Fluoridation was originally expected to be up and running in 200,000 homes in Southampton and south Hampshire this year, after a decision by the now-abolished strategic health authority (SHA).
But the NHS shake-up that axed SHAs, passed responsibility to Public Health England (PHE), which has said little on the controversy in the past 18 months.
In a statement released recently, 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.’
It is a further blow for campaigners, including PHE itself, which believes fluoridation is vital to improving the health of children’s teeth.
The organisation recently calculated that as many as 45% fewer under-fives are admitted to hospital for tooth decay in areas where water is fluoridated, than in those where it is not.
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.’
Councillor Royston Smith said: ‘PHE didn’t do a thorough and proper consultation with the public and this hopefully is a sign it has listened to the concerns of residents and decided not to put fluoride in the water.
‘If in future it decides to, PHE should carry out a full consultation.’