The fluoridation of Irish water, why the controversy?

Cathal Walsh
Environmental Blogger
Monday, 25th March 2019
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two brown taps placed above sink adjacent to wooden worktop

Fluoride is an inorganic, monatomic anion with the chemical formula F−. It is a natural mineral found anywhere from sea water to soil to many food sources. Fluoride is in many countries introduced into the water supply for public health reasons. This is often a very controversial issues as many argue about the positive and negative health effects of fluoridation and the issue of ‘mass medication’ and whether the fluoridation of water falls under this blanket term.

The fluoridation of water in Ireland was introduced in 1964 by the minister for health Sean McEntee. This however proved a source of controversy then. A Supreme Court case sprung from this, Ryan v Attorney General {1965}. In this case Gladys Ryan argued that Dublin county council putting fluoride in her water interfered with her right to bodily integrity and her right to decide what her family may consume. She lost the case but this case marked the beginning of an era of judicial activism. If one were to draw a very wide inference one could argue that the fluoridation of water resulted the expansion in the interpretation of the Irish constitution to recognise several un-enumerated rights. The main point here however is that the fluoridation of water in Ireland has been controversial since it begun.

The level of fluoride in Irish water began at 1 parts per million (PPM). Since then it has decreased however and now it monitored to be between 0.6-0.8 PPM. This is less than half of the maximum level of fluoride permitted by the European Union. Here at H2o labcheck shall take a neutral standing on this issue, instead opting to bring you the most prevalent arguments from both sides of this heated debate. If you are looking for an accurate measurement of the fluoride and chlorine in your water however, be sure to check out our sample test kit which will give you peace of mind and the most accurate result possible.

Arguments for the fluoridation of water:

  • It prevents tooth decay:

This is the main reason fluoride was brought in to be put in the water system in the first place. Fluoride is said to greatly decrease the risk of progress of tooth decay. It was put into the water as a public health measure to help increase the quality of the dental health of the general public. Putting fluoride in the water was seen as a far cheaper means of doing this than other methods, like offering free dental care to all citizens for example.

  • It saves money for the average citizen

Despite a few bumps in the road, Irish water is still provided to the citizen free of charge. This supply of water contains fluoride which is said to protect the teeth. Tooth extractions now cost about 76 euro on average in Ireland and the average cost of a consultation with a dentist is 45 euro. Toothpaste also runs anywhere from 2 to 7 euro in most shops around the country.

A large argument for the fluoridation of water is that is saves the Irish citizen a lot of money on the cost of dental work and dental products in their lifetime. That is to say however, drinking fluoridated water should not replace the regular cleaning of teeth.

  • Its natural:

One large argument for the fluoridation of water is that it is an natural compounds found in saltwater and freshwater. In fact it is said that the fluoride level in ocean water is around 1PPM, higher than that in Irish tap water. Fluoride is naturally occurring in some water sources and as a result in some parts people drink naturally fluoridated water. This was the reason for the idea of adding fluoride to the water in the first place, it was observed that tooth decay was lower in areas where the locals drank naturally fluoridated water.


Arguments against the fluoridation of water:

Arguments here range from minor health issues, to a causative link to depression all the way to mind control so we shall only go with some of the more evidential and philosophical arguments.

  • Bodily autonomy:

One of the largest and most legitimate arguments opposing the fluoridation of water is that it infringes on the individual’s right to bodily autonomy and the individual’s right to refuse medical treatment. Even though this argument failed in Ryan v AG (1965) it still holds a lot of weight. Individuals opposed to fluoridation contend that the choice should be up to them whether they consume fluoride, and the practise of putting it in their drinking water is robbing them of that choice. They then contend that this infringes on their bodily autonomy.

  • Its purpose in Ireland is now redundant:

Many argue now that the purpose that fluoride was originally put into the water supply for is now redundant. It was mainly brought in to improve public dental health in the 1960’s where the standard of living was a lot harsher than it is now. Now the average Irish citizen is a lot wealthier and there are few who cannot afford dental hygiene products, the vast majority of which contain fluoride. There is also a public dental scheme. In short, there are many better options for the individual now rather than relying on fluoride in the water.

  • Drinking fluoride is not an efficient way of protecting teeth:

It is contended that fluoride only works by way of coating itself on the outer layer of the teeth. To analogise it is like sun-cream for the skin. As a result many contend that drinking it is not an efficient way of protecting against dental decay.

  • Much of the EU has rejected it:

98 percent of those in the EU have rejected artificially fluoridated water. A 2003 survey among citizens from 15 countries concluded that the vast majority are opposed to fluoridation. The argument stemming from this is that if all of the other developed countries in the European union have survived and thrived without artificial water fluoridation, why is it still necessary in Ireland?

  • Miscellaneous arguments:

Some of the more interesting arguments against fluoridation are that it is responsible for the exceedingly high rate of depression and suicide in Ireland, that it damages the brain and that it is used by the government in a bid to create a more subservient population. Let’s not let these take from the fact that there are however many very legitimate arguments against fluoridation with only a few being listed above.


Some Advice from us at H2o Labcheck:

While fluoride in water is a very controversial topic and we encourage a well-informed debate on the topic, people tend to assume that the only issue surrounding water quality is whether it is fluoridated or not.

Take it from us that whether you are using fluoridated or non-fluoridated water, there are so many other substances in the water that may affect your health in different levels, many of these proving to be a lot more detrimental to an individual’s health than regulated levels of fluoride can ever be.

It is good to have a vested interest in your water quality, be sure to check your water regularly to ensure that you and your loved ones are drinking safe and clean water. See our site for a wide range of products that can test your water supply for nearly every possible contamination.

 Follow the link for a mains water quality test





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