Fluoride: The Dáil Report That Was Suppressed

As evidence of the toxic effects of fluoridation of the water supply in Ireland mounts, Hot Press has uncovered a report written in 2007 by the former Minister for the Environment John Gormley – which was effectively suppressed. Here, for the first time, he reveals what happened – and why. Meanwhile, the report is published for the first time today on hotpress.com

In yet another extraordinary twist to the water fluoridation story, the former Minister for the Environment, John Gormley, has spoken out for the first time about the fluoride report, which he produced – and which he believes was suppressed by the Dáil committee that commissioned it.

The report was written by John Gormley in 2007, while the Green Party were still in opposition. Had its recommendations been acted on, it would have brought an end to the now 50-year-long practice of dosing the (26-county) Irish population with hydrofluorosilicic acid through the public water supplies.

Commissioned by the Joint Committee on Health and Children, which was chaired at the time by Batt O’Keefe of Fianna Fáil, the Report on Water Fluoridation in Ireland is a 90-page document, which analyses the available evidence on fluoride at the time it was written.

In what Gormley considers to have been an unprecedented move, his report was rejected by the Oireachtas committee that commissioned it.

Hot Press has secured one of the few existing copies of John Gormley’s report. It is published in full, for the first time, on hotpress.com, from today, Thursday September 12th, 2013. It provides an exceptionally well-researched, comprehensive and well-written overview of water fluoridation in Ireland. As such, it is a critical document in the current fluoridation controversy. So why was it in effect buried?

In 2007, the Joint Committee on Health and Children held special hearings on the issue of water fluoridation. The findings, made in John Gormley’s Oireachtas Report on Water Fluoridation in Ireland, were based on expert evidence presented during those hearings.

Experts who argued that fluoridation is an outdated, ineffective and harmful public health policy included Dr Don MacAuley of the group, Irish Dentists Opposing Fluoridation, and Dr Hardy Limeback, Head of Preventive Dentistry at the University of Toronto, Canada, and one of the 12 scientists who served on the US National Academy of Sciences panel that issued the 2006 report on fluoride toxicity, known as the “NRC Report”.

Those presenting the case for fluoridation included Irish dentists Prof Denis O’Mullane (who sits on the government-appointed Irish Expert Body on Fluorides and Health) and Dr Gerry Gavin, a former Chief Dental Officer at the Dept of Health.

As author of the report, John Gormley also undertook extensive research of available international fluoride literature and data. In addition, he studied the Irish historical records as to why and how water fluoridation was introduced to the country.

His report concluded that, in light of all the evidence, and in particular considering the fluoride overexposure risk to bottle-fed babies, water fluoridation in Ireland should cease immediately.

A warning against the use of fluoridated water to make up formula milk had been issued a year previously by the American Dental Association. The same warning was originally issued by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland in 2001, but – as reported previously in Hot Press – was quickly withdrawn, in highly controversial circumstances.

Gormley also noted that compulsory fluoridation of the water supply was an infringement on the human rights of Irish people. “The Irish Government,” the report stated, “has never requested the free, informed consent of the population to give them fluoride in their water supply. This is contrary to the Council of Europe’s ‘Convention on Human Rights and Bio-medicine’ (1997).”

On receiving Gormley’s report, the Oireachtas Committee – whose members comprised TDs and senators from all of the parties – went into ‘private session’. There were, Hot Press understands, no minutes taken during the meeting. According to John Gormley, the report was neither published nor voted on by the committee that commissioned it. Instead, he was informed unceremoniously that his report would not be accepted by the committee.

“What’s apparent to me now,” says Gormley, recalling the incident, “was that the TDs had made up their minds that they were not going to accept the report, end of story. Because it was clear to some of them, at least, that to accept the report, and the findings of the report, would mean the end of water fluoridation. And they weren’t prepared to bring that about.

“I recommended a number of things in the report, but in particular I wanted to see could we actually make a change to the law, basically to stop water fluoridation. There are a number of ways you could do it, but a simple amendment to the existing law would have done it. That was the key recommendation.”

If the report had been accepted, would the Government have had to follow through on its recommendations?

“Yes,” says Gormley. “That’s why it was rejected. Also because it was extremely critical of the Dept of Health. There was very little I could do with the report after that – it was effectively null and void.

“By now we were in the run-up to the 2007 election. So the Greens included a section in our manifesto on fluoridation, which was that we would carry out a nationwide study of total fluoride intake, and if that study showed that there was too much fluoride in people’s bodies, then we would end the practice of water fluoridation.”

At the time, Gormley was lampooned for his opposition to fluoridation in an Irish Times editorial, which carried the official pro-fluoridation line and, in a remarkable piece of partisanship, described the anti-fluoridation debate as a ‘loony issue’.

In his report Gormley had highlighted the alarming escalation of dental fluorosis in Ireland, with between 25-50 per cent of teenagers at the time showing the mottled, damaged tooth enamel, which is a biomarker of fluoride over-exposure. While the report was rejected, the government did decide to reduce the fluoride concentration in Irish tap water from 1ppm to between 0.6 and 0.8 ppm.

“John’s report was not accepted by the committee,” Batt O’Keefe recalls. “That doesn’t mean that it wasn’t an influential report. It certainly was forward-looking.”

I ask O’Keefe why the report was rejected.

“If I remember correctly,” he says, “some of the recommendations that were contained in the report flew in the face of some of the official recommendations that the committee got in the hearings. As a result of the hearings, and as a result of the recommendations that came from outside John’s report, it was rejected on the basis of professional advice that had been given.”

While that might sound odd, what has become clear throughout the Hot Press investigation into water fluoridation is that a powerful group of insiders are feverishly insisting to Irish politicians that water fluoridation is ‘safe and effective’. And instead of checking these claims, politicians are simply going along with what is in effect a pro-fluoridation lobby group.

A lot of people have wondered what happened to the Greens’ commitment on the fluoride issue when they finally made it into Government.

“When the Greens were elected into government with Fianna Fail,” John Gormley recalls, “we carried the commitment to measure the population for fluoride levels into the Programme for Government, which stated – for the first time in the history of the Irish State – that we would have a nationwide study of total fluoride intake. That’s where my energies in terms of fluoride were put after the report was rejected.

“I held a number of meetings with the Minister for Health, Mary Harney, and her officials, to see when was the nationwide testing on total fluoride intake going to start. I thought it would have been game, set and match, once we had shown that people had elevated levels of fluoride in their systems. But it was made known to me that officials in the Dept of Health were arguing that even if the nationwide study showed that people had high levels of fluoride, you still hadn’t proved that the fluoride was doing damage.

“So they were already preparing in advance, as far as I could see, arguments against the ending of water fluoridation, even if a nationwide study could prove we were overexposed.”

The level of irrational resistance from within the Department is impossible to fathom.

“Obviously when the government collapsed,” John Gormley states, “the officials were very pleased indeed that they didn’t have to continue with the fluoride intake study.”

So, had they started taking measurements of fluoride levels?

“That’s a very good question. I’d like to know the answer to that myself. I think they must have started, but we never got those results.

“Meanwhile, we’re still none the wiser about what our levels of fluoride are,” Gormley adds – despite the fact that it was a requirement in the original Health (Fluoridation of Water Supplies) Act, 1960 that the effects would be monitored. In other words, the Department of Health has been in breach of the act for 50 years now.

Gormley reveals what originally put the idea of a total fluoride intake study into his mind.

“One of the reasons I became concerned is that Eileen Dunne, owner of the Dublin restaurant, Dunne and Crescenzi, told me about a skiing accident her husband, Stefano Crescenzi, had in Italy. He had to have blood tests done, and the Italian doctors warned him that he had very high levels of fluoride in his blood.

“The only reason for that would be because he was drinking fluoridated water in Ireland. It was 2005 when his wife told me that. I thought, there’s something going on here – we’d better test people to see what the situation is.

“A proper nationwide study would tell us the truth,” he concludes. “It’s basic information that we should have. It’s a very simple thing, and the very least that the current government could do.”

Apart from Ireland, Israel was the only other nation-state to have a mandatory water fluoridation policy. Last month a decision was in the Supreme Court which requires an end to fluoridation in Israel. So why is there such deep resistance on the part of the Irish State to doing the same?

“They don’t want to change,” Gormley says, “and they don’t want to admit that they made a mistake. Also, there are still people there who believe that they are right, despite all the evidence to the contrary. And some people have a vested interest in saying this policy is going to stay.”

How a ‘vested interest’?

“They’re a very strong lobby group, the pro-fluoridation group. But here’s the difficult thing – I’ve spoken to dentists, who privately say the whole fluoride thing is bogus. But because they’re such a strong lobby, they do not want to admit it. You’ve seen with Don MacAuley and other dentists that it’s not good for your career to come out being anti-water fluoridation. So a lot of them just keep quiet. They’ll say it privately, but they won’t say anything publicly.”

As a former Minister, how does John Gormley view the Minister for Fluoridation, Alex White’s behaviour in the current debate?

“What’s happened is that he’s just taken at face value the information that he’s been given. It would be good if he read my report; it would be good if he read all the other evidence. But as a new minister, you’re trying to cope with a huge amount of information coming at you from all sides. And probably he’s doing the most convenient thing for any incoming Minister, to make his own life easy – which is to agree with his officials.

“Not agreeing with officials can be quite energy-sapping. You have to choose your battles when you disagree with your officials.

“At the very least, what he should do – and it’s not a radical step – is to go back and look at the commitment that was given by the previous government on water fluoridation, which was to carry out a nationwide fluoride intake study. That would help him to make an informed decision about fluoridation.

“Now his officials would probably say, ‘Oh, Minister, even if there are elevated levels of fluoride in people’s bodies, it doesn’t mean that fluoride is a bad thing’. Even though we all know that fluoride is a toxic substance.

“But I don’t think the issue will go away. What is happening now worldwide is that more and more cities and communities are stopping water fluoridation. And the real evidence is there. Because when you actually do a comparative study on dental health before, and then after fluoridation has ceased, you find that there is no increase in dental decay. I go into that evidence in detail in my report.

“Even at best, the difference between fluoridated and non-fluoridated communities is the saving of quarter of a tooth. The risks of exposing the whole body to the toxic effects of fluoride across a lifetime are not worth saving quarter of a tooth.”

I’d rather have a filling than early onset dementia any day.

“The fact is that water fluoridation is a one-size-fits-all policy,” concludes Gormley. “It is mass medication. And for some people, even on a very basic level, excess fluoride doesn’t agree with their genetic make-up.

“So the government has to do something – but I wouldn’t be holding my breath. I think at this stage the best course of action is the one that Aisling FitzGibbon, ‘the Girl Against Fluoride’, has embarked on, in taking a court action against the State over fluoridation. I’d be hopeful that this will finally yield results.”

Six years after John Gormley’s own report was suppressed, it is something to cling onto.

To read John Gormley’s Report on Water Fluoridation in Ireland go to hotpress.com/fluoride


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