Infants should not be given fluoridated water

HERE we are in the only nationally fluoridated country in Europe applauding the good judgment of the American Dental Association (ADA) and the British Fluoridation Society (BFS) for advising parents to use water with little or no fluoride for infant formula only to learn from these two authorities (Letters, October 27) that they consider the risk of fluorosis to babies is negligible.

But if the risk to babies is so low, why then did these authorities go to the trouble of issuing guidelines in the first place?

The truth is that following new research last year, the risk of fluorosis is now perceived to start at infancy and not later, as previously believed.

And why are these warnings very relevant to Ireland? Because the risk of fluorosis here has been shown by UCC’s north-south oral health survey in 2003 to have increased sevenfold since 1984 with one-in-four Irish teenagers now affected. A 40% chance of one’s child being affected is hardly “low”.

What the ADA and the BFS did in November 2006 and February 2007 was to highlight the new research linking the fluorosis risk to the early months of life, something that the Irish Dental Association has regrettably declined to do, despite our promptings earlier this year.

As for the ADA’s characterisation of fluorosis as “faint white lines on teeth not being noticeable to the casual observer”, former chief dental officer Dr Gerry Gavin described them as a biomarker for the level of fluoride in the body. In other words, fluorosis is not merely a cosmetic effect on teeth, but a visible symptom of a general systemic overload of fluoride.

With other recent survey evidence of fluoride intake above safe levels in adults in Co Donegal, there is clearly a major fluoride exposure problem in children and adults here. At the very least, the State’s maternity hospitals must protect bottle-fed new-borns from fluoride by not making up formula with fluoridated tap water as per the original advice of the ADA and BFS.

Robert Pocock

VOICE

Upper Mount Street

Dublin 2

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