AS Daily Echo readers will be aware the SHA carried out a public consultation to assist the SHA board in making a decision on whether to instruct Southern Water to add fluoride to the water supply in Southampton and parts of south west Hampshire.
This consultation followed a formal request from Southampton City Primary Care Trust and was carried put in line with the relevant legislation.
Legislation which was debated in Parliament by MPs and passed in a free vote. The legislation makes no provision for a referendum.
During the consultation more than 10,000 responses were received plus 2,000 in-depth telephone interviews carried out. An independent detailed report on all views received was submitted to the SHA board to assist board members in their decision making process. These results have been widely reported.
The consultation highlights the challenge of discussing public health issues in the age of the Internet where people need to try and evaluate a huge range of complex scientific information available on water fluoridation, some of which is clearly inaccurate and has often been reproduced by local campaigners.
You only need to look at some of the postings by readers on the Daily Echo website which talk of conspiracy theories to see the difficulty of using the Internet as a reliable source of information on important scientific issues.
To be clear, the results of the telephone survey showed no majority view on this issue therefore it is simply not the case that the SHA is ignoring public opinion. What it did show was a quarter of those people who opposed water fluoridation did so because of a fear that it would damage their health, but successive research studies have found no association between water fluoridation and systemic illness.
The survey also found that 69 per cent of respondents had little or no knowledge of fluoridation.
The Nuffield Council of Bioethics published a report in November 2007 which said: “Stewardship is not exercised simply by following the public vote, especially where issues involve complex scientific evidence.”
In weighing up the arguments for and against water fluoridation the board was satisfied that water fluoridation at 1 ppm is a safe and effective way to tackle tooth decay in Southampton, and that the health benefits outweighed all other arguments against water fluoridation.
The SHA, having followed the law as it has been laid out by Parliament, arrived at this conclusion and remains confident that the decision taken remains in the best interest of the health of the local population and something which will benefit future generations in the area.
Fluoridation is supported by the British Dental Association, British Medical Association and World Health Organisation, organisations whose primary purpose is to help improve the health of people.
Do we really think these organisations would support a measure if they truly felt the evidence showed it would cause harm?