THREE-quarters of people who responded to a three-month public consultation on controversial plans to add fluoride to Southampton’s tap water said that they did not want it.
An independent phone survey – designed to gauge the reaction of a cross-section of the population – also showed more people against the scheme than for it.
The results were last night hailed by antifluoridation campaigners, who said they show that the proposals must now be thrown out.
However, Southampton health chiefs who are behind the scheme say that a public vote cannot be the deciding factor on fluoridation, and other factors must also be taken into consideration.
South Central Strategic Health Authority (SHA), which oversees the region’s healthcare and will make the final decision on fluoridation on Thursday, received more than 10,000 responses during its consultation.
Of those who live within the affected area – covering two thirds of Southampton and parts of Eastleigh, Totton, Netley and Rownhams – 72 per cent said that they do not want their water fluoridated, compared with 28 per cent who do.
With 32 per cent supporting the plans, city residents were more likely to be in favour than those in Eastleigh (25 per cent), Netley (19 per cent) and Totton (14 per cent).
All those figures compare starkly with responses from outside the affected area, which showed a 77 per cent level of backing.
Younger people were more likely to support the plans, with 29 per cent of under-20s saying that they are in favour, but just 14 per cent of those aged over 61 said that they approve.
In the phone poll, a representative sample of 2,000 residents were quizzed on their thoughts.
Again, more people opposed it than backed it, but the results were much closer.
While ten per cent admitted that they didn’t know and another 19 per cent said that they were neither for or against, 38 per cent replied that they do not want fluoridation. The remaining 32 per cent supported the plans.
Hampshire Against Fluoridation chairman John Spottiswoode said the results mean that the SHA must now reject fluoridation.
“Under Government legislation they have to get popular consent to do it, but they clearly haven’t got it,” he said.
“Presumably they won’t go ahead with it.”
A spokeswoman for Southampton City Primary Care Trust, which is behind the scheme, said the legislation states that the SHA must take a range of factors into consideration when making its decision.
“They include the extent of local support, the cogency of the arguments put forward, and the scientific evidence around water fluoridation,” she said. “Therefore the decision cannot be based on a simple count of the responses for or against the proposal.”