IN a recent Daily Echo article Julian Lewis, Conservative MP for New Forest East expressed concerns about whether the current public consultation on adding fluoride to the water supply is a “crooked ballot”. Let me clarify the MP’s misunderstanding on this issue.

Mr Lewis suggests that highly qualified scientists disagree about the long-term effects of fluoridation.

This implies that scientific opinion is split 50/50 on the issue which is just not the case.

Professional health organisations representing the views of the vast majority of dentists, doctors and nurses such as the British Dental Association, British Medical Association, Royal College of Physicians and Royal College of GPs, to name just a few, all actively endorse fluoridation as a means to help prevent tooth decay.

The MP is right to say the consultation document sets out the obections to fluoridation and then goes on to rebut them in every case. This is because scientific evidence rebuts these objections. Relying on scientific evidence is not bias, the NHS has a duty to rigorously examine any public health measure before putting it in place.

The House of Commons debated and voted on the Water Act 2003 which enables local primary care trusts to request strategic health authorities to carry out a public consultation on the issue.

The strategic health authority is confident that MPs in the House of Commons, in a free vote, would not pass legislation allowing any public health measure which has the potential to harm health.

What the strategic health authority does not know on this issue is what local people in Southampton and parts of south west Hampshire think about adding fluoride to their water supply – and this consultation aims to find that out. Already we have received over 2,500 responses and hope to have many more before the consultation closes on December 19.

We are also hosting Question Time style debates chaired by BBC journalist Peter White and featuring a panel representing both pro-fluoride and anti-fluoride organisations.

The Cabinet Office code of practice on consultations requires that: “Responses should be carefully and open-mindedly analysed”. That is why independent experts will be collating and analysing all of the responses to provide an independent report to the strategic health authority board – not an action which would be taken if the strategic health authority had already made up its mind.

I would encourage anyone who has not yet shared their views with us to let us know what they think in writing. This will help the strategic health authority board make a final decision that is based on the best scientific evidence and the views of local people.

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See Fluoride – is it a crooked ballot? by Julian Lewis