A Co Kildare family doctor is to issue High Court proceedings against the state over its water fluoridation policy.
Dr Andrew Rynne claims that the Department of Health is acting unconstitutionally by forcing people to accept mass medication without their permission.
The Irish Medical Board (IMB) will be cited as a co-defendant.
Three-quarters of Irish people now live in areas served by fluoridated water supplies. Fluoride was first introduced into Ireland by the Health (Fluoridation of Water Supplies) Act 1960, following a 45-day hearing in the High Court. The Supreme Court rejected a challenge to the constitutionality of the bill.
“Fluoride has never been tested for safety,” said Rynne, a general practitioner in Clane.
“There are indications that it might be involved in serious diseases such as osteoporosis or brittle bone disease, irritable bowel syndrome and even cancer. But there has been no conclusive scientific proof on either side.”
Only Ireland and Singapore have a national fluoridation policy, according to anti-fluoridation groups.
Since fluoridation was first proposed to counter poor oral hygiene in the late 1950s, 98 per cent of Europe has rejected the treatment.
“Everybody in Ireland is taking in unknown quantities and qualities of fluoride every day, depending on their level of consumption.
“No studies have been done in 40 years to ascertain the levels of fluoride in the Irish population,” said Rynne.
He claims mass fluoridation is contrary to the Convention of Human Rights on biomedicine signed in Strasbourg in December 1999. Pressure has been growing from the public, as well as from the scientific and medical community, for the government to change its policy.
The fluoridation forum, set up by the Minister for Health, Micheal Martin, last year, has received more than 1,000 responses from the public and is expected to submit its report to the minister at the end of the month.
Martin supports fluoridation but is awaiting the report before making any long-term policy decisions, according to his spokesman.
The fluoride introduced into water supplies in Ireland is an untreated byproduct of the fertiliser industry, largely imported from Finland by Albatross Fertilisers of New Ross, Co Wexford.
A spokesman for the company said: “We supply the product to the highest specifications required.”
Rynne is confident about his chances of winning the case.
“It is a philosophical matter. People are being medicated by the state without their approval. Being medicated means being given any substance with a view to diagnosis, treating or preventing a disease. This can’t be done without approval,” he said.
In recent months, 10 local authorities — including Dublin, Kerry, Sligo, Donegal, Leitrim and Longford — and seven urban district councils have voted against fluoridation of the water, but remain bound by the law to implement the policy.
In Northern Ireland, 25 out of 26 local authorities last year voted to veto the introduction of fluoride.
Ireland now lies sixth in the European table of dental health — behind five other countries that do not put fluoride in their water.