Andrew Rynne, a general medical practitioner from County Kildare, has mounted a legal challenge to the Irish government over its fluoridation policy. Here, DERRICK GARWOOD BDS reports from a fluoride awareness day in Coventry where Dr Rynne explained why he thinks his chances of success are very good …

DR VYVYAN Howard, a toxicopathologist from Liverpool University, has assembled a case against adding fluoride to drinking water, with much evidence coming from peer-reviewed papers in reputable academic journals.

In seeking to establish that fluoride is harmful, Dr Howard pointed out that the concentration of fluoride in breast milk is 100 times lower than in maternal drinking water, attributing this to an evolutionary system that protects the new-born infant.

Other quoted papers concluded that fluoride is bactericidal, more toxic than lead and possibly a neurotoxicant. Ingested fluoride has also been shown to affect bone. Surveys have revealed that the incidence of osteogenic sarcoma is consistently higher in fluoridated areas than non-fluoridated, and fracture rates are related to fluoride levels in drinking water. Areas where the level is above l.5 ppm (parts per million) have twice as many fractures as those where it is less than 1 ppm.

It is hard to calculate a safe level of exposure to fluoride because, it accumulates in the body, and some fluoride salts – eg sodium fluorosilicate and sodium fluoride are more bio-accumulative than others. Safe exposure is related to body mass and increases with age, but so does the body burden, because of accumulation. To support his other main argument, that fluoride does not protect and even damages teeth, Dr Howard had selected various papers which concluded that students from fluoridated areas had more decay than those from non-fluoridated areas, that the onset of decay is merely delayed by fluoride, and that dental health improved after fluoridation was stopped.

Dr Rynne informed the audience that fluoridation is compulsory in Ireland, where fluoride is classified as a medicinal product and is under the auspices of the Irish Medicines Board. This body is apparently well known for its removal of products containing unlicensed gingko biloba and St John’s Wort from the shelves of health food stores. Why, he wondered, has it done nothing about fluoride, which also has no licence or authorisation?

Micheal Martin, the Irish health minister, last year established a national forum to study fluoridation. However, Dr Rynne questioned its impartiality as, in setting it up, the health minister stated fluoridation was very good and had prevented caries for years. Believing that water is naturally pure, and that if anyone other than the government deposited 2,000 gallons of fluoride into the nation’s drinking water each day they would be prosecuted, Dr Rynne has issued proceedings against the minister for health, the Eastern Regional Health Authority, Kildare County Council, the attorney general and the state.

The basis of his case is that the Irish Constitution guarantees certain human rights, and the 1960 fluoridation law is unconstitutional as it infringes his right to bodily integrity. It is likely to be heard in the high court in about 18 months.

Senior Counsel believes Dr Rynne has every chance of winning his case in the high court or the supreme court. Should that fail, he has an excellent chance in the European Court of Human Rights, arguing that fluoridation breaks article five of the Council of Europe’s 1997 Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine, which states “an intervention in the health field may only be earned out after the person concerned has given free and informed consent”.

All this legal activity is likely to prove expensive. Dr Rynne could not resist smiling as he pointed out that he was, of course, fighting his action on a `no win, no fee’ basis.