Claims of under-reporting Fluoride Exposure

In a major development in our investigation into the policy of fluoridation, figures presented by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland have been described as “wildly inaccurate”...

In a dramatic new development in our ongoing investigation into the truth about the impact of mandatory fluoridation of the water supply in Ireland, Hot Press has uncovered further startling facts, which directly contradict the official position on what is an increasingly controversial policy.

It is an indisputable fact that fluoride is a highly toxic substance. Consumed in sufficient quantities it would kill anyone. However the official line has been that there is a ‘safe’ amount that can be put in the public water supply. The figures that Hot Press has uncovered suggest that calculation of this ‘safe’ amount has been skewed heavily by the underestimation of the volume of fluoride in a variety of foodstuffs.

Generally speaking, the extent of the threat posed by fluoride hinges on how much of this chemical we are ingesting, via the combination of water, food and beverages, dental products, medicines and other sources. In a country where the water supply is fluoridated, every single food and drink product is also fluoridated. This is especially so where those which require water to be boiled are concerned. The longer water is boiled, the higher the fluoride concentration becomes, affecting tea, coffee, soups, stocks and indeed much else that is cooked.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has stated that prior to commencement of water fluoridation, in order to avoid overexposure to fluoride, authorities must accurately determine the total existing fluoride exposure of the population – including the exposure of all sensitive subgroups, such as young infants and the elderly; people with diseases such as diabetes or thyroid dysfunction; and heavy consumers of water, such as labourers and sports enthusiasts.

Despite the fact that fluoridation began in the Republic five decades ago, this due diligence was never carried out. The first ever attempt to measure the level of fluoride exposure in Ireland was undertaken by the State just two years ago, in 2011. This, in itself, is a shameful dereliction by the relevant authorities. But if an accurate, up-to-date picture had been ascertained, then at least there would be a genuine basis for taking policy decisions on the matter. What happened in practice seems to have been very different indeed…


In 2011, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) produced the Total Diet Study, which calculated the exposure of the population to chemicals, including fluoride, based on chemical analysis of certain foods and beverages.

The results of this study have subsequently been used by the Minister for Health, James Reilly, among others, to justify the continued fluoridation of public water supplies in Ireland.

The problem with this, argues Declan Waugh, the campaigning Irish scientist, is that the FSAI’s fluoride exposure results are wildly inaccurate.

The maximum tolerable upper limit for fluoride intake from all food sources, including water, for adults, is 7mg of fluoride per day, according to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). The WHO has set a considerably lower recommended daily intake for fluoride of 3mg for adults.

In a letter from Minister for Health, Dr James Reilly, to Mr Jimmy Deenihan, Minister for Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht Affairs, dated 9 November 2012, Dr Reilly wrote:

“A study by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI), the Total Diet Study (TDS), published in 2011, shows that the average exposure of Irish consumers to fluoride from food is 9µg per kilogram of body weight per day. This represents 7.5% of the safe upper limit. If exposure to fluoride from drinking water is included, it represents 23.9% of this value on average.”

In other words, according to the Minister for Health, based on data provided by the FSAI, the ‘average person’ in Ireland (whoever that is) consumes just 7.5% of the safe upper limit for fluoride from food per day. When fluoridated water is included in the fluoride tally, the ‘average person’ consumes just under a quarter of the safe upper limit.

“It follows from the Minister’s calculations,” deduces Declan Waugh, “that the total dietary intake for fluoride for adults is on average 1.65 mg per day from all dietary sources.”

Which might be fine – except for one thing. According to Declan Waugh, this level of fluoride intake is reached by any individual, who consumes just a single cup of tea, which is made with fluoridated water. And as we know, Ireland is a nation of tea drinkers.

“Many Irish people drink on average between 3 and 6 cups of tea per day,” Waugh says. “Some drink even more. The level of fluoride in tea measured by the FSAI was between 0.4 and 0.7mg/L, which is less than the fluoride level in fluoridated tap water.”

Waugh insists that this figure is clearly and demonstrably inaccurate.

“I am aware of over 14 international published studies, in addition to published reports from government agencies around the world, examining the fluoride levels in black teas,” he says. “The range of fluoride levels was between 1.2mg/L and 4.5mg/L, where the tea infusion was made using non-fluoridated water. All of these studies support my own findings, which found fluoride levels in black teas sold in Ireland to range from 2.4 – 5.5 mg/L when prepared with fluoridated tap water.”

People can be blinded by figures. But the implications of what Declan Waugh is saying are stark.

He quotes from one scientific study (Cao et al. ‘Safety evaluation on fluoride content in black tea’, Food Chemistry 88 (2004) 233–236), which is very explicit in its evaluation of the serious risks involved. “These results suggest,” the report says, “that, for heavy black tea drinkers, the fluoride intake in areas with drinking water fluoridation, and also other probable sources of fluoride, may approach or reach the level of risk from chronic fluoride intoxication.”

“To put this in context,” Waugh adds, “two cups of tea per day made from fluoridated water would amount to half the total daily maximum tolerable upper level of fluoride for an adult. It would also exceed the limit established for children under eight years of age. However, it is important to remember that the upper limit for fluoride has to include intake from dental health products and fluoride-based medication, as well as water, beverages and foodstuffs.

“The results of all these studies show that the total dietary intake just from consuming black tea for a large percentage of the adult Irish population could exceed the upper safe limit for fluoride. Yet the Minister for Health and the FSAI claim that the dietary fluoride intake level from all foods and beverages for consumers in Ireland is less than 10% of the upper limit. As I outlined to the Minister in November last year, my view is that this is not only incorrect, but scientifically impossible.”

Waugh believes that, to compound the problem, there are major inaccuracies in the FSAI data on fluoride levels in other products, too.

“The measured levels that the FSAI have in foodstuffs,” he insists, “are completely inaccurate when you compare them to internationally published studies from across the globe, and to regulatory agencies who are monitoring fluoride and other contaminants in foodstuffs in other countries. In many instances, there is no correlation at all with the data that the FSAI have provided.”

Alcoholic beverages are a case in point.

“The FSAI say that the fluoride levels in lagers and stouts on sale in Ireland are less than 0.05mg per litre,” Waugh asserts. “Yet when you ask the drinks manufacturers, they’ll tell you that because they’re using fluoridated water, fluoride in stout is the same as it is in Irish tap water (in fact it’s actually slightly less). There’s no beer or stout in Ireland that has a fluoride level less than 0.5mg/L. Yet the FSAI are saying that the levels are less than 0.05mg/L! This is, I think, impossible.”

The question of ‘safe’ levels of fluoride is, in any event, open to serious question.

“The EFSA opinion regarding the maximum upper fluoride limit for adults for all dietary sources,” Waugh explains, “has been established to reduce the risk of bone fractures in postmenopausal women, who have been found to be a high risk group to long-term exposure to fluoride. The upper limit does not, however, take into account the possibility of an individual being intolerant or hypersensitive to fluoride, nor does it apply any safety standards for sensitive subgroups of the population, such as individuals with diabetes or thyroid disorders.”


Declan Waugh’s warnings about fluoride over-exposure in children living in Ireland are even more alarming than his claims regarding adults.

For children aged six months to eight years, the US Institute of Medicine has set a daily safety limit of 0.9 to 2.2 mg/day. Irish tap water contains up to 0.8 mg/L. Thus more than three large glasses of water a day alone – discounting fluoride from other sources, including toothpaste (often swallowed by young kids and children with disabilities), food, juices and soft drinks – may push a young child over the upper safety limit for daily fluoride intake.

According to Waugh: “The European Food Safety Authority considers that the upper limit for fluoride is 1.5mg for children aged one to three years, and 2.5 mg fluoride per day in children aged four to eight. According to research published for dietary exposure in fluoridated communities in North America, these values may regularly be exceeded by kids, from consuming beverages alone.

“The EFSA did not establish an upper limit for infants,” notes Waugh, “but critically, it observed that infants who consume powdered formula milk will exceed the maximum limit set for infant formula established by the EU Scientific Committee on Food if water containing more than 0.7 mg/L fluoride is used for its preparation. And 0.8mg/L is the upper limit for fluoridated drinking water in Ireland.”

The scale of the failure by the authorities here to carry out the most basic checks is crystalised in these figures.

Infant overexposure to fluoride through bottle-feeds made with fluoridated tap water is of major concern in Ireland, where breastfeeding rates are very low, with 97% of infants drinking formula milk by the age of six months. Warnings against the use of fluoridated tap water in bottle feeds have come from the US Centre for Disease Control, the American Dental Association, various paediatricians and other organizations. The fluoride level in fluoridated formula is about 200 times more than that in breast milk. And yet there has not been a squeak from the Irish authorities on the issue. An image of the three monkeys – see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil – comes to mind.

“In terms of foetal exposure,” adds Waugh, “fluoride crosses the placenta, and the developing fetus is exposed to 75% of the mother’s fluoride exposure. Health studies are showing that early exposure to toxins in the womb is critical to the development of diseases in later life.”

How the body deals with fluoride is also at issue.

“The EFSA have noted that up to 90% of consumed fluoride is retained in the body of infants,” says Waugh, “within the bone, calcified ligaments and organs such as the pineal gland. The EFSA reported that healthy adults retain 50% of dietary fluoride intake. The upper limit for adults is based on this medical fact; consequently, for infants, the actual exposure to fluoride and its toxic actions on biological systems would be in the region of twice the maximum upper limit for adults.”

The health implications are immense. There has been a refusal on the part of the authorities in Ireland to properly examine these – but that dereliction of duty is no longer even remotely acceptable.

“Early exposure to fluoride,” Declan Waugh asserts, “under the age of three in particular, has been linked to respiratory disorders, like asthma, for which Ireland has the highest incidence in Europe, with one in five teenagers now being diagnosed with the condition. This is more than twice the European prevalence. The highest incidences of asthma globally are all found in fluoridated countries.”

Yet the authorities remain in denial.

“At current fluoride levels in drinking water in Ireland,” observes Waugh, “all bottle-fed babies will exceed the maximum upper recommended fluoride level for adults when fluoridated tap water is used to constitute the formula. This is horrendous. Why are we allowing it to continue?”


It is a good question. Meanwhile, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland may have a very serious case to answer.

“I have checked FSAI data against UK, EU and US data on fluoride levels in foodstuffs,” Declan Waugh says, “and against independent tests conducted in Ireland. This scientific analysis suggests that the FSAI has significantly underestimated the levels of fluoride being ingested and absorbed by the public – including babies, children, sports enthusiasts and vulnerable people in Ireland ­– by over 1,000 per cent in some cases.

“The results of this erroneous study,” he adds, “are being used by the government to justify the continued mandatory fluoridation of Irish public water.

“The failure to conduct any tests in the previous decades, and the collection of what seems to be erroneous data for the 2011 FSAI report, have resulted in authorities being unaware of the massive overexposure to fluorides that is present in Ireland.

“Given the true level of exposure to fluoride of the Irish public, the inaccurate information constitutes a serious risk to the public health and safety, especially when one considers the potential health risks of fluoride overexposure.

“The only way to limit this risk,” Waugh concludes, “is to stop fluoridation of public water supplies immediately, as other European countries have done.”

* Declan Waugh’s reports are being used by opponents of fluoridation in the few countries that still support such a policy.


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