However, their warning was subsequently retracted in circumstances which were highly unusual to say the least – opening the FSAI to potential litigation.
n a fresh, and startling, twist to the fluoride saga, Hot Press has discovered that as far back as 2001, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) made a decision to recommed that infant formula milk should not be made up with fluoridated tap water.
The recommendation was made during the Irish government’s last review of Ireland’s mandatory water fluoridation policy. However, in highly controversial circumstances, that decision was subsequently changed – potentially leaving the FSAI and the Department of Health open to litigation from the parents of children affected by fluoride poisoning.
Any warning against the use of fluoridated water in bottle-feeds is particularly crucial in a country like Ireland, where breastfeeding rates are very low. In Ireland, 97% of infants are drinking formula milk by the age of six months.
As already reported in Hot Press, it has been scientifically established that young children, and in particular infants fed with formula milk made with fluoridated tap water, are at a very high risk of daily fluoride overexposure. At current fluoride levels in Irish drinking water, all bottle-fed babies will exceed the maximum upper recommended fluoride level – not for children but for adults – when fluoridated tap water is used to constitute the formula.
Because of the risk of fluoride overexposure among bottle-fed infants, various organisations, including the American Dental Association and the US Centre for Disease Control, as well as numerous eminent paediatricians, have warned that fluoridated tap water must not be used to make formula milk. Yet it is happening in Ireland all the time and no one in authority is bothering to shout “Stop!”.
Overexposure to fluoride puts infants at a very high risk of dental fluorosis – an adverse health effect comprising structural damage to both primary and permanent teeth, which manifests itself as white or brown mottling on the tooth enamel. A huge and growing number of Irish children currently suffer from dental fluorosis.
While fluorosis is a highly visible effect – and therefore impossible to deny – fluoride toxicity has also been linked in the scientific literature with lowered IQ, asthma, ADHD, autism, Down’s syndrome and bone cancer in children, as well as a host of adverse health effects in adults, from thyroid dysfunction and neurological problems to arthritic conditions and an increase in many cancers.
While the toxic effects of fluoride on adults are disputed by the Irish Expert Body on Fluorides and Health, there is irrefutable, and widespread, international agreement on the risks involved in making infant formula with fluoridated water. Why the Irish authorities have ignored this – and in doing so have failed to alert Irish citizens to a desperately serious health risk to their children – remains a mystery.
The FSAI’s 2001 recommendation against the use of fluoridated tap water in formula milk came, Hot Press has learned, after the agency had conducted a risk assessment on fluoride. The FSAI’s Scientific Committee voted unanimously (with a quorum of 9 out of 15 committee members present) to adopt the recommendation at its meeting on October 3, 2001. At the time the FSAI stated: “The scientific committee agrees that the precautionary priciple should apply and recommends that infant formula should not be reconstituted with fluoridated tap water.”
On 18 October 2001, the FSAI’s Dr Wayne Anderson presented the FSAI’s conclusions about flouridated water and bottle-feeds to the Fluoridation Forum, set up by the Minister for Health to review Ireland’s mandatory water fluoridation policy. In an extraordinary – and some would say highly dubious – turn of events, during the following week, several of the six FSAI Scientific Committee members, who were not present for the October 3 vote, began to call for a re-examination and retraction of the report’s conclusions.
As a result, the FSAI changed its report warning against the use of fluoridated water to make up formula milk, stating that there were “some errors and that it didn’t necessarily take account of all of the science that was there.” The background to this remarkable about-face has never been properly explained.
Opponents of water fluoridation are convinced that the FSAI’s retraction of its warning against using fluoridated tap water in formula milk resulted from political pressure rather than scientific re-evaluation.
Evidence to support this view emerged at a July 10, 2003 parliamentary hearing on fluoridation in Dublin. It was revealed at this hearing that one of Ireland’s leading fluoridation promoters, the dentist Dr Joe Mullen (still a strong fluoridation supporter, and spokesperson for the Irish Expert Body on Fluorides and Health) believed that the FSAI’s initial conclusion would likely have meant an end to water fluoridation in Ireland.
“I think it would probably have meant a serious re-evaluation,” Dr. Mullen said in 2003. “It probably would have meant the end of water fluoridation and at the very least a serious re-appraisal of it.”
Mullen’s view was later repeated by Dr Wayne Anderson of the FSAI, under questioning from the parliamentary committee members. The exchange that took place is a fascinating insight into the mindset of pro-fluoridationists in Ireland.
John Gormley (panel member): “Do you not accept that if that report, the original report, had been accepted that that was the end of water fluoridation in Ireland?”
Wayne Anderson (FSAI): “I don’t actually know the full details of how that would have effected it. I think we would be speculating. But I would have suggested, rather like Joe (Mullen), that it would have had a serious effect on it. There is no doubt about that. And that’s why it was very important we got the report correct scientifically.”
John Gormley: “It is very convenient.”
Chair of Committee: “Quite a turn-around.”
In an article in The Irish Times discussing this hearing, panel member John Gormley (at the time the Chair of Ireland’s Green Party and former Mayor of Dublin) was quoted as saying: “This is clearly a pivotal matter, as even those who came before the committee admitted that had the initial report been approved, it would have meant the end of water fluoridation in Ireland.”
It is understandable how an official warning against the use of fluoridated tap water in baby bottle-feeds would quickly lead to an effective demand for the end of mandatory water fluoridation. It would, after all, be utterly unreasonable to expect hundreds of thousands of parents across the country to go to the expense of buying bottled water, or installing a fluoride-removing filter on their taps at home, in order to feed their infants safely.
In place of the original warning – which since then has been increasingly supported by a huge volume of scientific literatue – the FSAI bizarrely recommended that new mothers should breast-feed their babies. It is a measure of the effectiveness of the FSAI that this injunction was subsequently so widely ignored by Irish women.
Despite a large and growing body of international scientific research linking fluoride to serious adverse health effects, dental fluorosis is the only health effect that the Irish government and its agencies admit is caused by water fluoridation. What is astonishing is that proponents of fluoridation try to convince themselves, and the world, that dental fluorosis happens entirely in isolation.
So, what is it about fluoride that enables it to select the teeth as the only part of the human body on which is has an effect? The truth is that there is absolutely no scientific basis for believing that this happens.
Logically, therefore, it is impossible to sustain a position that the fluoride we ingest via our water confines its damaging effects to our teeth alone, somehow magically slipping harmlessly through the rest of our bodies, with zero impact on the blood, cells, bones and organs with which it comes in contact.
Meanwhile, promoters of fluoridation, such as the Irish Expert Body on Fluorides and Health, and other Irish government agencies, blithely insist that water fluoridation is completely safe, and regularly cite the World Health Organisation (WHO) as an endorser of the safety of water fluoridation.
But does WHO really give a straightforward endorsement of water fluoridation? And does any process of endorsement which the organisation might have given stand up to objective scrutiny? As part of our ongoing investigation, Hot Press has submitted ten questions to the WHO (see panel). We hope to provide you with their answers next issue.
We have also officially presented the 27 Questions for the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, published in our last issue, to the FSAI. We are currenly awaiting their response...
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