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Fluoridation makes international news

New Zealand review affirms the practice; Israeli health minister prohibits it

August 25, 2014 Experts in New Zealand have completed a scientific review affirming the efficacy and safety of community water fluoridation, according to a news release from the Royal Society of New Zealand.

The review, "Health Effects of Water Fluoridation: a Review of the Scientific Evidence," was commissioned by the New Zealand prime minister's chief science advisor, Sir Peter Gluckman and Sir David Skegg, president of the RSNZ, in response to a request by Auckland City on behalf of several local councils.

"The process for the review was rigorous," said Mr. Skegg. "It included an extensive evaluation of the scientific literature by a panel of five experts, as well as one lay observer with local body experience. The resulting report was reviewed by three international experts and by the director of the National Poisons Centre."

According to Mr. Skegg, the panel paid particularly close attention to the claims that fluoride contributes to the risks of cancer, musculoskeletal and hormonal disorders, as well as to claims that it has adverse effects on brain development.

"The review finds compelling evidence that fluoridation of the water at the established and recommended levels produces broad and continuing benefits for the dental health of New Zealanders," said Mr. Gluckman. "The public can be reassured on the basis of robust scientific data, that the implementation of this public health measure poses no risk of adverse health effects," he said.

"The report strongly reaffirms the New Zealand Dental Association's position that community water fluoridation is a safe, effective and cost efficient way of reducing dental caries and reducing health inequalities," said Dr. David Crum, CEO of the NZDA.

The dental association said the report reassures New Zealand councils with established community water fluoridation schemes that water fluoridation poses no risks to public health, and has significant benefits for their communities. It also highlights for councils whose community water fluoridation is yet to be introduced that they can confidently implement this important public health measure. "The result will have a huge benefit, particularly for those living within communities who have high rates of tooth decay," Dr. Crum said.

Yet in Israel, the nation's health minister Yael German issued a decision Aug. 17 to prohibit the fluoridation of the nation's drinking water, according to reports in the Jerusalem Post.

Israel's health ministry began mandatory water fluoridation in 1970 for cities, towns and settlements with more than 5,000 residents, reaching about 70 percent of residents.

The Jerusalem Post's Aug. 18 news story reads, "Contrary to the advice of public health and dentistry experts in her own ministry and academia, Health Minister Yael German has decided to prohibit the fluoridation of drinking water around the country. … German reiterated that she recognized the tasteless, colorless gas as very effective in reducing dental cavities, especially among children. But she added that instead of forcing all Israelis to consume fluoridated water to benefit children's teeth, the delivery system should be changed so each parent can decide and take action individually if they wanted their child to get dental protection. On Aug. 26, regulations to halt all fluoridated will go into effect, and parents would have to act proactively to protect and improve their dental hygiene."

The American Dental Association notes that Israel is the first nation to ban fluoridation in its nearly 70-year history of use as a public health measure to protect against caries. Worldwide, some 405 million people in more than 60 countries have access to fluoridated water.

For more information on community water fluoridation in the U.S., visit ADA.org/fluoride. The ADA offers a variety of resources, including Fluoridation Facts — a comprehensive 71-page resource of fluoridation facts taken from over 350 scientific references.