SOUTHAMPTON’S councillors last night voted to back plans to add fluoride to the city’s water to give thousands of “poor kids rich kids’ teeth”.
Health chiefs want to improve dental health among youngsters in the city by controversially adding fluoride to the tap water delivered to two-thirds of residents.
In a free vote city councillors voted 26 to 18 to endorse the request by the city’s primary care trust after a debate lasting just over an hour.
A special panel of councillors set up to examine the proposal had narrowly recommended that 160,000 city residents should have levels of fluoride in their tap water topped up from the natural 0.08 parts per million to one part per million.
Around 36,000 people living in Eastleigh, Totton and Netley would also be covered.
Critics raise ethical concerns and fears about side effects including mottled teeth, cancers, brittle bones, thyroid problems and lowered IQ. They warn resulting fluorosis would affect 8,000 people and cost £3,000 per treatment.
But councillor Peter Marsh-Jenks said the benefits were well established and pointed to fluoridation in the United States which had “the most lengthy testing regime in history” over the past 45 years.
“There is clear evidence over the years this gives poor kids rich kids’ teeth,” he said.
Councillor Peter Baillie added: “If there had been a whiff of health problems we would be having people queuing up to sue.”
Councillor Edwina Cooke, who chaired the council’s inquiry into fluoridation, said: “I don’t believe the scientific evidence makes the case for the safety of adding fluoride to the water supply. I believe it’s a form of mass medication and not justified where there is adequate access to NHS dental health services across the city.”
About 50 anti-fluoride campaigners had earlier staged a rally outside the Civic Centre to lobby councillors and then packed out the public gallery of the council chamber. They admitted the result could turn out to be “crucial”.
John Spootiswoode, chairman of Hampshire Against Fluoridation, said it threw “wide open” the final outcome after other neighbouring councils had voted against fluoridation.
He added: “It makes one ashamed to live under a council that is quite happy to force people across the city to drink water that is contaminated with a known toxin.”
John Graham, vice-chairman of the National Pure Water Association, blasted: “Those who voted in favour have failed to recognise the right of Southampton people to refuse consent to medical intervention. Southampton people will be within their rights to refuse to pay for fluoridated water supplies they didn’t ask for.” He insisted: “Our campaign goes on.”
The final decision will be made by the South Central Strategic Health Authority in February.
If it goes ahead, consultants predict tooth decay in the area will fall by 25 per cent over the next 20 years.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT
HAMPSHIRE County Council will today decide whether to join Test Valley and New Forest councils in opposing fluoridation.
The last drop-in event for members of the public to attend will be held at Nursling and Rownhams Village Hall on November 28.
A final Question Time-style debate will be held at St Mary’s Stadium on December 3.
ICM research will then conduct a poll of 2,000 people.
The 14-week public consultation by the South Central Strategic Health Authority finishes on December 19.
An associate of University of Birmingham will prepare a report for the SHA to consider compiling the responses to the consultation, although will not make any recommendation.
The results of the poll will be published.
At the end of February the SHA’s 12-member board will decide whether to give fluoridation the go ahead.
Fluoride would not be added to water until 2010 at the earliest if approved.