The Minister for Health has announced the establishment of an expert forum to examine the fluoridation of public water supplies and to make recommendations on its future use here. Ireland is the only country in Europe where fluoridation of public water supplies is mandatory and opponents say that there is growing evidence linking the chemical with cancer, osteoporosis and genetic damage.

For the past 37 years, local authorities have been adding tiny quantities of fluoride to public piped water supplies to reduce the levels of tooth decay among adults and children in this country. The Department of Health says that it has paid off hugely, reducing levels of dental decay by up to 70%. It also claims that the safety of water fluoridation has been confirmed by several major reviews of scientific evidence spanning almost three decades.

However, fluoridation is hugely controversial and has been banned in most European countries. Opponents say that there is growing evidence linking it with cancer and osteoporosis. Announcing the establishment of the Forum on Fluoridation, Mícheal Martin said, while it has made a major contribution to oral health, he was anxious to give groups opposed to fluoridation an opportunity to have their concerns answered.