NOTE: UK time: Article online at 4:12 pm. SHA meeting began at 2pm. See video of protestors.
HEALTH chiefs have today backed controversial plans to fluoridate Southampton’s tap water.
Members of South Central Strategic Health Authority’s board have voted to give the scheme the green light, affecting almost 200,000 Hampshire residents, after months of debate.
The decision after two hours and ten minutes makes Southampton the first place in England to introduce fluoridation since the law was changed to put the decision in the hands of health chiefs.
The plans had been put forward in a bid to improve the city’s poor record on dental health in children, particularly in more deprived areas.
Today’s decision comes after a three-month public consultation in which more than 10,000 people had their say on the scheme.
More than seven out of ten of all respondents who live in the affected area said they are against the plans, while an independent phone survey found more were opposed than in favour.
But Southampton City Primary Care Trust, which made the proposals, said the medical evidence shows fluoridation will reduce tooth decay, and failed to back up claims of serious negative side effects.
The PCT says other measures to beat tooth decay have not worked, and fluoridation is the most effective method left available.
At today’s meeting, held at St Mary’s Stadium, SHA members voted to approve fluoridation for two-thirds of Southampton, as well as parts of Eastleigh, Totton, Netley and Rownhams.
Work will now begin on the practicalities of adding fluoride to tap water, taking levels from 0.08 parts per million to one part per million.
The SHA will now enter legal negotiations with Southern Water to determine precisely how the process will be carried out, and how much it will cost.
It is thought fluoride will not actually be in the city’s water until late 2010 at the earliest.
Read the full story in tomorrow’s Daily Echo.