Tag Archives: New Zealand

December ’13 – NZ blogs sitemeter ranking

happy-new-year-2014

Image credit: Best Wallpaper HD

There are now almost 300 blogs on the list, although I am weeding out those which are no longer active or have removed public access to sitemeters.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 December2013. 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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Image credit: Ryan Shell

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The true meaning of Christmas

I reckon you can’t beat Tim Minchin’s song “White Wine in the Sun” to convey the real atmosphere of Christmas – at least in Australia and New Zealand.

Here’s a new version – recorded at the Uncaged Monkeys show in Manchester on 6th December 2011. It’s a bit shaky at the start but gets better.

Tim is accompanied by Prof. Brian Cox on keyboard in this version

Tim Minchin & Prof Brian Cox – White Wine In The Sun

Similar articles

 

Fluoride debate: Arguments Against Fluoridation Thread. Part 5. Paul

This is Paul Connett’s response to Ken Perrott’s last article  The fluoride debate: Response to Paul’s 6th article.

For Paul Connett’s original article see – Fluoride debate Part 1: Connett.


Here is my response to Ken’s last response to this thread (part 4).

Propaganda from Queensland Health

 1) The pictures below appeared on page 2 of a 4-page leaflet from Queensland Health used to promote mandatory fluoridation in 2007. It compares pictures of the teeth of a child who has had its teeth “exposed to fluoridated water” (beautiful) with the teeth of a child “without exposure to fluoridated water” (atrocious).

QLD Health brochure

In response to this figure Ken writes:

  “It seems to have been taken from a document prepared under the Queensland Health logo. I cannot find a source and no-one seems to be able to give a citation. It is not on the Queensland Health web site.” (my emphasis)

Why does Ken say “seems”? I forwarded a copy of the whole leaflet to Ken. Does he doubt the authenticity of that leaflet?  I have no doubt at all about its authenticity.  Mind you, I am not surprised – now that citizens in Queensland have pointed out this outrageous piece of state-funded propaganda – that Queensland Health is embarrassed and should want to hide all traces of it.

2) I think it was disingenuous of Ken to try to nullify this outrageous propaganda by providing a link to a leaflet produced by an anti-fluoridation group. The point I was making (in part 3 of this thread – originally part 1A) is that it is one thing for citizens – either promoters or opponents – to use tactics like this (I certainly do not condone or endorse any side using such tactics) but it is quite another when bureaucrats working for the state and paid by taxpayers to protect their health stoop to such tactics. It is unacceptable. Nor should it be necessary if this practice was as “safe and effective” as the promoters claim. Surely the role of civil servants is to provide objective information on a controversial issue not side with one side and then provide outrageous spin in support of that side.

3) Ken did not respond to my other concerns about the propaganda used by Queensland Health. This is less dramatic perhaps but equally deceptive. This was their claim in newspaper ads (see picture below) that there was a 65% difference in tooth decay between fluoridated Townsville and non-fluoridated Brisbane (see picture below).

Newspaper ad

To get this 65% reduction Queensland Health had selected the number for the relative difference for just one age – 7 year olds.  In Table 4 – in the paper by Slade et al.,  (see below) readers will see that this 65% relative reduction amounted to an absolute saving of a measly 0.17 of one tooth surface. Their arithmetic is accurate but a 65% reduction sounds a whole lot more impressive than a saving of 0.17 of one tooth surface. This is a deliberate attempt to mislead the public. In other words, it’s PR spin. I would be interested to hear how Ken would describe it.

Table-Connett.jpg

Returning to the photographs in the Queensland Health brochure, does the difference in these two sets of teeth look like a difference of 0.17 of one decayed, missing and filled permanent tooth surfaces (DMFS)?

I wish I could say that this blatant propaganda on behalf of personnel at Queensland Health is an aberration among civil servants in the health agencies of the countries practicing fluoridation. Sadly, from my personal experience, it is not.

I have seen first hand outright propaganda from people at the highest levels of civil service in the health agencies of several fluoridating countries as well as their minions in their bureaucratic chain of command.

The propaganda of these civil servants is shameless but sadly gobbled up by the media and too many local decision makers in their respective countries. One would have hoped that scientists like Ken Perrott with their sensitive antenna to scientific misrepresentation would have helped expose this sad state of affairs. Instead of doing this they fire their rhetorical guns at the citizens who are doing their very best – with limited resources – to bring this state-financed propaganda to the attention of the media, the public and their political representatives – but it is an uphill job.

4) In NZ the manipulation of the science on this practice goes back a long way – in fact to the very first trial of fluoridation in Hastings (with Napier as the control city). This trial was carried out from 1954 to 1964 and has been shown by the late Dr. John Colquhoun and his PhD thesis advisor Dr. Robert Mann and others to have been a scientific fraud (Colquhoun and Mann, 1986; Colquhoun, 1987 and Colquhoun and Wilson, 1996).

5) Ken might wish to comment on the following candid letter sent out by the Director of the Division of Dental Health, Dr. G. H. Leslie, in 1962 – some eight years into this 10-year trial.

letter

I have typed out this letter to make it easier for people to read, as some of the letters are not clear:

 Mr. Swann,

 I have delayed acknowledging receipt of Dr. Roche’s letter to you and replying to your minute in the hope that I would by now be able to give a positive reply to your enquiry. I still cannot.

 No one is more conscious than I am of the need for proof of the value of fluoridation in terms of reduced treatment. It is something which has been concerning me for a long time. It is only a matter of time before I will be asked questions and I must have an answer with meaning to a layman or I am going to be embarrassed and so is everyone else connected with fluoridation. But it is not easy to get. On the contrary it is proving extremely difficult. Mr. Espia is conferring with Mr. Bock and Mr. Ludwig and I am hopeful that in due course they will be able to make a practical suggestion.

 I will certainly not rest easily until a simple method has been devised to prove the equation fluoridation = less fillings

 

(G.H. Leslie)

Director

Division of Dental Health

 6) With this letter we have what amounts to a “smoking gun” as far as the inability of NZ  dental officials and researchers to show the effectiveness of fluoridation – some eight years into the ten-year Hastings-Napier fluoridation trial.

7) However, miraculously, two years later this trial was proclaimed as a great success at demonstrating that fluoridation had led to a large reduction in tooth decay (over 60%) and the result was used to push for fluoridation throughout the country.

8) So how in the space of two years was this dramatic turnaround achieved?

9) According to Dr. John Colquhoun’s research it was a complete artifact. The deception was in three parts. First, after about two years the control city of Napier was dropped for bogus reasons. Two, the reduction in tooth decay claimed was based on comparing tooth decay in Hastings at the beginning and the end of the trial (and not a comparison between tooth decay in Hastings and Napier).  Three, method of diagnosing tooth decay was changed during the trial. Colquhoun describes this third aspect of the deception:

The school dentists in the area of the experiment were instructed to change their method of diagnosing tooth decay, so that they recorded much less decay after fluoridation began. Before the experiment they had filled (and classified as “decayed”) teeth with any small catch on the surface, before it had penetrated the outer enamel layer. After the experiment began, they filled (and classified as “decayed”) only teeth with cavities, which penetrated the outer enamel layer. It is easy to see why a sudden drop in the numbers of “decayed and filled” teeth occurred. This change in method of diagnosis was not reported in any of the published accounts of the experiment.”

What qualifies these activities as scientific fraud, in my view, is the last sentence: “This change in method of diagnosis was not reported in any of the published accounts of the experiment.”

 10) To the best of my knowledge the evidence that Colquhoun and Mann put forward for this rigged trial has never been refuted. I would be anxious to see if Ken can throw a different light on this matter. If he can’t then I think that he and other NZ citizens should be concerned that the people of NZ were duped in this way.

Ken was unresponsive to many of my other concerns expressed in parts 1 and 1A (or parts 1 and 3 in my thread, The Arguments Against Fluoridation).

11) Ken didn’t address the key issue of the difference between concentration and dose when comparing artificially fluoridated communities and naturally fluoridated study communities when harm has been identified.

12) He didn’t address the need for a margin of safety calculation when determining a safe dose for a community based on a human study that has found harm (see chapter 20 in The Case Against Fluoride…). Nor did he comment on the sample margin of safety analysis that I provided based on the Xiang et al. (2003a,b) study, although he has commented on the Xiang study elsewhere.

13) He didn’t comment on my response to his claim – that there was no need to control the dose as far as efficacy was concerned because it worked over a wide range. I pointed out that there was not a wide range as far as safety was concerned and gave this information:

“I would also remind you that when the US National Research Council reviewed the toxicology of fluoride in water they concluded that several subsets of the US population were exceeding the US EPA’s safe reference dose for fluoride (the so-called IRIS value) of 0.06 mg/kg/day. This included high water consumers and bottle-fed infants. See Figure 2.8 in their report (NRC, 2006).”

14) Ken is ducking a key issue when he writes:

“It is pointless to continue debating definitions of fluoride as a medicine – as I have said the argument is largely semantic. People who wish to pursue the argument should do so in a court of law.”

Is he suggesting that in order to get a rational response from him on this matter I have to take him to court? Joking apart, surely he can concede that the purpose of fluoridation is to treat people as opposed to treating the water to make it safe or palatable to drink? And if he is willing to concede that then doesn’t treating people – at least in some countries – require that those treated have the right to informed consent to that treatment? This is not just about semantics it is about fundamental human rights.  See the definition of medicine and medical treatment under EU law which I provided in the other thread (part 6).

15) Instead of providing me with examples of statements from countries in Europe that have rejected fluoridation for reasons other than the two main ones I cited, Ken fobs me off with a statement from the NZ National Fluoride Information Service. In this statement this body gives no specific examples of countries that have not fluoridated for the reasons it – or Ken – states. So I will ask him again.

Ken please provide some evidence that countries have not fluoridated for the reasons you have given as opposed to the reasons I have given, namely: they do not wish to force fluoridation on people who don’t want it and they argue that there are unresolved health concerns about the practice.

16) When Ken restates that:

“For the vast majority of people who have dental fluorosis (recognised by a professional) it is usually classified as “questionable” or “mild.” Real health concerns should only be raised for severe dental fluorosis. Yet anti-fluoride activists lump all those grades together and pretend that dental fluorosis is a much bigger problem than it really is.”

Ken has essentially ignored all the information I provided for him on this issue. I provided the figures cited by the CDC (2010) for dental fluorosis for children aged 12 to 15 in the US. In this report, they indicate that very mild dental fluorosis impacts 28.5% and mild dental fluorosis impacts 8.6% of the population in question. Mild dental fluorosis affects up to 50% of the tooth surface and presents potential psychological problems for young teenagers. Ken may not consider that a “real” problem but many teenagers do. Ken might also be interested to know that Trendley Dean, the so-called father of fluoridation , who developed this first classification of dental fluorosis in the 1930s, in testimony before the US Congress stated that mild dental fluorosis was an unacceptable trade-off for reduction in tooth decay (see chapter 11 in The Case Against Fluoride…).

Moreover 3.6% of US children aged 12-15 have dental fluorosis in either the moderate or severe category. In these categories 100% of the enamel of the impacted teeth is impacted. Neither of these categories is desirable. 3.6% of all the children aged 12-15 in the US is a lot of children!

17) Ken also claimed that there was practically no difference in dental fluorosis prevalence between fluoridated and non-fluoridated communities. He ignored my response. I cited the study by Heller et al (1997), which clearly showed that that was not the case. They found that as the fluoride levels rose from a) less than 0.3 ppm, to b) 0.3 to 0.7 ppm , to c) 0.7 – 1.2 ppm and then d) above 1.2 ppm there was a marked increase in dental fluorosis rates.

18) I offered an animal study (Varner et al, 1998) in which rats were exposed to 1 ppm fluoride (administered either as AlF3 or NaF) for one year and experienced harmful effects.  I provided this reference because Ken stated that he paid no attention to animal studies performed at high concentrations and that was all he was offered by opponents of fluoridation. However, I got another brush off from Ken.  He claimed that he couldn’t find the whole study by Varner et al – only the abstract – and after a few words on the abstract then stated, “I won’t comment further on this.” First, of all I am surprised that no University in the Hamilton area carries the journal Brain Research where the Varner paper appeared. Also if Ken was having trouble finding this all he had to do was email me and I would have forwarded him a pdf copy of this paper. For future reference I would be happy to do that for all the papers I cite.

19) Nor did Ken respond to the discussion in which I pointed out that the US Food and Drug Administration classifies fluoride for ingestion as an “unapproved drug.” This means that in the U.S. fluoride intended for ingestion has never been subjected to the double blind randomized control trials (RCT) for efficacy that are required of all other drugs. Nor is the FDA tracking side effects from patients or doctors, despite the fact that many individuals claim to be highly sensitive to fluoride’s toxic effects. The same professional and regulatory neglect appears to have occurred in all other fluoridated countries, including New Zealand.

Note: I have raised more specific questions about this professional and regulatory neglect in my latest response (part 6) in the other thread.

20) Ken claimed (in part 2 of this thread) that there was no difference between naturally fluoridated water and artificially fluoridated water and I responded in part 3 that:

“Usually when fluoride occurs naturally in the water it is accompanied by large concentrations of ions like calcium. The presence of the calcium can reduce the uptake of fluoride in the stomach and GI tract. No such protection is offered when the fluoridating chemicals are added to soft water.”

Ken did not acknowledge this important difference.

21) In my response (part 3 of this thread) I wrote:

“In my opening statement I singled out three subsets of the population that shouldn’t be getting fluoridated water: bottle-fed babies, people with poor kidney function and people with outright or borderline iodine deficiency. Ken chose not to comment on the latter two groups. In my view we should be concerned about both groups whether they are drinking naturally occurring fluoride or artificially fluoridated water.”

For the second time Ken chose not to respond to these concerns. Ken is certainly very sensitive to the treatment of low-income families because of his own personal history but he seems not to be as sensitive to the fate of these subsets of the population.

22) Ken chose not to respond to this question:

“Is it not reckless then to knowingly expose the bottle-fed baby to 175-300 times more fluoride than the breast-fed baby? Especially, when we know that fluoride can harm at least one developing tissue in the baby – the growing tooth cells – at very low levels and cause the condition known as dental fluorosis.  What makes us believe that while the fluoride is damaging processes in the growing tooth it is not doing the same to the growing bone. After all the teeth grow out of the bone.”

23) Ken chose not to respond to the following information:

“Even when some warning signals emerged during the early trials they were cavalierly ignored by those hell-bent on promoting this practice. For example, when Schlesinger et al., 1956, published the results of the Newburgh-Kingston trial in 1956 they reported that young girls in the fluoridated community were menstruating 5 months earlier on average than the girls in the non-fluoridated community, and that the young boys were experiencing about twice as many cortical bone defects in the fluoridated community compared with the non-fluoridated community. However, no follow-up studies were recommended (see Chapters 9 and 10, The Case Against Fluoride…). These red flags were ignored then just as the studies indicating a lowering of IQ associated with fairly modest levels of fluoride exposure, are being ignored or downplayed by proponents today.”

24) Ken chose not to respond to Dr. Hardy Limeback’s discussion of possible ways that fluoride can interfere with normal bone growth:

“Bone can ACCUMULATE up to 2500 ppm fluoride with fluoridation (we showed that in our Toronto vs Montreal study). The osteoclast cells are exposed to these huge concentrations (because they dissolve bone keeping the dissolved mineral under their dorsal surface through the use of hemidesmosome attachments and then they release that dissolved mineral into the bone extracellular fluid where nearby osteoblasts can also be exposed). In fact one of the theories why there is apoptosis of osteoclasts is the poisonous conditions they have to endure remodeling bone. It is also the reason there is a biologically-supported rationale for the bone cancer inducing effects of fluoride (personal correspondence, Nov 1, 2013).”

Now I will attempt to respond to some of the issues that Ken did comment on.

25) I agree with Ken that I was a little hasty in dismissing the Irish data comparing tooth decay in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. However, the larger point I was making was this: if indeed it is legitimate to compare these two populations (and there are both cultural and genetic differences) then the more urgent need is to compare the status of various health concerns – which may or may not be caused by or exacerbated by fluoride – between the two countries. However, even though fluoridation has been mandatory in the Republic since 1963, the health authorities there have not attempted a single study comparing the health of communities which are fluoridated and non-fluoridated, either within the Republic itself or between the Republic and the North. Like most fluoridated countries (including NZ) they are flying blind on health concerns.

26) I think the value of comparing tooth decay between countries is to note that tooth decay rates have been coming down in both fluoridated and non-fluoridated countries at similar rates. Avid promoters of fluoridation such as the Oral Health Division of the CDC often forget this and try to claim that fluoridation has been coming down in fluoridated countries because of fluoridation when similar declines have occurred in non-fluoridated countries over the same period. See the CDC’s ridiculous Figure 1 in CDC (1999),  (see figure below) which purports to show that tooth decay in 12-year olds has come down in the US over the period 1960s to the 1990s because over the same period the percentage of the US population drinking fluoridated water has increased!

Fig1 connett I urge readers to compare this CDC figure with the figure summarizing the decline in tooth decay in many different countries – both fluoridated and non-fluoridated countries – covering the same period (and beyond) cited by the CDC.

fig2 connett

27) I agree with Ken that whenever we cite the CDC (1999) statement that fluoride’s predominant mode of action is topical not systemic we should not omit the word predominant. I usually do this. He found one example when I didn’t.

28) I have conceded in another post that I was wrong in suggesting that Ken believed that the delivery of fluoride’s topical effect was via the saliva generated in the salivary gland. However, if Ken rules out a significant role for the fluoride delivered by the salivary gland, and instead that the topical action is delivered directly in the mouth, why are we forcing people to swallow fluoridated water at all? Especially adults where no tooth development is involved once their teeth have erupted? Why instead, is he not merely advocating swishing and spitting out fluoridated water, or fluoridated mouthwash or using fluoridated toothpaste.

30) In challenging Ken’s notion that the only animal studies we quoted had very high fluoride levels. I responded that it was well known that you needed to treat rats with 5 to 10 times as much fluoride to reach the same plasma levels as humans.  Ken responded by pointing out he could find only one reference to this and cited the NRC (2006) commentary on Dunipace’s work (Dunipace, 1995). The NRC characterized Dunipace’s conclusion as showing that “rats require about five times greater water concentrations than humans to reach the same plasma concentration.” (Appendix D, p. 442). However, there are several other studies that have suggested the same or even a higher ratio than 5 is needed.

Sawan (2010) explains why he used 100 ppm in his animal experiment as follows:

“However, while the fluoride concentration used in the present could be considered relatively high for rodents (100 mg/L or ppm), this concentration was chosen because it produces plasma fluoride levels that are comparable with those commonly found in humans chronically exposed to 8mg/L of fluoride in the drinking water, which is a concentration known to cause severe fluorosis.”

That is a ratio of 12.5.

Also Angmar-Månsson and Whitford (1982) pointed out to produce enamel fluorosis in rats one needed a concentration of 10 to 25 ppm fluoride (compared to the 2 ppm needed in humans). So that means you need a ratio of 5 to 10+ more fluoride to get the same result in rats as humans.  Here is the quote:

“It is well known that, in fluoridated drinking water studies with rats, a water fluoride concentration of 10 – 25 ppm is necessary to produce minimal disturbances in enamel mineralization. Because of the higher water concentrations required, the rat has been regarded as more resistant to this adverse effect of fluoride. However, when the associated plasma levels are considered, the rat and the human appear to develop enamel fluorosis at very nearly the same fluoride concentrations.”

I would also point out that, in addition to the extra amount needed to reach the same plasma levels in humans, the NRC pointed out in their 2006 report that rats need at least 10 times more fluoride than humans to reach the same bone fluoride levels. To quote:

” …values support a rat-to-human conversion factor for bone fluoride uptake of at least an order of magnitude.” (Appendix D, p. 445)

Dr. J. William Hirzy.

31) Ken uses dentist Steve Slott to categorize Dr. Hirzy in the following manner, “Hirzy is a long time avowed antifluoridationist and is employed by Connett as the paid lobbyist for Connett’s antifluoridationist group, FAN.”

Clearly this comment from Slott, “an avowed profluoridationist,” is meant to throw doubt on the credentials and integrity of my colleague Bill Hirzy. I have known Bill for over 15 years. I first met him when he was working at the US EPA. At that time he and other professionals at the EPA were very concerned about the way that administrators in this agency felt that it was OK to force professionals to “bend their science and their statements” to fit into their policy judgments.

This concern began in 1985 when a scientist at the EPA admitted that he had been forced to go along with a determination that the safe MCL for fluoride was 4 ppm, when he knew that this level wasn’t safe. This professional and others at the EPA knew that the administrators were bowing to political pressure from politicians (e.g. Strom Thurmond) in certain states with areas of high natural fluoride and who were concerned that if a lower level was set for the MCL it would cost their states a lot of money to remove the fluoride.

As a result of this Dr Robert Carton and others set up a union at the EPA headquarters in an attempt to get a code of scientific integrity adopted at the EPA. This would forbid administrative staff from forcing scientists to make false statements about their scientific findings in order to fit into the “policy” of administrators. This same union after examining the scientific evidence came out in strong opposition to the so-called safety of the MCL and the MCLG for fluoride, both of which had been set at 4 ppm, and also the practice of water fluoridation.

Those who are interested can view Dr. Hirzy’s statement before a Senate subcommittee in the US Congress in 2000 (http://fluoridealert.org/fan-tv/hirzy/ ). Clearly, Bill’s opposition to fluoridation is science-based. Moreover, in a democracy like the US, like any other citizen, including Steve Slott, he is entitled to his opinion on a public policy issue like this, without being treated like some paid hack.

When Bill retired from his teaching position, Fluoride Action Network was only too happy to have such a qualified person work as our point person in Washington, DC. We have paid him a nominal salary to do this. That shouldn’t be used to suggest that he has somehow thrown science and his integrity out of the window, which I think Slott meant to imply when he says Bill is a “paid lobbyist for Connett’s antifluoridationist group, FAN.” Based on the science Bill is opposed to fluoridation. Based on the science FAN is opposed to fluoridation. It is a shame that Slott should think – or intimate – otherwise.

As far as lobbyists are concerned I think Steve would do better to wonder what the ADA is doing with 20 paid staff in DC, all of which are receiving a remuneration, which makes Bill’s nominal salary look like a pittance. One of the things that ADA is doing with its $100 million budget is to try to persuade Congress and state health departments not to allow dental therapists to perform basic dental procedures in low-income areas. Ironically, I believe that Steve is against the ADA’s position on this sensible and cost-effective measure. It has proved most successful in NZ.

In my view Bill Hirzy is an excellent educator on this and other issues. We believe that he can help with a lot of education in Washington, DC, not just with legislators but with the city council and with environmental and other public interest groups.  A lot of people in DC respect both his experience and his integrity.

Here is the link to Bill’s correction of the errors in his arsenic paper:

http://ac.els-cdn.com/S1462901113002451/1-s2.0-S1462901113002451-main.pdf?_tid=a7818160-5ddf-11e3-82c3-00000aacb35f&acdnat=1386270272_3d415310b2d50519720c64654969cc56

32) Finally, I attach Dr. Hirzy’s response to Ken’s comments on his input in part 3 of this thread:

In a paragraph headed in bold type Perrott cites my activism as reason to question my ability to properly assess risks. I freely admit making an error (soon to be rectified by publication of a corrigendum) in the annual cancer incidences for HFSA and pharmaceutical sodium fluoride. That said, nevertheless EPA did not find fault in my determination that HFSA causes about 100 times more cancer than pharmaceutical sodium fluoride. Neither does Perrott show any fault in that determination.

Perrott comments about my dismissal of NSF’s statement about their testing allegedly proving the amount of arsenic contributed by HFSA is non-detectable and perfectly safe, but he fails to address my observation that NSF in fact reports measurable amounts of arsenic contributed by treatment chemicals, and that those levels lead to 200 times higher cancer risk than USP NaF. In a debate one should address points raised by one’s opponent – if one can…..

After doing some calculations based on the New Zealand Specific Impurity Limit for arsenic, I do admit that the New Zealand standard is superior by a factor of 2.4 to that of NSF.  That is, however, faint praise in that it allows about 500 fold higher lung/bladder cancer incidence than pharmaceutical grade sodium fluoride. See below.

Regarding the arsenic levels in HFSA and Mr. Perrott’s being “suspicious” about my results and whether the HFSA samples I reported on were representative, Mr. Perrott cites the Brown et al. 2004 publication in the Journal of the American Water Works Association and kindly provided a link to the article. If he had read that article closely he would have noticed the support for my work on page 118. At page 118 of that piece, Brown et al. report testing 4 samples of HFSA, rejecting one because of excessive free HF, and finding arsenic levels of 9, 20 and 47 mg/kg, in the other three samples, all of which values fall within the range of the 33 samples I cited in my statistical analysis of arsenic levels in HFSA. Further on page 118, Brown et al. cite results from Weng et al. reporting on an unstated number of HFSA samples, finding an average of 28 mg/L and a maximum of 60 mg/L of arsenic – again within the range of my analysis. Finally, also on page 118 is citation of work by Casale, who found a range of 9.4 to 58.5 mg/L of arsenic – within the range of my analysis.

Concerning activism and suspicion, perhaps Perrott is correct in asserting that higher purity HFSA is available in New Zealand, but his activism in promoting  fluoridation could raise parallel suspicion about that.

Perrott dismisses as “a silly conspiracy theory” my recitation of data published by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) showing that 94% of the byproduct HFSA produced by phosphate manufacturers in 2011 was sold to water fluoridation systems, and coupled with solid data on sales prices, produced about $560,000,000 in revenues for those companies. If only 6% of HFSA found alternative markets, which USGS found to be valued by the producers at nearly double the value for the fluoridation market, where else would HFSA go than down our shower drains and toilets, etc. Pretty good business model for a “silly conspiracy” I’d say.

My citation of the violation in Wellington, Florida was the only one I knew about. How many more there may be/have been, who can tell? And why are HFSA producers not routinely supplying certificates of analysis for every batch sold rather than simply stating “Complies with NSF/ANSI Standard 60.”

What New Zealand Might Otherwise Do (Based in part on Standard for the Supply of Fluoride for Use in Water Treatment – Second Edition. New Zealand Water Supply and Disposal Association. 1997)

Assume density of 20% assay HFSA is 1.2 g/mL  (density of 24% assay is 1.24g/mL).

Pure HFSA is 79% w/w fluoride

1 mL of HFSA  x  1.2 g/mL  x  0.20  x .79 = 0.190 g F/mL HFSA = 190 mg F/mL HFSA

Assume need to add 0.50 mg F/L H2O

0.50 mg F/L H2O ÷ 190 mg F/mL HFSA = 2.6 x 10-3 mL HFSA/L H2O

2.6 x 10-3 mL HFSA/L H2O x 1.2 g HFSA/mL HFSA = 3.2 x 10-3 g HFSA = 3.2 x 10-6 kg HFSA/L H2O

SIL for As = 132 mg As/kg HFSA

1.32 x 102 mg As/kg HFSA  x  3.2 x 10-6 kg HFSA/L H2O  = 4.2 x 10-4 mg As/L = 0.42 ug As/L

Using the USEPA modified population Unit Risk value of 3.5 x 10-5/(ug As/L), a risk for lung/bladder cancer of 1.5 x 10-5 obtains. This is equivalent to 15 extra cancers per million population exposed for 70 years.

If 4 million people have been exposed at this level for 20 years, one would expect about 17 extra cancers to have developed.\

New Zealand’s SIL for arsenic is about 2.4 times more protective than the U.S. standard.

If pharmaceutical grade NaF had been used for this same period, delivering 0.00084 ug As/L, then New Zealand’s 4 million people exposed for 20 years may have developed about 0.03 such cancers.

If the New Zealand government were to have provided 4 million people with 2 L/day of water containing 0.50 mg added fluoride from pharmaceutical grade NaF for 20 years (and it is very likely that far fewer than 4 million would have opted to drink that water), it would have spend, in constant 2001 U.S. dollars, about $190,000.

If HFSA had been purchased at about half the price charged in the U.S., i.e $800/metric ton over that same period, and assuming New Zealanders use half as much water per capita as U.S. citizens, i.e. 50 U.S. gallons/day, and this practice ran for 20 years, then about $6,000,000 would have gone to phosphate producers.

And assuming it costs half as much in New Zealand to treat the cancers HFSA’s arsenic load produced, then an additional $30,000,000 would be spent on medical costs.\

So, if you are really determined to offer fluoridated drinking water to New Zealanders, you would be well advised to consider the substantial cost savings you would realize by providing free containers of water fluoridated with pharmaceutical grade NaF just to those who want it, while acceding to the demands of your citizens who most vehemently do not want fluoride in their drinking water.\

And, by the way, the New Zealand Lung and Bladder Cancer/Fluoridation Lottery could be cancelled too.  

Postscript. This will be my last contribution to this thread. I feel that I have presented my case fully in the book I co-authored (The Case Against Fluoride…). What I am more interested in now – having outlined some basic arguments against fluoridation in this thread (few of which have been satisfactorily rebutted) – is seeing what scientific case Ken can produce for fluoridation. This is meant to be the substance of the other thread and that is where I will now focus my efforts.

In this respect I have been disappointed in Ken’s ability – after four attempts to do so –including the last installment that he published yesterday (Dec 10) – to lay out a scientific case. So far Ken seems more adept at theorizing on why drinking fluoride should work rather than providing the studies that it actually does. In addition, he spends more time demonstrating his disdain for anyone opposed to fluoridation than actually producing the science which shows that fluoridation is “safe and effective” as proponents repeatedly claim. Finding fault with me or other opponents does not establish a case FOR fluoridation. It is a practice forced on millions of people that don’t want it. He defends this practice and as such it his obligation to present a scientific case FOR fluoridation and I am still hoping that he will do that.

Let me be more specific: what I had hoped to see by now is:

a) What primary scientific research Ken has read that gives him the confidence  that the epidemiological evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of fluoridation providing a significant benefit over and above the use of fluoridated toothpaste.

b) What his response is to the latest news from Scotland that a simple and cost-effective strategy has been devised that has been found to combat tooth decay in low-income children which does not involve forcing people to swallow fluoride who don’t want to.

c) A presentation of a weight of evidence analysis that would allow him and other promoters to dismiss all the concerns I have raised about fluoride’s impact on the brain and several other tissues.  We have presented this case in our book and again in both these threads. Our case is in black and white and documented, where is his response in black and white and documented?

In the process of doing this I would particularly would like to see him identify papers that have been conducted in NZ (or Australia for that matter), which have examined any of the health issues discussed in our book, or that have collected fluoride exposure levels in the urine, blood or bones of NZ citizens to gauge their exposure to fluoride both in the short-term or long-term. In other words I am anxious to find out:

a) the scientific basis for his confidence in the safety of water fluoridation;

b) the argument he would raise to support the notion – despite so many unknowns – that the practice does not violate the Precautionary Principle (see chapter 20 in our book and Tickner and Coffin, 2006), and

c) the basis for his confidence that there is an adequate margin of safety (see chapter 21 in our book) to protect everyone in a large population drinking fluoridated water – especially the most vulnerable – from any harmful effect.

I will continue to pursue his response to these challenges in the other thread: Ken’s Arguments For Fluoridation.

References

 Angmar-Månsson B, Whitford GM. (1982). Plasma fluoride levels and enamel fluorosis in the rat. Caries Res. 1982;16(4):334-9.

CDC (1999). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Achievements in Public Health, 1900–1999: Fluoridation of Drinking Water to Prevent Dental Caries,” Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Review 48, no. 41 (October 22, 1999): 933–40, http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm4841a1.htm

CDC (2010). Beltrán-Aguilar, D et al., Prevalence and Severity of Dental Fluorosis in the United States, 1999-2004. MMWR, 53; November. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db53.htm

Colquhoun J. and R. Mann (1986). “The Hastings Fluoridation Experiment: Science or Swindle?” The Ecologist 16, no. 6: 243–48.

Colquhoun, J (1987). Education and Fluoridation in New Zealand: An Historical Study,” Ph.D. diss., University of Auckland, New Zealand.

Colquhoun J. and B. Wilson (1999). “The Lost Control and Other Mysteries: Further Revelations on New Zealand’s Fluoridation Trial,” Accountability in Research 6, no. 4:373–94.

Connett, P., Beck, J and Micklem HS. The Case Against Fluoride. Chelsea Green, White River Junction, Vermont, 2010.

Dunipace AJ, et al. (1995). Effect of aging on animal response to chronic fluoride exposure. Journal of Dental Research 74(1):358-68.

Heller KE, et al. (1997).“Dental Caries and Dental Fluorosis at

Varying Water Fluoride Concentrations,” Journal of Public Health Dentistry 57, no. 3: 136–43.

Hirzy (2000). Video. http://fluoridealert.org/fan-tv/hirzy/

NRC (2006). Fluoride in Drinking Water: A Scientific Review of EPA’s Standards (2006) http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=11571

Sawan RM, et al. (2010). Fluoride increases lead concentrations in whole blood and in calcified tissues from lead-exposed rats. Toxicology 271(1-2):21-6.

Schlesinger ER, et al. (1956) “Newburgh-Kingston Caries-Fluorine Study XIII. Pediatric Findings After Ten Years,” Journal of the American Dental Association 52, no. 3: 296–306.

Slade, G.D., A.J. Spencer, et al. (1996). “Caries experience among children in fluoridated Townsville and unfluoridated Brisbane.” Aust N Z J Public Health 20(6): 623-9.

Tickner, J and M. Coffin (2006). “What Does the Precautionary Principle Mean for Evidence-Based Dentistry?” Journal of Evidence Based Dental Practice 6, no. 1: 6–15.

Varner et al. (1998).“Chronic Administration of Aluminum-Fluoride or Sodium-Fluoride to Rats in Drinking Water: Alterations in

Neuronal and Cerebrovascular Integrity,” Brain Research 784, no. 1–2: 284–98.

Xiang, Q et al. (2003a) “Effect of Fluoride in Drinking Water on Children’s Intelligence,” Fluoride 36, no. 2 (2003): 84–94, http://www.fluorideresearch.org/362/files/FJ2003_v36_n2_p84-94.pdf

Xiang, Q et al.(2003b), “Blood Lead of Children in Wamiao-Xinhuai Intelligence Study” (letter), Fluoride 36, no. 3 (2003):198–99, http://www.fluorideresearch.org/363/files/FJ2003_v36_n3_p198-199.pdf


Anyone wanting to follow the debate and/or check back over previous articles in the debate can find the list of articles at Fluoride Debate.

See also:

Similar articles on fluoridation
Making sense of fluoride Facebook page

Census 2013 – religious diversity

Statistics New Zealand has released preliminary figures for religious affiliation from the 2013 census.

The raw figures show for the major affiliations (Christian and No religion) the following:

Religious affiliation Number
No religion 1,635,348
Christian 1,879,671
Total Responses  4,343,781
Total People  4,242,048
Double Dipping?*  101,733

It is interesting to compare the last census figures with those for the previous four.

census-2013-1

As we can see, the godless trend has continued unabated.

One thing for sure – Christians can no longer claim to make up the majority of the country’s population.


*Double Dipping arises from people putting down more than one answer to the question. Eg – “Born again” and “Assembly of God.” It most probably occurs for the Christian, rather than No religious group. If this is the case we should adjust the Christian total to 1,879,671 -  101,733 = 1,777,938.

This would cut Christians as a proportion of the total population to 41.9%.

The No religion is accordingly 37.7%.

The other major religions have Hindu – 2.1%, Buddhist – 1.4% and Islam – 1.1%.

For more detail see 2013 Census where  tables of data can be downloaded.

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From dental neglect to child abuse?

child-report

Talk about conflicts of  interest!

The article, Children’s Health: Shift focus to care of young – MPs,  in yesterday’s NZ Herald really sparked a response in me: 

It opens with this:

Cross-party inquiry comes up with strong message for change from emphasis on caring for people late in life.

 New Zealand must change its health-care priorities from the last two years of life to the womb if it is to improve its record on child health and child abuse, an inquiry has found.

More than half the Government’s $14 billion health budget goes towards caring for people late in life.

The parliamentary health committee says this is contrary to widely accepted research which shows that it would make more economic and social sense to do the exact reverse by focusing on the period between pre-conception and 3 years of age.”

So here I am – at the stage of life where our government is investing half its health budget. Yet my experience cries out to me that the suggested change of emphasis makes sense – for the good of individuals and society.

Most people agree we have to do something about child poverty, child neglect and child abuse in this country. Re-prioritising social health investment would go a long way to doing that. Surely its a no-brainer – look after the health of our children and we get healthier adults in the future who will be more resistant to health problems – even in old age. Investing in the health of children is an investment in the future of all ages – and the health of society in general.

The report

You can download the report which has the rather long title - here

It is actually a report from the NZ Parliamentary Health Committee. The Committee make specific recommendations in it and the report now goes to the government for consideration.

A sample of the chapter headings gives an idea of the report’s scope:

  • The economics of early intervention with children
  • Pre-conception care and sexual and reproductive health
  • Social economic determinants of health and wellbeing
  • Improving nutrition and reducing obesity and related non-communicable diseases
  • Alcohol, tobacco, and drug harm
  • Maternity care and post-birth monitoring
  • Leadership, whole-of-government approach, and vulnerable children
  • Immunisation
  • Oral health
  • Early childhood education
  • Collaboration, information sharing, and service integration
  • Research on children

I have only read part of the report so far so will just comment here on the Oral Health chapter – being quite relevant at the moment.

It introduces the problem with:

“Oral disease is among the most prevalent chronic diseases in New Zealand and among the most preventable in all age groups. We heard that oral disease and their consequences, such as embarrassment, pain, and self-consciousness, can have a profound effect on a person’s quality of life and ability to gain employment. Millions of school and work hours are lost globally to pain and infection from dental disease and the time needed to treat them. Caries can also affect children’s development, school performance, and behaviour, and thus families and society in general. Promoting good oral health benefits children of all
ages.”

True – but I would add the effects of poor oral health in childhood have repercussions right through life – even effecting the quality of one’s life in old age. I see this as a specific example of how investment in children’s health will reduce health costs for the elderly in the future.

Many causes of poor oral health

The report says the “risk factors and indicators for dental caries:”

” include socioeconomic deprivation, suboptimal fluoride exposure, ethnicity, poor oral hygiene, prolonged infant bottle feeding, poor family dental health, enamel defects, and irregular dental care.”

It expresses concern, and frustration, about the situation with availability of fluoridated drinking water:

“At present approximately only 55 percent of New Zealanders receive optimally fluoridated reticulated drinking water and coverage has recently decreased following decisions from the local councils in New Plymouth and Hamilton to cease fluoridating their water supplies. No substantial increases in coverage have occurred for over two decades.”

Its recommendations in this chapter include two about fluoridation:

102 We recommend to the Government that it work with the Ministry of Health to ensure that the addition of fluoride to the drinking water supply is backed by strong scientific evidence and that ongoing monitoring of the scientific evidence is undertaken by, or for, the Ministry of Health, and that the Director-General of Health is required to report periodically to the Minister of Health on the status of the evidence and coverage of community water fluoridation.

This is already happening to an extent with the National Fluoride Information Service and I hope their work continues and possibly expands. Scientific knowledge is always improving so it is important that we keep and eye on research findings and adjust health policies if, and when, necessary.

103 We recommend to the Government that it work with Local Government New Zealand and the Ministry of Health to make district health boards responsible for setting standards around water-quality monitoring and adjustments to meet World Health Organisation standards (or their equivalent), including the optimal level of fluoridation of water supplies. Part of the work programme would be to ensure that costs imposed on councils relating to standards and monitoring, are realistic and affordable. This should be implemented within two years of this report being published.”

It will be interesting to see how the government reacts to this recommendation. Fluoridation has become a bit of a political football for local bodies. This is not good because local body councillors can often have minority viewpoints and tend to be more easily influenced by ideologically motivated political activists. It seems more responsible that such important health issues are handled centrally by bodies with health expertise.

Dental neglect is child neglect

Another recommendation in the Oral Health chapter struck a chord with me:

“109 We recommend to the Government that “dental neglect” be defined as an important category of child neglect and recognised and managed accordingly. Systems must be established for following up children who do not attend scheduled appointments, and therefore risk pain from dental abscesses and untreated decay.”

Considering the consequences of child dental neglect I fully endorse that recommendation. Perhaps I would go even further – my reading having encouraged me to think of child neglect as a form of child abuse.

Perhaps we should admit that child dental neglect is a form of child abuse?

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Our Far South – time we learned about it

I am spending some time dealing with family business so I am reposting some of my past book reviews over the next few days. These could be useful with Christmas coming up.

This is Gareth Morgan’s second to last book. It is very relevant to new Zealanders – and timely – because it deals with part of the world, our Far South, which is very important but often ignored. Well written and informative.


Book review: Ice, Mice and Men: The Issues Facing Our Far South by Geoff Simmons & Gareth Morgan

Price: NZ$35; Epub/Mobi NZ$15.
ISBN: 9780987666628
Barcode: 9780987666628
Published: 12 July 2012 by Public Interest Publishing Ltd

Antarctica brings to mind nature documentaries and penguins. Beautiful snowscapes and adventure. Maybe even of science and scientists working in harsh conditions.

But what about its ecological and political importance? Well, some climate change deniers/contrarians/sceptics/cranks have lately turned their attention to Antarctica in an attempt to “balance” the record breaking summer ice loss in the Arctic. I guess that’s a start – but what role do the Antarctic and the Southern Ocean really play in climate change. What about its natural resources and unique species? What are the governance issues – so many countries are interested in the area and many have a presence? And what does this all mean for New Zealand?

The first figure in this book (see below) shows our political and economic territorial interests in this area and suggest why we should perhaps pay more attention. Especially as the rest of the world is.

Territory of our Far South (All figures from book)

But there is also climate change – which interests all of us. Geoff Simmons & Gareth Morgandescribe the Southern ocean as:

“the engine room of the global ocean, and of the world’s climate. That is what many of us don’t realise and in our ignorance we’re complacent about the changes it is undergoing.”

So it’s about time the world, and New Zealand in particular, learned more about this region because the political, economic and ecological changes will eventually effect all of us. That makes this book very timely.

The book proves to be successful in its aim. It provides a very readable overview of the important issues: the history of the region; its resources and the battle to exploit them; international governance – the nature of the treaties covering the region and their problems; the ecology of the region – the threats to rare species, management of fisheries and problems with introduced species; climate change – the key role of the Southern Ocean and the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) in circulating nutrients around the world’s oceans and as an important sink for heat and carbon dioxide (CO2).

Climate change

The book describes the formation of the ACC this way:

“Some 34 million years ago, Australia and Zealandia separated from Antarctica, and along with a mobile South America created a passage of deep water all the way around the Southern Hemisphere. The opening of this last gap, between the tip of South America and the Antarctic Peninsula (known as the Drake Passage) allowed the westerly winds and currents an unimpeded romp around the globe. This accident of geography created the world’s greatest current system – the ACC. And it was the inauguration of the ACC that directly contributed to a massive shift in the Earth’s climate from hot to cold, . . “

The Antarctic Circumpolar Current -
The ACC area is shaded orange (All figures from book)

This current, together with churning of the sea by wind, resulted in removal of carbon dioxide and heat from the atmosphere as well as transport of nutrients from the sea bed. The result, a cooling of the global climate, appearance of ice sheets in Antarctica, and a key role for the ACC in nutrient supply to the world oceans. As the authors say: without the ACC “we would have a much warmer planet, which means higher sea levels, and less land – and frankly, it’s quite likely we wouldn’t exist.”

The key role of the ACC in global climate, the world’s weather systems and insulation of the Antarctica continues today. The churning of sea by the wind and the low temperature of the water enables the current to carry heat and CO2 to middle depths and transport them around the world. The result: “40% of the carbon stored in the ocean is taken in between 30 degrees south and 50 degrees south.”

The ACC needs to be monitored closely – it’s important and climate change seems to be changing the workings of the ACC itself. There have been changes of wind and current speed and of location of the ACC which could have global consequences

Simmons and  Morgan summarise it this way:

Our Far South “is a place of incalculable importance to New Zealand and to the entire world. The ecosystem, climate and the actions of humankind are irrevocably intertwined – maybe here more than anywhere else on the planet. . . having a continent on our southern pole, surrounded by ocean and carrying an immense quantity of ice is part of what makes our planet’s current climate so hospitable”

Even from the perspective of climate change alone we need to be more aware of what is happening in our Southern Oceans.

Ecology

Although the sea floor of the Ross Sea and similar places are exceptions, most of Our Far south is not very diverse biologically. This makes it sensitive to losses of even a few species. Differences between the Southern Ocean and Northern Hemisphere add to this sensitivity. For example the lack of land mean there are no terrestrial sources of iron, no dust blowing of deserts. Algae require iron and even trace amounts make a huge difference to biological production. Circulation of nutrients to the global ocean by the ACC means conservation and study of the Southern Ocean and Antarctica is important. Unfortunately scientific research is under pressure to support commercial exploitation of the resources, rather than conservation.

One area New Zealand scientists has had success is in eradication of introduced pests from islands to our south. And this work is continuing. One of the authors, Gareth Morgan, supports this work through a charitable trust. So it’s fitting that he gives an invitation to readers at the end of the book:

“If you would like to help make a difference to Our Far South you can contribute to the Million Dollar Mouse project at www.milliondollarmouse.org”

The rush to exploit resources

Antarctica and the Southern Oceans have probably fared better than the Arctic region in the race for territory and resources. Nevertheless, there has been a rush here and New Zealand has contributed to this, as well as benefited from it:

“Thanks to our rapacious sealing, whaling and farming in the subantarctic islands (a legacy from which they are still recovering), New Zealand was able to secure sovereignty over those rocky isles. This in turn gained us one of the largest areas of EEZ (Extended Economic Zone) in the world.

I am old enough to remember the scientific activity and the cooperative spirit behind it during the International Geophysical Year in 1957. This enthusiasm provided political support for an international agreement on management of Antarctica and a Treaty was signed in 1959.

The Antarctic Treaty temporarily resolved territorial disputes on that continent by agreeing to disagree over sovereignty. This Treaty has proved incredibly successful at ensuring the continent is dedicated to peace and science. This is in our interest: we are just too small to get into a turf war. It left New Zealand with the Ross dependency. That, together with our EEZ, one of the largest in the world, and our extended continental shelf (see first figure) makes us an important player in the region, politically and economically. But the Treaty simply froze the status quo from the 1950s and the balance of world power is changing.

Of course this means New Zealand also has huge responsibilities in the political future of the region and exploitation of its natural resources. We really should be paying more attention here.

Whaling, and the threat of extinction to some species, has reached the attention of the New Zealand public which has an awareness of its relevance to our region and the Southern Ocean. While international negotiation and political protest action concentrate on whaling itself, and those nations which still kill whales, there is also a threat to whales in the region from climate change. The subtle change in nutrient flows influence the populations of species which whales feed on.

Many of us are also vaguely conscious of an ongoing struggle between conversation and exploitation of fish in Our Far South.* This is hugely controversial because science is used to manage fisheries, but also to exploit the same fisheries. It’s often hard to know who is winning – but most of us suspect commercial and not conservation interests prevail. On the other hand it is true that sensible conservation must often allow for controlled exploitation.

Toothfish in the Southern oceans has been very much in the news lately. Some scientists are very critical of it’s commercial exploitation because so little is known about the species. However, others believe it to be one of New Zealand’s  success stories. The authors discuss the controversy and their sympathies lie with the fisheries. They say

“Our fishing industry is by no means perfect, but the toothfish fishery really is an example of them at their best”

Despite the success of the Antarctic Treaty it does present problems because of the presence of so many countries and interests in the region and unresolved differences over sovereignty. The book discusses these current problems as well as the future problems we must grapple with as treaties and agreements are renegotiated.

Conclusions

This book provides an excellent resource for information on the Southern Oceans, our subarctic islands and Antarctica. It will provide students and layperson New Zealanders with an access to wide-ranging material on the history, politics, economics, ecology and natural and mineral resources of the region. References provide avenues for deeper study.

But it’s also very readable. There is an absolute minimum of technical language – and what there is often gets treated with humour. Mind you, it’s Kiwi humour so some overseas readers may miss the occasional digs against the Aussies.

Some advice for the reader, though. I read this book on an eReader and learned again that such devices are currently not always suitable for technical books, even those written in a popular style like this one. In this case only because many of the figures are colour coded. I can see a real need for colour eInk screens in eReaders – which can’t be far off anyway. And tablets such as the iPad are ideal for this book.

In summary, this book is important because it’s about an important region of the world which influences the globe. It’s especially important for New Zealanders because it’s our backyard – we have territorial rights to large parts of it. And finally it’s important because most of us, including most New Zealanders, are ignorant of the important role it plays.  It’s the most important place you didn’t know about.

Fortunately this readable and informative book will help overcome that problem.

*See also:
Prime TV: The Last Ocean  Next Tuesday 8:30 pm
“The Ross Sea, Antarctica, is the most pristine stretch of ocean on Earth. But the fishing industry is targeting the lucrative Antarctic toothfish, and unless stopped, will destroy its ecosystem.”

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September ’13 – NZ blogs sitemeter ranking

Blogging_quote

There are now over 280 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 September 2013. 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

Image credit: D&B SMall Business

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Anatomy of an anti-fluoridation myth

The internet seems to nurture and promote myths. Consequently it’s a great place for the ideologically motivated person desiring a  bit of  “evidence” for their confirmation bias. They can even get a bit pretentious and call their googling “research.”

Phil Evans on the New Zealand Fluoride Free Facebook page, provides an example of just such a myth. He is also someone who claims to have “been researching fluoride” for “many years.”

Europe has banned fluoridation?

Phil’s article is a hatchet job on the Ministry of Health’s new website on Community Water Fluoridation. He has produced what he claims is a  “long list of factually incorrect information” on that site. I will just deal with one issue here – his promotion of the myth that Europe has banned fluoridation of public water supplies. Partly because it is a popular myth for anti-fluoridation activists – but also because it illustrates the nature of the “research” done by many activists – and the unreliability of relying on any old link that Google throws up in that “research.”

He rips into Robyn Haisman-Welch, Chief Dental Officer from the Ministry of Health:

“She is not being honest about the reason fluoridation was removed in Europe, which is a European Court ruling banning the practice because it was illegal to force medication on the public.”

He also makes this claim about the European Court in his second paragraph. Taking issue with references to the use of milk and salt fluoridation or use of other alternative methods in Europe he claims:

“The actual reason is that the European Court ruled some years ago that using fluoridation chemicals was medical intervention, and was therefore illegal. It has nothing to do with practicalities.”

The myth

So there it is – the anti-fluoridation myth. Europe has banned community water fluoridation. The European Court has called the practice “illegal.”

banner-web

Fluoridation banned in Europe – a common anti-fluoridationist claim

The point is that using Google and confirmation bias as your “research” tools it is easy to find support for the claim. Do a search for “European Court” and “fluoride” and you have all the “evidence” you need to confirm your bias (but none from a primary source like the European Court). It’s there on Fluoride Alert, Fluoride Action Network of NZ (FANNZ) and any number of  political, alternative lifestyle, alternative health or diet, and conspiracy theory websites.

Statements like:

“The European Court of Justice has defined fluoridation as a medication and has refused to sanction its implementation.”

“… the European Court of Justice recently determined that fluoride is a medicine, and therefore water fluoridation is a form of forced medication.”

Now, the trouble with this “research” is the difficulty of checking with any primary source. If the claims are referenced, they cite similar articles from similarly unreliable sources, not primary sources. (Fluoride Alert and FANNZ have made an art form out of circular citations – they very often just cite themselves).

However, I did find what appears to be the origin of this myth, because it is very frequently quoted – an article by Doug Cross at the UK Campaign Against fluoridation website. He claims:

“Fluoridated water must be treated as a medicine, and cannot be used to prepare foods! That is the decision of the European Court of Justice, in a landmark case dealing with the classification and regulation of ‘functional drinks’ in member states of the European Community. (HLH Warenvertriebs and Orthica (Joined Cases C-211/03, C-299/03, C-316/03 and C-318/03) 9 June2005)”

Often the quote marks used when this is quoted give the impression they are quoting from the actual European Court of Justice ruling. Which is wrong – the document does not refer to fluoridation at all!

Also, while the title of the Court judgement is often given it is never linked to the document itself.

The Court decision

The specific ruling referred to in the Doug Cross’s often quoted  article is easily found by searching on the European Court of Justice web site – providing you don’t use “fluoride” or “fluoridation” in the search.” Those words just don’t occur in the document.  In fact “water” only shows up a few times.

So here is the judgement - JUDGMENT OF THE COURT In Joined Cases C-211/03, C-299/03 and C-316/03 to C‑318/03.

The judgement refers to a conflict between the Netherlands and Germany over trade in a few food items. The codes in the title refer to these items. They are:

  • C-211/03, Lactobact omni FOS in powdered form; one gram of powder contains at least 1 000 000 000 organisms from the following bacterial strains: lactobacillus acidophilus, lactococcus lactis, E. faecium, bifidobacterium bifidum, lactobacillus casei and lactobacillus thermophilus; the recommended consumption is approximately 2 g per day, dissolved in half a glass of water or with yoghurt, although the dose is doubled where the need is greater and during the first four weeks of taking it;
  • C-299/03, C 1000 in tablet form containing, in particular, 1 000 mg of vitamin C, 30 mg of citrus bioflavonoids, hesperidin rutin complex and other ingredients; the recommended consumption is one tablet per day;
  • C-316/03, OPC 85 in tablet form containing, in particular, 50 mg of extract of bioflavonol – oligomere procyanidine; the recommended consumption is one tablet per day;
  • C-317/03, Acid Free C-1000 in tablet form containing, in particular, 1 110 mg of ascorbate of calcium – 1 000 mg of vitamin C and 110 mg of calcium; the recommended consumption is one tablet per day;
  • C-318/03, E-400 in tablet form, containing 268 mg of vitamin E; the recommended consumption is one tablet per day.

Yes, a key issue in the case was whether some of these products should really be classified as medicines and not foods, or that they contained genetically modified or novel organisms, and therefore trade in them is not permitted under food regulations. But how the hell this judgement can be used to claim that the court had ruled “fluoridated water must be treated as a medicine, and cannot be used to prepare foods” is beyond me.

What has this to do with fluoridation?

I know I am not a lawyer. I can understand how a lawyer for FANNZ might use this case as an argument in their own attempts to make fluoridation illegal. And they are welcome to attempt this – although I suspect they won’t get very far by relying on that judgement.

But one thing is abundantly clear to anyone with basic comprehension skills. This judgment did not rule that fluoridated water is a medicine. Or that it cannot be used to prepare foods. And it did not rule that trade in foodstuffs from New Zealand would be banned by Europe as some of these sources were claiming.

So another anti-fluoridation myth hits the dust. Except it won’t. It will be repeated ad nauseum by anti-fluoridation activists. They will even give links to “prove” their claims. And those activists will claim they are doing “research.”

unfortunately, like many other stories told by anti-fluoridation activists, a bit of critical thinking and deeper searching proves the myth to be based on a complete lie.

The lesson

Something to remember when using Google for research – the rubbish, as in other situations, usually rises to the top. It is the easiest to find and gets the most hits. Oh, yes – be careful with that confirmation bias – it will trip you up.

See also:

Similar articles on fluoridation
Making sense of fluoride Facebook page
Fluoridate our water Facebook page
New Zealanders for fluoridation Facebook page

Welcome counter to scientific and health misinformation

Anti-fluoridation activists work very hard to propogate their misinformation. Letters to the editor, Facebook, Twitter and blog comments. At times their material will dominate google searches. No wonder the layperson can be confused, or even influenced by some of this information.

So I welcome the announcement of a new website dedicated to correcting the misinformation. This will provide New Zealanders a place to go for information on fluoride and fluoridation when they or their communities are faced with questions or even decisions. Interestingly, it is probably fairly unique in New Zealand – on-line action by authorities to counter misinformation about science and health.

Here is the media release about the new website from the Minister of Health Tony Ryall.


CWF

A new website, www.fluoridefacts.govt.nz will help local communities make informed decisions on water fluoridation, Health Minister Tony Ryall says.

The most recent nationwide New Zealand survey into oral health showed 40 percent less tooth decay on average for children living in fluoridated areas compared with non-fluoridated areas, Mr Ryall says.

“Some information circulating about community water fluoridation is either confusing or misleading. This website, which is supported by the Ministry of Health, district health boards and the New Zealand Dental and Medical Associations, contains evidence-based information, backed-up by research.”

New Zealand’s Chief Science Advisor, Professor Sir Peter Gluckman is among the several health professionals, scientists and community leaders who feature in a video series on fluoride also on the website. Professor Gluckman says: “It’s absolutely clear that the levels of fluoride that are put into New Zealand’s water supply – and are clearly regulated – are safe. They have real health benefits and there are no health risks.”

Mr Ryall noted that fluoride occurs naturally in water but New Zealand, like several other countries, has low levels. “Many countries in similar situations supplement fluoride to optimum levels for dental health benefit by adding it to the community water supply, or in some cases milk or salt.”

In New Zealand the levels of fluoride used in community water fluoridation are carefully monitored and within the guidelines of the World Health Organization and other public health agencies.

Mr Ryall says tooth decay, which is less likely in individuals when fluoride is added to the water supply, is painful and costly when fillings are needed to treat it. Community water fluoridation is effective, safe and an affordable way to provide the dental health benefits to everyone in a community.”

“People should refer to www.fluoridefacts.govt.nz  and come to their own conclusions when deciding to support community water fluoridation.”

For further information, including videos from Chief Science Advisor, Professor Sir Peter Gluckman, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr Don Mackie, Chief Dental Officer Dr Robyn Haisman-Welsh and Children’s Commissioner Dr Russell Wills, along with other health experts and community leaders, see: www.fluoridefacts.govt.nz.


Further information also available from www.Health.govt.nz and www.nfis.org.nz the National Fluoride Information Service.
In New Zealand community water fluoridation is endorsed by the following organisations:

Ministry of Health
District Health Boards
New Zealand Dental Association
New Zealand Medical Association
Public Health Association of New Zealand
New Zealand Nurses Organisation
Te Ao Marama – the Māori Dental Association
Toi Te Ora – Public Health Service
Office of the New Zealand Children’s Commissioner
New Zealand College of Public Health Medicine
NZ Dental and Oral Health Therapists Association
NZ Society of Hospital and Community Dentistry
NZ Oral Health Clinical Leadership Network Group
Royal New Zealand Plunket Society
Cancer Society of New Zealand
The Royal Australasian College of Physicians
Royal Australasian College of Dental Surgeons

See also:

Similar articles on fluoridation
Making sense of fluoride Facebook page
New Zealanders for fluoridation Facebook page

Dentists you can trust?

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Credit: Making Sense of Fluoride Facebook page.

Looks like the Fluoride Free Hamilton activists have managed to find 3 dentists who they agree with. None of them work in Hamilton – one is from Northland, one from Wellington and the other is from Dunedin. So they literally searched far and wide to locate them.

Never mind, Fluoride Free Hamilton and its network is trusted by the Hamilton City Council when it comes to health matters. So they can continue to ignore the advice from local and national health experts. However, it might be harder for the incoming council to ignore the advice coming from voters during the upcoming local body elections and fluoridation referendum in the city.

The activist’s claim that their 3 dentists are the informed ones carries the implication that all other New Zealand dentists are uninformed! In fact Grant et al (2013) survey New Zealand dentists on the opinions of fluoridation (see New Zealand dentists’ views on community water fluoridation). Their finding were that:

“Most practitioners (93.5%) reported supporting community water fluoridation; the other 6.5% either were unsure or did not support it. Higher proportions of more recent graduates supported CWF. Some 85.6% of practitioners thought that drinking fluoridated water was a harmless way to prevent dental caries, but 6.2% felt that fluoridated water may cause other health problems.”

And they concluded:

“Most New Zealand dental practitioners support community water fluoridation, although a very small proportion believe that it is harmful and/or does not prevent caries.”

The fluoridation issue is turning out like the controversy around scientific issues like climate change and biological evolution. Just as scientists supporting creationism or climate change denial turn out to be a very small fraction of the numbers on those fields, dentists opposing community water fluoridation are also a very small fraction of all dentists.

Mind you – Fluoride Free Hamilton seems to be making a virtue out of that embarrassingly small support for their views. I am expecting to hear them come out with the Galileo Gambit some time soon.

Thanks to Dan from Making Sense of Fluoride for bringing my attention to the paper.

See also:

Similar articles on fluoridation
Making sense of fluoride Facebook page
New Zealanders for fluoridation Facebook page