Fluoride Action Network

Southampton: Over 25,000 votes cast in fluoride debate

Source: Daily Echo | June 10th, 2008 | By Jon Reeve
Location: United Kingdom, England

WE don’t want it.

That is the overwhelming message from Daily Echo readers on controversial plans to add fluoride to Southampton’s tap water.

More than 25,000 votes were cast by phone, post and online with more than two-thirds against the contentious idea.

Our snapshot vote comes ahead of a three month public consultation on the proposals, due to start in August.

But city health chiefs look to have a battle on their hands to win over residents who are clearly not convinced of the benefits, and worried about potential negative side effects.

Southampton City Primary Care Trust is behind the proposals to fluoridate the water supplies of 160,000 city residents, and 36,000 more who live in Eastleigh, Totton and Netley.

It says the measure is needed to improve chronic dental health, especially in more deprived areas.

Statistics show a staggering 42 per cent of Southampton’s children experience tooth decay by the time they are five years old, and last year more than 500 youngsters had to have operations under general anaesthetic to remove diseased teeth.

The PCT has identified 11 target neighbourhoods across the city where drastic action is needed to reverse declining dental health.

But four of those areas – Thornhill, Harefield, Townhill Park and Bassett’s Flower Estate – would miss out on fluoridated water because their supplies come from a different distribution centre to the two being suggested for the scheme.

John Spottiswoode, chairman of Hampshire Against Fluoride, said the vote shows there are strong feelings against fluoridation.

“It’s a good result and it shows that at least two-thirds are against,” he said.

“It’s been a very comprehensive poll, and I think the SHA should take note and stop its own so-called consultation – it would certainly save a lot of money.”

Last night, the PCT’s public health director, Dr Andrew Mortimore, said people’s views would be taken into account alongside scientific evidence before the final decision is made in January.

He said the Daily Echo poll results conflict with a previous survey carried out on behalf of South Central Strategic Health Authority (SHA), which will run the consultation.

“The most recent independent survey on this issue demonstrated that, while many people do not know enough about the issue of fluoridation, more people in Southampton supported topping up the levels of fluoride than those who opposed it,” he said.

“This survey was carried out on a random sample of the local population earlier this year and represents a robust and reliable measure of public opinion.

“We will continue to engage with the local population to ensure they have accurate information about the issues around the need for, and safety of this important public health initiative.”