“Of the six hundred water supplies in Ireland that are dosed with fluoride, under half have legal sanction” said VOICE campaigner Robert Pocock. According to successive EPA reports since 1997 (1), over a hundred public water supplies are illegal under the Health (Fluoridation of Water Supplies) Act 1960 and a further two hundred group supplies have never received legal sanction. Since the already discredited Fluoridation Forum Report (Appendix 8) mentioned only 271 public water supplies adding fluoride (2) and ignored group or private supplies, its value as the government’s scrutiny of this policy can now be seen to have been totally futile.
In the 1960 Act, Section 2(4) (a) states that before approving the introduction of fluoridation in an area, the Health Minister must first ‘cause to be made …a survey of dental caries in a representative sample of pupils attending full-time day schools’ in the relevant area. The Minister is further required (S 2 (4) (b)) to have the fluoride content of the existing piped water analyzed (i.e. before fluoridation), to prepare both survey and analysis and ‘cause them to be presented before each House of the Oireachtas’(3). However the last approval to fluoridate public water was in 1987 since when there has been no Statutory Instrument or other legal sanction to fluoridate under the Act. Yet many of the 42 Sanitary Authorities have been extending fluoridation in disregard of this legal requirement.
To take one example out of the more than one hundred of public supplies that are in breach, the water supply for Brosna/Knocknagoshel serving 720 people in Co Kerry commenced fluoridating 496,000 litres of drinking water a day in 2003. The last statutory authorisation to fluoridate any water in Co Kerry was in 1987 and did not include the public supply at Brosna/Knocknagoshel.(4). Only last year the Southern Health Board revealed in answer to Parliamentary Question (No 27043/04), that Euro 100,000 was spent in 2003 on fluoridation equipment for that and two other supplies in Co Cork (5).
There are many similar examples according to successive annual reports by the EPA, the government agency charged with monitoring fluoride levels in drinking water supplies throughout the country.. In Co Carlow for instance, Borris public water supply has never obtained statutory approval yet it too has been a subjected to a major and presumably costly upgrade of fluoridation plant and equipment. Likewise Tinnahinch which receives fluoridated water from Co Kilkenny but was not issued with legal approval (6).
And in relation to group water schemes there are seventy-eight fluoridated group schemes (7) in Co Clare alone. In Co Limerick there are a further twenty-seven Small/Private Schemes that are fluoridated and another twenty-four private schemes in Co Laois, none of which have received legal sanction.
Indeed the problem has been highlighted in Co Meath, where local officials correctly followed legal procedure in 1996 by applying for S.I. approval to fluoridate the Kilmainhamwood and Athboy public supplies. But a response from the department of Health is still outstanding (8). Exceptionally, these two suppies are still unfluoridated.
With regard to the statutory requirement to analyze the fluoride content of the existing or background water, successive EPA Reports (9) have admitted that this has been overlooked. Despite having been alerted to this oversight via Dail questions, the Minister of the Environment has taken no corrective action.
The inescapable conclusion is that the Health Boards have since 1987 extended the policy via the Sanitary Authorities in each county in such a cavalier fashion that the original statutory provisions of the 1960 Act have simply been ignored and most counties are now fluoridating many water supplies without legal sanction.
Over and above these serious legal questions, it is extremely doubtful if Oireachtas approval for fluoridation would be forthcoming given such low levels of dental decay compared to 1960 and especially in view of today’s high level of fluoride poisoning in Irish teenagers. (Please refer to the Press Statement from Irish Dentists Opposing Fluoridation of April 12th 2005.) Indeed this may well be explanationfor the S.I for Athboy in Co Meath having been withheld since 1996.
(1) EPA Quality of Drinking Water Reports 1997 to 2003.
Number of water supplies monitoring fluoride*
YEAR 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003
PublicWS 435 444 460 360 391 399 491
Group WS 31 119 176 174 186 238 82
Small Private 8 12 9 27 7 – 63
TOTAL 474 575 645 561 584 637 636
* NB EPA Report for 2002 Page 19 states
” Fluoride arises almost exclusively from fluoridation of public water supplies and from industrial discharges although it occurs naturally in quite rare instances”
(2) Fluoridation Forum Appendix 8 pp173-181.Principal Fluoridated Water Supplies by county
(3) Health (Fluoridation) of Water Supplies Act, 1960. ( No 46 of 1960)
(4) S.I. 69/1987 Fluoridation of Water Supplies (Amendment) Regulations, 1987.(Fluoridation of Brosna/Knocknagoshel equates to 700 litres per person per day being fluoridated of which less than two litres is actually drunk i.e under 0.3%)
(5) Southern Health Board Reply to PQ 27043/04 by Paudge Connolly TD, December 2004.
(6) Fluoride Analysis Results form Carlow Co Co Lab 01/1988 to 04/99. Doc20/05/99. For Tinnahinch,Carrigduff and Borris.
(7) Fluoridated Public Group Schemes in Co Clare, EPA Drinking Water Report 2003 Attached
(8) Letter to Paudge Connolly TD of 14th Dec 2004 from Senior Administrative Officer of NEHB, stating that response to S.I. application to Dept of Health is still outstanding)
(9) The Quality of Drinking Water Report, 2001 page 23 states
” The Irish fluoridation legislation [Health ( Fluoridation of Water Supplies) Act 1960] requires that background levels should be taken into account when dosing water with fluoride and it is undoubtedly the case that this was done as each successive water supply began to be fluoridated. However, continued sampling over successive seasons is required in order to establish a valid background variation in fluoride for a water source, but it would seem that this has not been carried out, and that, over time the whole issue of background fluoride levels has been overlooked”.
(10) HSE Western Area letter of 8th March 2005 to Eamon Gilmore TD.
SUPPLEMENTARY NOTES FOR EDITORS
Further legal failings of fluoride implementation in Ireland.
i) Frequency of fluoride monitoring does not meet legal requirements.
Under S.I.s in 1962 and thereafter up to 1971 and Amendment Regulations from 1974 to 1987, each County Council acting as agent for the Minister, is obliged under S 8 (of e.g. S.I.92/1965) to determine daily the fluorine content of the public water supplies by a colormetric method and, ‘ in addition after six months after which fluorine shall have been added to determine it by a distillation method at intervals not exceeding four weeks’
In Co Cork of the forty-four fluoridating public water supplies only nine comply with the requirement of the Act for monthly monitoring. This is taken from the most recent monitoring data supplied by the EPA for 2003 for Co Cork.
Of the seventy-eight already illegally fluoridated Group schemes in Co Clare, almost all only provide not twelve but one fluoride sample in the year, says the EPA. To make matters worse, a number of these results are above the legal maximum, indicating the possibility that they were above the legal maximum for all twelve months of 2003 ( See Note 7 above).
ii) Many fluoridated supplies do not comply with the legally prescribed fluoride concentration of 0.8 to 1.0 milligrams per litre [ Fluoridation Act S 2 (3) (a) ]. In Co Meath some 100,000 people receive fluoridated water that is outside the legally prescribed limit of 0.8 to 1.0 mg/litre. An incredible three out of four fluoride samples submitted in 2003 by Co Meath’s 23 public water supplies are outside this legal range. In Ballivor and Drumconrath not a single fluoride sample in the whole of 2003 was within the legally prescribed range.Co Meath is representative of many other counties that the EPA monitored in 2003.
iii) Statutory concentration at variance with Fluoridation Forum Recommendation.
The first recommendation (p15) of the Fluoridation Forum Report of September 2002 was to reduce the fluoride concentration from the range 0.8 – 1.0 mg/l to 0.6 – 0.8 with a target value of 0.7 mg/l. The reason for the reduction is the large increase in fluoride poisoning among teenagers, as shown above. The higher concentration is still the legal one even though it is regarded as too high ( See 10).
To complicate matters further, a Health Board instruction was apparently issued to some Sanitary Authorities to fluoridate at a different concentration — 0.8 mg/l +/- 0.2 mg/l. It is not known what concentration the six hundred water supplies are actually dosing at today but they could be forgiven for being confused. Nevertheless the EPA 2003 monitoring results confirm that hundreds of fluoridating supplies are dosing outside the legally prescribed range.
It should also be noted that according to the Fluoridation Forum, at under 0.8 mg/l there are no significant beneficial effects in reducing dental caries (11).
iv) Health Boards/ HSEs unable to supply costs of fluoridating water supplies.
When asked (Dail Question PQ 27043/04 October, 2004) to provide operating and capital costs of fluoridation, the Health Minister instructed the HSEs to provide answers to Deputy Connolly. After five months only four HSEs have replied. None of the replies are comprehensive or cohesive and all reveal a process lacking in either proper management or accountability.
Where the HSEs are unable to provide costs for fluoridation, the Minister was however able to reveal (PQ126 on 22/02/2005 Ref 5868/05) that her department spent Euro120, 000 last year in secretarial costs incurred by the Irish Expert Body on Fluorides and Health. Created in September 2002 by previous health minister Martin to oversee a continuation of fluoridation, this expert group has met once –in April 2004 — and made no public statement on the status of fluoridation in two and a half years.