MONDAY at County Hall was an historic and happy day for West Cork Fluoride Free Campaign (WCFFC), when a motion from Cllr Christopher O’Sullivan (Fianna Fail), calling for an immediate cessation of fluoridation of the public water supply, was supported without opposition at a meeting of Cork County Council.
Prior to the meeting, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Simon Coveney told Fine Gael members that Minister for Health Dr James Reilly intended setting up an expert group of consultants from outside Ireland to examine the entire issue.
Outside County Hall with a banner reading ‘Cork for a fluoride-free Ireland’ ahead of the meeting were WCFFC members Owen Boyden, Coomhola; Sheila Murphy, Macroom; and town councillors Anne Cullinane, Clonakilty and Diarmuid Murphy, Bantry, who were met by councillors from all political groupings, while Owen Boyden conveyed the group’s concerns to Minister Coveney.
Unlike a medicine prescribed by a doctor to a patient, fluoride added to the public water supply was mass medication without choice and that was wrong, said Cllr C O’Sullivan, proposing his motion. It wasn’t an EU directive and furthermore contravened the European Convention on Human Rights. He said that 98% of EU countries didn’t have fluoride in their water and such a figure raised doubt and representing what was the overwhelming will of the public, there had been calls for a ban from four county and 40 town councils, including all six in West Cork.
Cllr O’Sullivan also referred to expert reports which concluded fluoride was harmful to health in many ways with zero benefit from its ingestion. While the rate of leukaemia had risen by 3% in the Republic per annum since the 1990s, he said, there was no increase in Northern Ireland which does not have fluoridation.
The motion was seconded by Cllr Adrian Hurley (Fine Gael), who said there were now fears. His concern was that some of the countries Ireland exports to were calling into question the use of fluoride in its food products and if stopped for that reason, it would be very detrimental to economic recovery.
‘I grew up with a local water supply with no fluoride in it and currently have a bored well and I still have a head of teeth’, said Cllr Patrick G Murphy (FF) in support of the motion. Using fluoride toothpaste was sufficient and there was no need to add it to water.
Cllr Noel O’Donovan (FG) complimented the West Cork group and along with other members, welcomed the announcement by Minister Coveney. Cessation wasn’t going to happen immediately so he suggested Minister Reilly be written to and asked to fast-track setting up the expert group.Cllr John O’Sullivan (FG) said he was of the view ‘if in doubt, leave it out’ and believed the onus should instead be on experts to make the case for fluoride to be added while Cllr Derry Canty (FG) suggested a letter be sent to the Minister for Health immediately.
There was support from Fine Gael councillor Dermot Sheehan (FG), Kevin Murphy, Jerry Sullivan and Mayor Noel O’Connor, from Michelle Hennessy of Sinn Fein, Aindrias Moynihan, Donal O’Rourke, Danny Crowley and Alan Coleman (FF), Independent Noel Collins and many other members who agreed fluoride should be a question of choice, not something forced on to the people.
Cllr Noel Costello (Lab) suggested the council await the outcome of the HSE’s Fluoride and Caring for Children’s Teeth study of five year olds in schools in Cork, Kerry and Dublin.
Deputy county manager Mr Declan Daly said the council was obliged to have a fluoride supply until the Department of Health decided otherwise and the issue was now a matter for Irish Water.
Thanking fellow members for their support of the motion which will be forwarded to the Minister for Health, Cllr C O’Sullivan said: ‘It is important not to underestimate the significance of this resolution. The fluoride-free movement now has the backing of Ireland’s largest county council. This will surely add to the pressure on government to change the current legislation. The wishes of the people were voiced and heard today.’
Welcoming the backing of the county council, Anne Cullinane of Clonakilty TC and one of the co-ordinators of the fluoride-free towns initiative commented: ‘We’ve had reviews and there are plenty of studies done worldwide to show that there is enough doubt about this practice. This is just a delaying tactic. If in doubt leave it out. Until this practice can be proved 100% safe, then it should not be added to our water. But having said that, my firm belief is that the public water supply should never be used to treat humans anyway. It is ethically and morally wrong. A review does not address the issue of freedom of choice.’