CONTROVERSIAL plans to add fluoride to the drinking water of Southampton residents have been scrapped.

In a statement released today, Public Health England, said: "Public Health England (PHE) will take no further action to implement a proposed water fluoridation scheme that would have served around 160,000 Southampton residents and a further 35,000 people in neighbouring parts of south west Hampshire.

"PHE endorses the efficacy and safety of water fluoridation in reducing children’s tooth decay but does not wish to proceed without the backing of Southampton City Council, the local authority where most of those who would benefit from fluoridation live. Both Hampshire County Council and Southampton City Council oppose the scheme."

The revelation came after pressure from the Southern Daily Echo, when we specifically asked PHE if the fluoride scheme for the city had been ditched.

PHE chief executive Duncan Selbie said: “Water fluoridation would make a big difference to the dental health of Southampton children, particularly those in the most socially deprived areas. We regret having to drop the scheme, but we believe it is the right decision in the circumstances.

“We want to work with Southampton City Council to tackle Southampton’s high rates of tooth decay. We have offered support to the Council in coming up with plans to reduce tooth decay among local children.”

Cllr Royston Smith said: “That’s absolutely excellent news. They didn’t do a thorough and proper consultation with the public and this hopedully is a sign that they have listened to the concerns of residents and they have decided not to put floride in the water.

"If in future they decide to, they should carry out a full and thorough consultation.”

Professor Stephen Peckham, from campaign group Hampshire Against Fluoridation, said: “This is wonderful news.

“I don’t think there was a groundswell of support for fluoridation at all.

“I think this is absolutely right decision. I don’t think they would have had a legal leg to stand on anyway and I think it’s the only decision that was possible given the circumstances.

“What I hope now is that the councils take more interest in dealing with children’s oral health, and develop schemes that look at daily tooth brushing.”

John Denham, MP for Southampton Itchen, said: “I welcome this decision. While I always recognised the health arguments in favour of fluoridation I consistently said that it could not go ahead without the clear consent of local people.

"The NHS has failed to persuade people and it is right that the scheme is dropped.”

Daily Echo:

City council cabinet member for health Dave Shields told the Daily Echo: “Clearly Public Health England had money available for the scheme to help us address dental health inequality in Southampton.

“If they have decided they don’t want to spend it on fluoride we want that money to be given to us to address our appalling dental health problems in other ways.

“We would welcome an opportunity to work with them.

“This has been hanging over Southampton for the last 20 years, so it’s time to put this behind us and move on.

“The health of our children is the important thing and getting hung up on this debate has been a bit of a distraction from the main thing at hand.”

New Forest county councillor David Harrison, who has campaigned against fluoridation, said: “This is tremendous news.

“I think it’s good news for two reasons. Firstly it’s good for the people of Southampton and the surrounding area that would have received this medication via their tap water.

“But it’s also good news because I think it sends out a message nationally that public health bodies cannot impose their wishes open people without their consent.

“I think after all of this time we can say there has been a break-out of common sense and I hope that no other public health bodies will try to do something like this again.”

County council leader Roy Perry welcomed the announcement and praised the Daily Echo for highlighting opposition to the scheme.

He said: “It's certainly very good news that I'm sure will be very much welcomed by the county council and across the community as a whole.

“People were particularly concerned about proposals to compulsorily medicate the population via the water supply.

“I congratulate the Daily Echo on continually highlighting opposition to the way the scheme was being implemented.”

New Forest East MP Julian Lewis represents Totton, which would have been included in the scheme.

Dr Lewis said: “This is brilliant news. They were flogging a dead horse and I'm glad that common sense has broken through.

“All credit to the local authorities concerned for taking notice of the majority view of people living in the area that would have been affected.

“Some people believed that fluoride might cause harm while others were against the principle of using the water supply to medicate people who had not chosen to be medicated.

“The role of the Daily Echo in articulating the voice of the community and continuing to keep this matter in the public eye deserves the highest praise.”

Romsey and Southampton North MP, Caroline Nokes, has welcomed the news that Public Health England have decided to take no further action to implement a water fluoridation system in Southampton. 

Speaking from Westminster, she said: "This is the response we have been waiting for for a very long time.  The original consultation was flawed, attracted a great deal of local opposition and had been opposed by both Southampton City Council and Hampshire County Council.’

"Some 35,000 residents outside of the City of Southampton would have been fluoridated without being consulted.  This includes Rownhams in my constituency where the residents voiced their opinions to me loud and clear.  This will be a relief to all those residents who had campaigned long and hard on a very difficult issue"

However, not everyone has welcomed the decision to scrap plans for fluoride in Sotonian's water.

British Dental Association spokesman, Clive Marks of the Bedford Place Dental Centre, said: “It’s a great shame. The science is there to help prevent dental disease in these nooks and corners of society.

“Oral hygiene and diet is not what one would hope for young children and it’s a very safe way of getting it in there with no known risks to their general health. This is based on scientific research going back many decades.

“A recent report showed the dental health of three-year-olds can be quite dire in our area and the earlier we can get good hygiene and good dental habits into the population the healthier their mouths will be.

“The use of fluoride toothpaste is brilliant at getting fluoride to where it’s needed, which is onto the surface of teeth and into bodies while their teeth are growing.

“So one thing that parents can easily do to help their children’s teeth develop into healthy teeth is when their children are cleaning their teeth don’t get them to rinse or to have them rinse very lightly. This will mean some of the Fluoride will be ingested and some of it will stay at the neck and in between the teeth over night where it can do most benefit as a surface treatment. This is recommended for all of us.

“If you get things right on the milk teeth so that by the time the adult ones come through at six-years-old you’re not going to make mistakes.

“Fluoride is beneficial because it changes the chemistry of our teeth to strengthen it against enamel and acids in our food.

“It is a missed opportunity to help the most venerable of our society from having tooth decay.”

He added that fluoride could have prevented signs of tooth decay including pain, black teeth and missing teeth – preventing children from being bullied for having bad teeth and the life-long effects that has.