Category Archives: New Zealand

Anti-fluoride activists define kangaroo court as “independent”

A kangaroo court is a mock or illegal court that is set up in violation of established legal procedure

The international anti-fluoride movement seems somewhat pre-occupied with thew situation in New Zealand.  In the last few months they have unleashed their “big guns” to attack two publications from local scientific researchers.  First was their attempt to discredit the paper Broadbent, J. M., Thomson, W. M., Ramrakha, S., Moffitt, T. E., Zeng, J., Foster Page, L. A., & Poulton, R. (2014). Community Water Fluoridation and Intelligence: Prospective Study in New Zealand. American Journal of Public Health. Now they have produced an International Peer Review of the  review Health Effects of Water Fluoridation: a Review of the Scientific Evidence. This was commissioned by Sir Peter Gluckman, the New Zealand Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor and Sir David Skegg, President of the Royal Society of New Zealand at the request of Auckland City on behalf of several local Councils.

Fluoride Free NZ pretends that the Royal Society Review “was sent out for review by five independent international experts” and a press release from their astroturf organisation the NZ Fluoridation Information Service repeats the independent claim (see NZ fluoridation report trashed by international reviewers).

Well let’s have a look. How independent are the authors of the critique?

An “independent” peer review?

I don’t think so. Here are the authors – chosen by the anti-fluoride movement, of course – together with affiliations and a little history


Kathleen Theissen, Environmental Risk Scientists. I don’t know what the affiliation “environment Risk Scientists,” is. Perhaps a consultancy. However, she is still listed as an affiliate on the Oak Ridge Center for Risk Analysis web site. Theissen was one of the minority* anti-fluoride members on the National Research Council Committee on Fluoride in Drinking Water which produced the NRC reviewFluoride in Drinking Water: A Scientific Review of EPA’s Standards.” She frequently writes articles and submissions opposing community water fluoridation

Chris Neurath, Research Director, American Environmental Health Studies Project. Neurath is also the “Research Director,” of Paul Connett’s Fluoride Action Network (FAN). The American Environmental Health Studies Project is really just the Fluoride Action Network in drag with a couple of other similar organisations tied in.

Hardy Limeback, Head of Preventive Dentistry, University of Toronto. Limeback was also an anti-fluoride minority member of the  National Research Council Committee on Fluoride in Drinking Water which produced the NRC review Fluoride in Drinking Water: A Scientific Review of EPA’s Standards.” He is also an anti-fluoride activist who writes often on the issue and a member of the Advisory Board of Paul Connett’s Fluoride Alert Network.

 

James Beck, a co-author together with Paul Connett of the anti-fluoridation book The Case against Fluoride.

Spedding Micklem, also a co-author together with Paul Connett of the anti-fluoridation book The Case against Fluoride.


So, definitely not independent

This is a serious distortion of the truth by Fluoride Free NZ because they have continual described the authors of the Royal Society Review as not independent. They wrote, for example (see Fluoridation review ‘Dirty Science’ – Fluoride Free NZ):

“The NZ “expert panel” included only people who were already known to be ardently in favour of fluoridation and not one single person who is known to be opposed, or even someone neutral. It was therefore already a foregone conclusion.”

So, I can only conclude that these people define “independent” to mean that they agree with them – they have an anti-fluoride political stance. And they define anyone whose scientific work produces an objectively determine conclusion favourable to the consensus understanding of the effectiveness and safety of community water fluoridation as not independent!

I can only repeat, how do these hypocritical people sleep straight in their bed’s at night.

How valid are their criticisms

OK, so these people are not independent – but how valid are there criticisms. That is another issue. I am preparing a detailed analysis of the claims made in this critique and will post it in the next few days. So, watch this space.


*Three of the 12 members of the committee expressed disagreement with some fo the committee’s conclusions.

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August ’14 – NZ blogs sitemeter ranking

 
Hager
Bloggers in the thick of election campaign? Image Credit: Against the Current


PLEASE NOTE: Sitemeter is playing up again making it impossible to automatically get the stats using the normal process. I have done a manual work around but it was still impossible to get the stats for a number of blogs that I list below. Maybe more bloggers will shift to StatCounter or other counter.

No stats could be found for these blogs:

Blog
Works in progress
Weakly Whirled News
Two Minutes Sport
Wysiwygpurple’s Blog
Stats Chat
Social Media and the 2014 General Election
Love your work
Today is my birthday
This Mum Rocks
Sportsfreak
Infectious thoughts
Science Behind the Curtain
Grumpollie
Louis’ Outlook
West City Darts
Woodleigh Nursery
Kyle MacDonald
A conservative perspective
Save our schools NZ

There are now over 300 blogs on the list, although I am weeding out those which are no longer active or have removed public access to sitemeters. (Let me know if I weed out yours by mistake, or get your stats wrong).

Every month I get queries from people wanting their own blog included. I encourage and am happy to respond to queries but have prepared a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) people can check out. Have a look at NZ Blog Rankings FAQ. This is particularly helpful to those wondering how to set up sitemeters.

Please note, the system is automatic and relies on blogs having sitemeters which allow public access to the stats.

Here are the rankings of New Zealand blogs with publicly available statistics for August 2014. Ranking is by visit numbers. I have listed the blogs in the table below, together with monthly visits and page view numbers.

Meanwhile I am still keen to hear of any other blogs with publicly available sitemeter or visitor stats that I have missed. Contact me if you know of any or wish help adding publicly available stats to your bog.

You can see data for previous months at Blog Ranks

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Subscribe to NZ blog rankings by Email

Find out how to get Subscription & email updates

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July ’14 – NZ blogs sitemeter ranking

 get-1000-visits-a-dayImage Credit: Learn Blog Tips

There are now over 300 blogs on the list, although I am weeding out those which are no longer active or have removed public access to sitemeters. (Let me know if I weed out yours by mistake, or get your stats wrong).

Every month I get queries from people wanting their own blog included. I encourage and am happy to respond to queries but have prepared a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) people can check out. Have a look at NZ Blog Rankings FAQ. This is particularly helpful to those wondering how to set up sitemeters.

Please note, the system is automatic and relies on blogs having sitemeters which allow public access to the stats.

Here are the rankings of New Zealand blogs with publicly available statistics for July 2014. Ranking is by visit numbers. I have listed the blogs in the table below, together with monthly visits and page view numbers.

Meanwhile I am still keen to hear of any other blogs with publicly available sitemeter or visitor stats that I have missed. Contact me if you know of any or wish help adding publicly available stats to your bog.

You can see data for previous months at Blog Ranks

Subscribe to NZ Blog Rankings

Subscribe to NZ blog rankings by Email

Find out how to get Subscription & email updates

Continue reading

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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Elected officials must ignore activists and listen to own voters

Seel

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.”

And

“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

peer_review

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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Ken Ring pontificates on climate change

Another of Ken Ring’s “self help” books – Pawmistry: How to Read Your Cat’s Paws

Ken Ring runs a business predicting the weather. Apparently in that sort of business, and with the clients he has, conflict with evidence-based science and scientists is good for business. So,  it isn’t not surprising to find him trolling the internet debating issues from weather and climate change to earthquakes.

But his contribution to a recent debate on the NZ Skeptics Facebook page is a shocker. Here is his simple experiment proving that carbon dioxide does not influence climate and anthropogenic climate change is a fraud:

  • Ken Ring “Christopher, no, CO2 does not affect temperature at all. A bottle of Coke won’t warm a room, but a warmer room will increase the pressure of CO2 in the bottle. 

And just to dig the hole even deeper he adds:

  • Ken Ring “Ok William, just shake the bottle of Coke in a cold room and then open it. See if it warms the room. Then shake one in a warm room and open it. Note the difference. James, there is hardly any CO2 in the atmosphere. Roughly 99% of all the CO2 in the world is in the ocean or in the ground. Tiny fact you may have overlooked.”
Not the sort of thing that should inspire confidence of his scientific skills amongst prospective customers. But then again, with some people this sort of thing goes down well.

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June ’14 – NZ blogs sitemeter ranking

blogranks

There are now over 300 blogs on the list, although I am weeding out those which are no longer active or have removed public access to sitemeters. (Let me know if I weed out yours by mistake, or get your stats wrong).

Every month I get queries from people wanting their own blog included. I encourage and am happy to respond to queries but have prepared a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) people can check out. Have a look at NZ Blog Rankings FAQ. This is particularly helpful to those wondering how to set up sitemeters.

Please note, the system is automatic and relies on blogs having sitemeters which allow public access to the stats.

Here are the rankings of New Zealand blogs with publicly available statistics for June 2014. Ranking is by visit numbers. I have listed the blogs in the table below, together with monthly visits and page view numbers.

Meanwhile I am still keen to hear of any other blogs with publicly available sitemeter or visitor stats that I have missed. Contact me if you know of any or wish help adding publicly available stats to your bog.

You can see data for previous months at Blog Ranks

Subscribe to NZ Blog Rankings

Subscribe to NZ blog rankings by Email

Find out how to get Subscription & email updates

Continue reading

Toxicity is in the dose or concentration of fluoride

FKANI came across a new organisation, the Fluoride Knowledge & Action Network, the other day. I first thought this is another one of those fluoride free activist groups and it is probably part of Paul Connett’s Worldwide Alliance to End Fluoridation. Digging a little deeper I was pleased to see it did not belong to this alliance, which is really just the anti-fluoride equivalent of the Comintern or the Fourth international.

In fact the Fluoride Knowledge & Action Network is an Indian organisation and describes itself as “a network of passionate people interested in finding solutions and improving awareness for the Fluorosis problem in Rural communities by working on safer water & better nutrition.”

So it’s not another one of these political activist anti-fluoride groups we have become so used to here. It is actually concerned with a real problem caused by excessive fluoride in water and diets which can cause severe dental fluorosis and skeletal fluorosis. These are real problems in parts of India, China,  Africa and the Middle East. They are not a problem in New Zealand and are not caused by fluoride at the optimum concentrations used in water fluoridation.

So, I wish the Fluoride Knowledge and Action Network well in their future activity. They are dealing with an important problem in their area and hopefully won’t get diverted by Connett’s organisation. I think that is a possibility because the fluoride free groups, and the “scientific” journal Fluoride they love to quote, does try to make capital out of these real problems by arguing that they are also a problem with fluoridation in countries like New Zealand. They aren’t.

Most of us understand the concept of “too much of a good thing.” This is also true with diet and with essential and beneficial micro-nutrients and micro-elements.  So it is not surprising to realise that, like selenium, fluoride can also be toxic at high concentrations but beneficial at lower concentrations.

Misrepresenting toxicity of fluoride

Trouble is, political activists opposing fluoridation often resort to using high dose, or high concentration, situations to argue against fluoridation. Here are a few example I came across today while browsing social media.

Remember – the optimum concentration for fluoridation of community water supplies is 0.7 ppm F.

Here’s a couple  of papers promoted by Carol Kopf, the Media Director of Paul Connett’s Fluoride Action Network. She uses the Twitter account @nyscof – the New York Coalition Opposed to Fluoridation, Inc.

  1. Zhou, Y., Qiu, Y., He, J., Chen, X., Ding, Y., Wang, Y., & Liu, X. (2013). The toxicity mechanism of sodium fluoride on fertility in female rats. Food and Chemical Toxicology : An International Journal Published for the British Industrial Biological Research Association, 62, 566–72.

    These workers reported harmful effects of sodium fluoride on rats supplied with drinking water containing 100 and 200 ppm F.

  2. Simon, M. J. K., Beil, F. T., Rüther, W., Busse, B., Koehne, T., Steiner, M., … Oheim, R. (2014). High fluoride and low calcium levels in drinking water is associated with low bone mass, reduced bone quality and fragility fractures in sheep. Osteoporosis International : A Journal Established as Result of Cooperation between the European Foundation for Osteoporosis and the National Osteoporosis Foundation of the USA, 25(7), 1891–903.

    The paper reported negative effects on sheep in the Kalahari Desert, Namibia, which were drinking water containing about 10 ppm F.

Fluoride Free Hamilton often quotes “natural” or alternative health sources. Here they link to the article Fluorides: The neurotoxins in water and toothpaste. Trouble is they raise the bogey of high fluoride concentrations (in India) and link it to  flawed work claiming fluoride is a neurotoxin:

“Here in India at least 20 states, including Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Mahatrashtra and Punjab are victims of elevated fluoride levels.”Fluorides are known to cause brain toxicity and neurological symptoms in humans,” said Philippe Grandjean, adjunct professor of environmental health at HSPH”

See Repeating bad science on fluoride for my comments on Grandjean’s paper.

Fluoride Free NZ is just as bad (well they are the same organisation and people). Fluoride Free Hamilton via Declan Waugh was recently fear-mongering about fluoride claiming it could be causing depression. They posed the question:

Have you noticed how many people who kill themselves are on anti-depressants? Prozac for one, has fluoride compounds in it. I wonder if there is any connection?

And cited to this paper:

O’Hara, P. J., Fraser, A. J., & James, M. P. (1982). Superphosphate poisoning of sheep: the role of fluoride. New Zealand Veterinary Journal, 30(12), 199–201. doi:10.1080/00480169.1982.34940

Simply reading the abstract shows this paper is not relevant to fluoridation. It says, in part, “A lethal dose of NaF caused severe depression, salivation, hyperpnoea, blindness, ataxia and incoordination. Death ensued three to 52 hours after dosing.” This paper described research into superphosphate poisoning of animals forced to graze freshly topdressed short pastures.

I have a picture of a poor sheep which has been poisoned and is lethargically sitting around waiting to die. But evidence for human depression! Come off it.

There is a lesson here of course. Be very wary of anti-fluoridation activists citing scientific papers as evidence for fluoridation being toxic. In most cases they will be using the evidence obtained from studies using much higher concentrations than used in community water fluoridation.

Concentration does make a difference – don’t be fooled.

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Councils and scientists targeted by anti-fluoride activists

Are ducks somehow connected to the anti-fluoridation  movement? Sure – they do have unsinkable rubber ducks in common. But I am thinking of how media coverage of anti-fluoridation activity and the opening of the duck shooting season peaks annually about May.

The seasonal airing of the fluoridation issue is directly connected to council timetables. Councils consider and decide on their draft annual plans about that time. And of course anti-fluoridation activists take advantage of this to make large numbers of submissions and to dominate council hearings on the plans. That’s not to say these activists are inactive the rest of the year. There are submissions to prepare, supporters to mobilise and the never-ending promotion of their unsinkable rubber ducks – misinformation about fluoride.

Anti-fluoride activists have become council “groupies.” They are familiar with council planning and conscious of any opportunity to present their case. Aware that numbers can impress councillors they help supporters with submission templates (templates A, B, C, D, were used in Hamilton) and submission guides. In contrast the ordinary citizen is rarely conscious of what is going on in their council. For example, the first most Hamiltonians heard of the “Fluoride Tribunal” organised by the Hamilton City Council last year was a news report of the council vote to stop fluoridation!

fluoride-groupies

A group of anti-fluoride council groupies after harassing the Wellington Regional Council this year. Credit: Fluoride Free Wellington

To continue reading this article see GUEST BLOG: Ken Perrott – Anti-fluoride activists target councils – and scientists at The Daily Blog.

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