Ban proposed on fluoride supplements

Tuesday, July 30, 2002

Tablets and chewing gum that contain fluoride are to be banned in Belgium over fears they might increase the risk of brittle bone disease.

The Belgian health ministry confirmed on Tuesday it was considering the plan - thought to be the first such ban in the European Union.

However, a spokesman said there was no plan to ban toothpaste containing fluoride because it protects against teeth decay.

Some countries, including the UK, add fluoride to domestic water supplies as a means of improving dental health.

The use of fluoride supplements - such as fluoride tablets or fluoride chewing gun - provides another option. The supplements have been sold in Belgium without a doctor's prescription.

But there are concerns that over-use of fluoride increases the risk of osteoporosis - a progressive weakening of the bones, which increases the risk of fracture.

The condition is becoming more common in Western countries, partly due to the increasing average age of the population.

Fresh study

These fears, which are the subject of much controversy, have been intensified in Belgium by a study commissioned by the health ministry which found excessive use of fluoride products increased the risk not only of osteoporosis, but of damage to the nervous system too.

Belgian health ministry spokesman Tom Ruts said the ban would probably come into force next month.

He said: "Those products are used excessively and often abused."

Belgian Health Minister Magda Aelvoet has called on other European Union nations to follow suit.

She told the weekly magazine, Humo: "In these cases, a harmonisation within the European Union is of course desirable but I can't always wait until the European Union is ready. [read the complete interview with Minsiter Aevoet]

"We will however communicate our official decision to the other European member states in the hope that they will follow us swiftly."

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