This week Southampton City Council opposed a motion to fluoridate the city’s water supplies.
The on-going debate changed direction as a significant majority of councillors voted against the plans to add fluoride to Southampton’s drinking water. Fluoride is currently added to 10% of England’s water supply, including in areas in the North East and the West Midlands, but dental health chiefs would like to see this percentage rise to 40%.
Fluoridation of water occurs primarily in the USA, but also in countries such as Australia and Spain. The chemical reduces tooth decay and strengthens teeth; however, excessive levels of fluoride can lead to dental fluorosis, which can damage developing teeth.
“Educated people tend to assume that as water fluoridation has been around so long, there cannot be serious problems associated with it”said John Spottiswoode, Green MP and Chairman of the Hampshire Fluoridation campaign. “In fact, it is likely they have been influenced by the drip-drip propaganda of the fluoride industry.”
There has been strong opposition to the proposal with 72% of those in the Public Consultation arguing against the implementation of fluoride. A local petition of 6000 names forced the council to reconsider backing the proposal after agreeing to it in 2008.
Local, Helen Cuthbert, said: “There are enough chemicals in our water already. More money should be invested in health professionals who could promote better teeth cleaning and dental health.”
Those who support fluoridation want to see an increase in the dental health of the general population in particularly deprived areas. The British Dental Association argues that fluoride could play an important role in reducing the number of children under five in Southampton with tooth decay (42% in 2007).
Students living in the Southampton will be affected by any decision made on the issue as Southern Water must respond to any request to add fluoride by the local strategic health authority. In a statement on their website the company say: “We await the conclusion of a continuing legal challenge before any steps are taken towards adding fluoride to supplies.”
The conclusion of this controversial debate remains unknown. However, Mr Spottiswoode said: “The campaign will continue to do all it can to stop water fluoridation in Hampshire, and if possible further afield.”