NEW Forest councillors have hit out against adding fluoride to drinking water supplied to thousands of homes in Totton.
The district council’s employment, health and wellbeing review panel discussed the plans after Coun. Pat Wyeth put a motion in July that NFDC should resist the scheme proposed by Southampton Primary Care Trust.
Although the plan is targeted at the city, because of the pipes’ layout 8,000 people in Totton will also be affected. There are concerns fluoride has harmful side-effects but NHS chiefs have insisted increasing fluoride from 0.08 parts per million to one part per million was safe.
A report to the panel from the PCT explained that as many as 42% of Southampton children had tooth decay by the age of fiv0.e and in 2007, 522 children had 2,900 teeth removed under general anaesthetic.
NFDC’s head of public health and community safety Annie Righton told councillors: “In the 22 years I have spent working in the public health sector I don’t think I have ever dealt with an issue so controversial in the public eye.
“I don’t think that any of us would argue with the benefits of topical application of fluoride in toothpaste but it is a different matter adding it to the water supply. It is at the very top of the intervention ladder, we are taking away any opportunity for personal choice.”
Counc. Tony Swain, a retired dentist, said fluoride was first added to the water supply in America more than 60 years ago. He asked: “All these years on we are still arguing about fluoridation. If it is so wonderful why haven’t we done it everywhere?
“The answer is to work with people to change their behaviour, whether they want to lose weight or give up smoking. I don’t think adding fluoride to water will do any good at all.”
Former GP Coun. Miranda Whitehead added: “This seems to be really a problem with children suffering the pain and misery of unnecessary anaesthetics but there are a huge number of programmes being brought in to tackle the issues and I would like to see how they develop first.”
Counc. Maureen Holding warned: “I do not believe for one moment that if it’s added to water in Southampton it will stop there. We will get it in the Forest sooner or later. How can we support something which takes away all public choice when the evidence is not clear?
“It doesn’t give us answers it just raises more questions. There are lots of things we can do to guide people’s choices; let’s continue to explore those before we rush into this.”
Coun. Michael Pemberton said: “Adding fluoride is like using a sticking plaster, it just covers the problem when we need to get to the root of what is causing tooth decay in these young children. The answer is weak parents and too many sweets and sugary drinks.”
Counc. Ron Scrivens, ward member for Totton, said that he had not spoken to a single person who was in favour of the proposal: “This is mass medication and on behalf of the residents of Totton I urge you to support the motion to oppose.”
The panel will now ask NFDC’s cabinet to back a resolution urging Southampton PCT not to add fluoride to drinking water in Totton. The final decision will be taken by the South Central Strategic Health Authority.
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