IT IS the most controversial public health issue to hit Hampshire for decades.
And now the Daily Echo can reveal that drinking just a pint of tap water a day could expose young children to risks of permanent side effects once supplies have fluoride added to them.
The revelation comes as health bosses have admitted for the first time they don’t expect fluoridation to be in place until 2014 – five years after it was given the green light.
Opponents raised fears of a “significant proportion” of a generation of youngsters – especially those who were given formula as babies – growing up with mottled teeth.
Campaigners say the Strategic Health Authority (SHA) should now “give up” on the delayed project, saying it is “morally and ethically” wrong to fluoridate water while questions remain over its impact.
Health chiefs admit they will give guidance to parents once supplies are fluoridated, but insist there is no evidence to suggest it will cause any problems.
But responding to a Freedom of Information request, the SHA did not dispute any findings of a review of water fluoridation by the EU’s Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks (SCHER).
That committee stated that youngsters aged from one to six years old should not drink more than half a litre of fluoridated tap water a day if they use fluoride toothpaste.
It added that intake of water could be doubled for six to 12-year-olds.
The SHA said those findings were based on the amount of fluoride in the water being 1.5mg per litre. The scheme covering parts of Southampton, Eastleigh, Totton, Netley and Rownhams, would see 1mg of fluoride per litre. But the SHA accepted there is a different picture for younger children.
Former chairman of Hampshire Against Fluoridation Stephen Peckham said children having too much fluoride will be at risk of mottled teeth from fluorosis, while there is still a lack of conclusive evidence to say it doesn’t lead to other health problems.
He said: “Most babies on formula food will have a lot more than a pint of water a day.
“The SHA says it doesn’t matter if children exceed those limits because the only effect will be dental fluorosis, which is aesthetic, but in a significant proportion of cases it seriously damages the enamel of the teeth. It’s a recognised health problem that needs costly and repeated treatment.
“Four per cent of Southampton children of a particular age will have teeth damaged by excess fluoride consumption when they were younger.
“It is ethically and morally wrong to continue with water fluoridation while there are unanswered questions.”
Health chiefs insisted information will be given to parents about supervising young children when brushing their teeth “through media channels and healthcare professionals”, but said they believe there are no health problems from fluoride.
Dental consultant for Southampton and Hampshire Dr Jeyenthi John said: “Best available evidence, including SCHER, and close monitoring of UK population using either naturally fluoridated water or water from fluoridation schemes, does not support an association between water fluoridation and health implications for the population.”