Everyone pays for fluoridated water, but a third of us aren't getting it

Exclusive: Health Ministry's dental services head says local authorities, municipalities can be sued.

tap metro 88 224 (photo credit: )
tap metro 88 224
(photo credit: )
Almost a third of Israeli residents pay their local authority for fluoridation of their drinking water, even though they get non-fluoridated water through their pipes, The Jerusalem Post has learned Fluoridation has been proven in many studies worldwide to lower the risk of cavities, especially in children. The Post queried the Health Ministry's head of dental services, Dr. Shlomo Zusman, and Shalom Goldberger, the ministry's environmental quality engineer, on Monday, a week before the ministry is expected to publish its annual report on water quality. The report deals mostly with water testing for chemical, biological and other contamination, but will also included a short section on fluoridation. Zusman says that all Israeli residents pay one or two agorot for each cubic meter of water that their household consumes. When asked whether those who pay but receive no fluoride in their water could file a class-action suit against their local authority or municipality, Zusman said yes. There is no Web site that can tell you whether your drinking water is fluoridated, Zusman conceded, as "the source of potable water is very complicated in Israel, especially when there are serious water shortages. One day you may get it from the Kinneret, via the national water carrier Mekorot, and the next you can get it from underground aquifers. One part of a town may get fluoridated water, while another part does not." But, the dental chief said, "even though about 30 percent of drinking water is not fluoridated, we regard the whole country as being fluoridated, so we recommend that parents do not give fluoride drops to their child unless their dentist recommends this because the child is at high risk for cavities." About 10% of Israeli children are included in this high-risk group, Zusman said. According to a 1993 law, all drinking water in communities with more than 5,000 residents must be fluoridated, added Goldberger, and while the ministry can file complaints against local authorities that neglect to do so, no such complaints have ever been filed. Goldberger said the backlog of work in the ministry's legal department and other red tape was partly responsible for the failure to act against recalcitrant authorities. When asked why some cities, towns and rural areas meeting the population requirement did not get fluoridated water, Zusman said he regretted that the fluoridation program "has not gone according to plan. But we try to advance it all the time." In the US, the fluoridation rate is similar to that in Israel, but in Britain it is much lower, he said. The local authority's incentive to invest in fluoridation is that "they know they have to supply high-quality water," Zusman said. "We try to persuade them. If we have no choice, we may have to take action against them. We have not done this yet, but it doesn't mean we will not do so in the future." Zusman said that the ministry was "holding another meeting Tuesday on fluoridation and how to increase the number of covered residents. We believe fluoridation is important, and we will do our best to expand it." In only the last six months, most of Jerusalem's water has become fluoridated via a special facility in Kisalon outside the capital. He added that according to his knowledge, the state comptroller has not written a report on the failure of many municipalities and local authorities to fluoridate their residents water while still taking money for it via water bills.