CONTROVERSIAL plans to fluoridate tap water in the Southampton area have come under fire from councillors in the New Forest.

More than 8,000 people living in Totton will be among those affected if health chiefs forge ahead with proposals to add extra fluoride to the water supply.

Southampton City Primary Care Trust says the move would combat tooth decay in children, especially in deprived areas.

However, retired dentist Tony Swain criticised the trust at a meeting of New Forest District Council’s health and wellbeing review panel, which agreed that the authority should fight fluoridation.

Cllr Swain, who represents Lymington, said the first community to have fluoride added to its drinking water was Grand Rapids in Michigan, USA.

“That was 60 years ago and we’re still arguing about it,” he said. “If it’s so wonderful why hasn’t it been done everywhere?”

Cllr Swain said people who wanted to guard against dental decay should brush their teeth three times a day and use a fluoride rinse.

He added: “I wouldn’t recommend people to drink a glass of fluoridated water because it wouldn’t do any good at all.

Fluoride has got to go on the teeth.”

Lyndhurst councillor Pat Wyeth warned that there too many “unknowns” surrounding fluoride in drinking water.

Brockenhurst member Maureen Holding added: “Fluoride is a poison. We’re told it can help people in small doses but I’m not sure that it does.”

Members spoke out after studying a report produced by Annie Righton, the council’s head of public health and community safety.

She said: “I’ve worked in public health for 22 years and I don’t think I’ve ever dealt with an issue as controversial as this.”

Panel members agreed to urge the full council to oppose fluoridation.

In a separate debate, members of Totton and Eling Town Council described the scheme as an unwanted form of mass medication.

Former council chairman David Harrison said: “I’m totally opposed to proposals to add fluoride to the water.

“If I had any doubts about the matter they were quickly dispelled by the poor quality of the consultation undertaken by the health authorities.

“Instead of adopting a neutral, listening approach they have been engaging in the worst kind of spin.”

NHS bosses say the scheme would reduce chronic levels of tooth decay among children.

Last year more than 500 Southampton youngsters had to have rotten and diseased teeth taken out under general anaesthetic.

Just 2,500 people have had their say more than halfway through the three-month public consultation period.It is due to run until December 19.