As the Deputy is aware, I established the Forum on Fluoridation to review the fluoridation of public piped water supplies in Ireland. The forum report's 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 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.
In all, the report of the fluoridation forum made 33 recommendations covering a broad range of topics such as research, public awareness, and policy and technical aspects of fluoridation. The establishment of the expert body recommended by the forum is now well under way. I am pleased to announce that the chairperson of the expert body is Dr. Seamus O'Hickey, former chief dental officer with my Department. Dr. Hickey's mix of scientific knowledge, awareness of fluoridation issues and experience of administrative issues leaves him well placed to chair the body. The expert body is to be known as the Irish expert body on fluorides and health. It will meet at the end of this month.
The terms of reference of the expert body are: to oversee the implementation of the recommendations of the forum on fluoridation; to advise the Minister and evaluate ongoing research, including new emerging issues, on all aspects of fluoride and its delivery methods as an established health technology; and, as required, to report to the Minister on matters of concern at his or her request or on own initiative. It has broad representation, including from the areas of dentistry, public health medicine, toxicology, engineering, management, environment and the public, as identified within the forum on fluoridation report. Letters of invitation have been issued to prospective members of the body. It will have a strong consumer input in terms of members of the public and representatives of consumer interests, in addition to the necessary scientific, managerial and public health inputs.
The secretariat of the body will be provided by the Irish Dental Health Foundation, an independent charitable trust which has been very much to the fore in securing co-operation between private and public dentistry and the oral health care industry in regard to joint oral heath promotion initiatives. The foundation's stature and expertise place it in an excellent position to support the work of the forum in its initial stage.
The forum's report envisages that the work of the expert body may be subsumed into the health information quality authority, HIQA, in due course. The support of the foundation allows us to press ahead with the establishment of the expert body in advance of the establishment of HIQA.