Major public information campaigns should be run to ensure that children do not absorb too much fluoride, Fine Gael has proposed, as it offered some support to the Green Party which wants an immediate end to fluoridation if it gets into power.
Though he said he was not calling for fluoride’s removal from water supplies, Fine Gael’s health spokesman, Dr Liam Twomey said “the jury has not come down totally on the side of fluoridation as we are led to believe by some quarters”.
“However, if we are sticking with fluoride in the water then there is a need for a public information campaign to ensure that we don’t give too much to children, particularly in toothpastes,” the Wexford TD told The Irish Times.
Twice-daily brushing for children with fluoride-based toothpastes, combined with normal fluoride-treated water, can cause fluorosis in some children: causing a discolouration and pitting of the teeth, said Dr Twomey, a medical doctor.
He said he had noticed some minor signs of fluorosis in one of his own children, which he counteracted by using a fluoride-free toothpaste, Alovent, though this is “far from easy to get”, he commented.
The publication of a report on fluoridation to the Oireachtas Health and Children Committee written by Green Party Dublin South East TD, John Gormley, is expected to be strongly opposed by some other committee members in coming weeks.
Rejecting the Greens’ opposition to fluoridation, Fianna Fáil TD, Jimmy Devins, the vice-chair of the Oireachtas committee, said water fluoridation “is in the interests of public health and should not be discontinued.
“All the evidence available has indicated to us that fluoridation is in the interests of public health. It prevents dental caries and has no negative side effects aside from a slight staining of teeth in a small number of cases which is easily treatable.
“The World Health Organisation also recommends the fluoridation of water.
“Scientific evidence supports the use of community water fluoridation and the use of fluoride dental products for preventing tooth decay for both children and adults.
“If fluoridation is discontinued in the water system it is essentially the less well-off in our society that will be affected,” said Mr Devins, who said he would oppose Mr Gormley’s report getting the official sanction of the committee.
The Labour Party said it had “no settled policy” on fluoridation, though it supported its removal “in principle, but we also recognise that that can’t be done overnight”, adding that it would consider the issue during work on its general election manifesto.
Fluoridation of water began in 1964 in a bid to cut down on dental decay.
Today, three-quarters of all piped supplies contain the chemical, the use of which is approved by the Department of Health and Children and monitored by the Health Service Executive.