After years of delays, fluoride will routinely be added to the country’s drinking water, if the Mekorot national water company meets its extended deadline to complete 120 fluoridation stations by June 1. The government gave Mekorot 12 more months in June of last year.
Health Ministry dental service director Dr. Shlomo Zusman said yesterday the director of Mekorot told him two months ago he would meet the June deadline.
Various sources estimate that about half the country’s drinking supply, including that in the Tel Aviv area, contains fluoride, which has been found to significantly lower tooth decay and strengthen bones when added to the water supply in the correct quantity.
People who drink fluoridated water for a lifetime will develop up to 70 percent fewer cavities than they would have without fluoridation, according to the American Council on Science and Health.
In the US, this means that each dollar invested in fluoridation prevents more than $80 of dental treatment.
Mekorot began work on 120 fluoridation stations around the country following a December 1998 Knesset decision making it responsible for fluoridating the state’s entire drinking water supply.
The law stated that settlements with fewer than 5,000 residents will not be required to install fluoridation equipment, but they will be encouraged to do so by the ministry.
In 1998, ministry dental medicine officials predicted that fluoridation would bring down cavities by 50% to 60% in children and somewhat in adults within five years, but the fluoridation rate has hardly risen since then.
Until that decision, municipalities that wanted to provide fluoridated water for their residents had to finance their projects on their own.
Local authorities that opt to fluoridate their water are covering the cost, even though the 1998 law permits them to pass the cost on to residents. But numerous municipalities and local councils pleaded poverty.
Jerusalem water has not been fluoridated since its fluoridation plant broke down a few years ago, because the city said it could not afford to fix it. Mekorot was supposed to repair it and build by May 2001 an additional facility in Maccabim to serve Jerusalem, but it has not yet been completed.
There is also no fluoridation in Beersheba.
Mekorot has been given permission to raise the cost of water by some three agorot per cubic meter to cover the approximately $45 million annual cost of fluoridation, but Zusman did not know if the charge has been added to water bills in places with fluoridated water yet. At present, residents of Greater Haifa, Greater Tel Aviv, Netanya (south), Kiryat Shmona, and Tiberias, plus a lot of smaller places, drink fluoridated water.
People can continue to use fluoride toothpastes even when their drinking water is fluoridated, but the ministry will eventually have to consider whether to recommend the discontinuation of the use of more concentrated fluoride rinses.
A minority of laymen and a handful of experts here and abroad oppose mandatory fluoridation, claiming that too much can harm teeth and bones. The most persistent opponent here, said Zusman, is an organization called Adam Teva ve’din.
The overwhelming opinion among experts here and abroad is that fluoridation is beneficial to dental health and harmless when carried out correctly, ministry officials have said, noting that health policy is decided by such majority opinions.
If anyone wants to have unfluoridated water, he can run it through a charcoal filter that costs $10.
2 ARTICLE DISCUSSING MORATORIUM:
June 19/20, 2001
Moratorium on Requirement to Fluoridate Drinking Water
by Zvi Lavi
The Minister of Health, Nissim Dahan, has ordered that the ruling requiring municipalities to add fluoride to their drinking water at their own expense, be put on hold until such time as a re-assessment has been carried out by the Health Ministry to determine if this measure is necessary. The regulation, instituted by Dahan’s predecessor, Yehoshua Matsa, was intended to go into full effect in November, but plans have been stopped at the request of the Chairman of the Labor Party faction, Knesset Minister (M.K.) Efi Oshaya.
The purpose of adding fluoride to the water is to strengthen the teeth of children through age 14 and to prevent dental caries. The rationale behind Oshaya’s request is that the target group in need of the procedure amounts to a mere 4% of the population. Yet, fluoride is to be added to the water of the public at large without the possibility of monitoring the dosage and the fluoride may also be damaging to the teeth and to internal organs of the body. With the same warped logic he comments one can demand that aspirin be added to drinking water for the sake of the relatively small group of people needing their blood to be thinned.
3) STATEMENT FROM ISRAEL UNION FOR ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENSE:
IUED (ISRAEL UNION FOR ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENSE)
Environmental Advocacy Update – March 25, 2002
IUED TO HEALTH MINISTER: DON’T FLUORIDATE DRINKING WATER BEFORE KNOWING IMPLICATIONS IUED
Executive Director Philip Warburg has written Health Minister Nissim Dahan calling on him to freeze implementation of a regulation requiring communities with a population greater than 5,000 to fluoridate drinking water by June 2002. “Many research studies have concluded that fluoridation of drinking water leads to a variety of health problems and illnesses,” said Warburg. “These should be thoroughly investigated before fluoridation is imposed wholesale on the Israeli public.” IUED’s stand is that the major health questions regarding fluoridation should be examined by a public committee including doctors and scientists from relevant disciplines, a representative of the Union of Local Authorities, and members of the public.