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.’

Anti co-location campaigner Christine O’Malley to fight on

AN anti co-location campaigner whose protests against the Beacon Medical Group have led to the firm laying staff off last night vowed to continue her fight.
Consultant geriatrician Dr Christine O’Malley, former head of the Irish Medical Organisation, has been involved in helping direct a series of legal challenges to Beacon’s planning applications to build their private hospitals in Limerick and Cork.
The troubled group’s failure to get permission to build is costing the company dear in legal and consultancy fees on top of the estimated €850m it has to raise to fund its plans.
On Friday, the group – which, in 2006, owed €142m to banks, and a further €3.4m other creditors, including the Revenue Commissioner – announced six redundancies and pay reviews for senior staff.
The decision comes just a few weeks after the Irish Mail on Sunday revealed that the Beacon Medical Group is in danger of being struck off for failing to file accounts on time.
If Dr O’Malley’s efforts – and those of her partner Tom O’Donoghue – had backfired, they would both have been faced with legal bills of more than €150,000.
O’Donoghue, for example, had appealed An Bord Pleanala’s decision to grant planning permission to Beacon’s Limerick planning application all the way to the High Court for a judicial review.
He won, now the application is back to square one and Dr O’Malley is vowing to take that application all the way to judicial review if needs be.
Last night, Dr O’Malley said: ‘I fully intend carrying on with my opposition to whatever planning permission they apply for.
‘If it costs the company ever more money, then so be it.’
She added: ‘Private hospitals do not treat really sick people. They deal with the walking wounded and worried well, and planned operations, not emergencies.
‘And few, if any, actually have doctors on call throughout the night on a regular basis.
‘Mary Harney at the Department of Health seems convinced that private hospitals will take up the slack and end up treating all comers.
‘That just isn’t going to happen.
‘Objecting to Beacon’s planning applications is just my way of throwing sands in the wheels of something I am very opposed to.’
The Beacon Medical Group group, faces being banned from operating if overdue accounts are not filed. They were due last May.
BMG is the most important player in the Government’s controversial co-location initiative and awarded HSE contracts to build private hospitals on State-owned land at Dublin’s Beaumont, Cork and Limerick.
Car dealer Michael Cullen is chief executive of the company, which is co-owned by property developer Paddy Shovlin.
A spokesman for the Beacon Medical Group said recently the group was in a sound financial position.
‘We are not struggling financially. We have a number of profitable companies,’ said Pauline Cullen who handles communications for the group.
‘We are a very small project team and we are doing an awful lot. We possibly do too much for the size that we are.’
Miss Cullen said the fact that a helicopter owned by BMG directors had been mortgaged to Bank of Scotland in April was not related to any company financing efforts. With bank debts of E150m registered in 2006, the firm
took out two new mortgages with Ulster Bank this February.
In a statement to the IMoS recently , a spokesman said the company had engaged in ‘productive discussions with a number of banks’ and was confident of raising the required finance for the co-location projects.
Last night, the online edition of the Companies Registration Office carried no record of up-to-date accounts received.