Israel & Fluoride: Take 2

Posted & filed under Fluoride in the News.

The news media prides itself on operating at breakneck speed, digging for the facts and being the first to report the truth. But the rush to “be first” can lead some reporters to base their articles on unreliable sources. Here is one example.

Remember the article that LiveScience reported last August? The headline was unmistakably clear: “Israel Outlaws Water Fluoridation.” But, as is often the case, the truth is way more complicated than the headline.

Contrary to the LiveScience assertion, Israel’s Supreme Court did not ban fluoridation. The court simply deferred to the authority of Israel’s health minister, who happens to oppose fluoridation. She declined to sign an order that would have continued fluoridation regulations. These regulations will end in August, and what happens after that is unclear.

The British Fluoridation Society sums up the situation in Israel:

Some commentators have interpreted the new regulations as, in effect, removing any statutory authorization for fluoridation to take place, even on a voluntary basis in individual local authorities.

However, comments by the Supreme Court on the wording of the new regulations suggest it is not clear whether, from that time, there will be no fluoridation at all or whether, as some have suggested, it will be up to individual local authorities to decide.

From a dental public health perspective, it is to be hoped that Israeli children will not be denied the protection against tooth decay that many of them currently enjoy.

Two professors at Hebrew University’s dental school criticized the health minister’s decision “to potentially stall” fluoridation and called it “an immense error.” It is not surprising that anti-fluoride Web sites represented the Israel action as a “ban,” but why did LiveScience provide the same, overly simplistic view?

LiveScience provides us with a good clue by identifying the source of its story as Hot Press — an Irish magazine that has made no secret of its anti-fluoride views. We sincerely hope that health and science writers will take this example as a lesson not to rely on Web sites or tabloids whose views are driven mostly by ideology, instead of science.