The fluoridation of domestic water supplies by local authorities, which has been the norm since the early 1960s, should be banned unless householders agree, the Green Party has proposed.

The Green Party TD, Mr John Gormley, said a curb on the use of fluoride would be a “non-negotiable” demand if the Greens end up in coalition talks after the general election.

Urging the Minister for Health, Mr Martin, to accept his Private Members’ Bill, the Dublin South East TD promised to make fluoride “a very serious issue” in the coming campaign.

Ireland is the only European Union country to put small amounts of fluoride into all public water supplies to reduce the level of tooth decay among adults and children. The Department of Health claims it has cut decay by 70 per cent.

However, opponents, including a growing number of community groups throughout Ireland, argue there is evidence linking fluoride to cancer, osteoporosis and genetic damage. In May 2000, the Minister set up an expert forum to examine the issue and make recommendations for the future – though the body, which has carried out extensive consultations, has not yet produced a report.

The Green’s health spokeswoman, Cllr Deirdre de Burca, said: “Most toothpastes now contain fluoride and if an individual wishes to use such a toothpaste or a mouth wash containing fluoride, they have the freedom to do so.”

The Greens’ proposal was welcomed by Mr Don MacAuley of Irish Dentists Opposing Fluoridation and a lobby group set up in 1999 called Fluoride Free Water. “We are calling on other parties and individuals to support this Bill and reject this unethical, unsafe and undemocratic practice,” said Mr MacAuley, who added that the public has never consented to its use.