THE heads of opposing camps over controversial plans to add fluoride to the water supply of nearly 200,000 Hampshire residents have met for the first time.
The meeting comes as preparations step up ahead of the three-month public consultation on the proposals, which will start on September 8.
As revealed in the Daily Echo, the exercise – which will include drop-in events and a Question Time-style debates – has been put back from mid-August at the request of local authorities.
Last week, the board of South Central Strategic Health Authority, which will oversee the consultation and make a final decision on fluoridation, agreed to use the delay to change educational material to include more of the arguments against fluoride.
The plans have been put forward by Southampton City Primary Care Trust PTC) as a last-ditch attempt to solve chronic dental health problems, particularly in more deprived areas.
Health chiefs say around 15 per cent more children would be free from tooth decay if the amount of fluoride in the water is increased, as happens in some other areas of the UK and countries like Ireland, Australia and the US.
But anti-fluoridation campaigners argue it is wrong to force indiscriminate mass-medication on the population, and say there is evidence to show it is linked to health problems.
Hampshire Against Fluoride, which is leading the protests against the Southampton scheme, point to reports showing increases in fluorosis – causing discoloured or mottled teeth – as well as bone cancer, thyroid problems and even brain damage.
Ahead of the public consultation, the organisation’s chairman John Spottiswoode met with bosses from the PCT.
Mr Spottiswoode said the meeting had been productive, but the health chiefs had failed to assure him the concerns have been taken on board.
“We were there to listen as well, as to why they are doing what they’re doing,” he said.
“It was clear they hadn’t heard a lot of the stuff we brought up with them. The big question is that they say they were listening, but did they really hear what we were saying?”
PCT chairman, Pauline Quan Arrow said the discussion had been useful.
“The PCT is keen to ensure there is a mature and intelligent discussion on water fluoridation to ensure the public fully understands all of the available health evidence,” she said.
“All of the issues raised had previously been considered during the PCT’s decision-making process to support fluoridation, which involved investigating all peer-reviewed, scientific research, expert advice and evidence from existing fluoridation schemes in the UK and worldwide.”