A BOMBSHELL report may have finally put paid to Government plans to re -introduce fluoride into tap water in Northern Ireland.
And it could also have major ramifications for the Republic, which along with Britain, are the only two countries in the EU where water is fluoridated.
According to new American research, boys between the ages of five and 10 exposed to fluoride in tap water suffer an increased rate of osteosarcoma – bone cancer.
Although osteosarcoma is rare, accounting for about 3pc of childhood cancers, it is particularly dangerous.
The mortality rate in the first five years is 50pc, and nearly all survivors have limbs amputated.
Fluoridation was abandoned in Ulster in 1996, but in many parts of Britain it is added to the water system on the advice of the British Dental Association.
The Department of Health maintains that it is a cost-effective public health measure that prevents tooth decay.
But environmentalists and consumer groups here have seized on the study – conducted at the Harvard School of Dental Health – claiming it vindicates their opposition to any artificial chemicals in our water.
The increased cancer risks were found at fluoride exposure levels common both in the US, Britain and the Republic.
It was the first examination of the link between exposure to the chemical at the critical period of a child’s development, and the age of onset of bone cancer.
The research has been made available by the Environmental Working Group, a respected Washington-based research organisation.
The group, although unable to explain why males should be affected rather than females, has asked that fluoride in tap water be added to the US government’s classified list of substances known to cause cancer in humans.
Local environmentalist Walter Graham told Sunday Life: “This report clearly demonstrates a link between bone cancer and water fluoridation.
“Bone cancer rates in the Republic are far higher than in Northern Ireland, and you no longer need to ask why.”