The Irish Times – Saturday, March 2, 2013
on . . . drinking water
We have a filter tap in our house. Every morning one of us fills a large jug with filtered tap water so our children won’t have to drink it from the regular tap. When we got our kitchen done we asked for the extra tap because we’d seen one on somebody else’s sink. In another house we spotted a glass splash-back and a clever shelf for storing tins, so we copied those ideas too. Yes I know. There’s a nice portmanteau for people like us: sheeple.
The silly thing is that the filtered water probably isn’t filtered much at all. You’re supposed to change the filter every six months. Oops. So our children, your children most likely, are drinking water straight from the tap. Sure where’s the harm in that?
Mind you when my health-guru brother comes to stay he won’t drink our tap water. He’s been lecturing us for years on the dangers of the “mass medication” through fluoride that began in the 1960s. After we had children he ramped it up a notch, so I promised I’d do some research. But then I blinked and suddenly the children were nearly four and full of fluoridated water just like their parents, and we all seemed to be fine.
I did make some inquiries. One day, at the dentist, I asked whether he thought fluoride in the water was okay, and he said it was more than okay, it was essential, because if it wasn’t for fluoridated water whole communities, especially in deprived areas, would have terrible teeth. So that was that, in my mind, until recently, when my sister, not someone given to conspiracy theories, emailed the family about some research completed by a Cork-based environmental scientist, Declan Waugh. He had just completed yet another self-funded review examining what he claims are the disastrous effects on public health of our fluoride policy, including increased risk of cardiovascular, endocrine, respiratory, muscular skeletal, immunological and neurological conditions.
At the same time on twitter I came across one of those citizen superheroes, people like Cystic Fibrosis campaigner Orla Tinsley, men and women with tenacity and energy and passion enough to wake up an entire country.
Aisling FitzGibbon is the Girl Against Fluoride, and after you spend a few minutes on her website you can’t help but have some questions. Why are we pretty much the only country in Europe that fluoridates the water system? Why, if fluoride is supposed to stop tooth decay, is the rest of mostly fluoride-free Europe not in the grips of a tooth-decay epidemic? How come Waugh’s research has persuaded communities in Canada and Australia to reject water fluoridation but has yet to make an impact on authorities here?
A student from Tralee, FitzGibbon came to the issue after struggling with depression. Anti-depressants didn’t help so she sought advice from a nutritionist, who told her that fluoride in the water may have been contributing to her condition. She splashed out on a fluoride removing reverse osmosis water filter, started on a daily programme of vitamins and minerals and says within seven months her symptoms had disappeared.
It’s great that it worked for her. Medical experts might have other views about fluoride-free water and depression.
She told me the fluoride comes from a biocidal product called hexafluorosilicic acid that we import from Spain and that the same chemical was banned for use as a biocide under an EU directive six years ago. She and Waugh insist the substance has never been tested for safety when it comes to human consumption.
When I asked the HSE they said the substance conforms to the European standard for chemicals used for the treatment of water intended for human consumption. When the Irish Expert Body on Fluorides and Health visited the plant in Spain where the substance is produced it was “satisfied that the production is in compliance with quality, environmental and safety systems”.
FitzGibbon isn’t satisfied and she is preparing a legal case against the State. People will argue that fluoridation is harmless and essential for dental health. They’ll say it’s just like adding vitamin D to milk or folic acid to cereals and that it still goes on in the US and Australia. Still, when it comes to educating ourselves, asking questions and making up our own minds on the fluoride issue, sure where’s the harm in that? You can read more onthegirlagainstfluoride.comand fluoridesandhealth.ie. There’s a nice portmanteau for people like us: sheeple. But not on this issue. Not any more.