A RESEARCH paper warning excess fluoride in tap water can mottle teeth and cause crippling skeletal fluorosis is not held by the Department of Health despite Edwin Poots’ consideration of fluoridating our drinking water.
A spokesperson for the Department told the Sentinel it hasn’t responded to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) 1996 ‘Fluoride in Drinking Water’ report.
This is in spite of Mr Poots’ favourable view of water fluoridation and the possibility he will press for its introduction here in future.
The report recommends a maximum fluoride limit in drinking water of 1.5 milligrams per litre and warns that whilst the chemical can prevent tooth decay it can also have significant negative effects.
It states: “Fluoride has beneficial effects on teeth at low concentrations in drinking water, but excessive exposure to fluoride in drinking-water, or in combination with exposure to fluoride from other sources, can give rise to a number of adverse effects. These range from mild dental fluorosis to crippling skeletal fluorosis as the level and period of exposure increases. Crippling skeletal fluorosis is a significant cause of morbidity in a number of regions of the world.”
Mr Poots is considering pumping fluoride into kitchens around Northern Ireland to ensure it’s delivered to poorer people and dental disease is more often prevent.
Recommendation 3.5 of the 2007 Oral Health Strategy for Northern Ireland suggests the Department of Health work with other stakeholders to examine the feasibility of fluoridating Northern Ireland’s public water supplies.
Recommendation 3.6 of the same strategy, however, notes that the introduction of water fluoridation may take some time and that other strategies to address dental caries should also be pursued.
A spokesman told the Sentinel that since Mr Poots first mooted the prospect in April 2012 the Department has received considerable correspondence.
“These have been largely protesting against fluoridation of the water supplies in Northern Ireland, with the remainder asking what the Department’s position is,” the spokesperson stated.
Mr Poots has been engaging with Executive colleagues about the prospect but no research on fluoridation has been commissioned and no provisional policy drafted.
Notwithstanding this the high level of dental caries in Northern Ireland is motivating the Minister.
“Children in Northern Ireland have the worst oral health in the United Kingdom and the majority of our young children have experienced dental decay.
“The last national survey of children’s dental health revealed that 61 per cent of our five year old children and 76 per cent of our eight year old children have obvious dental decay experience compared to the UK average of 43 per cent for five year olds and 57 per cent for eight year olds.
“In 2011, almost 5,400 children attended hospital for a general anaesthetic to have over 24,600 teeth extracted.
“It is clear that something needs to be done to address this problem and reduce the gaps with the rest of the United Kingdom and, indeed, Europe so this is why the Minister is giving consideration to the fluoridation of the water supplies in Northern Ireland,” the spokesperson explained.