Renewed Irish water fluoridation review call

THERE were renewed calls last night for a review of Ireland’s mandatory fluoridation of Irish water.

This followed a study found weight gain and depression caused by an under-active thyroid is linked to high levels of fluoride in water.

Scientists say water fluoridation above a certain level is linked to 30 percent higher than expected rates of hypothyroidism in England. Worryingly, the fluoride levels of concern are considerably LESS than the maximum levels of fluoride the HSE puts into our water supply here.

imgresLast night Fianna Fail Cork County councillor Christopher O’Sullivan said: ‘I wouldn’t be in a position to debate the pros and cons of the science behind fluoridation. But this study reiterates the need for a wider debate and a review of this country’s mandatory fluoridation of water supplies.’

He was behind a motion passed last March in which Cork County Council became the first council to call on the government to stop putting fluoride into water supplies. The call was followed by similar ones from councils in Kerry, Dublin, Cavan and Wexford.

He added: ‘I only put forward the motion on an issue of freedom of choice. Fluoride hasn’t been removed from our supply in Cork despite the successful vote, which has cross-party support.

‘There is enough evidence to create doubt about the use of it in our country’s water supply. I would hope this study encourages the government to review the issue. There needs to be an independent study into its use, especially as the last big one was back in 2000.’

Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral found in water and certain foods including tea and fish. Its main benefit is in helping reduce the risk of tooth decay. As a result the mineral is added to many brands of toothpaste, and in some areas, to the water supply.

But researchers at the University of Kent have warned the mineral may be responsible for triggering underactive thyroids. Also known as hypothyroidism, the condition prevents the thyroid – a gland in the neck – producing vital hormones.

That in turn, promotes weight gain, causes depression and tiredness in sufferers. The authors, led by Professor Stephen Peckham, conclude: ‘Consideration needs to be given to reducing fluoride exposure.’ The scientists examined 2012 levels of fluoride in drinking water supply.

Professor Stephen Peckham
Professor Stephen Peckham

They looked at these fluoride levels in conjunction with the national prevalence of underactive thyroid. The researchers also carried out a secondary analysis, comparing two built-up areas. The West Midlands, which is supplied with fluoridated drinking water, was pitched against Greater Manchester, which isn’t.

Where fluoride levels were above 0.7mg per litre – which is 0.1mg less than the maximum limit put into Irish water – they found higher than expected rates of hypothyroidism than in areas with levels below this dilution. High rates of hypothyroidism were at least 30 per cent more likely in GP practices located in areas with fluoride levels in excess of 0.3mg per litre, which is .3mg less than the bottom limit put into Irish water supplies.

Fluoridation of drinking water supplies, which has been going on since 1964, is governed by Fluoridation of Water Supplies Regulations 2007. The Health Service Executive has responsibility for fluoridation policy and for coordinating all matters relating to the implementation of the fluoridation of water supplies in Ireland.

The Regulations require the amount of fluoride which may be added to public water supplies shall be such that the water, after the addition of the fluoride, shall contain not more than 0.8 milligrams of fluoride per litre (mg/l) of water, and not less than 0.6 milligrams of fluoride per litre (mg/l) of water.

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A spokesperson for Irish Water said last night: ‘Irish Water act as agents of HSE in fluoridating water supplies in succession to the local authorities who were agents of the Department of Health/HSE since 1964 following the introduction of fluoridation in Ireland by way of the Health (Fluoridation of Water Supplies) Act 1960.

‘Irish Water complies with the above Regulations in fluoridating water supplies.’

A Department of Health spokesperson said: ‘Water fluoridation is the adjustment of the natural concentration of fluoride in drinking water to the optimal recommended level for the prevention of dental decay.

‘Fluoride strengthens the teeth, strong teeth result in fewer fillings, fewer extractions and fewer visits to the dentist. In Ireland, the Forum on Fluoridation reviewed fluoridation policy in 2000 and concluded the fluoridation of public piped water supplies should continue as a public health measure.

‘The Department of Health keeps the policy of water fluoridation under constant review.

‘As part of this ongoing work, a review of evidence on the impact of water fluoridation at its current level on the health of the population has been conducted by the Health Research Board on behalf of the Department. This is currently being finalised.’

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