they were comfortably mid-table in terms of performance, so why has all suddenly gone wrong?

The problems came when Southern Water launched a new £20 million billing system, which immediately led to hundreds of phone calls to their head office. There was mass confusion as to what the new statements meant and how much customers were being charged. Southern Water were pleased to announce that once the new system was settled in their customers’ minds, they saw a 60% drop in the number of complaints, but it seems it might have been too late to save people’s opinions of them this year.

Southern Water have issued a heart-felt apology for the teething problems and aim to regain customers’ trust into 2009, which is set to be an even more difficult financial time for households and their bills. For more information and a detailed breakdown on each water company, have a look at the CCW website here.

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