A judicial review has been initiated by a resident against the decision by health chiefs to add fluoride to tap water in Southampton.
Solicitors Leigh Day & Co began the legal challenge against the South Central Strategic Health Authority (SHA) on behalf of Geraldine Milner, a lifelong resident of the city,
The SHA is forging ahead with fluoridation, having instructed Southern Water to fluoridate the local water supply in both the city and parts of South West Hampshire, despite protests following months of public consultation.
It is set to make Southampton the first place in England to introduce fluoridation since Health Minister Alan Johnson’s ‘fluoridation for all’ proposal in February 2008.
But Ms Milner is opposed to the proposals because of uncertainties regarding long-term health risks associated with fluoridation, as well as concerns with regard to the possible adverse environmental effects.
She also considers that more targeted and less intrusive measures should be used to deal with problems of tooth decay in the Southampton area.
The legal challenge argues that the SHA failed to have regard to the Government’s policy that mass fluoridation of drinking water should only go ahead in any particular area if a majority of the local people are in favour of it.
More than 10,000 people had their say in the consultation with more than seven out of ten of all respondents who lived in the affected area saying they were against the plans, while an independent phone survey also showed more people against the scheme than for it.
But Southampton City Primary Care Trust (PCT), who made the proposals, maintained that the public vote could not be the deciding factor and that medical evidence shows fluoridation will reduce tooth decay – and failed to back up claims of serious negative side effects.
The PCT also says other measures to beat tooth decay have not worked, and fluoridation is the most effective method left available.
But this legal challenge also argues that the SHA failed to follow the requirements set out in the Regulations to evaluate ‘the cogency of the arguments advanced’ in the responses to the consultation for and against fluoridation.
Chief dental officer Barry Cockcroft commented: There has been one consultation in Southampton and the anti-fluoridation lobby has now asked for a judicial review. It tests the legislation and the way the SHA carried out the consultation. But there’s a lot of interest around the country.’
Adding weight to this legal challenge, anti-fluoridation campaigners last month took a 14,000-name petition to Downing Street.
The campaigners in Hampshire have also reacted with anger to the news that newly appointed health secretary Andy Burnham was vice-president of the British Fluoridation Society and resigned from this role shortly before taking up the Cabinet post.