Category Archives: Health and Medicine

Anti-fluoride activists unhappy about scientific research

Mark Atkin (“Science and legal advisor” for FFNZ) and Mary Byrne (“National Co-ordinator and media contact” for FFNZ) promote their “magic” fluoride free water.

These activists have a really weird understanding of science and the nature of scientific research. How’s this for press releases from the NZ Fluoride Free Science and Legal Advisor, Mark Atkin:

1: Rubbishing a planned review of the published science around fluoridation by Sir Peter Gluckman (the Prime Minister’s Chief Science advisor) and the NZ Royal society. Mark declares the review is “totally one-sided” and that Gluckman admits this (see Secret Fluoridation Review Totally One-Sided Admits Chair)!

And what is Atkin’s “evidence” for that? Well Gluckman did say:

“this is just straightforward scientists reviewing what’s in the peer reviewed literature about what we know about the safety and efficacy of fluoride in water. It is reviewing the scientific literature.”

And Atkin chose to distort that to mean:

This “‘review’ of water fluoridation will only look at research that supports fluoridationists’ belief in ‘the safety and efficacy of fluoride in water’, says Sir Peter Gluckman, co-chair of this thereby-admitted ‘kangaroo review’.
It is no wonder that scientific studies showing water fluoridation is neither safe nor effective have not been sought for this bogus ‘review’.”

Mark Atkin seems to have a serious comprehension problem.

2: Claiming Waikato University is commissioning research to obtain  predetermined conclusions.

The same day Atkin produced another press release (see Predetermined ‘research’ outcome commissioned by Waikato Uni). He certainlychurns out press releases even if their quality leaves a lot to be desired.

The specific project Atkins is upset about plans to look in detail at:

“nearly 1700 publicly accessible submissions to the Hamilton City Council on the initial decision to remove flouride from Hamilton’s city water supply with a view to tracing interests and other links to private interests and public lobbying groups.”

Rather than making assumptions about the outcome, the research is aimed at establishing if there were links and their extent. The title of the project is “Public Integrity and Participatory Democracy: Hamilton
City Council’s Water Fluoridation Decision.” Surely it is in all our interests to determined how effective our participatory democracy works at the local body level.

Given that the anti-fluoridation activists often claim our democratic processes are distorted by groups like the District Health Boards I would have thought they would welcome this research. Mind you, they may prefer to leave that particular claim unchecked by objective analysis and actually be far more scared of what an objective analysis of the process reveals about their own manipulation and links to private commercial interests and lobby groups.

Isn’t that weird. A “science advisor” who interprets a scientific review “about the safety and efficacy of fluoride in water” to mean that “scientific studies showing water fluoridation is neither safe nor effective” will be excluded! And that research aimed at tracing interests and links of submitters to commercial and lobby groups will only produce a results claiming the links exist without considering any evidence.

Perhaps this is the way Mark Atkin thinks scientific investigations should happen. Perhaps this is the way the “world fluoridation experts” he idolizes, like Paul Connett and Declan Waugh, carry out their “investigations.”

But it is certainly not the way genuine scientific investigations are done.

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Open letter to Jane Nielson – a “fluoridation convert.”

Hi Jane,

I read your article in the Sonoma County Gazette which was republished at Paul Connett’s Fluoride Alert website – Fluoridation convert. A scientist explains what changed her mind. You briefly described scientific studies which you claim convinced you to take a stance against community water fluoridation. Apparently you found these so convincing you are now a board member and steering committee member of several anti-fluoridation organisations.

My purpose here is to discuss the studies you refer to because I think your interpretation of them is mistaken. I offer my critique of your interpretation in the spirit of normal scientific exchange and discussion and hope you will respond in the same way.

You wrote that you were exasperated with the fluoridation debate so:

“I started researching for myself. This was familiar terrain: I had published many papers, so I know what it takes to prove a point scientifically, and the data required to get a paper published. I had performed analyses, plotted data and defended my research and interpretations in public forums.”

Good on you. I believe experience in scientific research, scientific publication and the use of scientific literature helps cultivate a critical and intelligent approach to the literature. I think this is essential if one seriously wishes to make sense of apparently contradictory evidence and overcome one’s own confirmation bias.

Is fluoridation effective? The WHO data

You say:

“I quickly found World Health Organization data that stunned me:

• Tooth decay has plummeted in developed countries worldwide, regardless of fluoridation.

• Cavity rates are the same—or even lower – in many non-fluoridated countries compared to the U.S.”

Just a minute! Did you look at the WHO data carefully? Did you take into account the well established multiple factors, beside fluoride, influencing dental health? (Things like diet, health services, dental treatments available, other social health services etc.) Did you consider the difficulty of drawing conclusions from data, especially a small amount of data, taken from different cultural, social and political situations? And, importantly, did you check out the WHO data which compared data from fluoridated and non-fluoridated areas in the same country? (Many of the other confounding factors can be eliminated by making comparisons  within a country).

The figure on the left below is the one most often used by anti-fluoride activists for obvious reasons – it confirms their bias. But it suffers from all the problems mentioned above (including the fact that the straight lines result from using just 2 data points for each country) and so does not allow a truly objective  person to conclude what you have.

Surely with your scientific experience you checked out the detail in the data – such as the WHO data for the Irish Republic which included that for both fluoridated and unflouridated areas? The plot of that data (see figure in the right) suggests your conclusion is unwarranted (the dotted line is the average of fluoridated and unfluoridated and corresponds to the data in the graph on the left.).


My conclusion from the WHO data is that tooth decay has decreased in all these European countries over the last 30 years. Fluoride is just one factor in this but it is wrong to conclude from the WHO data that fluoride is ineffective (see Fluoride Debate).

Dental fluorosis

This concerns you because:

• The one clear correlation with water fluoridation is disfiguring “dental fluorosis” supposedly only a cosmetic problem.

But, Jane, have you looked at the available data on dental fluorosis carefully? Your conclusion is a misinterpretation which anti-fluoride propagandist love to promote because it confirms their bias – “fluoridation causes a “disfiguring” complaint – dental fluorosis.” But “disfiguring” or serious dental fluorosis is not caused by community water fluoridation. It is caused by excessively high fluoride dietary intake due to high natural levels of fluoride, industrial contamination or obsessive consumption of toothpaste. It is also very rare in the US, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

Dental specialists identify various levels of fluorosis ranging from not present, through questionable, very mild, mild, moderate to severe – see the figures below (taken from Fluorosis Facts: A Guide for Health Professionals):


Some idea of the appearance of dental fluorosis at these various levels in given by the photos below.


 I agree that often (not always) the occurrence of total dental fluorosis may be higher for people in fluoridated areas than in non-fluoridated area – but the “disfiguring” moderate and severe forms are not the result of community water fluoridation. The milder forms which may arise from community water fluoridation tend to be either unnoticeable or so mild as to be of only cosmetic significance.

So Jane, I am surprised that with your scientific experience you came to such an unwarranted conclusion. If you had truly looked at the data intelligently and critically surely you would not have drawn the extreme conclusion you did about community water fluoridation and dental fluorosis.

What about studies showing fluoridation is ineffective?

You refer to studies which show only minimal or no difference in oral health between fluoridated and non-fluoridated areas. I have also seen those studies. But you and I are scientists so know we should always look at the details and not rely on the conclusions drawn by political activists who misinterpret these studies. Hell, as scientists we shouldn’t even rely in the conclusions made by the researchers themselves – we should always look at the details.

Tooth decay for children living in fluoridated and unfluoridated areas has been compared in many studies. It is easy to find results confirming ones bias – pro-fluoridation or anti- fluoridation. So as scientists both you and I should consider all the studies – not just those confirming our particular bias. That should be obvious to us.

I have seen plenty of studies showing a positive effect of community water fluoridation on oral health – so how do I deal with those other studies showing no effect? Well, I certainly don’t ignore them but it helps to look at the details. For example, in my article Fluoridation: what about reports it is ineffective?  I discussed a 1985 paper by a New Zealand researcher, John Colquhoun, who found no differences in tooth decay between children in fluoridated and unfluoridated areas.

Colquhoun, who was also an antiifluoridation campaigner, chose to conclude that fluoridation had no effect on oral health. But here is the problem – the children in the non-fluoridated areas he studied all received regular topical dental fluoride application treatments, whereas most of the children in the fluoridated areas did not.  So the lack of effect was hardly surprising. In scientific terminology his control group was not a proper control.

What happens when fluoridation is stopped

The studies showing no increase in tooth decay when fluoridation is stopped are continually quoted by anti-fluoridation propagandists – but never the ones that do show such an increase. So your reading of the published studies cannot have been very thorough for you to conclude:

 “Tooth decay did not go up when fluoridation was stopped.”

For example, consider just one study in South-west Scotland by Attwood and Blinkhorn (1991) I discussed in article What happens when fluoridation is stopped?   The figure below displays some of their data

Decayed missing and filled teeth for 10 year olds. Stranraer fluoridated until 1983. Annan not fluoridated.

This study showed tooth decay increased after fluoridation was stopped in one town (Stranraer) even though there was a general decrease in tooth decay (no doubt resulting from things like improvements in diet, tooth brushing, dental treatments, etc.) indicated by the data from the town that had never been fluoridated (Annan).

Still, what about those studies which showed no increase in tooth decay when fluoridation was stopped? Studies in Cuba, the former East Germany and Finland are frequently quoted by anti-fluoridation activists.  I discussed these  in my article What happens when fluoridation is stopped? 

In all the studies referred to the researchers themselves drew attention to the role of other factors which helped maintain oral health. For example, the introduction of a school mouthrinsing programme, which has involved fortnightly mouthrinses with 0.2% NaF solutions” in La Salud, Cuba. Or “improvements in attitudes towards oral health behaviour and, on the other hand, to the broader availability and application of preventive measures (F-salt, F-toothpastes, fissure sealants etc.)” in the former East Germany.

The authors of the Finnish study even warned against drawing the conclusion you have from these studies:

“The main reason for the modest effect of water fluoridation in Finnish circumstances is probably the widespread use of other measures for caries prevention. The children have been exposed to such intense efforts to increase tooth resistance that the effect of water fluoridation does not show up any more. The results must not be extrapolated to countries with less intensive preventive dental care.”

The whole issue of dental health is clearly complex and many factors influence it. As a scientist used to dealing with complex issues you must surely agree the scientific literature should not be cherry-picked. It must be approached critically and intelligently.

Apply It, or Swallow It?

Finally, Jane, we come to the question of the mode of action of fluoride – does it work systemically via ingestion, or topically by a surface reaction on existing teeth? You assert:

In recent years the differentiation between swallowing fluoride and coating teeth with it has become lost in the discussion. But this differentiation is essential. The overwhelming consensus among scientists, including the Centers for Disease Control CDC and the National Research Council, is that fluoride works when it’s applied to the tooth surface, NOT when it’s swallowed.

I know this is the position anti-fluoride propagandists keep promoting but it doesnt actually accord with the evidence. Research shows ingested fluoride plays a beneficial role during tooth development before eruption (see my article Ingested fluoride is beneficial to dental health.

With existing teeth fluoride transferred from water and food during drinking and eating helps maintain a concentration in saliva and tooth biofilms necessary to inhibit tooth decay by a surface reaction. Researchers usually refer to the reaction of fluoride at the tooth surface responsible for inhibiting demineralisation and promoting remineralisation as the “predominate” – not the only – mechanism for the beneficial role of fluoride.

Jane, you should have read the CDC report you refer to more carefully. Far from denying a role for “swallowed” fluoride the  CDC report Recommendations for Using Fluoride to Prevent and Control Dental Caries in the United States actually says:

“However, drinking fluoridated water, brushing with fluoride toothpaste, or using other fluoride  dental products can raise the concentration of fluoride in saliva present in the mouth 100-to 1,000-fold. The concentration returns to previous levels within 1–2 hours but, during this time, saliva serves as an important source of fluoride for concentration in plaque and for tooth remineralization.”

Unfortunately, opponents of CWF claim this surface mechanism means that ingested fluoride plays no role and fluoride is only effective when topically applied – as with toothpaste. This is a gross simplification and distortion. Ingested fluoride is beneficial to teeth duing their development before eruption. And ingested fluoride contributes to the surface reaction protecting existing teeth.

Fluoridated toothpaste (and dental fluoride applications) also contribute to this surface reaction. But the more frequent “top-up” of saliva fluoride concentrations via drinking fluoridated water also make an important contribution.

An invitation

Jane, I don’t claim to have provided the final answer to all criticisms of community water fluoridation here. I have simply responded to your assessments and shown why I think them wrong.

I am open to hearing your responses to my critique and welcome any scientific exchange on this important issue with you.

I look forward to hearing from you.
Ken Perrott.

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Natural News comes out with a load of heavy metal rubbish on flouride


The web site “Natural News” is a prime source of information for alternative and “natural” health enthusiasts. It promotes a lot of misinformation on fluoridation and is often cited by anti-fluoridation propagandists. So – no surprise to see a recent campaign in social media promoting a Natural News article Natural News exclusive: Fluoride used in U.S. water supplies found contaminated with lead, tungsten, strontium, aluminum and uranium.

The article was dutifully tweeted ad nauseum and of course local anti-fluoride campaigners also dutifully and uncritically promoted it. But no-one actually looked at the data in the article to see if it was in any way meaningful or supported the claims of contamination being made. In fact, it is just another example of the sort of misrepresentation I referred to in the article Fluoridation: emotionally misrepresenting contamination. That is, people getting hysterical about contamination  data which actually show very low levels of contaminants.  Getting hysterical about numbers just because they are numbers without any understanding of what they mean.

Lead researcher – the Health Ranger

Mike Adams, who calls himself the Health Ranger, wrote the article which pretends to be a scientific investigation of contaminants in 6 samples of sodium fluoride obtained from Chinese sources. He reports the maximum and average values of a number of contaminants. Of course he uses parts per billion (ppb) because that gives him larger numbers by a factor of 1000 than the usually used parts per million (ppm). I will convert his values for readers and compare them with values found in Australia and New Zealand for contaminants in fluorosilicic acid, the most commonly used fluoridation chemical (actually fluorosilicic acid is also the most commonly used fluoridation chemical in the USA – so its strange that the “Health Ranger’ didn’t analyse that).

The table below compares “the Health Ranger’s” analytical values with those for fluorosilicic acid reported in my article  Fluoridation: emotionally misrepresenting contamination. Also included are the regulated maximum values for these two fluoridation chemicals. I have included only values for arsenic and lead as these are the only ones of “the Health Ranger’s” list included in New Zealand regulations (see NZ Water and Wastes Association Standard for “Water Treatment Grade” fluoride, 1997).

Arsenic (ppm) Lead (ppm)
Fluorosilicic acid
Regulated maximum 132 132
Range certificates 1.1 – 4.3 <0.001 – <5
Sodium Fluoride – Mike Adams
Regulated maximum 366 366
Maximum – NN 0.14 1.0
Average – NN 0.07 0.3

So, “the Health Ranger” produces hysterical headlines for fluoridation chemicals using figures showing extremely low levels of contamination! They are even low in comparison with the fluoridation chemicals used in New Zealand and they are certainly very much lower than the local regulated maxima. And don’t forget that these concentrated chemicals are diluted millions of times over when added to drinking water.

Yes, I know, there are some people who think any measured value is too much. But put this into context. Even the most pristine water or food will contain (very low) levels of contaminants if we use an analytical method that is extremely sensitive. That is why we should check claims of contamination by comparison with “uncontaminated” material and regulated maximum values. We must put the numbers into context.

Contamination from source water – not treatment chemicals

To put the situation of fluoridation chemicals into further context contribution of contaminants to drinking water from other sources should be considered. In Fluoridation: putting chemical contamination in context I compared the amounts of arsenic contributed from fluoridation chemicals to local drinking water (Hamilton City in the Waikato) to the arsenic already present in the source water from the Waikato River. The figure below shows any contribution from the fluoridation chemicals used is miniscule compared with the natural levels already in the water.

I won’t comment on the other heavy metals “the Health Ranger,” (who describes himself as the “lead researcher” in this pathetic study) mentions as they are not covered by local regulations. However, the certificates of analysis for fluorosilicic acid included in my article Fluoridation: emotionally misrepresenting contamination all reported Uranium at levels  < 2 ppm. “The Health Ranger” reported a maximum of 1.4 ppm and average of 0.2 ppm.  Not so impressive in ppm – you can see why he prefers ppb.

Similarly he makes a song and dance about titanium – despite the fact that he detected it in only 2 of his 6 samples and at concentrations apparently too low to enable “quantitative analysis.”


Cleary another scare-mongering article from Natural news. It is accepted uncritically by anti-fluoride activists and heavily promoted by their propagandists. But it is worthless – some would say fraudulent.

This sort of fraud going on in the “natural” health movement needs to be widely exposed. The ordinary reader has no way of evaluating these claims or the numbers involved. However exposure of these sort of fraudulent articles will help readers  be wary about future claims from these sources.

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Declan Waugh continues his distortion of Finnish fluoride research

In my last post (Another fluoridation whopper from Declan Waugh) I described how Declan Waugh (a self-professed “scientist and fluoride researcher”) badly misrepresented data from a Finnish study which had concluded the prevalence of ailments attributed to fluoridation were “likely connected with psychological rather than physical effects of being exposed to fluoridated water.”

However, he has continued with his distortion and misrepresentation of the data in this study.  On Monday he claimed:

“The study into health effects of cessation in artificial fluoridation in Finland published in 1997 reported that within THREE WEEKS of stopping fluoridation and without the public being aware it had ended, respiratory ailments reduced by 31 per cent in adults.”

On Tuesday he presented another of his infamous bar graphs (see below) derived from manipulating data in the paper.


Here are my comments about this latest distortion.

1: The groups for the time when the drinking water was fluoridated and the time when it wasn’t (but people believed it was) were separate samples so any differences could simply reflect that fact. The authors noted people in the original fluoridated group “reported being slightly healthier than those in the” unfluoridated but unaware group. “Thus the smaller number of symptoms in the” later group “probably was not caused by cessation of fluoridation.”

“Taken altogether, two-thirds of the recorded symptoms were slightly more rare in [the unfluoridated but unaware group] than in [the fluoridated group]. For one-third of the symptoms, the situation was the opposite. However, the difference was statistically highly significant for only one symptom, “other skin rash”, which appeared more often in [the fluoridated group]  than in [the unfluoridated but unaware group].”

One reason for the differences in the reported health of the two samples (fluoridated and unfluoridated but unknown) could be beliefs about fluoridation. The table below shows that fewer people in the fluoridated group believed fluoridation beneficial. The authors point out that “In both groups the mean number of symptoms was lower among those who considered fluoridation to be good than among those who thought it was bad or who had no opinion.”

2: Again, Waugh has taken a “percentage of a percentage” in his recalculations. In the process converting statistically insignificant differences into what seem like very large effects. In the table below I have shown how ridiculous this is for the ‘urticaria’ symptom. This had a prevalence of 1.3% in the fluoridated group, 0.5% in the unfluoridated but unknown group and 1.5% in the last known unfluoridated  group. These differences have no statistical significance but Waugh’s graph shows a huge 62% difference!

3: Waugh also grossly distorted the numbers claiming “more than 2 thirds of people actually felt better after fluoridation was stopped and they didn’t know it had.” But the Finnish authors described the incidence of symptoms in the unflouridated group as only “slightly more rare” with only one difference being statistically signficant. In fact, the better health of the unfluoridated but unknown group is really limited to the fact that 65.5% reported no ailments compared with 63.5% of the  fluoridated group (see table below) – a mere 2%, not two-thirds!

Fluoridated (%) Stopped-Unknown (%) Stopped – known (%)
Beliefs about fluoridation
Good 39 45
Bad 20 15
No opinion 41 40
Nettle rash (urticaria) 1.3 0.5 1.5
Other skin rash (eczema) 10.6 4.3 4.9
Insomnia 8.1 11.5 5.6
None of the  symptoms 36.5 34.5 50.1

Although Declan Waugh’s graphical presentation grossly distorts the true data in the paper I have expanded it in the figure below to include all the ailments. Waugh had deleted the data for one-third of the ailments – presumably because their negative “percentage reduction” would have interfered with the misrepresentation he wished to convey.


Actually, I cannot leave this with Waugh’s distortion of the data producing such high figures. Here is a more realistic presentation of the difference in percentage of reported ailments. Please note, Lamberg et al (1997) report that only significant difference is for “other skin rash” which the authors commented on – “this group of people should be studied further.” All other differences are in the -4 to +4% range.


Finally, a comment on an old study constantly being used by anti-fluoridation propagandists to “prove” claims of fluoride sensitivity. Waugh comments on the Lamberg et al (2007) study saying:

“Regretfully, the authors of this study did not refer to one of the only double blind clinical studies on fluoride every undertaken, and published, which also demonstrated similar outcomes from exposure to fluoride.”

He refers to the paper:

Feltman, Rueben; Kosel, G. (1961). Prenatal and postnatal ingestion of fluorides – fourteen years of investigation – final report. Journal of Dental Medicine, 16(4), 190–198.

Feltman & Kosel (1961) did state they observed possible side effects of the fluoride treatment (use of fluoride tablets):

“One percent of our cases presented evidence of undesirable side effects from fluoride therapy. It is pointed out that if a patient is affected by the fluoride, by this method, the allergen or intoxicant  can be removed readily from the diet by discontinuace of the dietary supoplement.”

However, the paper did not present any data for side effects to support the statement. It is impossible to judge the validity of their conclusion. And Waugh is not able to produce a fancy but misleading bar graph from Feltman & Kosel (1961) as there isn’t any data to work with.


Again, Declan Waugh has been caught out distorting data to produce a completely unwarranted conclusion. In the process he has produced fancy-looking bar graphs which are misleading. This is not valid scientific evidence. It is dishonest distortion

However, this won’t stop Declan Waugh and other anti-fluoride propagandists presenting his claims and bar graphs to gullible city councillors. They will no doubt accompany these distortions with citation of Feltman & Kosel (1961) and Lamberg et al (2007) to make their submissions look sciency and “authoritative.”

It’s about time we exposed these frauds.

Note: I sent Declan Waugh a message bringing his attention to my earlier article (Another fluoridation whopper from Declan Waugh) but got no response. So I repeat my offer to Waugh that he debate his claim here. I am happy to give space for him to argue his case so that a proper scientific exchange can occur.

See alsoFluoride sensitivity – all in the mind?

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Another fluoridation whopper from Declan Waugh

Declan Waugh is a self-proclaimed “scientist and fluoride researcher” who seems to spend all his time misrepresenting and distorting  scientific literature and health data to promote his anti-fluoride cause. Waugh has an avid following, among fellow anti-fluoride activists and propagandists. The sad thing is that he “reports” do manage to fool some gullible people. The Hamilton City Council staff listed one of his reports at the top of the “list of scientific information” they relied on when they stopped fluoridation last year (see When politicians and bureaucrats decide the science). And the “Physicians and Scientists for Global responsibility, NZ” also relied heavily on this report in their anti-fluoridation submission to councils.

But Declan Waugh’s latest “scientific” gem is a real whopper. He has extracted data from a 1997 Finnish paper to produce “evidence” fluoridation causes all a sorts of ailments. In the process he surely can’t have missed the fact the authors found the same level of expressed symptoms from people who were drinking unfluoridated water but believed it was fluoridated. That is, the symptoms seem to have a psychological cause, the belief threat drinking water was fluoridated, and not a physical cause – fluoride in the water.

The paper is Lamberg, M., Hausen, H., & Vartiainen, T. (1997). Symptoms experienced during periods of actual and supposed water fluoridation. Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology, 25(4), 291–5. Or see the full text.

Here is the image Waugh is promoting, and which is being repeated by anti-fluoride propagandist. For example fluoride Girl tweeted this:

@FluorideGirl: In Finland they Removed #fluoride in the tap water…Look at the reductions in diseases in just 3 months or 12 weeks!

And this links to Waugh’s Facebook image:

Seriously? Waugh’s bar graph will be interpreted by many as evidence 72% or more of people drinking fluoridated water report “nausea and vomiting” which disappear when fluoridation is stopped!

Intentionally dishonest!

Trouble is, that image is extremely dishonest and intentionally so. Waugh could not have extracted that data from the paper without seeing and understanding the data alongside it for people who were not drinking fluoridated water but believed they were. He has made 3 outrageous distortions to produce his data:

  1. He has ignored that actual data (in the same table) for % reduction of reported symptoms for both the group that had originally drunk fluoridated water, and the group who had originally drunk unfluoridated water in the mistaken belief it was fluoridated.
  2. He took his data from the information for all respondents, combining both groups in the final survey but ignored the column for people drinking unfluoridated water but believing it was fluoridated.
  3. He then took a “percentage of a percentage” so that, for example, although the percentage of respondents reported “Nausea and vomiting” when drinking fluoridated water was 3.8% (and 2.3% for the group who wrongly assumed they were drinking fluoridated water)  had dropped to 1.1% when knowingly drinking  unfluoridated water (a decline of 2.7% which was not statistically significant) his calculation produced a decline of 72%!

What a whopper!

An honest depiction of the data would have included both sets as below:


Very different to his figure.

Lamberg et al (1997) concluded:

“Since the occurrence and mean number of symptoms were fairly similar during actual and supposed fluoridation, the results do not support the theory that the symptoms considered in this study are caused by the physical effect of fluoridated water. On the other hand, the significant reduction in the number of symptoms only after the respondents had become aware of the discontinuation of fluoridation reveals that fluoridation may have psychological effects which present as perceived symptoms.”

The authors did toss a small glimmer of hope the hypochondriacs who claim fluoride sensitivity is real. The differences in reported decline in incidence of ailments between the fluoridated and supposed fluoridated groups are statistically insignificant for almost all the tested ailments. The exception was for “skin rashes” and the authors say:

“However, the significant decrease in the number of other skin rashes leaves room for speculation, seeming to favor the view that a small segment of the population may have some kind of intolerance to fluoride. This group of people should be studied further.”

The again, it is not uncommon to get a false positive when considering a large number of ailments in the same study.

“Tasting fluoride” in water

Nearly 10% of the respondent in the Finnish study claimed they could taste the fluoride in fluoridated water – which is known to be impossible for humans.

“However, the respondents made this claim equally often during actual and supposed fluoridation. As expected, the percentage reporting this “fluoride taste” dropped to nearly zero during known discontinuation of fluoridation in March. The psychological aspect is further confirmed by the fact that the illusory tasters seemed to be predisposed to perceived symptoms, as were also those who regarded fluoridation as a bad practice in general.”

No wonder the authors concluded:

“it seems likely that the prevalence of the symptoms
considered in the current study is connected with the psychological rather than with the physical effects of being exposed to fluoridated water.”

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I am still waiting for my cheque

LiarI have often said I wonder how some of the anti-science propagandists sleep straight in their beds at night. Lately this refers to various members of the local anti-fluoridation movement and their claims.

Pity I am not the litigious sort – there could be a bit of money in a recent claim because it slanders me, and a fellow SciBlogger, personally

Lynn Jordan, the Wellington representative of Fluoride Free NZ recently declared (under her on-line pseudonym “Penelope Paisley”) on Fluoride Free Hamilton NZ:

Penelope Paisley Peter- you asked what Debz and Ken get out of it. Ken and Alison are getting paid to blog about fluoridation. “

As I said, I am still waiting for my cheque.

Apparently Lynn’s “evidence” for this is the fact that this blog, and Alison’s Bioblog, are both syndicated on the NZ SciBlog platform as Open Parachute and  BioBlog.

I certainly appreciate my association with NZ SciBlogs, and I am sure Alison does to. But neither of us expect payment – nor is SciBlogs in a position to pay its syndicated bloggers or its full bloggers (of which there are now quite a few  –  check them out).

Lyn may not like the fact that Alison and I have blogged about the scientific aspects of fluoridation, and in the process revealed the misinformation and distortion promoted by Lynn and her fellow activists, but that does not provide a basis for her claim. She is simply telling porkies in an attempt to shoot the messengers and avoid the message.

Why is “Penelope” telling porkies?

At this stage I have no interest in making an income, either through blogging or anything else. It feels good as a retiree not to feel obliged to support, or suffer the control of, an employer. Of course, it may well be different for Lynn. In my post The irony of some peer-review and citation complaints I wrote this about her:

“Penelope” is the on-line name used by Lynn Jordan – the  Fluoride Free NZ Committee member for Wellington. She also practices as a  cranio-sacral therapist in Wellington. Cranial-sacral therapy is an alternative or “natural” therapy which Edzard Ernst  described as more or less bogus (see Up the garden path: craniosacral therapy).

Obviously she has ideological and financial committment to the “natural” health business. She relies on it for her income. If you were spiteful you might even think  she is paid to advance propaganda and to attack those who support an evidence based approach to health. But I wouldn’t possibly make that claim.

By the way, in the best tradition of astroturfing, Lynn  often sends submissions to councils opposing fluoridation under the name of an organisation NZ Health Professionals Opposing Fluoridation. What the hell is a “cranial-sacral therapist doing representing health professionals? I leave that to your imagination but it hardly adds credibility, does it?

Mind you, many councillors seem to be gullible. They certainly were in Hamilton last year.

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An answer to the anti-fluoride critics – in one image


Click image to enlarge. 

The chemical website Compound Interest, is producing a series of infograms to communicate some chemistry.  Here is an excellent one they produced on fluoride. I think it would make a great poster.

It is accompanied by some straightforward text describing the science behind fluoridation and countering a lot of the misinformation anti-fluoride propagandists promote.

Worth reading. See Fluoride & Water Fluoridation – An Undeserved Reputation?

The chemically minded may also be interested is some of their other infograms –  here are just a few examples:

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Elected officials must ignore activists and listen to own voters


Karen Williams Seel, a member of the county board of commissioners in Pinellas County, Fla.

A recent US blog article made some very pertinent points about the role of elected officials, such a local body councillors, on important social health issues like fluoridation.  These officials have a responsibilty to avoid pressure from misinfomred activists and must instead  listen to their constituents.

Karen Williams Seel, who wrote the article Fluoridation: Elected officials have a critical duty is a member of the county board of commissioners in Pinellas County, Fla., USA. Three years ago, the board voted 4-3 to stop fluoridating its water supply but reversed that decision in 2012 after voters defeated two incumbent commissioners who had voted against fluoridation. In both instances, Seel voted in favor of fluoridation.

She wrote:

“As Americans increasingly seek health information online, elected officials and other policymakers need to recognize that anti-fluoride activists have created a web-based panoply of false fears. For many fluoride critics, these online messages are the source of their concerns. This spring, for instance, a New York resident wrote a letter to his local newspaper, saying he “was surfing the Web and came across information on water fluoridation and the dangers that lie within this practice.”


“Public officials have a responsibility to listen to their constituents. We also have a duty to not allow false fear to drive public health decisions. We should direct our constituents to reputable websites like these sites. We shouldn’t let “guess what I read on the internet” be the reason that we abandon a proven, safe practice like water fluoridation.”

Rotorua District Councillors should take Seel’s points on board as they confront their own decisions about Rotorua’s fluoridation and how to consult citizens on it (see Council votes for referendum on fluoridation).

They should also beware of the”Tribunal” trap the Hamilton City Council fell into which effectively led to them being captured by politically and ideologically motivated anti-fluoridation activists, ignoring the information from scientific and health professionals, and ignoring the views of voters. A mistake which eventually led to pressure for another referendum and a reversal of the council’s faulty decision.

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The irony of some peer-review and citation complaints


Anti-fluoridation propagandists and other promoters of pseudoscience have a sort of “love-hate” attitude towards science and the scientific literature.

On the one hand they love to cite scientific papers they claim support their message. Very often the citation is completely unwarranted, misrepresents the paper or even distorts the findings reported. Declan Waugh stands out as a repeat offender of such misrepresentation and distortion of the literature on the fluoride issue.

But, on the other hand they sort of recognise that they cannot rely on support from the scientific literature so will often denigrate the scientific process. Sort of having a bob each way.

A sordid affair

“Penelope Paisley” at Fluoride Free Hamilton NZ  is indulging in the latter by posting a link to a news report about exposure of a “peer review  and citation ring” at the Journal of Vibration and Control (JVC). This was reported at Retraction Watch in its article SAGE Publications busts “peer review and citation ring,” 60 papers retracted.

Besides retraction of the 60 papers this exposure led to the editor in chief of the journal resigning and a  professor in Taiwan who was responsible for the ring resigning from his employment.

A sordid affair which unfortunately does happen from time to time in the scientific community. We are, after all, human.

But it is ironic for local anti-fluoride propagandists to “point the finger” at this case. Periodically they promote “their own” peer-reviewed paper from a journal with a somewhat similar scandal. I wrote about this in Peer review, shonky journals and misrepresenting fluoride science.

The hypocrisy of the complaint

The paper is Peckham & Awofeso (2014), Water Fluoridation: A Critical Review of the Physiological Effects of Ingested Fluoride as a Public Health Intervention, The Scientific World Journal Volume 2014 (2014). It has been heavily promoted in the anti-fluoride social media –  “natural” health web sites, blogs, Facebook pages and Twitter.

However, The Scientific World Journal was described as a” bottom feeding” journal because of its approach to peer review and citation.  It relies on author fees, and not subscriptions, and is therefore open to the charge that it provides an easy way for unscrupulous authors to buy space for their articles. It was banned from lists of impact ratings because it allowed the unethical practice of self-citation.

So there is one irony in anti-fluoride propagandists’ exposure of  a shoddy incident in science publishing – they happy to use it to attack the scientific publishing process in general while on the other hand giving support to a similar shoddy case because it supports their word-view.

But there is another irony. “Penelope” is the on-line name used by Lynn Jordan – the  Fluoride Free NZ Committee member for Wellington. She also practices as a  cranio-sacral therapist in Wellington. Cranial-sacral therapy is an alternative or “natural” therapy which Edzard Ernst  described as more or less bogus (see Up the garden path: craniosacral therapy). I imagine that “Penelope” consults very few peer-reviewed scientific journals as part of her job. More likely she relies on “natural” health and pseudoscientific publications and on-line sites.

The irony here is that the “natural” health and pseudoscience publication industry will never have a scandal involving peer review and citation. Peer review and responsible citation is completely outside the ethos that guides them.

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“Creative” reporting of fluoridation science


I am all for genuine creativity in science, and elsewhere. But some people seem to think anything goes when the are promoting their ideology or political views.

Again and again I come across campaigners , especially in areas like “natural” health, climate change denial and promotion of creationism, who seem to think “creative embellishment – or outright distortion – is OK when claim that science is “on their side.”

Here’s a typical example from Fluoride Free NZ (FFNZ) who are attempting to deny the science indicating that fluorosilicates used for fluoridation of water supplies decompose to form the fluoride anion. They are desperate to assert that fluorosilicate species remain and these “might” be toxic.

FFNZ cites the National Toxicology Program (NTP), part of the US Department of Health and Human Services. But puts words into their mouths to create exactly the opposite conclusion to tat which should be taken from that web site.

According to FFNZ:

the NTP “says the assumption that fluoridation chemicals disassociate into free fluoride ions is not supported by experimental evidence. This is good to remember when the fluoridationists claim that fluoride, is fluoride is fluoride. They are operating on belief rather than scientific fact.”

But the NTP says nothing of the sort. The page simply lists a 1999 nomination, from a “private individual”, for research to consider possible toxicity. Yes, the “private individual” gives as grounds “lack of toxicity information; assumed complete dissociation to free fluoride under normal conditions of use not supported by experimental evidence.” But that is the view of the nominator – not of NTP.

In fact, the NTP has a statement making clear that selection of an agent for study does not imply support for the nominators views:

” Selection of an agent for a study does not imply that the agent is hazardous or a potential carcinogen in laboratory animals; likewise, an agent not selected for toxicologic study by the Program should not be taken to mean that the agent is not potentially hazardous or potentially carcinogenic in laboratory rodents.”

Interestingly the cited web page includes “The following information related to “fluorosilicates  “including history from earlier or later nominations for this same agent.” Specifically  Nomination Background a pdf document “Review of Toxicological Literature.” It is a comprehensive review, but on page 4 it says:

“In water, fluorosilicic acid readily hydrolyzes to hydrofluoric acid and various forms of amorphous and hydrated silica. At the concentration usually used for water fluoridation, 99% hydrolysis occurs and the pH drops to 4.2. As pH increases, hydrolysis increases. At the pH of drinking water, the degree of hydrolysis is “essentially 100%” (Crosby, 1969; Urbansky and Schock, 2000).

H2SiF6(aq) + 4 H2O    →    6 HF(aq) + Si(OH)4(aq)”

Exactly the opposite of what FFNZ assert!

Now who is ” operating on belief rather than scientific fact.”

A clear example of extreme confirmation bias amounting to complete distortion.

For more information on the science of the decomposition of fluorosilicates in water have a read of Declan Waugh’s misinformation on fluorosilicic acid and An open letter to Declan Waugh – new mechanism for fluoride toxicity?

Credit: Thanks to Duane for the image.

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