Tap water warnings for baby formula

LETTERS have been sent to maternity hospitals from an environmental group warning them of the dangers of using tap water in newborn babies’ formula feed.

According to Voice of Irish Concern for the Environment (VOICE), Irish tap water should not be used to make up baby feeds as it exceeds the maximum fluoride levels as recommended by the American Dental Association (ADA) and the British Fluoridation Society (BFS). The group says Irish tap water contains 0.7 milligrams per litre of fluoride while the ADA and BFS say only less than0.3 milligrams is safe.

VOICE spokesman Robert Pocock said dental fluorosis has increased eightfold among Irish teenagers in the past 20 years and this is a direct consequence of overexposure to fluoride.

The National Children’s Hospital in Crumlin recommends five bottled waters as suitable for making up formula for newborns — Evian, Vittel, Spa, Font Vella and Isabelle, all of which are low in fluoride.

The anti-fluoridation group said newborns are one of the groups vulnerable to the effects of exposure to fluoridated water.

ADA advice to use no fluoride or low fluoride water in making up infant formula “was prompted by research linking fluoride exposure in an infant’s first years with dental fluorosis in the permanent teeth”, the letter said.

“While there have been several similar recommendations to protect newborns in Ireland from fluoride, including one in October 2001 from the Food Safety Authority scientific committee, these have not been acted upon and newborn babies in Ireland still appear to receive formula made up only from fluoridated tap water,” it added.

The vast majority of Irish dentists continue to support general water fluoridation and the use of fluoride toothpaste. Professor Denis O’Mullane of Cork University Dental Hospital, who has researched the issue extensively, says the benefits of water fluoridation far outweigh the risks for the general population.

“If you look at the levels of tooth decay in the North, where there is no water fluoridation, and in the south of Ireland, where it was introduced in 1970, you see a real difference. Back in the ’60s the levels of tooth decay would have been similar, now levels in the North are significantly higher,” he said.

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