Tuesday, 27 January 2004

Questions (72)

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

185 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Health and Children if his attention has been drawn to the criticisms of the fluoride forum by Dr. Paul Connett who participated in the forum; the reason the forum has not published Mr. Connett's list of questions despite promising to do so; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2031/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

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 with 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.

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 launched on 10 September 2002 and its main conclusion was that the fluoridation of public piped water supplies should continue as a public health measure.

The forum also concluded the following: 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; dental fluorosis — a form of discoloration 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.

The forum's report emerged from 14 plenary meetings, several meetings of sub-groups and oral presentations of material from both proponents and opponents of fluoridation. The forum invited the public to forward its views and examined more than 1,000 submissions. In adopting a participatory and evidence based approach, the forum strove to ensure balance between participants from both sides of the debate on water fluoridation.

Following the publication of the forum report members of the forum made presentations countrywide to various civic groups and bodies, including the Irish Society of Toxicology and the Institute of Engineers of Ireland. Many issues raised by Dr. Connett were covered in the forum report. It was not considered appropriate to respond comprehensively to all of Dr. Connett's questions in the forum report. A more comprehensive response to all his questions will be published in the coming months.