Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Questions (599)

Michael Moynihan


599. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Health his views on whether there is a need to implement a fully independent toxicological and epidemiological study into the public health effects of adding fluoride to all public water schemes here in view of the mounting scientific evidence against the practice of water fluoridation (details supplied), and the increasing abandonment of the policy of public water fluoridation in most EU member states, as well as numerous cities in the United States; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12505/13]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

Water fluoridation and the use of appropriate fluorides is a major plank of public health policy in Ireland in the prevention and management of tooth decay. In 2002 the Forum on Fluoridation, which was established to review this policy, concluded that the fluoridation of public piped water supplies should continue as a public health measure. The effects of fluoridation on health and related matters are kept under constant review. The Irish Expert Body on Fluorides and Health, established in 2004, monitors new and emerging issues on fluoride and its effects . It advises that the balance of scientific evidence worldwide confirms that water fluoridation, at the optimal level, does not cause any ill effects and is the safest and most cost effective method of protecting the oral health of the population. The opinion of the Expert Body is supported by the World Health Organisation; the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, the Public Health Service and the Surgeon General of the United States; the World Dental Federation; the International Association for Dental Research; the Royal College of Physicians of England and by major international scientifically validated reviews in many countries.

The Harvard study referred to by the Deputy was a review of studies mainly from China. These studies were assessed by the Expert Body in 2011 and were found to be of no relevance to Ireland given our regulated fluoridation levels. The view is that the overall design of the studies is poor and they do not provide evidence of any effect on children's IQ from either high or low fluoride levels. The EU Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks (SCHER) in its 2011 Report shared this view of the studies. Some European countries choose salt fluoridation or milk fluoridation as an alternative to water fluoridation in their public health programmes while others use fluoride mouth-rinses and/or tooth-brushing or painting of teeth with fluorides. Additionally, all European countries promote the widespread use of fluoride toothpastes. The USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Israel, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Argentina, Chile, and Columbia actively fluoridate water supplies. Fluoridation coverage in the USA has increased by around 24 million people between 2002 and 2012.