Written Answers. - Water Fluoridation Levels.

Mildred Fox

Question:

261 Ms Fox asked the Minister for Health and Children if his attention has been drawn to the contradiction between FSAI's 1999 recommended daily allowances for all ages for fluoride of zero and the claim in the fluoridation forum report of 10 September 2002 that the tolerable daily intake is 12 milligrams for eight year olds and above; and if he will consider the cessation of the fluoridation of water in the public water supply. [3812/03]

The use of fluoride technology is known to manifest a positive oral health outcome. Local and national surveys and studies conducted since the introduction of fluoridation in this country attest to the reduced dental decay levels of children and teenagers in fluoridated areas compared to those residing in non-fluoridated areas. The safety and effectiveness of water fluoridation has been endorsed by a number of international and reputable bodies such as the World Health Organisation, the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, the United States Public Health Service and the United States Surgeon General.

The chief executive of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, FSAI, has informed me that in 1999, the food safety authority's scientific committee issued two reports that referred to recommended nutritional dietary allowances for Ireland. However, there is no FSAI recommendation in either report on a dietary allowance for fluoride.

The forum on fluoridation reported that for both children over eight years and adults, a no observed adverse effect level of 10 milligrams of fluoride a day is considered appropriate. In order to reach that level of exposure, large amounts of water and toothpaste would need to be consumed over long periods. The Deputy may be interested to note that a recommended dietary allowance is not the same as the tolerable daily intake of a nutrient: the latter is an estimate of the amount of a substance in food or drinking water that can be ingested over a lifetime without appreciable health risk.

As the Deputy is aware, I established the forum on fluoridation to review the fluoridation of public piped water supplies in Ireland. The forum's report was recently launched and its main conclusion was that the fluoridation of public piped water supplies should continue as a public health measure.

The forum also concluded that: water fluoridation has been very effective in improving the oral health of the Irish population, especially of children, but also of adults and the elderly; the best available and most reliable scientific evidence indicates that at the maximum permitted level of fluoride in drinking water at one part per million, human health is not adversely affected; and dental fluorosis, a form of discolouration of the tooth enamel, is a well-recognised condition and an indicator of overall fluoride absorption, whether from natural sources, fluoridated water or from the inappropriate use of fluoride toothpaste at a young age. There is evidence that the prevalence of dental fluorosis is increasing in Ireland.

The forum consisted of people with expert knowledge spanning the areas of public health, biochemistry, dental health, bone health, food safety, environmental protection, ethics, water quality, health promotion and representatives from the consumer and environmental areas. This diversity of professional backgrounds and representation was reflected in the comprehensive way the forum conducted its work and research. Ultimately, the forum took an evidence-based approach to its examination of water fluoridation.