Written Answers. - Water Fluoridation.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

61 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Health whether fluoride in drinking water is safe from a public health point of view and effective in its supposed rationale, that is reducing rates of tooth decay, in view of his Department's approval of compulsory medication of the population with fluoride, as practised in Ireland for the past 30 years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8414/96]

Trevor Sargent

Question:

62 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Health if the primary cause of dental caries among adults relates not to fluoridation of water supplies but to matters of diet and oral hygiene which are largely related to socio-economic rather than environmental factors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8416/96]

Trevor Sargent

Question:

63 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Health the reason Irish decayed, missing and filled teeth measures are entirely consistent with measures in developed countries which do not dispose of industrial fluoride into drinking water as stated by the non-communicable disease division of the World Health Organisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8417/96]

,Limerick East)): Dental caries — tooth decay — are caused by a conjunction of three factors which are: tooth surface — dental enamel, refined carbohydrate in the diet and specific bacteria in the mouth. Strategies to reduce the levels of dental caries in people of all ages consist of: fluoridation to strengthen tooth enamel, health promotion and education to reduce the intake and frequency of refined carbohydrate — sugars and correct techniques of tooth brushing and flossing to control the activities of the bacteria.

All three strategies are supported and promoted by my Department with the support of the dental profession at home and worldwide and such bodies as the World Health Organisation, the United States Public Health Service, and the other professional and official authoritative organisations in the health field, representing governments, all the health professions and many others.

The great majority of Irish people have been consuming water fluoridation at about the optimal level of one part of fluoride per million parts of water for over 30 years. This has proved not to pose any threat to their health, well-being and safety. In this, Ireland is not unique. The experience is exactly similar in all other countries which provide fluoridated public water supplies to their people.
The effectiveness and safety of water fluoridation in reducing dental caries in Ireland has been factually shown by the results of the many scientific studies carried out at national, regional and local level. Not only is it effective it is also most efficient, that is cost-effective, in reducing the levels of decay significantly at a very modest cost. It has been shown repeatedly that water fluoridation is the most effective and cost effective safe method of reducing dental caries in the individual and in the community.
In Ireland I do not accept that we dispose of industrial fluoride into drinking water. We supplement the level of fluoride in public piped water supplies to the optimal level of one part per million by using fluoride which conforms to the strictest national and international specifications for this specific purpose. Ireland has some of the lowest levels of dental caries rates for developed countries and these low rates are due to our national scheme of water fluoridation. This scheme is the envy of many other countries which seek to learn from our experience in this area of health protection.