Health Minister Yael German buckled under pressure following near-unanimous support by doctors, dentists and public health experts for fluoridation and switched from prohibiting mandatory fluoridation to leaving it to the decision of each municipality.
The decision, announced by ministry officials at a meeting Tuesday of the Knesset Labor, Social Welfare and Health Committee, followed the dispatch of an unprecedentedly brutal letter to German by doctors, researchers, the mayor of Dimona and the Beduin head of the Hura local council who demanded that she reverse her policy.
They called her policymaking on the important issue “amateurish.”
Her decision against mandatory fluoridation was her first announced policy when she took office over a year ago, but it was due to go into effect in two months.
German argued, in the face of overwhelming scientific research and opinion, that only a small minority of water is drunk and that children would be better off getting fluoride drops or use fluoride toothpaste.
But experts said economically disadvantaged children drink tap water and would not get any benefit from other ways.
The discussion was raised in the committee by MK Ya’acov Margi, MK Hanna Swaid and MK Ya’acov Litzman. Ministry public health chief Prof. Itamar Grotto revealed to the professionals’ surprise and satisfaction that instead of barring fluoridation, the local authorities would be able to decide for themselves.
Adding a minute amount of fluoride to water, according to the vast majority of experts, is safe and significantly reduces dental cavities in children.
The cost is covered by a small payment, 3.5 agorot per cubic meter of water, added to water bills.
MK Ahmed Tibi, a physician, endorsed fluoridation, which has been used in Israel for decades, as a cheap and easy solution.