MINISTER for Health James Reilly is basing his justification of mandatory fluoridation of Irish water supplies on erroneous data, according to Bandon-based scientist Declan Waugh.
Mr Waugh has written a number of reports that are highly critical of this public health policy, and the concerns raised prompted Minister for Arts Jimmy Deenihan to write to the health minister last October in relation to the matter.
In November, Minister Reilly replied by saying that the exposure of Irish consumers to fluoride from food and beverages represented 7.5% of the safe upper limit. If exposure to fluoride from drinking water is included, he added, it represents 23.9% of the upper safe limit.
The basis of this opinion was a report by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI), the Total Diet Study published in 2011, which measured the fluoride contend of certain foods and beverages in Ireland.
On receipt of the letter from Minister Reilly, Mr Waugh wrote to the Minister for Health and his cabinet colleagues on November 11th last to outline that these statements were ‘scientifically and factually incorrect.’ In the interim seven months, Mr Waugh told The Southern Star, no response has been provided.
Mr Waugh, a native of Skibbereen, said that the Minister for Health was suggesting that the total dietary intake of fluoride by the average Irish consumers was 1.65 mg per day from all dietary sources.
However, he contends that this level of fluoride would be the same as what an individual would consume in a single cup of tea using fluoridated water and nothing else. Irish adults are the world’s largest consumers of tea, drinking on average between three and six cups of tea per day. The dietary intake from tea as a beverage on its own would be in the region of 5 mg of fluoride per day or more, excluding all other sources of fluoride.
Mr Waugh said: ‘This represents a very significant margin of error and highlights the concerns raised by the World Health Organisation that prior to commencement of water fluoridation programmes, the total exposure of the population, including all sensitive subgroups, must be accurately determined in order to avoid over-exposure of the population to fluoride. No such study was ever undertaken in Ireland.’
The FSAI’s 2011 study was the first attempt to accurately measure the level of exposure of consumers to fluoride in Ireland, he said.
The failure to conduct any tests before 2005 and the collection of ‘erroneous’ data for the 2011 report has resulted in authorities ‘being unaware of the massive over-exposure to fluorides present in Ireland’, he cautioned. ‘The unsafe levels of exposure, for which fluoridation of water is a major contributor, may be a major contributor to the huge increase in the burden of certain diseases present in Ireland today’.
A 2006 US National Academies report highlighted the potential of fluoride to contribute to cancer, diabetes, musculoskeletal diseases, genetic disorders, thyroid and respiratory disorders as well as neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s, he added.
Mr Waugh subsequently sought the analytical data on measured fluoride levels in foodstuffs and beverage from the FSAI, which he received last week. On reviewing the data it was ‘immediately obvious’ that the data was scientifically incorrect, he said.
‘Scientific analysis of FSAI data has shown that the FSAI data has significantly underestimated the levels of fluoride being ingested and absorbed by the public including babies, children, sports enthusiasts and vulnerable people in Ireland by a minimum of a factor of ten. There is no question but that the true level of exposure of the Irish population to fluoride has been significantly underestimated’, said Mr Waugh.
The data has been checked against UK, EU and US data on fluoride levels in foodstuffs and against independent tests conducted in Ireland, he noted.
The results of this ‘flawed’ study are being incorrectly used by the health minister and the Irish Expert Body on Fluoride and Health to justify continued mandatory fluoridation of Irish water, said Mr Waugh.
The policy faces much opposition from campaigners, who say it is harmful, and it contrasts with a commitment by Fine Gael to end compulsory fluoridation in 2001. Then environment spokesperson Ivan Yates pledged to end the practice because of ‘serious health concerns’.
This political controversy recently resurfaced when Skibbereen Town Council unanimously voted on a motion demanding that the Minster for Health end water fluoridation immediately, and circulated the motion to all councils in Ireland. In the past fortnight members of Clonakilty Town Council and Carrickmacross Town Council unanimously supported this resolution.
Internationally in the few countries that still practice artificial fluoridation, the momentum against this public health policy is growing, said Mr Waugh. Last month the Minister for Health in Israel introduced legislation to end mandatory fluoridation. Recent reviews in Portland, in the US and Windsor City in Canada also voted against this policy while 14 regional local authorities in Australia have terminated the policy since the beginning of the year. Reviews are currently ongoing in Hamilton, New Zealand, where Mr Waugh will be giving evidence this week.
‘This latest finding provides further evidence that the systemic exposure of the population to fluoride via fluoridation of drinking water is unsafe as the individual dose cannot be controlled and the authorities appear incapable of undertaking an accurate unbiased risk assessment’, he cautioned. ‘The only way to limit this risk is to stop fluoridation of public water supplies immediately.’
Declan Waugh’s communication with government ministers can be viewed at http://goo.gl/cOKYi.