When health chiefs in Southampton decided to demand the fluoridation of water supplies last year, they argued that it was the only way to reduce tooth decay, which leaves four in every ten children in the city with a filling by the time that they start school.
Despite a three-month public consultation, which found 78 per cent of more than 10,000 responses against the proposal, the South Central Strategic Health Authority (SHA) decided to go ahead with the scheme, which is expected to start in 2010.
Official guidance directs that SHAs should make an “objective assessment” and are required to make decisions on the “cogency of the arguments advanced” and not simply on numbers for or against proposals.
Health managers responsible for Southampton are the first to use new law changes introduced in 2003 that oblige water companies to agree to health authority requests to fluoridate.
Opponents, including the National Pure Water Association, are still considering whether to mount a legal action to try to block the scheme.