WELL, there goes the Daily Echo postbag!
The end to the fluoride saga in the Southampton city region will put a big hole in the correspondence bag for this paper’s daily letters page.
Nary a day has gone by that we haven’t had a letter since the now defunct Strategic Health Authority first unveiled plans to pump copious amounts of the chemical into tap water in a bid to prevent child tooth decay in the city region.
On the whole, in fact almost 100 per cent of the flow of letters and emails have been opposed to the proposals.
The opinions ranged from annoyance over the need to take any action when it was a problem caused by poor parenting, to those who seemed to truly believe that fluoride would poison us.
This paper did not take sides. We were neither for nor against fluoride being used in this way. Many of us, me included, have lived for long periods of our lives in areas of the country where the water already contains the chemical. It doesn’t appear to have caused us or millions of others any noticeable harm.
However I realise I am at risk of opening the whole saga once again (wonderful as that would be for our postbag).
What this paper did object to was the decision to mass medicate large swathes of the local population without seeking their agreement through the ballot box.
A flawed consultation process that gave the initial impression that the public’s view would make a decisive difference to whether the project went ahead turned out to be nothing of the sort.
It quickly became apparent that the decision had already been made and nothing residents said would alter that fact. Little wonder there were many angry voices.
In the end it was fear of those voices that led to local politicians coming out against the scheme. Finally, after threatening to push through the scheme no matter what, Public Health England (PHE) bowed to pressure this week and, after prompting by this paper, announced they had abandoned the scheme.
Cue shouts of victory and back-slapping all round from the anti-brigade.
Where this leaves the children at severe risk of serious dental decay, the target of the project in the first place, is now the subject of promises of focused attention by the PHE to tackle the issue at source.
Quite how remains to be seen and no doubt the anti-fluoride brigade will ask why this could not have happened in the first place.
For my own part I too wonder why it was ever necessary to consider fluoride as a method of reaching these children, especially when we are told the problem lies in heavy use of fizzy drinks and sweet products. What was the point of adding fluoride in tap water to affect the oral health of children who don’t clean their teeth and drink pop?
Surely the way to tackle the problem is to tackle the parents. It is a strange world that says if I send my child to school malnourished or covered in bruises then they will be taken into care and I will end up before the courts, yet if I refuse to tackle their dental problems I will be left alone and the whole city will be medicated instead.
Put bluntly, why don’t the authorities put a few parents before the courts when their children are found to be suffering with serious, avoidable dental problems?
In the meantime can I make a plea to the anti-fluoride party who fought such a loud and successful campaign to have the project thrown-out.
Now you have beaten the symptom could you not, out of a sense of moral responsibility if not common humanity, now turn your formidable campaigning machine towards the problem of child dental decay in the city?
How wonderful if all that passion could be channelled into helping the PHE and other bodies to defeat child dental decay in our city.
You could join forces with local schools, raise funds for health education materials, give your time to lobby for more funds to fight the issue.
You can rely on this paper for support.
Certainly we will be offering our support to the PHE and other bodies in the fight to save children from the horrors of dental decay.
They are the priority now – in fact, they always were.