THERE are just days to go in the great debate about plans to fluoridate Hampshire’s water supplies.
But while Hampshire residents still have a chance to tell health chiefs their opinions, across the pond many have just had a more direct say on what goes in their water.
Across several American states, communities recently held referendums on proposals to fluoridate tap water.
And most opposed the scheme.
In Nebraska, where more than 70 per cent of residents receive fluoridated water, the state legislature said earlier this year that any non-fluoridated town of 1,000 or more people must fluoridate its water supply by June 2010, unless there is a public vote to opt out.
This month, those ballots were held in 61 communities across the state, covering a total of nearly 260,000 people.
While 12 towns voted in favour of adopting fluoridation, electors in 49 others said they do not want it introduced where they live.
Elsewhere, residents rejected fluoride in two-thirds of similar votes held in towns in Maine, New York and Wisconsin.
Anti-fluoride campaigners have heralded the results as proof public feeling is against the process.
“Once again, we have seen confirmed that when and where citizens are given free choice on this matter the overwhelming majority of towns reject fluoridation,” said Professor Paul Connett, the head of the international Fluoride Action Network.
“In an historic presidential election year, 79 per cent of communities with referenda voted to keep fluoride out of their water supply.”
Hampshire Against Fluoridation chairman John Spottiswoode said the votes, which follow decisions this year in Ireland and Canada to reduce the amount of fluoride added to water, show the Southampton scheme should be abandoned.
“When across the world people are saying that fluoridation of water should be reduced or scrapped completely, why on earth are the authorities in Southampton trying to force everyone to drink this toxic chemical?” he said.
“Where there is such strong scientific evidence of harm from fluoride it is incredible that any responsible person should seriously consider adding it to our water. It is unsafe and unethical.”
But Southampton City Primary Care Trust believes Nebraska’s experiences show fluoride is popular and is far from being rejected by Americans, 176 million of whom drink water with topped up levels of the chemical.
“The net outcome is that, over the next two years, the percentage of people (in Nebraska) who are supplied with fluoridated water is set to increase slightly,” said a spokesman.
“Across the United States as a whole, the number of people served by fluoridation schemes continues to increase year by year.”
The public consultation on plans to fluoridate the water supplies of nearly 200,000 Hampshire residents ends at midnight on Friday.
Anyone can request a copy of the official consultation document, find out more about the proposal and share their views online at southcentral.nhs.uk/fluoridation or by calling 0800 023 4680.