This time last year the strategic policy committee on water supply and sewerage of Mayo County Council was given a presentation by Stephen Kerr of Fluoride Awareness Mayo, where he called on Mayo County Council to end the practice of putting fluoride in the water supply alleging that it can pose serious health risks to the public and the council was leaving itself open to potential legal claims.
At a meeting of the same committee this week, the committee was given a presentation by Dr Joe Mullen and Ray Parle from the Irish Expert Body on Fluoride and Health which was set up by the Government in 2004. Leading the presentation was Dr Mullen who spoke on three issues, the effectiveness, safety, and whether fluoridation was an unusual practice. He told the meeting that these three, along with civil rights issues, were the main things that came up in discussions, but as he was not a politician or lawyer the civil rights strand was not in his area of expertise, so he could not speak on it.
During his presentation he outlined what he saw as the effectiveness of the fluoridation programme in Ireland since it was introduced, especially in the dental protection for lower income families, who could not afford regular or expensive dental treatments. He also told the meeting there have been allegations of fluoride causing numerous diseases, but none has ever been conclusively proven. As for it being an unusual practice, Dr Mullen told the meeting that while a number of countries did not have water fluoridation programmes, they did add fluoride to other things such as salt or milk, a practice not carried out in Ireland. He told the committee that a lot of the information that is presented on fluoridation can be found on the internet and is not peer reviewed, and that his organisation uses only peer reviewed information. He also said that the total cost of the fluoridation scheme in the country was €3.4 to €3.5 million a year.
When asked about any potential legal issues for the council because of the fluoridation of public water, he told the members that he could not see any as the council provides the service as an agent for the Government, and the scheme is national law, so it would actually be against the law not to do so.
Mr Kerr, who was at the meeting as an observer, tried to ask a question of the meeting, but as he was not a member of the committee he was informed he was not entitled to do so. The committee asked to be provided with a copy of the presentation by Dr Mullen and of the reports he spoke about during the presentation, so they could consider them and discuss them again if needed.