Flouride will be added to water throughout the country by the end of next year in terms of instructions issued by Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang.

But the plans to put the controversial chemical into drinking water have sparked a flurry of complaints from concerned groups who believe the substance could in fact be harmful to people’s health.

Further adding to the controversy are reports that the Pelindaba nuclear/chemical complex, set up by the apartheid government in the 1960s to produce atomic bombs and enriched uranium fuel, is to become the major supplier of the hundreds of tons of fluoride that will be needed.

But a spokesman for the Department of Health said the quality of the fluoride was more important than its origin.

Health officials argue fluoride needs to be added to water to assist health authorities limit tooth decay.