THERE is less than a month to go until Southampton finds out if its water is to be fluoridated.

After months of debate, health bosses will finally make a decision on the controversial plans – which would see nearly 200,000 Hampshire residents receive fluoridated tap water – in February. And to help people understand the potential effects of the scheme going ahead, one of the country’s leading experts is going to be in Southampton talking about fluoridation on Saturday.

Hampshire Against Fluoridation has invited Dr Peter Mansfield, a member of the research review group for the influential York Review on water fluoridation, to the city for a free public meeting.

Members of the public can listen to the thoughts of Dr Mansfield, who has spent years researching the effects of fluoride, ask questions, pick up leaflets and talk to local campaigners.

His views are in direct contrast to those of Health Secretary Alan Johnson, who – as revealed in yesterday’s Daily Echo – is backing the plans after giving his own children fluoride tablets as youngsters. If the scheme is approved, two-thirds of Southampton residents, as well as thousands in Eastleigh, Totton, Netley and Rownhams, would receive fluoride added to one part per million, up from the 0.08 parts per million occurring naturally. Health chiefs proposed the project, arguing fluoridation will help improve dental health in youngsters, which they say is unacceptable despite various initiatives to cut decay.

But anti-fluoride campaigners have fought the scheme, arguing fluoride is responsible for serious side effects, including mottled teeth, cancers, brittle bones and even lowered IQ.

Opponents also say fluoridation is an unethical form of mass medication, which removes the right of an individual to opt out.

Dr Mansfield will be speaking at Friends Meeting House, Ordnance Road, off London Road, from 2pm to 4pm, on January 31. The event will be followed by Hampshire Against Fluoridation’s annual meeting.