Setback for city’s fluoridation plans
 

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Setback for city’s fluoridation plans

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Setback for city’s fluoridation plans

 

Setback for city’s fluoridation plans

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), which is hoping to add fluoride to the taps of Southampton to help solve the city's poor oral health record.

The County Council will now send its views to the South Central Strategic Health Authority (SHA), which was responsible for launching the three-month public consultation that is due to end on 19 December.

The SHA will also receive views from Southampton City Council, which recently voted 26 to 18 in favour of the measure. A final decision on the proposals will be made by the SHA in February 2009.

The decision of Hampshire County Council 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 welcomed by pressure group Hampshire Against Fluoridation (HAF), who said 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 at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: ‘The Scrutiny Panel 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 its effectiveness or the health consequences. That's their bottom line and it's also Hampshire Against Fluoridation's bottom line.

‘We feel sealants and gels are more effective than water fluoridation in improving oral health. Targeted work such as this is much, much better.'

Back in the summer, Dr Andrew Mortimore, public health director for Southampton City PCT, said: ‘Southampton City PCT believes water fluoridation is the most effective way of reducing the large numbers of tooth fillings and extractions currently needed by children in Southampton.

‘Local dental health surveys show that oral health is poor with 42% of the city's children experiencing dental decay by the age of five. This is clearly unacceptable when dental decay is a preventable disease. Everyone drinking fluoridated water – including children, adults and the elderly – will begin to benefit as soon as fluoridation is started and measurable benefits would be apparent in about five years.'

To see Hampshire County Council's Water Fluoridation Panel's report, visit http://www.hants.gov.uk/decisions/decisions-index/index-docs-6955.html.

 Posted on : Tue 25th - Nov - 2008

 

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