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Written Answers. - Water Quality.

Tuesday, 3 December 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 558 No. 4

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 313. Ms O. Mitchell Information on Olivia Mitchell Zoom on Olivia Mitchell  asked the Minister for Health and Children Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin  if he will make available to all members of the Oireachtas a copy of the international scientific critique of the forum report which was commissioned by Voice; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24634/02]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Martin): Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin The use of fluoride technology is known to manifest a positive oral health outcome. Local and national surveys and studies conducted since the introduction of fluoridation in this country attest to the reduced dental decay levels of children and teenagers in fluoridated areas compared to those residing in non-fluoridated areas. The safety and effectiveness of water fluoridation has been endorsed by a number of international and reputable bodies such as the World Health Organisation, the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, the United States Public Health Service and the United States Surgeon General.

Despite these endorsements, I decided to establish the Forum on Fluoridation to review the [1101] fluoridation of public piped water supplies in Ireland. The forum's report was recently launched and its main conclusion was that the fluoridation of public piped water supplies should continue as a public health measure, subject to the recommendations of the forum. The forum also concluded that water fluoridation has been very effective in improving the oral health of the Irish population, especially of children, but also of adults and the elderly; the best available and most reliable scientific evidence indicates that at the maximum permitted level of fluoride in drinking water at one part per million, human health is not adversely affected; and dental fluorosis, a form of discoloration of the tooth enamel, is a well-recognised condition and an indicator of overall fluoride absorption, whether from natural sources, fluoridated water or from the inappropriate use of fluoride toothpaste at a young age. There is evidence that the prevalence of dental fluorosis is increasing in Ireland.

The forum consisted of people with expert knowledge spanning the areas of public health, biochemistry, dental health, bone health, food safety, environmental protection, ethics, water quality, health promotion and representatives from the consumer and environmental areas. This diversity of professional backgrounds and representation was reflected in the comprehensive way the forum conducted its work and research.

The forum's report emerged from fourteen plenary meetings, several meetings of sub-groups and oral presentations of material from both proponents and opponents of fluoridation. The forum invited the public to forward their views and examined more than 1,000 submissions. The forum took a participatory and evidence based approach striving to ensure balance between participants from both sides of the debate on water fluoridation.

Voice is an organisation that wholly opposes fluoridation and despite several invitations to do so, it is regrettable that its members declined to participate in the impartial work of the forum. Many of the issues raised in its commentary are the subject of ongoing research as outlined in chapter 14 of the Forum on Fluoridation. The distribution of the Voice commentary is a matter for those responsible for its publication.

The report of the Fluoridation Forum made 33 recommendations covering a broad range of topics such as research, public awareness, and policy and technical aspects of fluoridation. Following publication of the report, I have asked my Department to establish an expert body as recommended by the forum. This expert body will oversee the implementation of the wide-ranging recommendations of the forum and advise me on all aspects of fluoride going forward. In particular, ongoing research related to fluoride will continue to be evaluated by the expert body and expanded to deal with new emerging issues.


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