Water fluoridation

Fluoridation of water…

The campaign against the mandatory fluoridation of public water supplies in Ireland has been growing for many years, indeed ever since the first objection was raised back in the 1963. However, the debate on the subject will soon reach a critical point with the Fluoridation Forum due to report to the Health Minister shortly. The National Forum was convened in May 2000.

In recent years the clamour against the mandatory fluoridation of water has become organised and significantly more vocal. Lobby groups like Fluoride Free Water have kept the issue in the public eye. In addition to ten local authorities, including Dublin, Kerry, Sligo, Donegal, Leitrim and Longford and seven urban district councils, the Consumers Association of Ireland (CAI) is the latest of a number of independent organisations that have voted against fluoridation of water supplies.

"We are of the opinion that Government policy should now change to allow every consumer choice in the matter of fluoridation of drinking water supplies", explained Michael Kilcoyne, the CAI's chairman. "It's a question of choice. If you buy a glass of beer, the chances are it contains fluoride. The consumer should have the choice on whether or not to have water that contains fluoride".

Anti-fluoride campaigners take to the streets of Dublin.

These groups have been joined by a small number of dentists and doctors, whose opinions on the issue contrast sharply with most of their peers. The big question is - is adding fluoride to almost 75% of the state's water supply protecting our teeth or actually damaging them?


The concerns over the addition of fluoride to drinking water are related to both the mandatory nature of the practice and to the additive substance itself. Hydrofluorosilic acid, the means by which fluoride is added to water, is an industrial by-product. Its means of production need not necessarily be of concern if the substance has proven health benefits for all, but opponents to mandatory fluoridation allege that excess fluoride can be linked to a range of diseases, including osteoporosis and thyroid cancer. However, properly conducted studies have yet to categorically link the addition of fluoride to drinking water with any condition other than dental mottling - the fluorosis effect.

Fluoridation first became popular in America when it was discovered that areas where the water was rich in naturally occurring fluoride experienced less dental caries. It was already known that excessive fluoride could cause teeth to mottle, meaning that the enamel surface would become uneven. Fluoridation remains popular in the United States, but in Europe many countries have withdrawn from the practice. In fact, Ireland remains the last full territory in Europe to add fluoride to drinking water.


Confusion and concern among the public has risen to fever pitch in recent months as conflicting reports about the efficacy or danger of fluoride have emanated from both the pro and anti camps. Recently, a highly publicised study from the Dublin Dental Hospital that apparently indicated that infants were receiving poisonous levels of fluoride turned out to be an undergraduate research project.

The lobby group fluoride Free Ireland has raised the issue of medical licensing for the fluoride added to Irish water. If fluoride offers health benefits, it should be licensed by the Irish Medicines Board, they argue. The IMB's enforcement officer Mr Hugo Bonner responded to this issue in a speech delivered at Trinity College Dublin recently.

"There are many substances available in the country of which the Irish Medicines Board is aware of but have not decided to take action on", he said. He added that if the substance in question, hydrofluorosilic acid, was unsafe, it would have been banned by the Environmental Protection Agency.

However, Dr Paddy Flanagan of the EPA is on record as saying that the agency's role does not encompass 'any competence or function in topics which affect public health'. Instead, the EPA is charged simply with analysing the constitution of drinking water and reporting on the results. While this includes monitoring fluoride levels in Irish drinking water, it does not include decision-making in the public health debate over the addition of fluoride.

Fluoride is added to substances other than water, including toothpaste.

So who is responsible for deciding if the addition of fluoride to our drinking water is a good, or even a safe thing? Ultimately such policy decisions are usually made by the Department of Health, which set up the National Forum to look into the entire issue. The Forum threw the floor open to the public in order to gain as many opinions as possible and received over 1,000 submissions.

Abusive calls

Such has been the passionate nature of the debate, some individuals have made irate and even abusive telephone calls to the secretariat of the Fluoridation Forum. Two of the members of the Forum also said that they had received calls of a similar nature. With tensions running so high, will everyone appreciate a measured and considered appraisal of fluoridation from the Forum? And if a decision is taken to continue with fluoridation, what will be the response from the lobby groups, dissident dentists and others who are strongly against the measure?

It may be that the Forum may not get the chance to deliver its verdict, as a well-known GP from Kildare has recently taken the issue out of the press, off the streets and into the courts. Dr Andrew Rynne has issued proceedings against the Department of Health and the Irish Medicines Board, claiming that the mass fluoridation of the populace is unconstitutional. Dr Rynne argues that fluoridation contravenes the Convention of Human Rights on biomedicine signed in Strasbourg in December 1999. If his High court case is successful, it could leave the Forum's report in limbo.

"It is a philosophical matter", Dr Rynne said. "People are being medicated by the State without their approval. Being medicated means being given any substance with a view to diagnosis, treating or preventing a disease. No studies have been done in 40 years to ascertain the levels of fluoride in the Irish population. Everybody in Ireland is taking in unknown quantities and qualities of fluoride every day, depending on their level of consumption".

The Department of Health may have hoped that in setting up the Forum, the controversy over fluoridation might abate, at least until its report had been heard. But by all accounts, the real battle may be only about to begin.


paul(paulholland) - 17/10/2001 13:11

Let's see some real evidence of the danger(?) and, if there is, is it affecting a significant number of people. Sadly, there is no perfect medicine. In the meantime, I'll stick with my proven healthier teeth and gums

Anonymous - 17/10/2001 21:17

What about all these families who have private water supplies? Well done Dr. Andrew Rynne and best of luck.

David(Macwalsh) - 17/10/2001 23:17

I have my own well but I don;t know what fluoride I receive in other ways. I vote for freedom of choice.

Gerard(fluoridefree) - 18/10/2001 00:22

There is no perfect medicine, I agree, but with medication you make an informed decision, being aware of the side-effects, to take it or not. This is not the case with fluoridation. You have no choice. There is no informed consent. Even if you avoid drinking tap water and buy bottled water, if you can afford it, you will not be able to avoid fluoride. Your bath water is fluoridated and you will absord fluoride through your skin. All processed food in Ireland such as canned soups, soft drinks and beer are constituted with fluoridated water. Guinness recently admitted that Guinness brewed in Ireland has 6-7 times the fluoride level of Guinness brewed in London (http://homepage.eircom.net/~fluoridefree/pressreleases/Guinness.htm).You also ingest fluoride from toothpaste and dental products e.g. mouthwashes, tablets and drops. Other sources of fluoride include foods, (such as tea, grape juice and fish), pollution (e.g. aluminium smelters, cement making, unleaded petrol) and pharmaceuticals (e.g. Prozac). Therefore, because of these many sources of fluoride it is important to consider our total fluoride intake. Fluoride is a accumulative toxin. It builds up in the body mostly the bones and teeth but what is the effect of a lifetime's exposure to this toxin and who is measuring our level of exposure. The answer no-one is investigating and more importantly no-one knows. Successive Ministers of Health have been required by law (Health Act 1960) to study the effect of water fluoridation over the last forty years. Yet, there has never been a health study! The most comprehensive review on fluoridation to date, "The York Review"(http://www.york.ac.uk/inst/crd/=summary.pdf), states "the prevalence of fluorosis at a water fluoride level of 1ppm was estimated at 48%". This means that nearly half of a fluoridated population will have evidence of a new oral disease inflicted upon them against their will. Please demand an informed choice in regards this mass-medication.

Anonymous - 30/01/2002 19:58

If fluoride is an accumulative toxin, how do we know if we are poisoned? Why has there not been mass health screening of the Irish population? It is our right as members of the EU to demand that if the government of the day sanctions fluoride, they should also enforce the law (Health Act 1960) and undertake mass health screening. In the USA, you cannot help but notice if a product contains fluoride the word POISON is mentioned! Why not here! Has anyone taken a test case to the EU?

Char - 12/12/2009 21:34

Good post Gerard!!! I am aware this is an old post but I only came across it this evening and it worth highlighting here again. You can get flouride free toothpaste  in the health stores. I use Kingfisher which is great!! Made with fennell and it tastes like blackjack sweets Smile

Its disgraceful that they are still flouridating over 70% of our water but like Gerard says even if you dont drink tap water its hard to get away from it. Not only does it build up in the body it calcifies our third eye.

I brought it up with many a councilor and not suprisingly none of them were even aware how toxic flouride is!!!

This is an infringement on our human rights in particular if they are going to start charging us for water next year!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

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