Many who oppose water fluoridation consider it to be a form of compulsory mass medication. They argue that consent by all water consumers cannot be achieved, nor can water suppliers accurately control the exact levels of fluoride that individuals receive. Neither can they, critics complain, monitor their response.
Opposition to fluoridation has existed in one form or another since its initiation in the 1940s. During the 1950s and 1960s feeling were running so high that some opponents claimed that fluoridation was actually a communist plot to undermine public health.
They also opposed other public health programmes. notably mass vaccinations and mental health services.
In a paroxysm of right-wing rhetoric, an anti-fluoridation American doctor Charles Brett claimed that fluoridation was “better than using an atom bomb”.
In 2004, investigative journalist and author of The Fluoride Deception Christopher Bryson, claimed: “The post-war campaign to fluoridate drinking water was less a public health innovation than a public relations ploy sponsored by industrial users of fluoride.”
But despite opponents’ concerns, supporters of the process say that evidence supports water fluoridation’s effectiveness in reducing cavities in both children and adults. Yet most countries in Europe have experienced substantial declines in cavities without the use of water fluoridation. In Finland and Germany, for instance, tooth decay rates remained stable or continued to decline after water fluoridation stopped.
In 2014, Aisling Fitzgibbon, a nutritionist, is taking a High Court case against the Irish State to reverse the policy of mandatory fluoridation. She has been running an effective campaign under the banner of The Girl Against Fluoride. The organisation is currently selling a ‘Naked Truth’ calendar to raise funds for the court case.
Aisling says that she became aware of the devastating effects of fluoride while suffering from depression some years ago.
On the advice of a nutritional therapist she stopped drinking and cooking with fluoridated water and supplemented her diet with iodine and magnesium. Within seven months she was better, she says. Aisling wants to know why, if 98% of Europe has access to fluoride free water, then why can’t Ireland?
Recently, Bantry hosted a West Cork Water event, a protest designed to increase public awareness of this contentious issue. Although it is as yet unconfirmed, it has been suggested that the government is preparing to review its stance on mandatory fluoridation during 2014.
In 1957, the Department of Health set up the Fluorine Consultative Council, which recommended fluoridation of public water supplies, which at that time, were accessed by 50% of the population.
This was felt to be a much cheaper way of improving the quality of children’s teeth than employing more dentists. The Guild of Saints Luke, Cosmos and Damian, set up by Archbishop of Dublin John Charles McQuaid, gave ethical approval for this move.
I spoke to local Fluoride Free Campaign member Owen Boyden, a qualified skipper with strong environmental concerns.
Q. How did you get involved?
A. “Over the last couple of years during conversations with friends I became aware that Ireland unfortunately remains the only European country and one of the last countries worldwide to force its citizens to consume water treated with Hexafluorosilicic Acid, the chemical used to artificially fluoridate public water supplies. The EU banned this chemical in 2005 for use as a biocidal chemical product, due to health and environmental concerns. Many leading international scientific and medical experts as well as foreign governments believe mandatory fluoridation of public water is unlawful and may contribute to long-term detrimental health effects when ingested by humans.”
Q. When did you join up?
A. “Just over a year ago I came across a public social media campaign known as ‘The Girl Against Fluoride’, whose mission is to raise awareness of the fluoride issue and to have Ireland’s mandatory public water fluoridation reversed. Thanks to this ingenious campaign it was brought home to me that fluoride is a toxic poison that could be a contributory factor to illnesses, sometimes fatal, that so many people in my own community are suffering from. Since viewing scientific evidence I’ve felt personally compelled to actively support the awareness campaign so that the health of people now and for generations to come will be improved.”
Q. What changes would you like to see this campaign realise?
A. “I’d like the Irish Government to follow international precedent with regard to modern day water fluoridation policy and immediately reverse their isolated position of mandating that every county council in Ireland add hexafluorosilicic acid to public water supplies.”
Q. What do you think of evidence which supports the position that dental decay has been reduced by this policy?
A. “Research has indicated that tooth decay is prevented to some degree through the ingestion of hexafluorosilicic acid, yet academic studies have also pointed out that any positive effects are due to topical application rather than complete body ingestion. An alternative to this controversial policy is that the €5m the Government spends on this, could, instead, be spent educating children to properly brush their teeth, and the effects that bad diets have on dental and general health. If someone feels that ingesting hexafluorosilicic acid will prevent tooth decay, by all means let them. But no one should be forced into it. The Irish people deserve to have a choice in this matter.”