The Mekorot Water Company is currently preparing to implement the Ministry of Health decision to add fluoride to [all] drinking water in Israel. At present only half of the population are being supplied with water enriched with fluoride. Thus, a large number of new installations are expected to be in operation no later than December 2001. These developments have been triggering a strong reaction from environmentalists, both locally and internationally, who claim that public health will be negatively effected by water fluoridation. These groups also contend that forcing fluoride upon a whole population [without their consent], is illegal.

The environmental protection group, “Man, Nature and Law”, has recently appealed to the Ministry of Health to rescind this measure, but without success. The purpose of fluoridation is to protect teeth against dental caries. This procedure is currently practiced in several countries, including the U.S.A. but is not in effect in all European countries. Here in Israel partial fluoridation was initiated in the early 80’s. According to opponents, when fluoride is added to the water the public are subjected to a toxic substance. Among the health risks they mention are damage to the kidneys and to the gastro-intestinal system. Fluoride also causes bone damage. It harms the gene system and adversely effects the I.Q. of babies.  Opponents point to experiments with rats which, after exposure to a level of fluoride comparable to that used in public water, suffered brain damage. Another claim is that fluoride actually damages the teeth by producing a toxic state called fluorosis. The manifestation of this toxicity is the appearance of black and yellow stains on the teeth and in more severe cases causes the deterioration of the tooth itself.

The Ministry of Health adamantly denies all claims against the use of fluoride. In a reply to an appeal made by Loty Zilberman, a toxicologist who strongly opposes the use of fluoride, the Director of Dental Health in the Health Ministry, Dr.Tirza Ramon, wrote: — There is a national consensus of scientific health organizations in various countries and in the W.H.O. that when fluoride is added to drinking water at an optimal level, it is the most inexpensive, efficient and safest method of reducing the incidence of dental caries. Ramon adds that there are no known side effects to the health of the public.

In contrast, the “Man, Nature and Law Society” contend that no research has been carried out here in recent years to discover what has been happening in Israeli communities during the time period when fluoridation has been in effect. They also point out that dentists are not required to report cases of dental fluorosis to the Ministry of Health. Consequently, it is impossible to determine whether or not there has been an increase in this condition as a result of fluoridation.

Scientists at York University in [England] recently carried out a major survey of research findings concerning the use of fluoride and concluded that there is a great lack of knowledge as to the positive and negative effect of fluoride on teeth. According to the report, there was no evidence of a connection between causes of cancer and fluoride. Nor did they find reason to conclude that fluoride causes bone damage. [On the other hand] the [English] researchers pointed out that, in view of the great public interest in fluoride, it was surprising to find so little quality research regarding fluoride’s effect on the teeth. Most research on cavity prevention and on the increased incidence of fluorosis provided insufficient data for appropriate scientific analysis and failed to take into account additional factors which might be influencing the condition of the teeth. It seemed apparent that fluoride does aid in preventing dental caries but it is unclear to what extent.

On the other hand, the health establishment interprets these findings as conclusive proof for their claims that fluoridation has no negative side effects. Environmental societies, on the other hand, insist that whole populations are being subjected to a substance via the drinking water, the health effects of which have not been properly researched.