The Ministry of Health and Welfare on Sunday said it is studying the possibility of adding fluoride to water supplies to reduce dental decay.
It is the first time the ministry has formally considered fluoridating the nation’s water supply since 1984.
Between 1972 and 1984, fluoride was added to the water supply in Kaohsiung and in Nantou County’s Jhong Sing New Village (中興新村), where the Taiwan Provincial Government was located.
However, the program was ultimately scrapped over environmental concerns and public alarm over a supposed communist plot to poison residents by sabotaging the fluoridation system.
Ministry officials have on several occasions discussed fluoridation, but have not moved forward with the project due to uncertainties regarding possible health risks associated with fluorides, Department of Mental and Oral Health Deputy Director Chang Yung-min (張雍敏) said on Sunday.
Citing ministry statistics, Chang said only an estimated 2.8 percent of five-year-olds in 2011 had no cavities, well short of the government’s goal of 90 percent, which is derived from a 167-nation average.
The government last year approved the sale of fluoridated culinary salt to boost the number of people whose teeth have been treated with fluorides, because an increasing share of the public dined out regularly.
The water fluoridation study is part of a government initiative to do more to prevent tooth decay, Chang said.
Water fluoridation was once considered among the most significant public health advances of the past century. However, several studies have exposed the risks of long-term fluoride exposure and the medical profession is less certain of its merits.
Taiwan Academy of Pediatric Dentistry chairman Tsai Tsung-ping (蔡宗平) said water fluoridation is effective in preventing tooth decay if the concentration of the additives in the water is within reasonable levels.
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