Legal Challenge To Fluoridation Plan

A health authority's been accused in the High Court of unlawfully attempting to force through the fluoridation of Southampton's tap water.

The legal challenge was brought by Southampton resident Geraldine Milner, backed by local campaign groups.

Ms Milner's counsel David Wolfe told a judge that, if the scheme goes ahead, the mother of three teenagers would be left "with no choice but to drink water to which fluoride has been added''.

As opponents of fluoridation demonstrated outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London, Mr Wolfe said approximately 195,000 people in Southampton and parts of south-west Hampshire "would have fluoride added to their water whether they liked it or not''.

He told Mr Justice Holman this was contrary to Government policy that no new fluoridation schemes should be introduced unless it could be shown that the local population was in favour.

The South Central Strategic Health Authority (SCSHA) used statutory powers to instruct Southern Water, the local water provider, to go ahead with fluoridation in February 2009 to improve dental health.

The controversial decision came after 72% of those who responded to public consultation opposed fluoridation, with just 28% in favour.

An opinion poll commissioned by the SCSHA produced a narrower result, with 38% against the scheme and 32% in favour and 29% "don't knows''.

Mr Wolfe accused the SCSHA of failing in its legal obligation to properly assess the cogency of the arguments for and against  mass fluoridation.

Mr Wolfe said today's application for judicial review was not about the actual merits and health arguments over fluoridation, which were "not all one way by any means''.

It was about the legality of the compulsory scheme, the first of its kind in the UK for 20 years.

Mr Wolfe said: "Four out of five local authorities and three out of four local MPs expressed their opposition within the consultation process.''

He added: "Ms Milner is in good company, whether she is right or wrong.''

The health authority is opposing Ms Milner's legal challenge.