Deputy Clare Daly: I found the Minister of State’s tone unhelpful. It is a progressive move for us to discuss this topic today and I compliment Deputy Stanley on tabling the Bill. Despite the Minister of State’s protestations, from the beginning of Ireland‘s attempts to fluoridate our water, this has been a controversial issue.
Fifty years ago this year, Gladys Ryan took a High Court, and ultimately a Supreme Court, challenge against the State. Just as I salute the campaigners against fluoridation today, I want to salute Gladys Ryan, a woman who died in her 90s this year. As a housewife, this woman took on the State in the battle against fluoride, something that was not done at the time. The Minister of State will be aware that this was an important legal case which lasted for 65 days and went on appeal to the Supreme Court. This woman was an environmentalist before her time. She challenged fluoridation on a number of points, but mainly on the point that it was unconstitutional to interfere with the public water supply because people had no option but to drink from it. She argued that those who wanted fluoride had an alternative and could get it in toothpaste. That argument still stands. Gladys Ryan was represented by Seán McBride and had a huge legal team who operated pro bono. The team argued that fluoridation was an infringement of human rights because it removed choice. Many international experts who presented evidence in the case argued that fluoridation caused more damage than the help it was designed to provide. That has been the nub of the issue since. We need to re-examine this issue because time has moved on and we have more experience now.
Many of the points made by the Minister of State seemed to be caught in a bit of a time warp. He claimed boldly that supporting Deputy Stanley’s Bill would lead to a deterioration in dental health. That is not true. We do not need to cite scientific studies to refute that claim. There are many such studies, but the Minister of State seemed to rely on one or two from 20 or 30 years ago. We do not need the studies because we have the direct experience of the 98% of the European countries that do not fluoridate their water supplies but whose dental health standards are far in excess of ours. We have the direct experience of the fact that only nine other countries fluoridate more than 50% of their water supply. We are not the league table leader in terms of dental care and standards. We are well down the list. Therefore, it is quite clear that fluoride is not helping, and that is a fact.
I am not so sure of the evidence with regard to many of the other claims regarding the damage caused by fluoride. However, many able scientists have presented evidence that there are significant negative health impacts. The Minister of State relied significantly in his argument on the Irish expert group report. I understand that report was 350 pages long, but that only approximately a page and a half dealt with the health issues. With the greatest respect to dentists, I do not believe they are experts in the biological effects of consuming toxins. Paediatricians, oncologists, toxicologists and neurologists should be and should have been involved in any serious health examination. The point being made is that there has not been a serious analysis of the health effects of fluoride in our water.
I would like the Minister of State to comment on the fact that following the expert group report here, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland was concerned and recommended that fluoridated water should not be added to infant formula. That recommendation was made because of the concern that infants might be poisoned. If that danger existed then, why do we say now there is no case to answer? We should take a practical attitude towards this issue. The way the Finnish authorities dealt with the issue is to be recommended. They removed fluoride without debate or discussion. We cannot do that here because we need to change the law. The Finnish authorities found that when they examined the health of the nation after the removal of fluoride, there were considerable improvements in health in a number of areas.
Why do we not conduct an experiment of our own? If we were to accept that the information is not conclusive, though it is overwhelmingly in favour of the fact that fluoride does harm rather than good, why would the Government not just remove fluoride for a year and carry out a survey at the end of the year? The worst that could happen would be that the Government would save €4 million that could be used on other beneficial projects. If our experience in Ireland was the same as that of the other European countries, the Government would save a potload of money on its health budget also. We should consider doing something of this nature.
This discussion is long overdue. Many of the points made by the Minister of State were the same as those made years ago, but science and experience have moved on. He mentioned other countries where fluoride is present in water supplies.
Most of the countries which the Minister of State said continue to fluoridate water are actually contemplating removing it.Ireland should follow suit.
It is reprehensible that the State would medicate the population on a systematic basis when there really is no need to do so. I am extremely disappointed by the Government’s attitude on this issue. Its approach is regrettable and completely behind the times. I wonder whether those in government are of the view that if they remove fluoride from water supplies, they will be acknowledging the fact that it should never have been put into them in the first instance. That may be the case but I am of the view that the Government should be mature about this matter and avail of the opportunity that exists.
Deputy Catherine Murphy: I wonder what it is about Fridays and the abuse to which those of us on this side are subjected during these sittings. When the House sits on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, it is all about the Government taking abuse. Fridays, however, present it with an opportunity to turn the tables on us. The abuse that occurs on each Friday that the House sits is that nothing ever happens. I have had the privilege to introduce two items of legislation during Friday sittings and, as a result, I am aware of the effort involved in drafting a Bill. In addition, one must wait months before one’s legislation finally comes before the Dáil. When one is eventually given the opportunity to introduce a Bill, the Government never seems to attribute any merit to it. Legislation introduced on Fridays almost never goes any further. There is a futility about being in the House today.
I researched what some people said about this matter in the past and I take this opportunity to pick on one particular individual and what he said in response to the document produced by the former Deputy, Mr. John Gormley. Mr. Gormley’s document was very comprehensive and included expert opinion. The individual to whom I refer is the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Gilmore, and I am interested in placing his comments on public confidence in the fluoridation of water on the record of the House. Obviously, those comments predated—–
Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: His ascent to power.
Deputy Catherine Murphy: —–his promotion to the position of Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade. In response to Mr. Gormley’s document, the current Tánaiste stated:
There isn’t a great deal of confidence, I’m afraid, in committees of departmental experts. We’ve had departmental experts telling us that blood was safe, that various areas of food were safe, that some aspects of the environment were safe, and unfortunately their conclusions turned out to be quite unfounded or unsound in many cases. So there is a public scepticism about committees of Government experts telling us what’s good for us.
He also stated, “The fact that some county councils have been expressing concern about it and have been voting against fluoridation, I think is reflecting a growing public concern, and a growing public doubt about fluoridation.”
There is public concern in respect of this matter.
Deputy Finian McGrath: Hear, hear.
Deputy Catherine Murphy: We all hear that concern expressed by our constituents. It is not always expressed by very organised or vocal groups. One hears it from people in the course of routine conversations. I am of the view that one of the things that is going to change matters quite dramatically is that fact that people are going to be asked to pay to have something in their water which many of them are of the view they should be able to choose not to have in it. I hope that a very generous free allowance will be allocated to people in order that they will not be obliged to pay for water. However, the point I make is worth considering.
It is interesting that the current Government and that which preceded it have excluded many people from having dental repairs carried out under the PRSI scheme. It was the previous Administration which removed the entitlement in this regard. In most cases, people were previously entitled to annual dental check-ups. Following a check-up now, having dental repairs carried out, teeth removed or whatever very much depends on whether one has the money to pay for the procedure. When we discuss dental health, therefore, we must examine matters in their totality and consider Government policy from the point of view of achieving the optimum outcome in the context of maintaining people’s dental health.
Fluoridation of water supplies first came about in the 1950s. If one looks at photographs or television footage from the 1950s and 1960s, one will nearly always see people who have gaps in their teeth. It is funny when one looks back. Quite rightly, there was an amount of concern about this at the time. A number of issues arose during that period in the context of people’s general health and the quantity and quality of healthy food that were available. There is no doubt that the advent of the Second World War would have limited the range and types of food to which people would have had access. I understand the concerns which informed what was done in the 1950s and 1960s. However, fluoridation was never universally supported and, as we know, there have been various legal challenges to it in the interim. People are now much more careful about what they put in their bodies and they want to have control in that regard. They know they can buy toothpastes which contain fluoride and that they do not need to ingest it in order to limit the number of dental cavities with which they might end up.
Let us consider the experience in other countries. As previous speakers noted, parts of Finland have reported no worsening of dental caries after fluoridation was stopped in 1992. In British Columbia, dental caries rates actually decreased when fluoridation ended. The latter may have been because people may have been obliged to make a conscious effort to use fluoride toothpaste. Germany, France, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Austria and Belgium do not currently artificially fluoridate water supplies. Sweden engaged in a particularly vigorous debate on this issue in the 1960s and 1970s and eventually decided against fluoridation. The notion that fluoridation leads to universal benefits does not appear to hold weight in other countries. None of the countries to which I refer reported any serious dental health issues among members of the general public in the absence of fluoridation and all have levels of dental care and practice which are comparable to those which obtain in Ireland.
During my time in politics, both at local and national level, experts have often said to me that a particular way of doing things was the right way. On a good few occasions I did not really believe them and in many instances I was correct. It is right that we should be sceptical and that we should question the opinions of experts. The general public is not always wrong and its concerns should not just be dismissed. The Minister of State referred to expert after expert during his contribution. Many people want to be given the choice as to whether they should accept the advice of experts who want their water to be free of fluoride. These individuals would be happy to change their habits in order to ensure that they take fluoride orally and are not obliged to ingest it. Most people are of the view that being obliged to ingest fluoride via drinking water is an imposition.
The Government should allow the Bill to proceed to Committee Stage to give Deputies an opportunity to debate the legislation further, to question experts in the field and, at a minimum, satisfy themselves as to the robustness of expert opinion. I wonder if it is worthwhile holding Friday sittings when so few of the Bills introduced in these sittings have proceeded to Committee or Remaining Stages.
Deputy Finian McGrath: I thank Deputy Brian Stanley for introducing the Bill. It is important to place matters such as the fluoridation of public water supplies on the agenda in order that Deputies can discuss them in detail. We must deal in a fair and objective manner with the many health concerns arising from water fluoridation. It is amazing that the main Government party’s general election manifesto in 2002 included a commitment to cease the practice. Many senior figures in the Labour Party, including Ministers, have also expressed serious concerns about water fluoridation. The Government parties appear to have done another U-turn.
I want to see scientific facts. The science establishment must be challenged on this issue and the role of Independent Deputies, including my colleagues in the Technical Group, is to issue such challenges. For this reason, I welcome the challenge the Bill presents. Many of those involved in health and science believe fluoridation is dangerous. They argue, for example, that the dose each individual receives is impossible to control because people drink different amounts of water. Between 40% and 50% of fluoride ingested each day by adults accumulates in the body and many children are over-exposed to fluoride. I want scientific facts presented on whether fluoride has the potential to cause major damage to the brain. While the theory has not yet been proven, some also argue that fluoride causes bone cancer. Research must be done on this and other fundamental questions.
Water fluoridation gives rise to major health concerns and is our duty, as legislators, to raise them. The Minister of State knows in his heart that many Deputies on the Government side share these concerns. This sets a red light flashing in my mind. I ask him to ensure research is done to ascertain the facts about water fluoridation. There is a lack of good quality scientific literature on the issue and the arguments in favour of fluoridation seem to have been accepted without any serious critical analysis.
The Minister of State should ask his family and friends how safe they believe their drinking water is and whether they use much bottled water. Does he filter tap water before drinking it, as I and most young parents do?
Deputy Alex White: No.
Deputy Peter Mathews: He should do so.
Deputy Finian McGrath: He should wake up, smell the coffee and get his facts right because there is much at stake.
Fluoride also has the potential to damage the environment. Scientific research must also be done on this issue. Many people do not realise that the agent, hydrofluoric acid, is listed as a poison in the Poisons Regulations of 1982.
Since 1993, the CzechRepublic has not treated drinking water in public water supplies with fluoride. The four reasons cited for the country’s change in policy were that fluoridation is uneconomical, is not ecological and is unethical and dangerous to health. The Czechs have clearly called this issue as they see it. Toxic fluorides have never been added to the public water supplies in Denmark, while fluoridation of drinking water is generally forbidden in Germany. These countries are known for taking their public health policies seriously.
The Minister has a brass neck coming here and telling us there is no doubt that fluoridated water is safe. He cannot make such a statement given the many serious questions and concerns about water fluoridation. It is important that all of us read Deputy Stanley’s Bill and keep an open mind on this issue.
Deputy Peter Mathews: I thank all ten Members present for participating in this constructive debate, which looked into the corners and examined the history of water fluoridation, including the checks and balances that have been put in place. I congratulate Deputy Brian Stanley on introducing the legislation. The Minister of State’s speech was comprehensive, as one would expect, while Deputy Barry Cowen’s contribution reflected the work and endeavours in which his associates engaged over the years. We have all benefited greatly from the contributions of Opposition Deputies, primarily from the Technical Group. I am in the category of “Others”. Some thought provoking questions were raised, observations articulated and cautionary advice imparted.
It struck me that we must avoid the temptation to allow political undertones creep into the debate. It is understandable that Deputies will point out that the Labour Party Chief Whip and Fine Gael Party expressed certain views on water fluoridation at a certain point.
There are three elements that we, as human beings, enjoy in the spirit of our lives. We breathe air – the Latin word for breathing is spiritus. The second element is water. The third element escapes me. What is it?
Deputy Alex White: That would be the fire emanating from Deputy Finian McGrath.
Deputy Peter Mathews: These are the three common elements. We are concerned when the air becomes polluted by lead emitted by buses and cars.
If one goes back one will find that even the delivery of public water came through a plumbing system in which all of the pipes were made of lead. People were doing their best in those times, and then insights from science showed them that the reason people in Pompeii were getting a little giddy and light-headed or could not remember what they were doing before the volcano erupted was that there was so much lead in the pipework.
Deputy Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan: That must be going on here.
Deputy Peter Mathews: As Deputy Catherine Murphy stated, photographs of people from the 1950s show the gaps in the teeth, the rotten teeth, etc., but the other detail that one notices is the bright eyes. Maybe people were happier in their relationships even though they had economic distress in their lives. We can observe that, too, but that is for another debate.
The questions raised at the end by Deputy Finian McGrath were good ones. Why have some countries stopped doing this? We could put vitamin D into something that we take each day, which is water. We all need vitamin D. We do not get enough in this country because of the lack of sunshine.
Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan: Except this year.
Deputy Peter Mathews: Exactly – except for this year, 2013, the summer of sunshine. That is the reason there are other deficiencies in our physical well-being. We do not put vitamin D in the water, but it is there on the shelves. If people want to take their cod liver oil, it is there. In fact, interestingly, in the Soviet system’s command-and-control economy, every primary school child had to line up to take cod liver oil.
Deputy Finian McGrath: I was one of those children.
Deputy Peter Mathews: This raises the ethical question of forcing the ingestion of substances. It is a useful debate. This Friday has been enlightening.
There are old habits that are easy to follow. I understand the Minister of State gets all the information and he has done his homework, and he is presenting it honestly and openly. However, Deputy Stanley is also making use of the preliminary work done by previous Dáil Members to advance the process. We are not trying to jostle in the queue for the press release or the television camera. That is not the business. We are here to serve as best we can and bring our knowledge, our skills and our insights to organise how citizens receive the things that public enterprises, the Civil Service and the semi-state bodies deliver to them.
One of the good outcomes of this debate could be that we take a fresh look at things and get an update on the position. Let us not just do the surface dentistry, to use the metaphor, but also a little root-canal work – a little odontology.
Deputy Barry Cowen: Build a bridge.
Deputy Peter Mathews: Joking apart—–
Deputy Alex White: A few extractions.
Deputy Peter Mathews: —–it may be time to double-question this.
Water filters were mentioned earlier. We have our water filter at home. Everybody needs a water filter because if one looks at the porous porcelain through which the water flows from the ingress tap to the smaller tap, one will see that it gets filthy. I am the guy who deals with this at home – I do the drains and the plumbing at home – so I know this. I have to scrub the filter clean with a wire implement every four weeks or so, and I can see the sediment, which is not visible in the water but accumulates like a fur on the porcelain filter. I suggest that those who can afford it after paying their property tax buy one of these filters, because it will help to eliminate the impurities.
What Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan stated is important too. Fluoride is a cocktail of elements – a bit of mercury, a bit of lead. We know all about lead.
Let us agree that we have all made helpful contributions to this. Words disappear; they evaporate and are no longer heard. They do not even resonate, because something else comes into our heads. Let us not put it on bits of paper that get filed in lever-arch files. Let us get the best forensic medical people to look at this and be honest about it. Maybe we do not need it any more. Let us break what Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan referred to as the habit we have followed from 1963 to 2013, which is 50 years, or half a century.
Deputy Brian Stanley: Next year, from 1964.
Deputy Peter Mathews: It is a habit. It was done with the best intentions, like use of lead in Roman times, and even in our more modern times. I used worry that the pipe from the mains into our house could still be one made of lead. When I get forgetful, I worry about all these matters.
Let us take it forward. Let us compromise. Let us not shoot this down. Let us compromise and set up an update study with a view to probably taking fluoride out of the water supply. That is my suggestion.
Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Alex White): I commend everyone who contributed to the debate, including Deputy Stanley, who introduced this Bill. I assure him and the House of the Government’s collective determination to continue to keep this important public health measure under review and to act in accordance with expert advice.
To pick up on Deputy Mathews’s last point and the frustration that Deputy Catherine Murphy expressed about the debate here today and on Fridays generally, if what Members are advocating is that we should have a continuing debate and discussion on this issue and that all of the expert evidence, from whatever source and in whatever direction, should be available to this House and, through it, to the public, I have no difficulty with that. I am not in dismissive mode. It has been suggested that I am dismissing something—–
Deputy Brian Stanley: It came across like that.
Deputy Alex White: —–but I am rejecting the Bill. I am rejecting the simple, bald proposition that the House vote to repeal the 1960 Act. Without any doubt, I am rejecting that. I do not want there to be any doubt about that.
If what Deputy Stanley and others are saying – in the spirit of what Deputy Mathews stated, although I did not agree with what he said at the very end – is that the public are entitled to information, to have a debate and to know about the research, rather than having me stand up and say that I have looked at it, I have had the advice of the expert group and I am satisfied that the expert group is not the Lard Council, as has been suggested, but is a genuinely committed public body determined to ensure that the best research is made available, assessed and reviewed – in other words, if it is being suggested that the material should be available to the public, rather than just being asserted by me, and that people should have a forum and an opportunity to discuss, examine and review that material – I entirely agree. Maybe that is what Fridays should be about, in a sense.
My problem – I say this because I do not want there to be any doubt about it – is that the Bill to repeal the 1960 Act is not acceptable and is not accepted by the Government. If Members of the House, in the context of the concerns that are communicated to TDs, Senators and otherwise, want to ensure that this discussion happens and that I, as Minister, come in with the information that I have – perhaps even with an opportunity to question witnesses, etc. – it seems there is a forum in the Oireachtas for that to be done. In my respectful submission, it is not the way to proceed – neither this Bill, nor Deputy Clare Daly’s suggestion that we take a chance on a temporary change of policy. I do not accept that taking a chance like that on people’s health is the right way to go and I am not prepared to experiment in the manner in which she suggested, I am quite sure, in good faith. Taking a chance for a few months or years is simply not going to be done.
It comes back to the question of our role as legislators. Everybody in here has stated that we are not scientists. There is an issue of public trust. Whoever quoted the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Gilmore, reflected a general concern that exists across society. Over the past few years, trust in many public institutions, including this one, has been considerably undermined.
That has arisen to some extent because of the crisis but also for other reasons. How should we respond? We clearly cannot reject public concerns or ignore our constituents when they tell they are worried about the potential for bone and breast cancer, or any of the other conditions which people have suggested are connected with fluoridation, for which I say there is no evidence. I am not suggesting that Deputies should refrain from raising those issues but sometimes what we say in this Chamber can contribute to public concerns. If, for example, our constituents hear us raise the concern that fluoridation may be connected to this or that illness, they may believe there is a genuine basis for such assertions even though we are only expressing concern. It is almost a circular argument. We raise the concerns that have been expressed with us and when others hear us they become concerned as a result.
Deputy Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan: What about Deputy Stagg?
Deputy Alex White: Deputy Stagg is entitled to his view. That is politicising the matter. Deputy Mathews is correct that Deputy Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan should resist the temptation to reduce this debate to who said what when. I am not prepared to accept the Bill, although I believe Deputy Stanley introduced it in good faith. However, I am prepared to facilitate continuing public discussion of and access to the evidence, which on my reading as a non-scientist is overwhelmingly in favour of maintaining this policy. The preponderance of scientific evidence supports the continuation of this policy. That would be the result of any fair minded and balanced review of the material available to us.
Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Will the Minister of State address the question about other countries?
Deputy Brian Stanley: The Minister of State was very dismissive of our concerns in his opening contribution but he seems to have softened his stance over the course of the debate. As we appear to be having some effect, perhaps it was worth Deputy Catherine Murphy’s time to participate after all. I would like to see an outright ban on fluoridation. He said we cannot take a risk but we are already taking risks. Is he saying the other 98% of Europe is taking a risk? What risks are the countries which never introduced fluoridation taking? People are not dropping dead because they are not getting their daily dose of fluoride.
Deputy Alex White: They do it in other ways.
Deputy Brian Stanley: The logic of his argument falls flat. We are told in this State that we should take it because it is good for us. Think about how that type of advice worked for previous generations. There is considerable spin on this issue but he was unable to quote a shred of research on the affects on health. He spoke about the affects on teeth while ignoring diet and the use of toothpaste. Despite having a bank of officials at his disposal he was not able to present evidence on the affects on people’s health.
Deputy Alex White: There is a tonne of evidence.
Deputy Brian Stanley: There is no way a report can be produced on safe limits because some people drink half a glass of water per day and others drink half a gallon. I know people who never drink water. I am concerned about them because water that has not been poisoned is good for them. When we were children we drank large quantities of water, particularly during the summer. The forum report from 2001 was quoted by the Fianna Fáil Member but a vital piece of information was missing from that report because the FSAI would have been required to sit one more time to produce it. That would have taken another day or week.
The Ireland of today is a long way from the Ireland of 50 years ago. We have moved away from Archbishop McQuaid giving his blessing to policies. The basis for the introduction of fluoridation was completely flawed. In 1956 the fluoride consultative council was established by the then Minister for Health, Thomas F. O’Higgins of Fine Gael. The council’s chairperson was the professor of social and preventive medicines and registrar at University College Dublin, Thomas A. Murphy. The aim of the council was to advise whether, with a view to reducing the incidence of dental caries, it was desirable to provide for an increased intake of fluorine and, if it considered it so desirable, to advise as to the best method of securing such an increased intake along with any precautions and safeguards necessary. A new Government in 1957 saw Seán McEntee appointed as Minister for Health. Meanwhile, Professor Murphy had been sent on a fluoridation fact finding mission to the United States, where scientists sponsored by the US public health service unsurprisingly gave him an overwhelmingly positive report on the safety and dental benefits of fluoridation given that the service was promoting it. Soon after Professor Murphy gave his report to the Minister, Mr. McEntee, the latter introduced a water fluoridation Bill to the Dáil. According to the former Fine Gael Minister for Finance, Richie Ryan, there was an incredible pro-fluoridation bias in the debate. He recounted in a recent interview with Hot Press that throughout the debate on fluoridation in the Dáil and the legal proceedings in the courts, whenever there was tittle tattle from any part of the pro-fluoridation lobby across the world, the Department of Health issued a press release but it never revealed that certain nations voted down fluoridation. In other words, it carried out a propaganda campaign. I recall when Richie Ryan was Minister for Finance.
Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Richie Ruin.
Deputy Brian Stanley: That is correct. He was equally emphatic in respect of the current Government, saying that the Department of Health is now even more determined not to be found in the wrong. He claimed this is the reason it has never revealed the long-term health effects of fluoride. He thinks it has a closed mind and takes the attitude of defending itself at all costs because it does not want a situation in which it might be proved wrong. It is okay to be proved wrong, however. I have often been proved wrong. There is evidence on both sides of the debate but the precautionary principle should apply. If the Government thinks it is good for us it should use the €4.6 million in funding to supply it in tablet form. We could have the choice of adding it to our tea. I had it this morning because the Government forced me to include it in my tea. It is an awful situation. This is forced medication.
The Government’s prime witness in the 1964 case was a Dr. Harold Hodge from the United States. Dr. Hodge’s reputation has been seriously damaged by the publication of a book, The Plutonium Files: America’s Secret Medical Experiments in the Cold War, for which its author, Eileen Welsom, won a prize. The book documents human experiments in which the subjects did not even know they were being tested to find the safety limits of uranium and plutonium. In 1945, Dr. Hodge attended a meeting in which these experiments were planned and a memo from the US Atomic Energy Commission thanked him for his planning and suggestions in the experiments. The US Government eventually settled with the victims with an average payment of €400,000. In 1953, Dr. Hodge arranged for Dr. William Sweet of Massachusetts GeneralHospital to inject 11 terminally ill patients with uranium for their brain tumours. These patients may not have known that tests were being administered on them. The judge in the 1964 case singled out Dr. Hodge for special thanks for giving evidence over six days with unfailing courtesy and in an non-technical language.
Prior to the introduction of fluoridation up to 600 dentists were practising in this State.
If fluoridation brought about the promised 65% reduction in dental decay, many of the dentists could have gone on the dole or sought other careers. Today, we have some 2,000 dentists in the State and that statistic sums up the argument against fluoride. The passing of time has made a policy of mass fluoridation, if it was ever justified, completely redundant. We have plenty of dentists and we can have more if we need them. We also have toothpaste and we can improve our diet. We can cut down on sugary drinks that children are taking.
Deputy Peter Mathews: That is the worst of it.
Deputy Brian Stanley: I see the effect of it. My grandchild is getting fluoridated water but it is not stopping the problem. She started drinking Coca-Cola behind people’s backs and that is having an effect on her back teeth.
The future of dental health lies in dental health policy, diet, making sure we look after these issues and making dental services available. I ask the Minister of State to take note of the issue I raised in respect of children in CountyLaois, who do not see the school dentist until 12 years of age. It is a scandal. I have previously raised the matter and it seems to get nowhere. People in CountyLaois are frustrated and it may also be happening in other counties. The Minister of State should examine this across the State because that type of prevention, not mass medication, solves these problems. Getting children seen earlier means these fillings can be done earlier and it can act as preventative treatment. While we laud ourselves in all the advances made, such as the web summit last week, we have gone back more than 50 years. Some 45 years ago, I saw the dentist for the first time but children now do not have that benefit in the county in which I live and perhaps others. The Minister of State at the Department of Health is in a position to find out if that is the case. The money spent on mass fluoridation for the population would be better spent on improving dental services and education on dental health and hygiene.
The Minister of State referred to evidence and risk. Some 98% ofEurope cannot be wrong and there is no risk. They are not falling over and dying and their teeth are not falling out. I have been in other countries in Europe and the people look perfectly healthy. If anything, they have better dental health than we do. I appeal to the Minister of State to show leadership. Members from Government parties have mentioned this issue to me. We should try to have an open debate. I welcome the comments of the Minister of State, provided that the debate is not dominated by the pro-fluoridation lobby, the people who want to take pro-fluoridation reports and present them as the expertise.
Deputy Alex White: There is no fluoridation lobby.
Deputy Brian Stanley: Let us consider the facts. There is a pro-fluoridation lobby.
Deputy Alex White: Who are its members?
Deputy Brian Stanley: Let us ensure the anti-fluoridation lobby is heard. That is all I am asking.
Acting Chairman (Deputy John Lyons): In accordance with Standing Order 117A(iv), the division is postponed until immediately following the Order of Business on Tuesday next, 12 November 2013.