HEALTH Secretary Alan Johnson has backed controversial plans to fluoridate Southampton’s water – revealing that he gave his own children fluoride tablets when they were younger.
Mr Johnson believes a lot of “nonsense” is talked about fluoridation, which has been the subject of fierce debate since proposals were made last year.
But anti-fluoride campaigners last night criticised the minister for “putting pressure” on the local health chiefs to approve the scheme.
More than 12,000 people voiced their opinions during a public consultation on the plans, which would affect nearly 200,000 Hampshire residents.
Board members at South Central Strategic Health Authority will next month vote on the plans, proposed by Southampton health chiefs to help improve children’s dental health.
Opponents argue adding fluoride is morally unacceptable and could lead to health problems including mottled teeth, cancers and brittle bones.
Mr Johnson said there is “no evidence” that adding fluoride causes health problems.
He believes the relatively good dental health in Birmingham, fluoridated since the 1960s, compared with a poorer record in non-fluoridated Manchester, proves it works.
“There’s a big issue of health inequalities here,” the minister told the Daily Echo.
“The health of those children’s teeth (in Birmingham) is just remarkable. Someone very effectively once said that fluoride gives poor kids rich kids’ teeth.
“My own experience is with my own children who I gave, when they were very small, fluoride tablets. None of them have had a filling or a problem with their teeth.”
The minister admitted a rejection of fluoridation for Southampton would be a “blow” to his hopes to see it become widespread across England, but accepted the decision must be made locally.
During the consultation Southampton City Council backed the plans, but Hampshire County, Eastleigh Borough, New Forest District and Test Valley Borough councils all voiced their opposition.
“It’s right that there should be a public consultation,” said Mr Johnson.
He added: “I hope that the public consultation leads to Southampton being ready to go forward. Manchester is close to doing the same thing, Yorkshire and Humber is close to doing the same thing.”
Last night, chairman of Hampshire Against Fluoridation, John Spottiswoode, described Mr Johnson’s comments, after the public consultation had finished, as “an unacceptable use of his position”.