Hampshire County Council is refusing to support proposals to add fluoride to local water supplies.
And this could prove a blow to Southampton Primary Care Trust (PCT) whose hopes of adding it to the city’s taps to sort out its poor oral health may be dashed with the move.
The County Council will now send its views to the South Central Strategic Health Authority (SHA), responsible for launching the three-month public consultation that is due to end 19 December.
And the final decision on the proposals will be made by the SHA in February 2009.
The decision comes hot on the heels of nearby Test Valley councillors who have also rejected the proposal.
County councillors concluded that more research and reassurances are required before Southampton City PCT takes any further steps with its proposals.
A panel was set up by the Council’s Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee to investigate the benefits and risks associated with artificial fluoridation.
Leader of Hampshire County Council, Councillor Ken Thornber, said: ‘We all understand the desire to eradicate poor oral health, particularly for children who may suffer from significant pain and distress. However, there is not the evidence that water fluoridation is the answer.
‘The Water Fluoridation panel found a lack of robust and reliable scientific evidence to support the proposals. It also reported that scientists and health professionals have recognised that there are still ‘unknowns’ in relation to the effect of fluoride, not just on teeth, but the body as a whole.
‘The Southampton City Primary Care Trust wants to improve the oral health of specific communities in Southampton but their proposals will impact on people in South West Hampshire who do not have the same problems of poor dental health. There may be some benefit to some children living in the affected area but there is also a strong possibility that children with otherwise healthy teeth may develop a degree of fluorosis. It is not fully understood if there are other health effects to a population that has fluoride added to drinking water.
‘It is our view that there are other more targeted measures that the Primary Care Trust could and should explore to improve the oral health of those communities it specifically wants to help. There needs to be more research and consultation carried out before such a significant step as adding fluoride to drinking water is taken.’
The decision was welcomes by pressure group, Hampshire Against Fluoridation (HAF), who say they were ‘particularly delighted with the thoroughness of the report’ carried out by the Council’s Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee.
Stephen Peckham, a member of HAF and a reader in health policy with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: ‘The Scrutiny officers took a wider view, taking evidence from a broader field. In terms of detail and research, they were very thorough.
‘Their recommendations are, in some ways, very good – basically saying we don’t know enough about fluoridation and the consequences. That’s their bottom line and it’s also Hampshire Against Fluoridation’s bottom line.
‘We feel sealants and gels are most effective than water fluoridation in improving oral health. Targeted work such as this is much, much better.’
To see the full list of agreed recommendations and Hampshire County Council’s Water Fluoridation Panel’s report visit www.hants.gov.uk/decisions/decisions-index/index-docs-6955.html