- 09 Oct 13
The chief whip of the Labour Party, Emmet Stagg, has come out strongly against the Government’s policy of mandatory fluoridation of the water supply
In a move that will have significant political ramifications, the chief whip of the Labour Party, Emmet Stagg, has joined the call for an end to mandatory fluoridation of water in Ireland. Stagg has also directly called on Labour Party Junior Minister Alex White – the minister responsible for water fluoridation – to look beyond his official advisors for information on the fluoride issue.
Since taking office, when questioned on the issue of fluoridation, Minister White has simply followed the instructions of the Department of Health, reiterating the standard pro-fluoridation line promoted by the government-appointed group of advisors known as the Expert Body on Fluorides and Health. Several politicians, including former Fine Gael Finance Minister Richie Ryan – who mounted a strong legal case against the introduction of mandatory water fluoridation into the Republic back in 1963 – have pointed out in Hot Press that both the ‘Expert Body’ and officials in the Dept of Health are advising Minister White from a biased and now outdated pro-fluoridation stance. Indeed Richie Ryan has gone as far as to refer to the ‘Expert Body’ as ‘propagandists’.
Now, Emmet Stagg TD has joined the growing number of politicians who are outspokenly opposed to the policy.
“There’s overwhelming evidence that fluoridation causes damage to the human body,” says Stagg. “The idea of compulsorily applying it to every citizen who uses the public water supply is archaic in the extreme. This evidence against fluoridation, collected by serious scientists, is being presented to the Minister – yet he seems to be relying solely on the Expert group. I think the Minister needs to look beyond that group, at the large volume of counter-evidence that’s available, including from dental experts, about the necessity for this continued forced treatment.”
Speaking exclusively to Hot Press, Stagg recalls several campaigns over the last two decades which aimed to stop water fluoridation – a practice that was halted years ago in other European countries, on health and ethical grounds.
“In the first campaign, mounted in Wicklow, local authorities were urged to stop fluoridating,” he says, “and the response from them was that it was national policy and until the national policy was changed, they would continue to put this stuff into our drinking water.
“Some councilors in Kildare at the time submitted to having tests done, and quite a lot of them had considerably more fluoride in their systems than the standard that was allowable.
“The next campaign, around 2000-2001, was mounted by the Irish Dentists Opposing Fluoridation group. But it came to nothing as well. The Minister at the time relied on his pro-fluoridation advisors.”
The bottom line, however, is that scientific data, including from the World Health Organisation, shows no difference in dental health between fluoridated and non-fluoridated countries.
“There is no continuing necessity to fluoridate the water from the point of view of dental caries,” Stagg insists. “It’s not fluoride that’s improving our teeth, it’s dental care. In areas where the practice has been stopped, there’s been no deterioration of the dental health of the population. All of that evidence is available, as well as very serious evidence about the possible harmful effects of fluoride.
“And still, I saw an article in The Irish Times the other day rubbishing the case against fluoride, saying we were lucky to have fluoride in our water,” laughs Stagg. “All of that being said, I think we need to look at the vested interests that might be involved in the provision of fluoride and the dumping of it into our drinking water.”
Who are the vested interests?
“The first are the people who provide the fluoride. They have a vested interest in it continuing. And also, the old-fashioned advisors and dentists who are still saying that our teeth would be falling out of our mouths if it weren’t for fluoride.
“I remember going to a Young Scientists Exhibition where the youngsters had a stand about fluoridation and the effects of it,” Stagg recalls. “They were comparing the dental health of people in areas with fluoridated and non-fluoridated water, and there was absolutely no difference. A dentist happened to pass and he nearly went berserk because I was saying that fluoridation should stop. He said that as a young dentist, he was constantly pulling teeth from young people because they were rotting in their head, and that fluoridation had stopped that. But the evidence that the youngsters had collected demonstrated that that wasn’t the case at all.”
Meanwhile, in a separate development, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has flatly refused to answer 27 questions about fluoride put to it by Hot Press and published two months ago. Hot Press has identified a number of major deficiencies in the FSAI’s Total Diet Survey, published in 2011 – including an apparent under-estimation of the amount of fluoride in tea by a factor of an astonishing 1,000%. Hot Press’ findings are supported by a number of UK scientists, who carried out an analysis of the amount of fluoride in mainstream brands of tea sold in the UK. The Hot Press fluoride investigation also discovered that the figures used in the FSAI’s Total Diet Survey were nine years out of date.
Emmet Stagg insists that the FSAI should answer the questions that were put to them by Hot Press.
“I think that in this period that we in government are boasting about – open government – it’s time for that sort of thing to finish,” he states. “Very clear information and answers should be given to the public who are concerned about fluoride, particularly through the media and organs like Hot Press, to ensure that the public are fully aware of what’s happening with fluoridation, and what the consequences of it could be. Very full information should be provided on this issue. I’ll be seeking to ensure that occurs.”
Ultimately, Emmet Stagg states, the responsibility lies with the Minister, Alex White.
“The Minister in various situations might say that this is the responsibility of an independent agency, but I wouldn’t accept that answer,” asserts Stagg. “I don’t think we should be ruled by quangos. The Minister is in charge of the situation, and it’s his final responsibility. If a quango is acting in a certain way, he should be able to give us the information on that quango.
“The Minister is new to this department, and he’s been handed a difficult chalice,” adds Stagg. “He’s been working extremely hard in other areas, and he might not have given priority to this one. But given his own philosophy about public health, this is something he really should be looking at. He needs to look beyond the group that are advising him, and look independently at the wealth of other information that’s there about this issue. I’ll be pressing him on that.”