August ’15 – NZ blogs sitemeter ranking

experts


Problems with Sitemeter

The problems with SiteMeter are still bad  this month. I gave some of the background to these problems in my post Time to give up on Sitemeter. If you wish to query the information in the table I suggest you check out the data in the SiteMeter pages.

I think some bloggers have removed their Sitemeters. I am blogs that don’t’ show any remaining links to Sitemeter.

If you are using SiteMeter, and especially if you find you page isn’t included this month, I suggest you consider transferring to a more reliable counter like StatCounter. Have a look at the NZ Blog Rankings FAQs if you need help with this.

Bravenet stats no longer allows access

At least to the monthly data. It is restricting that access to paying subscriber (Bravenet Pro). This affects the 14 blogs listed below so I cannot include them in this ranking list at the moment unless I can find an alternative. If any of these bloggers want to try a different stats counter I recommend Statcounter. Have a look at the NZ Blog Rankings FAQs if you need help with this.

Pt England Scribes Virtual North
Korero Pt England Kiwi Chronicles
Digital learning Making IT Happen
King’s High School Library But Now
ICTPD Football Tragic NZ
Manaia Kindergarten Anticipating future impacts
Sleeping with books Moving the crowd

Although there are now over 300 blogs on the list, although I am weeding out those which are no longer active or have removed public access to sitemeters.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

Every month I get queries from people wanting their own blog included. I encourage and am happy to respond to queries but have prepared a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) people can check out. Have a look at NZ Blog Rankings FAQ. This is particularly helpful to those wondering how to set up sitemeters. Please note, the system is automatic and relies on blogs having sitemeters which allow public access to the stats.

Here are the rankings of New Zealand blogs with publicly available statistics for August 2015. 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

Australian census religion question – progress

One-World-Religion-300x287

World Religions. Credit: Islam Beyond Borders

Looks like Australians have won another small victory in the way that their religiosity is officially assessed. In particular how census forms pose the religion question on census forms is posed.

I discussed the problems in my article Non religious in Australia and New Zealand. The Australian census form buried the “no religion” option – and may, therefore, have skewed results – see below:

Compare that to the New Zealand census question below:

I asked the obvious question:

“Do Australians opt for a religion in their census answers because they don’t , at first glance, notice the “no religion” option?

Does the Australian census overestimate religiosity?”

Greater minds than mine also asked this question. Rationalist and sceptic groups lobbied the Australian Bureau of Statistics to change the question during the post-2011 census review. They argued it was about accuracy. And they succeeded (see Census change: Is Australia losing its religion?).

“No religion” moves to first

So, for the first time “no religion” will be first on a list of answers to the question “what is the person’s religion”, and the “Catholic” option will move into second place – see below:
New question

It may seem like a subtle change, a psychological victory for the “nones,” but The Sydney Morning Herald argues it “may completely change the way Australia sees itself and have drastic consequences for the way government money is spent on welfare and education.”

“If Christianity did lose its position as the majority religion, this could impact government spending programs such as the school chaplaincy program, according to those advocating for the change.

“Many government services and resources depend on census accuracy, and the figures are used by religious organisations to maintain their status and influence in terms of grants, tax-free services, access to schools for religious instruction, and for their generally privileged position within the community,” president of the Rationalist Society of Australia, Meredith Doig, said this week.”

So it is more than a psychological victory. Surely it is important that allocation of resources to people of different beliefs should not be wroughted by the trickiness of questions like that in the old census form.

Similar articles

In the end, it came down to the science in Denver

7-15-forum

Denver Board of Water Commissioners listen to information at the July 2015 fluoride information session.

In my update to the post Subverting democratic consultation on the fluoride issue I reported that Denver Water has voted unanimously to continue community water fluoridation.  They have now produced a web article explaining their decision – see  The “why” behind our fluoride policy.

I think this comment sums it up:

“In the end, it came down to the science. And there’s a lot of it.On Aug. 26, the Denver Board of Water Commissioners voted to continue its practice of community water fluoridation.”

That decision came after a thorough review where both supporters and opponents of community water fluoridation presented their cases to the board.

“After reviewing the presentations, the extensive research on this issue, and the advice of public health and medical professionals in Colorado, the board announced there would be no change in its water fluoridation policy.

The resolution the board adopted at its meeting stated: “Nothing we heard through the presentations or learned in research would justify ignoring the advice of the public health agencies and medical organizations or deviating from the thoroughly researched and documented recommendation of the U.S. Public Health Service.””

And that is how it should be. Public officials should listen to the experts – scientific and health. Of course, they must also listen to criticism of expert recommendations, but such critical opinions must be carefully and critically weighed up. Denver Water board members appear to have done this.

The board said:

“Notably, every public health agency operating in our service area urged us to continue our practice of managing fluoride concentrations in our drinking water.”

This is supported by the list of presentations they considered as described in Denver Fluoride Fight Pits Activists Against Long-Standing Health Policy:

Number of comments in favor of fluoridation: 101

Organizations in favor of fluoridation:

  • Denver Public Health Department
  • Denver Health
  • Denver Environmental Health
  • Tri-County Health Department (Adams, Arapahoe, Douglas)
  • Jefferson County Public Health
  • Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment
  • Colorado Dental Association
  • American Dental Association
  • Colorado Academy of Pediatric Dentistry
  • Colorado Medical Society
  • Colorado Academy of Family Physicians
  • Deans of the University of Colorado Dental, Medical and Public Health Schools
  • Various community organizations

Number of comments opposed to fluoridation: 1,078
Organizations opposed to fluoridation:

  • Fluoride Action Network
  • New York State Coalition Opposed to Fluoridation
  • Concerned Residents of Peel to End Fluoridation
  • We Are Change Colorado”

Similar articles

Subverting democratic consultation on the fluoride issue

misinformation

Credit: Making Sense of Fluoirde

Denver Water, which as Colorado’s largest water provider, has been reviewing its water fluoridation policy. It will announce its decision in the next few days but I found its description of the consultation process interesting.

[Update: Denver Water has now voted unanimously to continue community water fluoridation (see Good News – Denver Water Votes to Continue Community Water Fluoridation!). A complete failure for the anti-fluoride campaigners who worked hard to defeat fluoridation in Denver.]

A spokeswoman for the board, Stacey Chesman said Denver Water had received nearly 1,200 comments, from as far away as New Zealand, with 1,078 opposed to fluoridation, and 663 of those submitting their comments on postcards created by We Are Change Colorado. Every public health agency in Denver Water’s service area urged it to continue fluoridating water (See Water systems sink teeth into debate over drinking it).

Pretty impressive, eh? Twelve hundred submissions and about 90% oppose community water fluoridation (CWF). But look again – over 60% of the opposing submissions were on postcards provided by the anti-fluoride propagandist group “We are Change Colorado.”

Manipulating council consultations

That reminds me of the Hamilton City Council’s fluoride considerations two and a half years ago. That Council’s  summary of submissions reported:

“Of the 1,557 submissions received 1,385 (89%) seek Council to stop the practise of adding fluoride to the Hamilton water supply. 170 (10.9%) seek Council to continue the practise of adding fluoride and 2 (0.1%) submitters did not indicate a stance.”

The Hamilton numbers are so similar to those in Denver that one might wonder if the same people or organisations organised many of the submissions. And, I suspect, the Denver number of 90% opposed is just as unrepresentative of the public’s view as the Hamilton 90% – as shown by the subsequent Hamilton referendum where 70% of voters supported CWF! (See When politicians and bureaucrats decide the science).

The postcard tactic used in Denver is also much the same as the New Zealand Fluoride Free organisation providing submission templates  (templates A, B, C, D, were used in Hamilton) and submission guides. And the comment that Denver water received submissions “from as far away as New Zealand” also rings a bell – many of the submissions received by the Hamilton City Council were from as far away as the USA. And, in fact, video links were used to enable oral submissions by anti-fluoride propagandists from the USA!

What we have seen in these two cases – and many others in New Zealand, the USA, Canada and Australia – is a highly efficient organised campaign from “out-of-towners” intent on subverting the consultation process and the democratic rights of local citizens. A process which one might think mature and sensible civil leaders could easily recognise and discount. However, some of these leaders are easily fooled. In Hamilton, the local council gave the high numbers of anti-fluoride submissions they got as one of the main reasons for deciding to stop CWF. This seemed to them more important than the real referenda results!

A fluoride referendum in Thames

In New Zealand, the small town of Thames will hold a referendum on fluoridation of their water supply in November (see Thames fluoride referendum set for 5 November). Campaigning will start soon and no doubt we will see the same circus of whirlwind visits from out-of-towners, propaganda from overseas anti-fluoride propagandists (who promote themselves as “world experts” on the subject), and billboard, newspaper and radio advertising – probably paid for by the “natural”/alternative health industry.

I hope the people of Thames will be rightly suspicious of these “out-of-towners,” and ideologically and commercially motived propagandists, and instead listen to the advice of their own social health and dental experts.

Similar articles

Religious instruction scrapped from school curriculum in Victoria

Coverting
Religious instruction scrapped from curriculum – what a great headline to see in the newspaper.

Unfortunately, it is just for the Australian state of Victoria. But it could well happen here, considering the opposition to religious instruction in state schools we are seeing in New Zealand.

Victorian schools are scrapping special religious instruction from class time to make way for new content on world histories, cultures, faiths and ethics. The changes to the state’s curriculum raise doubts about the future of the controversial religious instruction program.

The state government said “Extracurricular programs should not interfere with class time when teachers and students should be focused on the core curriculum.”  And curriculum changes mean that classes addressing domestic violence and respectful relationships will also become compulsory for all prep to year 10 students from 2016.

I certainly consider these subjects that are a far more important and necessary use of school time.

The changes mean that he weekly 30 minute religious instruction program will move to lunchtime and before and after school in 2016. Mind you, that opens up the possibility that other religious sects (and, heaven forbid, non-religious ones) may demand equal time for their own presence on school property for lunchtime and before and after school indoctrination opportunities.

These changes are welcomed by teachers – and no doubt by many parents. Lara Wood, a spokeswoman for Fairness in Religions in School, a group that has spent the past four years campaigning against SRI, claimed victory. “We won, we got what we wanted.”

She said religious instruction providers were proselytising in primary schools while students missed out on learning. This has been a common complaint from parents because the chaplaincy organisation involved is well-known for its evangelical orientation and attempts to convert children.

But, predictably, this move is opposed by some religious organisations – including the chaplaincy organisation Access Ministries, the main provider of religious instruction.

In New Zealand, the Secular education network (NZ) is working towards the same ends as the Australian Fairness in Religions in Schools. I hope we can see similar successes here in the near future.

Similar articles

Alternative reality of anti-fluoride “science”

Paul Connett made many unsupported claims in his presentation against community water fluoridation (CWF) to Denver Water. Here I debunk a claim where he rejects most scientific studies on the cost-effectiveness of CWF.

Different grades of dental fluorosis

Connett asserted two things in his presentation:

  1. Previous research showing the cost effectiveness of community water fluoridation (CWF) has been made obsolete by a single new paper.
  2. Something about this new paper (Ko & Theissen, 2014) makes it more acceptable to him than previous research – and he implies you

Plenty of research shows CWF is cost-effective

Connett has cherry-picked just one paper, refused to say why and, by implication, denigrated any other research results. And there are quite a few studies around.

Here are a just a few readers could consult:

Of course, the actual figures vary from study to study, and various figures are used by health authorities. But generally CWF is found cost-effective over a large spectrum of water treatment plant sizes and social situation.

Connett relies on a flawed study

Connett relies, without justification,  on a single cherry-picked study:

Ko, L., & Thiessen, K. M. (2014). A critique of recent economic evaluations of community water fluoridation. International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, 37(1), 91–120.

This is a very long paper which might impress the uninitiated. To give it credit, it does make lengthy critiques of previous studies on cost effectiveness. But it has a huge flaw – its treatment of the cost of dental fluorosis.

It rejects warranted assumptions made by most studies that the adverse effects of CWF on dental fluorosis are negligible: They say:

“It is inexplicable that neither Griffin et al. nor other similar studies mention dental fluorosis, defective enamel in permanent teeth due to childhood overexposure to fluoride. Community water fluoridation, in the absence of other fluoride sources, was expected to result in a prevalence of mild-to-very mild (cosmetic) dental fluorosis in about 10% of the population and almost no cases of moderate or severe dental fluorosis. However, in the 1999–2004 NHANES survey, 41% of U.S. children ages 12–15 years were found to have dental fluorosis, including 3.6% with moderate or severe fluorosis.”

Two problems with that statement:

  1. The prevalence of “cosmetic” dental fluorosis may be about 10% but this cannot be attributed to CWF as non-fluoridated areas have a similar prevalence. For example, in the recent Cochrane estimates show “cosmetic” dental fluorosis was about 12% in  fluoridated areas but 10% in non-fluoridated areas (see Cochrane fluoridation review. III: Misleading section on dental fluorosis).This is a common, probably intentional, mistake made by anti-fluoride campaigners – to attribute the whole prevalence to CWF and ignore the prevalence in non-fluoridated areas. This highly exaggerates the small effect of CWF on the prevalence of “cosmetic” dental fluorosis – which in  any case does not need treatment. “Cosmetic” dental fluorosis is often considered positively by children and parents.
  2. The small numbers of children with moderate and severe dental fluorosis (due to high natural fluoride levels, industrial contamination or excessive consumption of fluoridated toothpaste) is irrelevant as CWF does not cause these forms. Their prevalence is not influenced by CWF.

So Ko and Theissen (2014) produce a different cost anlaysis because :

“. . . the primary cost-benefit analysis used to support CWF in the U.S. assumes negligible adverse effects from CWF and omits the costs of treating dental fluorosis, of accidents and overfeeds, of occupational exposures to fluoride, of promoting CWF, and of avoiding fluoridated water.”

We could debate all the other factors, which they acknowledge have minimal effects, but they rely mainly on the dental expenses of treating dental fluorosis:

“Minimal correction of methodological problems in this primary analysis of CWF gives results showing substantially lower benefits than typically claimed. Accounting for the expense of treating dental fluorosis eliminates any remaining benefit.”

They managed to produce this big reduction in cost-effectiveness by estimating costs for treating children with moderate and severe dental fluorosis – finding:

“the lifetime cost of veneers for a child with moderate or severe fluorosis would be at least $4,434.”

And:

“For our calculations, we have assumed that 5% of children in fluoridated areas have moderate or severe fluorosis.”

See the  trick?

They attribute all the moderate and severe forms of dental fluorosis to CWF. Despite the fact that research shows this is not caused by CWF and their prevalence would be the same in non-fluoridated areas!

The authors’ major effect – which they rely on to reduce the estimated benefits of CWF – is not caused by CWF.

Connett is promoting an alternative “scientific” reality

The Ko & Theissen (2014) paper is one of a list of papers anti-fluoridation propagandists have come to rely on in their claims that the science is opposed to CWF. In effect, this means they exclude, or downplay, the majority of research reports on the subject – treating them like the former Index Librorum Prohibitorum, or “Index of Forbidden Books,” an official list of books which Catholics were not permitted to read.

The Ko & Theissen (2014) paper is firmly on the list of the approved studies for the anti-fluoride faithful. A few others are Peckham & Awofeso (2014), Peckham et al., (2015)Sauerheber (2013) and, of course, Choi et al., (2012) and Grandjean & Landrigan (2014).  You will see these papers cited and linked to on many anti-fluoride social media posts – as if they were gospel – while all other studies are ignored.

These papers make claims that contradict the findings of many other studies. They are all oriented towards an anti-fluoridation bias. And most of them are written by well-known anti-fluoride activists or scientists.

In effect, by considering and using studies from their own approved list and ignoring or denigrating studies that don’t fit their biases, they are operating in an alternative reality. A reality which may be more comfortable for them – but a reality which exposes their scientific weaknesses.

Lessons for Connett

I know Paul Connett is now a lost cause – he will continue to cite these papers from his approved list and make these claims no matter how many times they are debunked. But, in the hope of perhaps helping others who are susceptible to his claims, here are some lessons from this exercise. If anti-fluoride activists wish to support their claims by citing scientific studies they should take them on board.

Lesson 1: Make an intelligent assessment of all the relevant papers – don’t uncritically rely on just one.

Lesson 2: Don’t just accept the findings of each paper – interpret the results critically and intelligently. How else can one make a sensible choice of relevant research and draw the best conclusions.

Lesson 3: Beware of occupying an alternative reality where credence is given only to your own mates and everyone else is disparaged. That amounts to wearing blinkers and is a sure way of coming to incorrect conclusions. It also means your conclusions have a flimsy basis and you are easily exposed.

Lessons for everyone susceptible to confirmation bias.

Similar articles

What is life?

Feynman-life

I am being purposely provocative here – and who else provokes better that Richard Feynman.

Similar articles

Anti-fluoride propagandists get creative with statistics

hqdefault

According to a recently published survey, only 15% of New Zealanders are opposed to community water fluoridation (CWF).

Only 15% – yet anti-fluoride propagandists are using the same survey (or their limited reading of it) to claim that 58% of New Zealanders are opposed to (or do not support) CWF! (See Fluoridation problem for New Zealand, Most NZers do not support fluoridation, study saysFLUORIDATION’S FALLING POPULARITY NO SURPRISE, and Fluoridation’s Falling Popularity No Surprise.) That’s a huge difference. Someone must be using statistics in a creative way – or just outright lying.

The survey results were published in this paper:

Whyman, R. A., Mahoney, E. K., & Børsting, T. (2015). Community water fluoridation: attitudes and opinions from the New Zealand Oral Health Survey. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health.

So anyone can check it out – although I recommend, as always, to read the full text. Often abstracts do not give the full information you want.

This survey reports data for various questions, but Table 2: “Estimates of ‘how in favour of water fluoridation’ (unweighted n, weighted percentage with 95% CI) opinions among adults (>=18 years of age)” is the relevant one here. The graphics below summarise the overall message (vertical bar is the 95% CI):

Whyman-1

Or simplifying further into “for,” “against,” “neutral” and “do not know:”

Whyman-2

So you can see the cherry-picking Mary Byrne from Fluoride Free NZ indulged in for her press release Most NZers do not support fluoridation, study says where she claims:

“This is the finding of a new survey carried out by Hawke’s Bay District Health Board: 58% of people did not support fluoridation even “somewhat”. This shows that people are really clear – New Zealanders do not agree with adding an industrial by-product, classified as hazardous, to our drinking water.”

She, no doubt would be offended by a claim that 85% of people support (or do not oppose) fluoridation – strongly or somewhat. Yet, her cherry picking is just as bad.

The real message from this survey for the anti-fluoride campaigners is that only 15% are opposed to community water fluoridation (CWF) – and then only 10% are strongly opposed.

As for the “creative license” of Mary Byrne and her fellow anti-fluoride propagandists, this message I picked up from a statistician’s cartoon sums it up:

You’ve heard of ‘Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics.’ Well, apparently, they WERE lying about the statistics.”

The real message from the survey

The authors of this report did concentrate on the figure for those supporting CWF, or more importantly, the large proportion of people who are neutral (20%) or feel they just do not know enough to decide (22%). Interestingly, if these are excluded (as probably happens in referenda where a yes or no answer is required so that the neutral and undecided may not vote) the survey’s data translate into about 74% of the population supporting CWF and 26% opposing it. Not too different to recent referenda results (ranging from 58.1% support in Whakatane to 76.4% support in South Waikato).

However, health authorities are right to be concerned about the relatively large number of neutral and undecided people. The 15% who are opposed to CWF may largely be a “lost cause” because of their ideological stubbornness. But the data does show a need for more information on CWF and oral health in general.  It is likely that a better-informed population on this issue would lead to lower numbers of neutral and “do not know” people – and, very likely, a larger number of those who support CWF.

I have simply mentioned here the overall figures for support of, and opposition to, CWF but the study goes into a lot more detail and identifies sectors of the population requiring better education on the subject. Hopefully, we will see suitable oral health education programmes in future and a reduction in the neutral and “don’t know” numbers.

That can only be a good thing.

Similar articles

Fluoridation: Connett’s criticism of New Zealand research debunked

Community-Water-Fluoridation-and-Intelligence-Prospective-Study-in-New-Zealand-quote

Paul Connett, Executive Director of the Fluoride Action Network recently made a presentation to Dever Water opposing community Water Fluoridation (CWF). Many of his claims were just wrong – he seriously distorted the science and used this to misinform the board members.

I am posting a series of articles debunking his claims. But Daniel Ryan from Making Sense of Fluoride has also entered the fray with his article Dr Connett distorts the Dunedin IQ fluoride study. I urge readers to check out the article.

Daniel is debunking claims made by Connett about the New Zealand research paper:

Broadbent, J. M., Thomson, W. M., Ramrakha, S., Moffitt, T. E., Zeng, J., Foster Page, L. A., & Poulton, R. (2014). Community Water Fluoridation and Intelligence: Prospective Study in New Zealand. American Journal of Public Health, 105(1), 72–76.

That study is a thorn in Connett’s side because it completely refutes his claims that CWF causes a drop in IQ. It is an excellent paper (as well as being a New Zealand one) – which is another thorn in Connett’s side as he relies on poor quality studies made in areas of endemic fluorosis for his claims.

Daniel goes through Connett’s assertions about the New Zealand study and debunks each of them in turn.

The Broadbent et al. (2014) study investigated a situation where low fluoride concentrations were used. It is the only in-depth study of IQ at these low concentrations. However, I did make a brief investigation of the situation in the USA comparing the average IQ for each state with the percentage fluoridation coverage of the population in each state. I reported that in IQ not influenced by water fluoridation.

The figure below shows the data – and there is no statistically significant correlation of IQ with CWF (the dotted lines show the 95% confidence boundaries)..

Connett debunked once again.

See also:

Connett misrepresents the fluoride and IQ data yet again
Fluoridation: Connett’s naive use of WHO data debunked

Similar articles

Fluoridation: Connett’s naive use of WHO data debunked

Paul Connett is the Executive Director of the anti-fluoride propagandists group, the Fluoridation Action Network (FAN). His recent presentation to the Denver Water Board’s fluoridation forum was full of scientific misrepresentations and distortions.

I debunked his claims on fluoridation and IQ in the article Connett misrepresents the fluoride and IQ data yet again. Here I debunk his claim that WHO data shows community water fluoridation (CWF) is not effective.

This video clip shows his claim:

1: Is there a difference between fluoridated and unfluoridated countries?

Connett waves around graphs showing declines in tooth decay in  some countries but does nothing to support his claim that there is no input from fluoridation to this improvement in oral health. After all, oral health depends on a number of factors so any serious claim needs adjustment for these factors and a proper quantitative comparison.

The data in these graphs is just not suitable for this – but lets humour people like Connett who place so much faith in the graphs. I took this graph from Connett’s book The Case against Fluoride (Chapter 6, page 38).

Connett-F-cf-NF

It is easy enough to do a ballpark comparison of the average rate of decline of dental decay  for the four nonfluoridated countries and compare that to the average rate for the four fluoridated countries. I did this and found the average decline in dmft (decayed, missing and filled teeth) for non-fluoridated countries was 1.4/decade and for fluoridated countries 1.6/decade. On the face of it the decline in tooth decay was more rapid in the fluoridated countries – the opposite to Connett’s claim.

Of course, Connett would laugh at such a comparison and claim the data is just not good enough to make such comparisons.  And I agree – but isn’t that exactly what he was trying to do?

He was simply waiving around a poor set of data which he thinks supports his claim that CWF is ineffective – it doesn’t. He should know that, and he should be ashamed, as someone with scientific training, to make these claims using such evidence.

The huge influence of inter-country differences on these data, irrespective of fluoridation, surely sticks out like a sore thumb in Connett’s graphs. That doesn’t require a scientific training to see. These differences introduce so much noise into the data that no conclusion is possible about the influence on fluoridation.

Robyn Whyman pointed this out in his report for the National Fluoridation Information Service – Does delayed tooth eruption negate the effect of water fluoridation?:

“Studies that appropriately compare the effectiveness of water fluoridation do not compare poorly controlled inter-country population samples. They generally compare age, sex, and where possible ethnicity matched groups from similar areas. Inter-country comparisons of health status, including oral health status, are notoriously difficult to interpret for cause and effect, because there are so many environmental, social and contextual differences that need to be considered.”

2: Comparison within countries

The WHO data includes New Zealand and Ireland where there are fluoridated and unfluoridated areas. Cornett’s graphs do not differentiate – the just use the averages for these two countries.  Yet, even that sparse WHO data set  shows clear benefits of community water fluoridation on oral health. Consider the differences in tooth decay between fluoridated and unfluoridated areas of  Ireland.

I showed this graph to Connett at the beginning of our debate on fluoridation. throughout the next few months he continued to confuse the issue and I kept coming back to it. Finally, he said in his closing statement, “My apologies. I should have checked back.”

An acknowledgment, of sorts, that his use of the WHO data is wrong in his graphs – but he continues to misrepresent it in this way!

The data in the graphs below shows a similar situation for New Zealand – this time using data from the NZ Ministry of Health (which is much more extensive than the WHO data).dmft

3: CWF still effective when fluoridated toothpaste used.

Paul Connett’s claim that CWF is unnecessary when fluoridated toothpaste is used was based on a naive interpretation of the graphs he was waving around. The data above for Ireland and New Zealand show that, even where the use of fluoridated toothpaste is widespread, there is still a difference in the oral health of children living in fluoridated and unfluoridated areas of a country.

Other research also shows CWF is still effective, even though its effectiveness may, these days, be less than observed in the past when fluoridated toothpaste was not used. But, in contrast to what Connett appears to think, fluoridated toothpaste in not the only factor involved. There is the general improvement in dental health treatments and diet in recent years. Rugg-Gunn & Do (2012)  also refer to the “halo” effect – a diffusion of beneficial fluoride from fluoridated area into unfluoridated areas via food and beverages and consumption of water away from the place of residence.

The recent data can also be influenced by differences in residence and place of dental treatment. For example, dental treatment and record taking may occur at a school or dental clinic in a non-fluoridated area but the child may live in a fluoridated area. This effect could explain the apparent reduction of differences for New Zealand children from fluoridated and non-fluoridated areas after 2006 in the above graph. In 2004 a “hub and spoke” dental clinics system was introduced where one school dental clinic could serve several areas – both fluoridated and non-fluoridated.

 

Conclusion

Paul Connett’s use of the graphs showing improvement in oral health in countries independent of fluoridation, is on the surface, naive because no conclusion about the effectiveness of CWF can be drawn from this sparse data involving comparison between countries with so many political, social and environmental differences. Connett is presumably aware of this, and of the fact the same WHO data shows a beneficial effect for Ireland and New Zealand.

This is another case of Connett using a scientific academic title (his PhD), to give “authority” to his misrepresentation and distortion of the science to local body politicians.

References

Connett, P., Beck, J., & Micklem, H. S. (2010). The Case against Fluoride: How Hazardous Waste Ended Up in Our Drinking Water and the Bad Science and Powerful Politics That Keep It There.

Ministry of Health (2014) Age 5 and Year 8 oral health data from the Community Oral Health Service.

National Fluoridation Information Service (2011): Does Delayed Tooth Eruption Negate The Effect of Water Fluoridation? National Fluoridation Information Service Advisory June 2011, Wellington, New Zealand.

Rugg-Gunn, A. J., & Do, L. (2012). Effectiveness of water fluoridation in caries prevention. Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology, 40, 55–64.