Israel to Stop Mandatory Fluoridation of Water Within One Year

Israel Pediatric Association warns that new regulations signed by Health Minister Yael German could compromise children’s dental health.

Dan Even
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Child at a dentist's office (illustrative).Credit: Lior Mizrahi
Dan Even

Health Minister Yael German has decided to end the mandatory fluoridation of Israel’s drinking water within a year.

MK Yael German.Credit: Michal Fattal

The Israel Pediatric Association on Thursday protested the intention to stop tap water fluoridation, warning that it could harm children’s dental health. However, the environmentalist NGO Adam Teva V’Din commended the regulations, saying they will “ensure social and environmental justice and Israel will ensure high-quality drinking water to its entire population.”

German signed on Thursday regulations for the quality of drinking water, whose implementation has been held up by the ministry since 2009. In addition to ending tap water fluoridation, the regulations call for reducing the permitted bacteria concentration in water to zero and to increase water inspection.

If the Knesset and cabinet legal advisers deem the regulations valid, despite their having been drafted during the previous Knesset term, local authorities will no longer be obliged to add fluoride to drinking water a year from now.

Fluoridation, the controlled addition of fluoride to the public water supply, is highly controversial. While the Health Ministry and health organizations have insisted on adding fluoride to water to reduce tooth decay, environmentalists argue against it due to its adverse health and environmental effects.

In March 2007 a Health Ministry committee recommended revoking the mandatory nationwide fluoridation and adding fluoride only in places where the population needs it.

But the recommendations were not implemented, despite the Knesset Health Committee’s ratification, because the Health Ministry’s professional staff objected to fluoridation.

Most Western states have stopped water fluoridation and deal with tooth decay by educating children from an early age to take care of their teeth and by administering fluoride in drops, thus preventing the general population’s exposure to it.

In countries such as France, Germany, Costa Rica and Colombia, fluoride is not added to drinking water, but to table salt.

The opponents to fluoridation cite toxicity, mottled teeth and a higher risk of developing bone cancer.

German has spoken out against mandatory fluoridation in the past, as Herzliya mayor. On Thursday she instructed ministry director-general Prof. Roni Gamzu to map areas where the risk of tooth decay is higher and act to reduce the risk there.

“The ministry believed for professional reasons that fluoridation is good. I held a professional discussion and it’s not black and white,” German told reporters.

“The question is whether we can prevent dental damage without sweeping fluoridation of tap water. The ministry will provide for the needs of weaker communities that definitely need added fluoride.” 

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