Here is a challenge for you. Go into your local supermarket – Superquinn, Tesco, Supervalu, Dunne’s Stores; wherever, it does not matter. Go to the pharmacy and toiletries section and there find the toothpaste section. In the toothpaste section pick out a product that does not contain fluoride. I have just spent 20 minutes in our local supermarket going through such products with a fine toothcomb – well, with a magnifying glass actually. The small print on some of these products is actually illegible. The shop assistants were convinced that I was quite mad and gave up asking if they could help me.
There is only one toothpaste in my supermarket that does not contain fluoride and that is away down on the bottom shelf and it is not one that you ever see advertised on telly. It is called Euthymol; I am sure you have heard of it. When I look at Euthymol I think of boarding school; there was always some kid who had it. There is nothing wrong with Euthymol but it does have a most peculiar taste and smell. It is, if you like, an acquired taste. But the most unique thing about it is that it contains no fluoride whatsoever.
Now all agree that where fluoride is most effective in preventing dental caries it is via the topical route. Taken systemically by mouth it is less effective and potentially at least more dangerous. The question is then, given that 95 per cent of all toothpastes are fluoridated and given that most adults and children wash their teeth at least once a day, why are all of us still being force-fed a medicinal product every day in our drinking water? Is this mass medication any longer justifiable?
Speaking to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children on July 10 last year, Dr Joe Mullen, Principal Dental Surgeon with the North Western Health Board, was responding to concerns raised by Deputy Gay Mitchell about mass medicating the Irish population, and he had this to say: “I would like to address Deputy Mitchell’s question. On mass-medication this would get a lot of sympathy. It is a philosophical argument, so to speak. It strikes me that when one puts a label on something it immediately conjures up a whole range of images. Some would say it is mass medication while others would say we are copying a natural phenomenon, which results in two different images.”
This is a very interesting statement from someone who has already served on the Forum on Fluoridation and who yet again has been hand- picked by Health Minister Micheál Martin to serve on the Expert Body. This Expert Body is to oversee the recommendations of the Forum including their recommendation that fluoride be now added to the population’s drinking water at a level that has “no significant benefit” according to the self-same Forum. Or in other words, Dr Mullen has now been appointed to a body to oversee recommendations to which he is already party. It seems to me that Dr Mullen is at very considerable pains to escape the “mass-medication” label, as he likes to call it. He prefers the image of “copying nature” as if the one image totally negated the other.
I’m sorry Dr Mullen, but it does not wash. By adding fluoride to the population’s drinking water against their wishes you may very well indeed be attempting to copy nature. But you are also mass- medicating. You see, the one does not negate the other. In fact, in order to copy nature you have to mass-medicate and much and all as you might like to escape the second “label” you cannot, unless that is of course you choose to go into a state of denial. If you go into a state of deep denial then throwing fluoride into the public’s drinking water supply is not mass-medication. Of course it isn’t. It is no such thing.
According to a recent article in this paper, the Expert Body has a new recruit. He is unique in that he is the only medical doctor on the entire panel. Dr Brian O’Herlihy, Specialist in Public Health Medicine with the Eastern Regional Health Authority has been appointed by the Minister for Health onto the Irish Expert Body on Fluoride. Congratulations Dr O’Herlihy. I would not for the life of me presume to pre-empt what your contribution to this body is going to be.
However, as a colleague and a fellow medical doctor I take it that you do not approve of mass-medicating the Irish people against their wishes. As a medical doctor I take it that you do not approve of forcing anyone to take medicine. And if the dose of that medicine has already been declared by many of your colleagues on the Expert Body as being of “no significant benefit”, then I take it that as a doctor you will not approve of that either.
If my assumptions are correct then I take it that your only function on the Expert Body is to call the whole thing off urgently and to stop fluoridating our drinking water now.