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Even Israeli cities that have taken the controversial step of fluoridating their drinking water have insufficient amounts of the mineral to prevent tooth decay, according to a Health Ministry report released yesterday.

Moreover, the report, produced by the ministry's Department of Environmental Medicine, says that in 2009, the number of tests for fluoride in the water system - 1,997 tests in 554 communities - was insufficient to gauge the state of fluoridation in the water.

In general, however, the report found Israel's drinking water to be of high quality in places where enough tests were carried out.

In 67 percent of the tests, levels of fluoride were less than the 0.7 milligrams per liter required to prevent tooth decay.

Excessive levels of fluoride were found in the drinking water in Ashdod and Kadima, but in each case the levels were brought down to normal.

In July 2009, the Ofer brothers, who own Bromine Compounds, the factory that had produced and sold fluoride to the state, stopped doing so after an Internet clip accused them of introducing dangerous materials into Israel's water supply. Since then, fluoride has been imported at a higher cost.

According to the Health Ministry's chief engineer for environmental medicine, Shalom Goldberger, "The transition to imported fluoride may have had an effect on the low quantities of fluoride in the water. We thought we were advancing the policy of fluoridation, and suddenly we see we have stopped and even regressed.

Regional Health Ministry engineers recently decided to increase fluoride testing throughout the country. "In Tel Aviv, for example, we made almost 50 tests [in 2010], as opposed to only three tests in 2009," Goldberg said.

Water fluoridation in Israel is a subject of controversy. In March 2007, the Knesset's Adin Committee on water standards recommended abolishing obligatory fluoridation of water and to revisit the issue in five years, due to claims by environmental groups that fluoridation damages the environment and disseminates toxins.

However, the Health Ministry rejected the committee's recommendation and continues to require fluoridation of drinking water.

The report showed that in 2009, 86,004 water quality tests were conducted, out of which only 223 indicated bacterial pollution, or 0.26 percent of the total tests.

Levels of E. Coli bacteria from feces or other forms of Coli from environmental sources such as polluted soil are considered excessive if there are more than three bacteria per 100 milliliters of water. In Israel, excessive bacteria is determined only after two successive tests, which indicates it is a danger to public health.

Among the communities in which excessive levels of E. Coli were found in the water were the town of Jisr al-Zarqa on the Carmel coast (11.1 percent of the tests ), Mas'adeh in the Golan Heights (7.7 percent ), the Haifa area's Basma Barta'a Regional Council (6.9 percent ), Kibbutz Amiad (12.5 percent ), the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council and the Har Hevron Regional Council (7.7 percent each ) and the kibbutzim of Hulata and Lahavot Habashan (5.1 percent each ).

Excessive amounts of heavy metals were detected in the tap water of the communities of Gan Yavne on the southern coastal plain, central Israel's Yehud-Neve Monoson and the Shomron Regional Council in the northern West Bank. In the latter case, the pollution remained even after treatment.

In Moshav Beit Oved, the water pipes were replaced following complaints that the water was red, which can indicate the presence of heavy metals in the water.