Unusual photo of Moon and Earth.

Here’s a photo of the earth you don’t often see. Nor is the view of the moon familiar.

change5_earthmoon.jpg.CROP.original-original

The Chinese test vehicle Change’5 took this photo as it swung around the moon before returning to earth.  So we see the unfamiliar far side of the moon, with the earth in the distance.

AS Phil Plait commented:

“For just a fleeting moment I could have been convinced someone had added a photo of the planet Mercury here; the Moon’s obverse half is so strikingly different than the near side. The lack of dark maria (except for Mare Moscoviense to the upper left) makes the Moon look like every bit the alien world that it really is.”

Emily Lakdawalla displays this and some other photos taken by Change’5 in a recent blog article Chang’e 5 T1 rounds the lunar farside, returns lovely photo of Earth and the Moon together.

After an 8-day mission Change-5 landed safely in Siziwang Banner of China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

China is only the third nation to demonstrate lunar return technology following the former Soviet Union and the United States. The Soviet Union conducted the last lunar return mission in the 1970s.

Cahnge5landed

Researchers retrieve the return capsule of China’s unmanned lunar orbiter in the central region of north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, Nov. 1, 2014. Return capsule of China’s test lunar orbiter landed successfully early Saturday morning in north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, according to the Beijing Aerospace Control Center. Credit: Xinhua/Ren Junchuan

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October ’14 – NZ blogs sitemeter ranking

grumpy-cat-blog

Image Credit: A Pretty Healthy Life


PLEASE NOTE: Sitemeter is still playing up but far fewer blogs are effected. I have done a manual work around but it was still impossible to get the stats for a the blogs that I list below. Maybe more bloggers will shift to StatCounter or other counter. No stats could be found for these blogs:

Works in progress
Social Media and the 2014 General Election
Sportsfreak
Science Behind the Curtain
Looking in the square
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There are now over 300 blogs on the list, although I am weeding out those which are no longer active or have removed public access to sitemeters.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 October 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

Criminal investigation of MH17 tragedy – where is it at?

I thought this der Spiegel interview with Fred Westerbeke about the ongoing criminal investigation of the MH17 tragedy could be of interest. Especially as I have been accused of ignoring the “official version” of the incident.

At least this investigator is relatively open-minded – although I am concerned at the time the investigation is taking and the fact that even now they are only “preparing a request for assistance” from the Russian Federation about their radar records, and “remain in contact with the United States to get satellite images.” I would have thought these would be acted on much earlier.

Fred Westerbeke, born in 1962, directs the Dutch public prosecutor, the Department for investigations of terrorism and organized crime at home and abroad. He is coordinating the criminal processing in the MH17 case. As part of a joint investigation Commission (JIT) Malaysia, Australia and the Ukraine are also involved in it.

I have relied on Google Translate so please excuse the inevitable quaintness of the result.


Fred Westerbeke

 Der Spiegel interviews Fred Westerbeke from the Dutch Department for investigations of terrorism and organized crime at home and abroad.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Mr. Westerbeke, your job as chief prosecutor sounds hardly solvable: MH17 flight was shot down over a civil war zone, even now, three months later, your crime scene investigator for is not available. What gives you hope someday to be able to bring someone to court?

Westerbeke: The Netherlands does not determine in the case so alone. There is a very good cooperation with police and prosecutors, especially in Malaysia, Australia and the Ukraine. BTW, we can gain a lot of experience with similar cases, in connection with the genocide in Rwanda, for example, or with war crimes in Afghanistan. Also there you will find hardly any witnesses, no written documents that could be used as evidence. So As to your question: It is not easy. But we can do it.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: In what period of time?

Westerbeke: Look at Lockerbie …

SPIEGEL ONLINE: … the bombing of a Pan Am jumbo in December 1988 with 270 deaths.

Westerbeke: At that time, it took three years before you could name those responsible. I do not mean that it will take a long time just as in MH17 flight, but it takes a long breath. We will certainly need the whole next year for our work, and perhaps even longer.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: The Federal Intelligence Service BND assumes that pro-Russian separatists have shot down the machine with a surface to air missile. Recently some German parliamentarians corresponding satellite images were presented. Do you know these recordings?

Westerbeke: Unfortunately, we do not know to what images it involved concrete. The problem is that there are very many different satellite images: Some of them can be found on the Internet, others come from foreign intelligence agencies.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: High-resolution images, for example from US spy satellites could play a crucial role in the investigation of the case. Did you get those shots of the Americans?

Westerbeke: We are not sure if we already have everything, or whether there are more – material that may be even more specific. What we present is certainly not enough to draw any conclusions. We remain in contact with the United States to get satellite images.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: The shooting down of flight MH17 is the biggest criminal case in the history of your country, it says. How many investigators are currently working?

Westerbeke: In the Netherlands alone there are ten prosecutors. Three of them coordinate the investigation, two work at the international level. Two more are responsible for the care of relatives. In addition, forensic experts, also around 80 policemen. There are regular meetings with colleagues from Malaysia, Australia and the Ukraine, to divide the work.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Because being fought at the crash site again and again, was so far none of your investigators on site, about to collect debris. But that would be important only to determine the weapon system used. On which tracks you rely instead?

Westerbeke: There are metal fragments that were found in the bodies of the dead and in pieces of luggage. This could be shrapnel from a rocket-Buk, possibly also parts of the aircraft itself. We analyze this, so far there are no results. We also have some witnesses who were on the spot immediately after the crash. In the Internet we spot an immense amount of information, we also various recordings of telephone conversations before, which has recorded the Ukrainian police. Some of it is already available online, but we did get richer material.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: So far, there is no indisputable evidence?

Westerbeke: Yes. If you look in the newspapers, however, it always looks as if quite clear what happened to the aircraft and who is to blame. But if we really want to bring the perpetrators to justice or, we need evidence and more than a recorded phone call from the internet or photos of the crash site. That’s why we not only attract a scenario into consideration, but several.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What are the scenarios?

Westerbeke: first we have drawn four possible explanations considered for the crash of Flight MH17: An accident, a terrorist attack, the shooting down by a surface to air missile or an attack by another aircraft. After the publication of the interim report by the Dutch Security OVV …

SPIEGEL ONLINE: … where the crash is attributed to a variety of fast flying objects that have riddled the outside of the machine …

Westerbeke: … fall off the accident and the terror scenario. The other two remain.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Moscow circulated for some time, the version, the passenger plane had been shot down by a Ukrainian fighter jet. Do you think it possible?

Westerbeke: Based on the available information, the launch is by a ground-to-air missile in my eyes is still the most likely scenario. But we do not close our eyes to the possibility that it might have been different.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: In the OVV report states that there were no military jets in the vicinity have been.

Westerbeke: Right. But this statement is based on information that was available at the time the OVV. The question is: Do the Russians possibly more?

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Your Prime Minister Mark Rutte has recently criticized Vladimir Putin because of his lack of support in the MH17 case. What is the role of Russia in the investigation?

Westerbeke: At the moment, no large, since it is not part of the investigation team. We are preparing a request for assistance, in which we ask Moscow to information that could be important for us. Among other things, those radar data with which the Russians wanted to prove the presence of a Ukrainian military jet near MH17 after the crash.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: If you actually draw the participation of the Ukrainian Air Force on firing of flight MH17 into consideration – is it not absurd that Ukraine is involved in the investigation?

Westerbeke: Of course that’s a problem. But we can not determine without them. I want a way to make it clear: We have no evidence that Kiev would not handle completely open with us. You give us all the information we want.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: In the eastern Ukraine, the winter is coming. Is there any chance that it still create your investigators this year at the crash site?

Westerbeke: At the moment I do not think the right thing. It is there still very dangerous. Therefore, we work with the OVV on a plan B – if we can not get to the crash site itself, we need the debris just brought here by other means.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Suppose there is actually one day to the process – where would the place?

Westerbeke: With a possible process we now deal not us. We first want to spend all resources to find those responsible for this crime. If you however ask the Netherlands, we would certainly ready to make those suspected of committing the process here.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Unknown have been entered in the case MH17 about a German private investigator $ 30 million bounty. Will you also, launch a reward?

Westerbeke: So something is done more often in complicated cases. But currently we have no intention and it will certainly never go to 30 million. Incidentally, I caution anyone from making transactions with these people: No one knows who they are and what intentions they pursue.

See also:
MH17 prosecutor open to theory another plane shot down airliner: Der Spiegel
MH17 might have been shot down from air – chief Dutch investigator — RT News

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There is something about those climate records that keep getting broken

imrs

I think we have all become used to headlines like this - Earth Just Had Its Hottest September On Record. It’s all ho-hum to us. We just don’t notice any more – we don’t bother reading the articles.

This is the point made by Chris Mooney in his Washington Post article Climate records are breaking so often now, we’ve stopped paying attention.

But perhaps we should stop and notice something. How often do these headlines refer to “the coldest month on record?” Surely if this was just random variation, as the climate change deniers like to tell us, we should be seeing such headlines half the time. But we don’t. Doesn’t that tell us something?

We have random variation alright – but random variation on top of an increasing temperature trend. That is what we should worry about.

As Chris Mooney says:

“last September was the hottest of them all, out of 135 Septembers going back to 1880.The same was true for August 2014. And June of 2014. And May of 2014. What that means is that for each of these months, the combined average global land and ocean surface temperature has never been higher, at least since we started recording these temperatures back in the presidency of Rutherford B. Hayes.”

In fact:

“for 355 months now (up through September), “every month on this planet has been warmer than the 20th century average,” according to Jessica Blunden, a scientist at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center. ThePost’s own Philip Bump, then writing at Grist, pointed out numbers like these back in November 2012, when the streak was only 332 consecutive months–but since then, every month has just added to the total. And now, we’re just shy of 30 years of unbroken warmer-than-average months. The last month that actually was not warmer than the 20th century average, according to Blunden, was February of 1985. (It was merely average, she says.)”

On top of this:

“2014 appears reasonably likely to wind up the hottest year on record, in NOAA’s accounting. In fact, to tie that record, the remainder of the year merely has to be average for the 21st century.

In climate science circles, there’s already much discussion of the likelihood of 2014 setting a new record. Climate researchers are particularly struck by the fact that prior record years, like 1998 (now the 3rd warmest overall, according to NOAA)  have often been El Nino years, which are hotter than average. But so far an official El Nino has not yet been proclaimed.

Thus, a new global average temperature record in 2014 would be all the more extraordinary. So will it happen? “As we watch daily temperature results come in, it’s becoming ever more likely,” says John Abraham, a climate scientist at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota who studies ocean warming and climate change. Abraham emphasizes, though, that there are several other global agencies besides NOAA (including our own NASA) that also track temperatures and they don’t always perfectly agree on the ranking of record years.”

I guess the climate change deniers will be yelling the news to the rooftops if one or more global agencies do not find 2014 to  be another record year. Anything to cover up the underlying trend.

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Putting politicans in their place on climate change

The US is a strange country. It has some great comedians (and some great scientists) but it also has some lousy politicians.

It’s a real mystery to me how the US House Committee on Science, Space and Technology can have so many idiots on board.

These Congressmen Think They’re Smarter Than Scientists. Jon Stewart Disproves That Real Quick..

Jon Stewart would have made a great science teacher.

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Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 – what really happened?

Three months after the loss of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over Ukraine the world is no wiser about what, and who, caused this crash. Well, we have the preliminary report but this only confirmed the bleeding obvious (“the aircraft was penetrated by a large number of high-energy objects from outside the aircraft”) and did nothing to either support, or undermine, the various theories circulating about this tragedy (see MH17 – Preliminary report leaves most conspiracy theories intact).

This new documentary probably won’t decide viewers one way or the other either. But it at least presents more evidence, more objectively, than our media usually presents and does not force a predetermined political agenda down the viewer’s throat.

If nothing else, it keeps the issue alive. We should not forget this tragedy and we should identify its causes and perpetrators. It’s not as if we are short of evidence – just short of the political will required to allow its collection and fearless presentation.

MH-17: THE UNTOLD STORY

22 OCTOBER 2014

From the documentary makers – RTD Films.

Three months after Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was violently brought down from the skies over Ukraine, there are still no definitive answers to what caused the tragedy. Civil conflict in the area prevented international experts from conducting a full and thorough investigation. The wreckage should have been collected and scrupulously re-assembled to identify all the damage, but this standard investigative procedure was never carried out. Until that’s done, evidence can only be gleaned from pictures of the debris, the flight recorders or black boxes and eye-witnesses’ testimonies.  This may be enough to help build a picture of what really happened to the aircraft, whether a rocket fired from the ground or gunfire from a military jet.

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Fluoridation – a racist conspiracy?

Political activists campaigning on health issues often resort to scaremongering. This can be dangerous – especially when their stories have no real basis but rely on selective and distorted information.

Paul Connett’s Fluoride Action Network (FAN) often resorts to this sort of scaremongering. Now they are launching a series of stories dressed up as “exposès.”  The first is aimed at African-Americans and claims the US  “federal government has known for five decades that blacks were even more susceptible than whites to serious damage from fluoride added to water supplies, but it urged local governments to fluoridate the population anyway.”

Typically, Connett’s Crowd is promoting this campaign through FAN press releases which get picked up by “natural” health magazines and web pages. The articles are then heavily promoted throughout social media by activists – sometimes even making their way into the mass media (see Gov’t Failed to Warn about Fluoride’s Disproportionate Harm to Black Community and Feds: Blacks Suffer Most From Fluoride, Fluoridate Anyway).

The press release is summed up in the first paragraph:

“Government health authorities knew over 50 years ago that black Americans suffered greater harm from fluoridation, yet failed to warn the black community about their disproportionate risk, according to documents obtained by the Fluoride Action Network (FAN).”

So the evidence, the “document,” on which they hang this story, is a memo.

memo

Now, that is very pathetic to hang a campaign on, isn’t it. And the campaigners are also relying on the false idea that anything obtained via freedom of information inquiry must have been “secret” or “hidden” from the public eyes. (Incidentally they do the same with the Certificates of Analysis for fluoridation chemicals used by water treatment plants – even appearing to think that listing an analytical result for contaminants, however small, is somehow “proof” that the contamination is a problem – see Fluoridation: emotionally misrepresenting contamination and Natural News comes out with a load of heavy metal rubbish on fluoride).

Differences in dental fluorosis prevalence not hidden

But the scientific information comparing prevalence of dental fluorosis among US whites and African-Americans is neither new or hidden. In fact, FAN’s press release does refer to a little of this published data, but again typically they distort it.

In particular it uses data from studies where fluoride in drinking water were often higher than the optimum levels for community water fluoridation (CWF). Consequently the studies include some people exhibiting the medium and severe forms of dental fluorosis never observed with CWF.

One of the papers cited is Martinez-Mier, E. A., & Soto-Rojas, A. E. (2010). Differences in exposure and biological markers of fluoride among White and African American children. Journal of Public Health Dentistry, 70(3), 234–40. It did report higher amounts of dental fluorosis in the African-American children they studied. But it also found that the African-American children in the study reported using larger amounts of toothpaste and had higher urine fluoride concentrations than white children. It concluded:

“Differences in fluoride exposure between two racial groups were observed. These differences are complex and need to be better defined.”

This does not warrant claims of  African-Americans being more susceptible than whites. Nor is the information “explosive” as the FAN press release claims.

Another study cited was Williams, J. E., & Zwemer, J. D. (1990). Community Water Fluoride Levels, Preschool Dietary Patterns, and the Occurrence of Fluoride Enamel Opacities. Journal of Public Health Dentistry, 50(4), 276–281. But the study actually doesn’t back up the FAN claims as these authors found:

“higher TSIF scores [an index of dental fluorosis prevalence] were associated with city children significantly more than with county children. There was no association of TSIF scores either in the city children or the county children with respect to gender, race, preschool dietary patterns, or dentifrice ingestion.”

Another cited paper is Butler, W. J., Segreto, V., & Collins, E. (1985). Prevalence of dental mottling in school-aged lifetime residents of 16 Texas communities.  American Journal of Public Health, 75(12), 1408–1412. These authors found “children who were White or had a Spanish surname had about the same prevalence of mottling while Blacks had a higher prevalence.” This appears to support the FAN claim but air conditioning in the children’s home and total dissolved solids and zinc in the drinking water also influenced prevalence of mottling. Significant mottling only occurred where  drinking water fluoride concentrations were over 2 ppm making the conclusions irrelevant to CWF where concentrations are usually in the range 0.7 to 1 ppm

Finally, they cite Beltrán-Aguilar, E. D. ., & Gooch, B. F. ; (n.d.). Surveillance for Dental Caries, Dental Sealants, Tooth Retention, Edentulism, and Enamel Fluorosis — United States, 1988–1994 and 1999–2002. Yes, this study did show African American had a slightly higher prevalence of very mild and mild dental fluorosis, as the figure below shows.

s403a1f19

They did not advance an explanation for this but note that “different hypotheses have been proposed, including biologic susceptibility or greater fluoride intake.” One could also suggest differences in residential location – especially as some of the people in the study had moderate or severe dental fluorosis indicating they were likely consuming drinking water with a fluoride content above the level recommended for CWF.

But we could make the same comparisons with tooth decay data from this study (see figure below):

s403a1f1

Perhaps we should be jumping up and down about the increased racial sensitivity of African-Americans and Mexican Americans to the disease of tooth decay and claim that this information has been suppressed or nothing done about the problem.

Or perhaps, as is most likely happening, authorities are just getting on with the job of working out how to deal with health inequalities in different ethnic groups.

 Conclusion

This campaign is just another of the scaremongering attempts of Connett’s crowd. Appealing to conspiracy theorists it uses a memo obtained as part of a freedom of information inquiry to imply a cover-up. The campaing cites studies which do show real differences but do not show they result from differences in sensitivity. And they are not large enough to justify the extreme language of the press release and reports.

Of course there may be similarities in the dental health conditions of disadvantaged ethnic groups in the US, and in New Zealand and Australia, but the way some anti-fluoride propagandists have used these press releases to “prove” that NZ Maori and Australian Aborigine are adversely effected by CWF borders on naive racism.

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Curiosity’s historic comet photo

pia18591-main-replacement-mer_css_long_0r_anno

Photo Credit: Curiosity on Mars – NASA Rover Opportunity Views Comet Near Mars.

According to NASA:

NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity captured images of a comet passing much closer to Mars than any previous known comet flyby of Earth or Mars. The images of comet Siding Spring were taken against a backdrop of the pre-dawn Martian sky on Sunday (Oct. 19).

Images of comet A1 Siding Spring from the rover’s panoramic camera (Pancam) are online at:

http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/spaceimages/details.php?id=PIA18591

http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/spaceimages/details.php?id=PIA18592

http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA18617

Researchers used Opportunity’s Pancam to image at a range of exposure times about two-and-one-half hours before the closest approach of the nucleus of comet Siding Spring to Mars. By the time of closest approach at about 87,000 miles (139,500 kilometers), dawn had lit the sky above Opportunity.

“It’s excitingly fortunate that this comet came so close to Mars to give us a chance to study it with the instruments we’re using to study Mars,” said Opportunity science team member Mark Lemmon of Texas A&M University, who coordinated the camera pointing. “The views from Mars rovers, in particular, give us a human perspective, because they are about as sensitive to light as our eyes would be.”

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When science deniers turn to science

Cartoon by Joe Heller, www.hellertoon.com

Readers no doubt recognise this situation. It’s a pretty blatant form of science denial. Division of science and into pro and anti forms –  such as pro-fluoridation and anti-fluoridation science –  is just another form of science denial – but it does seem to fool some people. “There are no sides! just facts!”

Mind you, most deniers will look to science when their lives are in danger. This satirical article from The Borowitz Report at newyorker.com makes this point.

Some Fear Ebola Outbreak Could Make Nation Turn to Science

NEW YORK The Borowitz Report—There is a deep-seated fear among some Americans that an Ebola outbreak could make the country turn to science. In interviews conducted across the nation, leading anti-science activists expressed their concern that the American people, wracked with anxiety over the possible spread of the virus, might desperately look to science to save the day.“It’s a very human reaction,” said Harland Dorrinson, a prominent anti-science activist from Springfield, Missouri. “If you put them under enough stress, perfectly rational people will panic and start believing in science.”Additionally, he worries about a “slippery slope” situation, “in which a belief in science leads to a belief in math, which in turn fosters a dangerous dependence on facts.”At the end of the day, though, Dorrinson hopes that such a doomsday scenario will not come to pass. “Time and time again through history, Americans have been exposed to science and refused to accept it,” he said. “I pray that this time will be no different.”

Fluoride debate: Second response to Rita Barnett-Rose – Daniel Ryan

Here is Daniel Ryan’s second response to Rita Barnett-Rose’s defence of here unpublished paper Compulsory water fluoridation: Justifiable public health benefit or human experimental research without informed consent“. That defence was posted yesterday at Fluoride debate: Response to Daniel Ryan’s critique – Rita Bartlett-Rose.

Daniel’s second response is available to download as a pdf.


Compulsory water fluoridation: second response to Rita Barnett-Rose

Dan Ryan 2

Daniel Ryan from the Making Sense of Fluoride group

Written by Daniel Ryan

5/10/2014

Introduction

This is my second response to Associate Professor Rita Barnett-Rose to her paper “Compulsory water fluoridation: justifiable public health benefit or human experimental research without informed consent”. It is a response to her document “RE: CWF Working Paper Article” (hereafter referred to as “Rita’s reply.”). I wish to thank Rita for acknowledging in that papers should be referenced accurately by using citations to the original sources rather than simply referencing activist sources. I am also pleased she is getting experts to review the science in her paper and am interested to know who the independent reviewers are.
In this this response I have collected a number of comments to consider under separate headings.

Objectively looking at the science.

Rita’s reply:

“…you object to my failure to include contrary studies that reaffirm the (English speaking countries’) public health agencies’/dental lobby positions on the safety and benefits of compulsory water fluoridation.”

“…with respect to your complaint or desire that I cite to contrary (i.e., pro-fluoridation) studies in addition to (or in lieu of) the published studies that I cite that tend to weigh against fluoridation”

“It is not meant to be an exhaustive examination of all studies on fluoridation and is specifically and accurately identified for what it is”

“…you are just as guilty of ‘cherry picking’ your sources and your studies as you suggest I am.”

“I am not interested in a battle of the studies debate”

“These reasons would remain even if compulsory water fluoridation were proven to be entirely safe, which it most definitely has not, despite the presumed “majority” view in the English speaking countries”

My reply:
Rita implies I only use ‘pro-fluoridation’ or ‘English speaking countries’ papers. This is incorrect – I cite papers which provide the best weight in regards to evidence. Science doesn’t take sides (good papers are neither “anti-fluoridation” nor “pro-fluoridation”, they present data and reasoning) and these are international. To clarify, my issue is not that Barnett-Rose (2014) was not using ‘pro-fluoridation’ papers, it was the quality of the studies themselves. Reviewers of the science should attempt to understand and evaluate the quality of the research.

I also look at the quality of journal. And I try to cite papers which are in high quality journals more as those journals attract the best scientific papers. Journals use a metric called “impact factor” that basically states how many times an average paper is cited by other papers. It is an independent, objective method to judge the quality of published research.
The hierarchy of scientific evidence in the literature is also important I illustrate this in the image below.

cm-evidence-listed-medicines-05-01
Secondary reviews published in peer-reviewed, high-impact journals and high quality randomised controlled trials with definitive results should be the preferred sources. For consideration of human health effects I consider that animal studies would be placed above “expert opinion” in this hierarchy.
Overall one needs to approach the literature intelligently and critically – considering the evidence provided in the individual papers and also considering other published material.

Instead I saw that Barnett-Rose (2014) did not evaluate the evidence well, only selecting evidence of harm in order to persuade the audience to accept her position. There is no reason to use low validity papers when there is plenty of high quality papers but unfortunately this happens when trying to “price” a preconceived idea.

An example of this is Barnett-Rose (2014) used an opinion article from the Scientific American many times as her source. This is not a scientific paper, it is not peer reviewed or in a research journal; furthermore the writer is not a scientist and definitely not an expert on the subject. This type of evidence would come below “expert opinion” on the image above. I hope such problems would be given as feedback from the independent reviewers.
Rita accuses me of cherry picking but fails to back this up. I do try to use only the best sources of evidence – usually systematic reviews. A systematic review is a literature review focused on a research question that tries to identify, appraise, select and synthesize all high quality research evidence relevant to that question.

The evidence shows

Rita’s reply:

“However, what I do believe is that the burden of proving safety and effectiveness lies with the pro-fluoridation side”

“It also appears to me that the pro-fluoridation side is playing “whack a mole” with the studies weighing against CWF – often trying to hammer down/marginalize the opposition each time a negative study pops up, rather than trying to consider the evidence objectively.”

“However, to me, if even one strong study exists, then the entire compulsory practice must be re-evaluated.”

My Reply:
The scientific consensus is that fluoridation works, it is safe and it is cost effective. We have evolved with fluoride and had it adjusted in our water for over 60 years in some countries. Developed countries where natural fluoride levels are low but choose not to use community water fluoridation (CWF) generally use other methods such as milk and salt fluoridation, which again are both safe and effective, or have very effective public health and dental systems. Over 5,500 papers have been systematically reviewed and no consistent association between fluoridation and illness has been found that has been confirmed through later research.

Using the latest evidence: Public Health England just released their water fluoridation review this month – Water fluoridation Health monitoring report for England 2014 and it concluded:

“This monitoring report provides evidence of lower dental caries rates in children living in fluoridated compared to non-fluoridated areas. Similarly, infant dental admission rates were substantially lower. There was no evidence of higher rates of the non-dental health indicators studied in fluoridated areas compared to non-fluoridated areas. Although the lower rates of kidney stones and bladder cancer found in fluoridated areas are of interest, the population-based, observational design of this report does not allow conclusions to be drawn regarding any causative or protective role of fluoride; similarly, the absence of any associations does not provide definitive evidence for a lack of a relationship.”

Last month a reviewHealth effects of water fluoridation: A review of the scientific evidence written on behalf of the Royal Society of New Zealand and the Office of the NZ Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor concluded:

“Councils with established CWF schemes in New Zealand can be confident that their continuation does not pose risks to public health, and promotes improved oral health in their communities, reducing health inequalities and saving on lifetime dental care costs for their citizens. Councils where CWF is not currently undertaken can confidently consider this as an appropriate public health measure, particularly those where the prevalence and severity of dental caries is high. A forthcoming study from the Ministry of Health is expected to provide further advice on how large a community needs to be before CWF is cost-effective (current indications point to all communities of 1000+ people). It is recommended that a review such as this one is repeated or updated every 10 years – or earlier if a large well-designed study is published that appears likely to have shifted the balance of health benefit vs health risk.”

Looking at the many other systematic reviews you will find a similar pattern. CWF is shown to be safe and effective. So the “burden of proof” really is on those claiming evidence of harm. They need to produce well supported and peer-reviewed studies which back up their claims.

If there is a strong evidence for health risks of fluoridation then I totally agree with Rita that it needs to be re-evaluated. Every year many studies are written on fluoridation and continued monitoring of the scientific findings occurs in many countries with the precautionary principle of being alert to any possible negative effects.

Health organisations

Rita’s reply:

“Please also note that any and all of your cites to the ADA lobby, or to the CDC (which, though its oral health division, works hand in hand with the ADA promoting fluoridation and thus has a serious conflict of interest/credibility problem) are unpersuasive to me – as they should be to anyone conducting even a minimum level of research into the history of and politics behind fluoridation (some of which is chronicled in my article, including the story of the EPA’s NTEU battle).”

“it does not take long to discover how politically motivated many “public health agencies” and “professional dental associations” are — or how willing they are to obscure, minimize, or bury contrary evidence or to marginalize the anti-fluoridation messengers, regardless of the evidence or the credentials of those messengers (e.g., Waldbott, Taylor, Marcus, Mullenix, Bassin, Hirzy).”

My reply:
I think Rita is placing her own bias on these judgments. One could equally say:

“It does not take long to discover how politically motivated Dr Paul Connett and FAN are — or how willing they are to obscure, misinform, or bury contrary evidence or to marginalise the pro-science messengers, regardless of the evidence or the credentials of those messengers.”

If Rita has a specific problem with the CDC or the ADA, I can use some of the many other hundreds of health organisations around the world. They all have similar conclusions about fluoridation. As I said in my first response, there is not one reputable health organisation that is against fluoridation. We already have Dr Paul Connett suggesting a massive conspiracy, I hope you do not agree with his accusations as this is generally the last resort for people who cannot find reasonable faults in the evidence but still refuse to believe it.

NRC Report

Rita’s reply:

“However, I believe that its review of fluoride toxicology is highly relevant to exposures from fluoridated water (and its exposure data itself suggests that some people drinking fluoridated water can, indeed, receive doses that can cause adverse health effects, including severe dental fluorosis and bone fractures).”

“In addition, in a number of health risk areas, the NRC panel concluded that there was not enough data, and/or that more research needed to be conducted, before definitive statements could be made with respect to other potential adverse health effects due to excess exposure to fluoride.”

My reply:
I will not repeat what I said in my earlier reply. The review itself said that it was not relevant to exposures to concentrations used for fluoridated water and to say it is “highly relevant” is spreading misinformation. The NRC report furthered shows the safety of fluoridation. As for the “more research needed”, that is always the case with science. That is why responsible public health agencies continue to monitor research findings.

Ethics

Rita’s reply:

“I would genuinely be interested in knowing why you feel so strongly that imposing this practice on everyone is ethically justifiable.”

“Thus, I am very curious as to why there appears to be such an aggressive campaign on the pro fluoridation side to impose this practice on the world – and why anyone believes that personal liberties and rights to bodily integrity should be sacrificed for a public health practice addressing a non-contagious disease.”

“I would also be interested in understanding where you personally believe compulsory public health practices should begin and end (e.g., do you believe governments should mandate compulsory flu shots? What about the HPV vaccine that the Governor of Texas tried to mandate for girls? Where should the personal right to bodily integrity begin and end, in your opinion? And how comfortable are you with public health officials mandating what is good for you?…)”

My reply:
I don’t see how you conclude that I “feel so strongly that imposing this practice on everyone”. I, myself, could say I am strongly against misinformation. The MSoF society is here to help explain what the actual scientific evidence shows to the public, not to advocate for CWF at any cost. It is up to the communities if they want to use CWF and we, the MSoF Society, support their democratic right to decide.

But regarding ethical aspects, you might be interested in what the Nuffield Council on Bioethics decided. It:

  • Rejected the prohibition of water fluoridation based on the argument of mass medication and restricting personal rights.
  • Affirmed that water fluoridation should be accepted based on the quantified risks and benefits, the potential alternatives, and, where there are harms, the role of consent.

They also used a ‘stewardship mode’ to analyse the acceptable degree of state intervention to improve population health, concluding that water fluoridation can be justified based on its contribution to the goals of stewardship: the reduction of health inequalities, the reduction of ill health, and the concern for children, who represent a vulnerable group.

The New Zealand High Court this year ruled that fluoridation of the water supply:

  • is not a medical treatment,
  • does not violate the right to refuse medicine,
  • is not in breach of the Bill of Rights, And that
  • the Council was thoughtful and responsible in making their decision to begin fluoridation, and had no obligation to consider “controversial factual issues” (anti-fluoride propaganda).

You could say there is an aggressive campaign on both sides, but people are pushing for fluoridation simply because it works – reducing up to 40% of caries over a whole population.

Dental caries is a serious chronic disease, it makes no difference if it is contagious or not. The Royal Society Review pointed out that:

“…tooth decay (dental caries) remains the single most common chronic disease among New Zealanders of all ages, with consequences including pain, infection, impaired chewing ability, tooth loss, compromised appearance, and absence from work or school. Tooth decay is an irreversible disease; if untreated it is cumulative through the lifespan, such that individuals who are adversely affected early in life tend to have pervasive decay by adulthood, and are likely to suffer extensive tooth loss later in life. Prevention of tooth decay is essential from very early childhood through to old age”.

The Royal Society Review also suggested that removing fluoridation would have direct and indirect costs to society.

“Tooth decay is responsible for significant health loss (lost years of healthy life) in New Zealand. The ‘burden’ of the disease – its ‘cost’ in terms of lost years of healthy life – is equivalent to 3/4 that of prostate cancer, and 2/5 that of breast cancer in New Zealand. Tooth decay thus has substantial direct and indirect costs to society.”

I am all for protecting the vulnerable. If individuals do not consent, they can simply choose not to partake of the community water supply (bottled water, filters, rain water, etc.). I feel this is starting to head slightly off-topic but to answer your question, if the vaccine given out is safe and effective for the general public then I have no problems with compulsory shots for children. While choice is nice thing to have, you cannot always get it, especially if it is going to lower the quality of life in children.

The New Zealand High Court summarised some ethical aspects in the decision I referred to above:

“Provided it does not have consequences for public health a person has the right to make even the poorest decisions in respect of their own health. But where the state, either directly or through local government, employs public health interventions, the right is not engaged. Were it otherwise, the individual’s right to refuse would become the individual’s right to decide outcomes for others. It would give any person a right of veto over public health measures which it is not only the right but often the responsibility of local authorities to deliver.”

The World Health Organization

Rita’s reply:

“Data published by the WHO suggests that the decline in dental caries is similar in both fluoridated and unfluoridated countries, and I have heard of no massive outbreak of a worldwide dental carie epidemic that has been attributed to a lack of fluoridated water (rather than to poverty, poor nutrition, or a lack of access to proper dental care).”

My reply:
Petersen & Lennon (2004), a WHO funded study showed dental caries remain a major public health concern, affecting 60–90% of schoolchildren and the vast majority of adults. While fluoride is not a silver bullet, it is just part of the problem, it should not be ignored when it can clearly help very effectively. Their study goes into a number of suggestions for alleviating tooth decay, one being fluoridation.

“Water fluoridation, where technically feasible and culturally acceptable, has substantial advantages particularly for subgroups at high risk of caries. Alternatively, fluoridated salt, which retains consumer choice, can also be recommended. WHO is currently in the process of developing guidelines for milk fluoridation programs, based on experiences from community trials carried out in both developed and developing countries.”

As for the similar DMFT decline between fluoridated and unfluoridated countries Rita claims this needs to be considered critically. Fluoride occurs naturally everywhere and it is very hard to compare one country to others because of the many other contributing factors such as; history, culture, ethnic differences, as well as differences in health services, dental practice and assessments. The graphical evidence FAN promotes on their website and elsewhere they do not account for naturally occurring fluoride or other programs (fluoride vanish, mouth rinse programs, etc.) and different history and social practices. Their graphs also use only 2 data points for each country. There is no consideration of also changing fluoridation amounts over time and their graph is very confusing. It does not enable proper consideration of different DMFT declines in different countries. The stats show Denmark having the lowest DMFT and FAN marked them as not fluoridated, but they actually have high levels of naturally occurring fluoride.

Irish-2
If you look at the WHO data in more detail (graph left does this for the Irish Republic using the same WHO data) you will find that fluoridated areas show faster declines in DMFT than unfluoridated areas.

Making Sense of Fluoride

Rita’s reply:

“…you complain about FAN not being a legitimate source of credible scientific information, but your organization is also a political advocacy (pro-fluoridation) group”

“I urge you to conduct such a battle with a more appropriate sparring partner, such as FAN-NZ.”

My reply:
Like yourself, I am not a scientist – I am a software developer; my responses get checked by scientists but I would always look into the evidence in scientific studies. I avoid political or activist organisations (legitimate or not). The Making Sense of Fluoride society is not a pro-fluoridation group, we are a pro-science group. We will go with what the scientific consensus says and will spread warnings, if for example: some time in the future, CWF was really found to be harmful.

The objectives of the MSoF incorporated society are:

a) To foster awareness and dispel misinformation regarding fluoride with a focus on CWF.
b) Use the scientific method as the foundational platform upon which this awareness is promoted.

FANNZ, now known as Fluoride Free NZ (and a close partner of FAN), will always be anti-fluoride no matter what the evidence shows. For that reason it is usually not fruitful debating them. Their incorporated society main purposes make clear their opposition to CWF irrespective of the science:

a) To bring about the permanent end to public water fluoridation (“fluoridation”) in New Zealand.
b) To provide resources, both personal and material, to others opposing fluoridation in New Zealand.
c) To provide a central contact point for those opposing fluoridation in New Zealand.

Apology

Rita’s reply:

“This statement about “mounting scientific evidence” at the start of my paper (near fn. 2) actually references an entire section of my article – (“See discussion infra Sec. II-B”) — and not an opinion piece by Colquhoun, which is only referenced – appropriately – at footnote 65 (referring to “formerly avid fluoride proponents” who have changed their minds). I have no desire to engage with insincere zealots, so I hope that you simply made a mistake there.”

My reply:
I apologise for my mistaking you and any offense it may have caused you. It was clearly a simple mistake that anyone could have made and I had no intention to twist your words.

Wrapping up

Rita’s reply:

“After this exchange, however, I am only interested in a private discussion with you, which is something you may not be interested in as it may not advance your organization’s agenda”
“However, your Facebook posting has generated some contact to me by a few rude (and seemingly unbalanced) pro fluoridation folks”

My reply:
MSoF is always happy to have private discussions if you are willing to listen to our feedback. A lot of our work is outside of what the public sees but we always up for public exchanges to share to our followers.

You will find that your paper got sent all over Facebook and the media; because it was publicised in a press release from FAN. That is how I found out about it.
It is a pity you were subjected to insults because of that publicity. That said I was also hit with insults on Fluoride Free NZ Facebook pages because of my response to you. These insults are common and something I have gotten used too; in either case it is a shame that people feel it best to engage in debate in disrespectful ways. Fluoridation is an emotional topic for some – personally I do my best to stick with the science and keep my emotions out.

Thank you Rita for making time in reading our feedback and responding to us.

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