The debate over fluoridation of water has flared up, after the Green Party declared it would stop fluoridation if in power.
Green Party TD John Gormley said it would be ‘prudent’ to stop water fluoridation in Ireland immediately.
The Expert Body on Fluorides and Health, an official group, countered with a flat denial of the Green claims. “There is overwhelming scientific evidence to support the safety and efficacy of water fluoridation in Ireland,” it said in a statement.
The expert Body said that all oral health surveys showed there had been a big improvement in dental health since fluoride was introduced into Irish water supplies in the mid-1960s.
At his press conference, Mr Gormley made special reference to the use of fluoridated tap water in making up babies’ bottles. He said the American Dental Association had told parents not to use such tap water because of the risk of fluorosis, staining and pitting of teeth attributed to fluoride. He claimed there has been a huge increase in fluorosis here in the past decade.
The Expert Body recommended strongly against using bottled water to make up baby formula, saying that many waters were unsuitable because of a high sodium content.
Dr Seamus O’Hickey, chairman of the Expert Body, said that fluorosis was only a cosmetic concern, and unlikely to be noticeable in Irish consumers. He noted that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has recently renewed a call for all governments to fluoridate water supplies.
“Statements which are being put in the public domain that are not founded on proper science could cause concern amongst consumers,” his statement said.
The Green Party claims that the Department of Health’s assessment of the benefits of fluoride is not justified. It says fluoride toothpaste is all that is needed to combat decay in this way.
The then Minister for Health and Children, Micheál Martin, established the Irish Expert Body on Fluorides and Health in April 2004. It includes dentists, public health professionals, engineers, environmentalists, experts in toxicology and public health medicine and members of the public.