SIR – In 2013, I wrote to the CEO of the FSAI and the Minister for Health addressing inaccuracies and scientific irregularities in the total diet survey published by the FSAI in 2010. The Southern Star newspaper reported on this in detail in June 2013.
My concerns specifically addressed how the data on fluoride content in tea products, as well as other beverages such as beers and stouts sold in Ireland were incorrect and significantly under-represented the fluoride concentration, and thus, exposure of consumers to dietary sources of fluoride.
In my previous communications with the FSAI, I forwarded literature specific to risk assessments of fluoride intake from tea undertaken internationally. However, per capita tea consumption is Ireland is the highest in the world, therefore, the risk of chronic fluoride intoxication is significantly higher in the Republic of Ireland compared to other tea consuming nations. This is particularly the case as drinking water is artificially fluoridated in the RoI, a policy that is not supported in the vast majority of countries internationally.
Three years ago the FSAI informed me that a second dietary intake study was to be completed by the end of 2013. As of April 2016, the results of this assessment have yet to be published.
In the interim, due primarily to concerns regarding the long-term health implications of chronic fluoride intake and lack of available data on fluoride content in Irish tea products, I undertook along with Professor Hardy Limeback, Professor William Potter, and Dr Mike Godfrey, a risk assessment measuring the fluoride content in 54 black tea products for sale in the RoI. This study was published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2016, 13 (3), 259; doi:10.3390/ijerph13030259).
We have undertaken a similar study for tea products in New Zealand, which also currently being peer reviewed for publication. The findings of this study further support the observations and conclusions of our original study specific to Ireland.
In our study, four scenarios were examined, from consumption of half a mug per day to 10 mugs of tea per day. Our study found that the majority of habitual black tea drinkers in Ireland are at high risk of fluoride intoxication and that excessive fluoride intake was associated with musculoskeletal disorders, particularly chronic joint pain; thyroid disorders, most notably hypothyroidism; and ischemic heart disease.
Our study reported that in 2012, the economic cost of chronic pain to the RoI was reported to be €5.34 billion and that over 900,000 people, or one in five persons, in the RoI are affected by arthritis. We also reported that mortality rates from ischemic heart disease have been found to be significantly higher in the RoI than the European average and that the third most prescribed drug under the Government Medical Services scheme in the RoI is levothyroxine, used for the treatment of hypothyroidism.
We provided extensive evidence from published literature how fluoride intake at levels less than present in Ireland, was associated with each of these disorders.
The principal function of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland is to take all reasonable steps to ensure that food consumed, produced, distributed or marketed in the State meets the highest standards of food safety and to ensure that food complies with legal requirements. As noted in our study, the fluoride content in tea products for sale in Ireland do not comply with the requirements of the General Food law Regulation.
Moreover, in preparing tea infusions with fluoridated water the risk of cumulative toxic effects increases for consumers. In addition, as noted in our study, evidence suggests that there is a large subgroup of the population particularly susceptible to the adverse effects of chronic fluoride intake due to low iodine intake, malnutrition, Vitamin D deficiency, calcium deficiency and diabetes prevalence.
The FSAI and Minister for Health are responsible for putting consumer interests and consumer safety first and foremost, using the latest and best scientific advice available. When they fail to heed concerns, particularly scientific evidence that has been independently peer reviewed and published in the scientific literature, such as our recent study, this raises a significant danger to public health.
In the current context, the lack of action by the authorities in Ireland to address chronic fluoride intoxication of the population are inexcusable and the consequences of this inaction is contributing to the high prevalence of chronic disease in our population.