Water fluoridation is the adjustment of a naturally occurring element found in water in order to prevent tooth decay. The benefits of water fluoridation, one of the most widely studied public health policy initiatives in the world, are long established. 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 and by major international scientifically validated reviews.
There have been a number of relevant WHO documents, notably "Fluorides and Human Health", Monograph Series 59 (1970), WHO Geneva; "Fluorides and Oral Health", Technical Report Series No. 846 (1994), WHO Geneva; and "Environmental Health Criteria 227 FLUORIDES", (2002), WHO Geneva. More recently, the Department of Health contributed to the review by the EU Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks (SCHER, 2011) of any new evidence on the hazard profile, health effects, and human exposure to fluoride and the fluoridating agents of drinking water.
National and regional oral health surveys show a substantial benefit of fluoridation in terms of a reduction in tooth decay. The only known side effect is dental fluorosis. This is a cosmetic or aesthetic condition which refers to the way teeth look; it is not considered to be an adverse health effect. Following publication of the report of the Forum on Fluoridation in 2002 and on the advice of the Expert Body on the findings of the report, revised Regulations were introduced in 2007, reducing the level of fluoride in piped public water supplies from a range of 0.8 to 1.0 parts per million (ppm) to a range of 0.6 to 0.8 ppm. At the levels at which fluoride is present in Ireland's water supplies any occurrence of dental fluorosis is very mild or mild and in most cases only detectable by a dentist as faint white flecks on the surface of teeth.
The National Cancer Registry of Ireland (NCRI) conducted a study into cross-border rates of osteosarcoma (Comber et al, 2011) as a result of concerns raised in the United States regarding the plausibility of a link between this condition and fluoride exposure. This study did not show any difference in disease rates between fluoridated and non-fluoridated communities. This study was undertaken as part of the NCRI's work in analysing information relating to the incidence and prevalence of cancer and related tumours in Ireland and was funded from its own resources. Since the study was published, definitive results from two major studies in the United States has shown no association between fluoride exposure and osteosarcoma (Kim et al 2011, and Levy et al 2012).
The effects of fluoridation on health and related matters are kept under constant review.