JOHN DENHAM has called on health bosses to put on hold controversial plans to add fluoride to Hampshire’s water supply.
Making his first public comment on the issue, the Southampton Itchen MP has warned there is a “real danger” that fluoridation will be introduced against the wishes of too many people.
He spoke out as activists were today due to travel to Downing Street to call for the Prime Minister to step in to scrap the scheme. Around 30 campaigners from Hampshire Against Fluoridation (HAF) were due to deliver a 14,000-name petition to Gordon Brown this morning.
Now Mr Denham has called on South Central Strategic Health Authority (SHA) to attract more public support for its scheme to fluoridate tap water to nearly 200,000 Hampshire homes.
He said: “There is a real danger of proceeding with fluoridation against the wishes of too many people.
“It would be better if the SHA were to place the implementation of its decision on hold. It needs to have a fresh look at the situation and see how it might be possible to win greater public support.
“The SHA should be prepared to say that, even if the health benefits are clear, it cannot ignore issues of public opinion or confidence.”
Mr Denham, who was last week promoted to Communities Secretary in the Cabinet reshuffle, is himself in favour of fluoridation to improve children’s dental health, but says any plan needs to command public confidence.
The SHA board unanimously approved the fluoridation scheme in February, affecting two thirds of Southampton’s homes as well as parts of Eastleigh, Totton, Netley and Rownhams.
Their decision came despite a 14- week public consultation showing overwhelming opposition to the scheme with 72 per cent of responses from people living in the affected area saying they were opposed to the plan.
Health watchdog the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman is currently deciding whether to investigate the SHA’s public consultation on the scheme.
HAF spokeswoman Caroline Place said: “We welcome John Denham’s comments and are pleased that he is advocating democracy because that is what we are talking about.”
A SHA spokesman said: “The Board of the SHA is satisfied that based on existing research, water fluoridation is a safe and effective way to tackle tooth decay and that the health benefits outweigh all other arguments against water fluoridation.
“The board took into account the full breadth of views from respondents to the public consultation and, despite written responses indicating opposition to the proposal, the results of an independent phone poll, representative of a cross section of local people, showed no clear majority view amongst the public.”