THE organisation charged with putting fluoride into the tap water of tens of thousands of Hampshire residents has said the measure is “safe and effective.”

Public Health England (PHE) defended fluoridation after an article in a respected medical journal suggested fluoride may lead to brain damage and reduced IQ in children.

The authors of the article, published in The Lancet, said fluoride had been newly categorised as a neurotoxin, a type of chemical which has links to brain damage and IQ losses.

That led campaigners against fluoridation to renew calls on PHE to scrap the controversial scheme.

PHE took over responsibility for introducing fluoride into the tap water of 200,000 households in Southampton, Totton, Eastleigh, Netley and Rownhams last year, after the South Central Strategic Health Authority was axed.

While campaigners say the scheme should be scrapped because of concerns over its health impact, the SHA and now PHE have been criticised for not carrying out consultation with the residents who would be affected.

Now, PHE has responded to The Lancet report, with a spokesman saying: “The Lancet has not given advice on water fluoridation. It has merely published a paper in which the authors of the paper suggest that further research be carried out concerning the possibility of a link between fluoride and neurological development.

“In support of that proposition the authors have cited a 2012 paper by Choi et al reporting an analysis of a number of primarily Chinese studies.

“Concerns in those studies relating to a possible link between fluoride and neurotoxicity centre around far higher levels of fluoride exposure than allowed by EU regulations.

“Furthermore, Choi et al reported the presence of deficiencies in the articles they reviewed, limiting the conclusions which could be drawn. Given those circumstances, PHE considers that this limited research does not demonstrate a risk to the neurodevelopment of children in England from levels of fluoride in water seen either in fluoridation schemes or naturally present.

“The European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks has concluded that fluoride intake from drinking water at the level occurring in the EU does not appear to hamper children’s neurodevelopment and IQ levels.

“PHE will however, continue to keep the literature on possible neurotoxicity under review.”

The spokesman also added that PHE considered water fluoridation to be a “safe and effective public health measure”, adding that five-and-a-half million people already have fluoride in their water system.

PHE is also locked in a legal tussle with Hampshire County Council and Southampton City Council, who believe the scheme does not legally exist after the SHA failed to hand over key documents to PHE.

PHE said the organisation was still giving “full and careful consideration to all the relevant factors relating to water fluoridation in Southampton and south west Hampshire and is still considering its position in relation to the scheme.”