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On the High Court's recommendation, the Union of Local Authorities yesterday withdrew a petition protesting the addition of fluoride to drinking water. A three-judge panel informed the ULA that it lacks the wherewithal to resolve the technical dispute between the ULA and the Health Ministry regarding fluoride's impact on human health.

In its original petition, submitted six months ago, the ULA cited studies that suggest fluoride can be a health hazard. The Health Ministry contested this claim, and held that fluoride prevents tooth decay.

The Mekorot company adds fluoride to the drinking water that reaches most areas in the country. But communities that have their own water supply sources, including Herzliya, Kfar Sava, Ra'anana and Rehovot, oppose policies compelling them to add fluoride. Despite their opposition, the Health Ministry has instituted regulations requiring any local authority responsible for a community of more than 5,000 persons to add fluoride to drinking water.

Over half a year ago, Adam, Teva Vadin: the Israel Union for Environmental Defense helped spur the campaign to stop the addition of fluoride in drinking water. The non-profit group brought up two main arguments. First, the IUED claimed that fluoride use can have harmful side effects, including damage to bones. Second, the group argued that the state lacks the authority to force the public to drink a medicinal substance; fluoride treatment to stop tooth decay should be left to the individual, who can use regular dental hygiene equipment, the group stated.

The Herzliya municipality subsequently joined the court petition aiming to block fluoride in drinking water.

Israel's medical establishment supports the addition of fluoride to drinking water. The policy wins widespread support in some European countries, and also in North America. In arguments inspired by the High Court petition, most Israeli medical authorities categorically rejected claims about harmful side effects wrought by the use of fluoride.