Fluoride Action Network

Closing the tap against fluoride

Source: Yediot Achronot | December 14th, 2006 | By Amir Ben-David
Location: Israel

Adding fluoride has been [intended as a measure] to improve the health of the teeth but opposition has been arising due to a fear that fluoride is likely to damage the teeth and even to cause cancer. Now the committee is recommending that fluoridation be stopped until the matter has been appropriately researched. In the meantime, every municipality will decide independently whether or not to fluoridate.

Four years after the Health Ministry decided to add fluoride to Israel’s drinking water in order to reduce dental caries, a special committee is recommending that the Ministry cease water fluoridation. The reason: not a single definitive study demonstrates that the process has any benefit for dental health.

On the contrary, other existing research demonstrates that adding fluoride might even be harmful. It has become known to “Yediot Achronot” that the [committee’s] recommendation will be passed on to the Health Ministry in the next few weeks.

Adding fluoride to Israel’s water systems began in the early 80’s in Gush Dan and about four years ago a regulation came into effect requiring all municipal authorities to add fluoride to the drinking water for the purpose of improving dental health.

However, in the Knesset [Israeli Parliament] the regulation blew up a storm already then. Beyond the social protest against enforcing water fluoridation on the entire populace, points were also raised about harm to health and the environment. Opponents of fluoridation, likewise, introduced research studies that show that adding fluoride not only doesn’t reduce dental cavities. It also may cause damage to the teeth and bones. It has been further found that in high concentrations this substance may cause cancer.

On the other hand, the proponents [of fluoridation] state that there is no absolute proof of damage to the health and that, in any case, there is no risk of danger at the low level at which it is added. In any case, even though the regulation came into effect in 2002 not all local authorities have complied. Currently about 65% of the population are drinking fluoridated water.

One year after the regulation came into effect the subject of fluoridation became one of the most contentious issues in the committee, headed by Professor Avner Adin, for up-dating drinking water standards. Preliminary conclusions presented by the Adin committee determined that the research studies presented to his committee were either contradictory or of mediocre quality at best. For instance, some of the studies showed a rise in the percentage of children not in need of dental fillings in the areas in which fluoride was being added to the water while other studies showed no difference in the rate of decrease in caries between countries which fluoridate and those which do not. In a interim decision the committee determined that, until a comprehensive study to look into the effects of fluoridation, is carried out in Israel, there is no room to stop fluoridation. But such a study is likely to take about five years and in a heated debate that took place two days ago within the committee, a contrary decision was taken by a majority of one vote.

According to Professor Adin it has been decided that the committee will recommend removing the requirement to add fluoride to the water and that every municipal authority will be permitted to make its own decision. The committee’s decision will be in effect until the conclusion of the comprehensive study and the decision as to what action to take in the future will be made of the basis of its findings. It is assumed that adoption of this recommendation will result in most local authorities ceasing to add fluoride to the drinking water for the time being.

says Professor Chaim Tal, in favor of adding fluoride.

Adding fluoride to drinking water substantially reduces the number of dental caries, asserts Professor Chaim Tal, head of the School of Dentistry at Tel Aviv University. Two Israeli studies have found lower cavity levels in children aged 5-12 in fluoridated areas as compared with [children of the same age] in non-fluoridated areas. One of the studies found that the level of caries was 24% higher in the non-fluoridated areas than in those where fluoride was being added. The gap between the poisonous level of fluoridated water and the therapeutic level at which fluoride is added, is very great. Therefore, there is no danger from routine utilization with all acceptable methods in practice today.

Fluoridation of drinking water is the most efficient and best proven measure for lowering dental caries in the world at large and in developing countries where dental caries are high as in Israel in particular. As dental care is not included in the national health insurance package, fluoridating drinking water is essential.

states Shimon Tsuk, opposed to adding fluoride

We are now at a point where there is an excess of fluoride in the environment. Even if fluoride is effective in preventing cavities we must discontinue adding it to our drinking water in order to avoid poisoning, states Shimon Tsuk, hydrologist at the Israel Union for Environmental Defense. A month ago the American Dental Association recommended that parents of infants up to one year old avoid using fluoridated water when preparing baby formulas. There is evidence that infants absorb large quantities [of fluoride] into their systems and this effects teeth and bones, says Mr. Tsuk.

Where the fluoride level in water is high one can observe white spots on people’s teeth and where the level is very high yellow or brown spots occur. Fluoride is absorbed into the bones and a recent American study found a correlation between children who developed bone cancer and also were drinking fluoridated water during childhood. In Europe dental health care is included in the national health care programs, whereas in Israel it is not. This is one of the justifications which government health care officials give for adding this dangerous substance to the water.


(Translation from Hebrew to English courtesy of Elizabeth Ramsay)