Ken Perrott’s response to this article is at Fluoride debate Part 1: Perrott
Connett versus Perrott Internet Debate on Fluoridation.
This is part 1 of a five-part series of internet exchanges on the fluoridation debate between Paul Connett (USA) and Ken Perrott (NZ).
1. Fluoridation is a poor medical practice.
2. The evidence that swallowing fluoride reduces tooth decay is very weak. Better alternatives for fighting tooth decay
3. The large database that indicates that fluoride can impact the brain of animals and humans.
4. Other health concerns and the lack of an adequate margin of safety to protect everyone drinking fluoridated water.
5. Key moments since 1990 that should have forced an end to fluoridation.
Paul Connett is co-author of The Case Against Fluoride (Chelsea Green, 2010) and executive director of the Fluoride Action Network ( www.FluorideALERT.org ) Paul’s cv and list of publications is attached.
Part 1. Fluoridation is a poor medical practice
Introduction. Using the public water supply to deliver medical treatment is a very unusual practice. In fact it has only been done only once before and that was a short trial in which iodine was added to the drinking water to help fight hypothyroidism. However this was quickly abandoned when it was found that some people were being over-exposed to iodine. Since then fluoridation has been the only example. The reasons for not using the water to deliver medical treatment are fairly obvious.
1) It is impossible to control the dose people get. Once a chemical is added to the water to treat people (as opposed to treating the water to make it safe or palatable to drink) it is impossible to control the dose people get. People drink very different amounts of water. In short, engineers at the water works can control the concentration added to the water (mg/liter) but no one can control the total dose (mg/day) individuals receive.
2) It is totally indiscriminate. It goes to everyone regardless of age, regardless of health or nutritional status. Of particular concern is that it goes to people with poor kidney function who are unable to clear the fluoride from their bodies via the kidneys as effectively as others. It thus accumulates in their bones more rapidly. It also goes to people with low or borderline iodine intake, which makes them more vulnerable to fluoride’s impact on the thyroid gland. In general, according to studies done in India, people with poor diet (low protein, low calcium and low vitamin intake) are more vulnerable to fluoride’s toxic effects.
3) It violates the individual’s right to informed consent to medical treatment. This is a very important medical ethic which is fully described on the website of the American Medical Association (www.AMA.org). It is very surprising that so many medical doctors standby while the community does to everyone what they are not allowed to do to a single patient.
The above arguments would apply to any medicine added to the drinking water but there are other aspects to the fluoride ion, which makes it particularly unsuitable for addition to the drinking water.
4) Fluoride is NOT a nutrient. There is not one single biochemical process in the body that has been shown to require fluoride for normal function (we will see later that fluoride’s predominant action on teeth is topical not systemic). However,
5) There are many biochemical processes that are harmed by fluoride (given a sufficient dose). These include the inhibition of many enzymes. This is the reason that some of the earliest opponents of fluoridation were biochemists like Professor James Sumner from Cornell University, who won the Nobel Prize for his work on enzyme chemistry. More recently fluoride has been shown to activate G-proteins and interfere with the cell’s messaging systems. It can also cause oxidative stress. An excellent summary of fluoride’s biochemistry can be found in the article “Molecular Mechanisms of Fluoride Toxicity” by Barbier et al, 2010.
6) The levels of fluoride in mothers’ milk is extremely low. This level, on average for a woman in a non-fluoridated community, is 0.004 ppm (NRC, 2006, p.40). This means that a bottle-fed baby in a fluoridated community (at 1 ppm) will get about 250 times more fluoride than a breast fed baby in a non-fluoridated community. Bearing in mind the fact that life emerged from the sea where the average level of fluoride is about 1.4 ppm, and thus there was no impediment for nature to use fluoride when developing human metabolism, her verdict appears to be that the baby a) does not need fluoride and b) that it may be harmed by fluoride. In my view, it is more likely that nature knows more about what the baby needs than a bunch of dentists from Chicago or public health officials in Washington, DC.
7) Fluoridation has always been a trade-off between lowered tooth decay and dental fluorosis but a key question was never satisfactorily answered. When the fluoridation trials began in 1945 it was known that the trade off was that approximately 10% of the children would develop dental fluorosis in its mildest form (this was a mottling or discoloration of the tooth enamel). While the mechanism whereby fluoride caused this effect was not known it was known to be a systemic effect. In other words it was caused by fluoride interfering with biochemistry during the development of the tooth cells. The question that was not answered before the US Public Health Service endorsed fluoridation in 1950, was: “What other tissues in the body may be interfered with at the same time that fluoride was interfering with the laying down of the tooth enamel?” Were the baby’s bone cells also being impacted? How about brain cells? How about the cells of the glands in the endocrine system? Sadly, very little has been done in fluoridated countries to answer these questions since fluoridated was started. However, proponents do acknowledge that the appearance of dental fluorosis means that a child was over-exposed to fluoride before the permanent teeth have erupted. Meanwhile, in 2010 the CDC reported that 41% of American children aged 12-15 have dental fluorosis, with 8.6% having the mild form (with up to 50% of the enamel impacted) and 3.6% with moderate or severe dental fluorosis (100% of the enamel impacted). In later arguments in this debate I will be presenting evidence that fluoride is capable of harming other developing tissues.
8) The fluoridating chemicals used to fluoridate the water supply are not the pharmaceutical grade chemicals as used in dental products. Most of the chemicals used are obtained from the phosphate fertilizer industry’s wet scrubbing systems (see Chapter 3, The Case Against Fluoride). One of the problems with this source is that it is contaminated with a number of other toxic chemicals including arsenic. Arsenic is a known human carcinogen and as such for the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) there is no safe level. The EPA’s maximum contaminant level goal (MCLG) for drinking water is thus set at zero. Proponents will argue that after the dilution of these bulk chemicals by about 180,000 to 1, the level of arsenic is negligible. However it is not zero and thus this practice will inevitably increase cancer rates in the population. As there are other delivery systems which are cost-effective and do not involve the use of these industrial grade chemicals, increasing the cancer rate even by a small amount is not acceptable.
9) Worldwide fluoridation is not a common practice. Proponents will often imply that fluoridating the drinking water is a common practice. It is not. Most countries do not fluoridate their water. 97% of the European population is not forced to drink fluoridated water. Four European countries have salt fluoridation (Germany, France, Switzerland and Austria), but the majority of European countries have neither fluoridated water nor fluoridated salt, yet according to World Health Organization (WHO) data available online (measured as DMFT in 12-year-olds) tooth decay rates in 12-year-olds have declined as rapidly over the period 1960 to the present in non-fluoridated countries as fluoridated ones and there is little difference in tooth decay rates today (see Cheng et al, 2007). The reasons that European spokespersons have given for not fluoridating their water are usually twofold: a) they do not want to force fluoride on people who don’t want it and b) there are still many unresolved health issues (see a list of statements by country at http://fluoridealert.org/studies/caries01 ).
10) Typically fluoridation is promoted via endorsements not via sound science. When the US Public Health Service (PHS) endorsed fluoridation in 1950, before a single trial had been completed and before any meaningful health studies had been published, it clearly was not the result of solid scientific research. However the PHS endorsement set off a flood of endorsements from other health agencies and professional bodies (see Chapters 9 and 10 in The Case Against Fluoride). Most of these came between 1950 and 1952. These endorsements were not scientific but simply reflected a subservience of public policy to the US government. However, promoters of fluoridation for over 60 years have used these endorsements very effectively with the general public as if they were coming from scientific bodies reflecting thorough and comprehensive scientific research. Very seldom is this the case. Hopefully, in these exchanges with Ken Perrott we will both focus on what the primary science actually says and not what some “authority” has to say about the matter.
CDC, 2010. Beltrán-Aguilar,Prevalence and Severity of Dental Fluorosis in the United States http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db53.htm
Cheng et al. 2007. Adding fluoride to water supplies. BMJ 335:699
Connett, P., Beck, J and Micklem HS. The Case Against Fluoride. Chelsea Green, White River Junction, Vermont, 2010.
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.