Dirty politics on the Royal Society fluoride review

Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge

In Anti-fluoride activists unhappy about scientific research I related how local anti-fluoride propagandists were busy rubbishing the Royal Society of NZ  fluoride review – even before it was released. Now that it is released (see Health Effects of Water Fluoridation: a Review of the Scientific Evidence) they have gone into a manic mode – launching press releases and facebook attacks. Given that some of these were launched within hours of the report’s release these propagandists hadn’t bother actually reading the report itself.

These attacks are typical of anti-science people when confronted with scientific information undermining their strong beleifs. As we say in New Zealand, these critics “play the man rather than the ball.” But first, let’s deal with  the single criticism of the scientific content of the report – the question of the mechanisms of the beneficial roles of fluoride for teeth.

The old “topical” argument

The anti-fluoride brigade has a thing about this – claiming that the mode of action of fluoride is by topical contact with the teeth – and then usually they try to claim only high concentrations, as in toothpaste, are effective topically. Anything to rule our a role for fluroidated drinking water.

The Royal Society report discusses various studies, saying they:

“suggest that the predominant effect of fluoride is mainly local (interfering with the caries process) rather than systemic (pre-eruptively changing enamel structure), though the latter effect should not be dismissed.”

It then discusses the evidence for a systemic role in the section Contribution of pre-eruptive fluoride exposure to preventive effects.

“Despite a substantial body of evidence suggesting that the predominant effect of fluoride in mitigating the caries process occurs post-eruptively and topically, some recent studies provide additional evidence of a systemic effect of fluoride on pre-erupted teeth. Singh et al.[79] found that fluoride is acquired in enamel during crown completion in the first permanent molars, during the time that the matrix is formed and calcified in the first 26-27 months of life. The same group had previously evaluated the pre- and posteruptive effects of fluoride exposure at the individual level, controlling for multiple fluoride sources and potential confounders, and showed a significant effect of pre-eruptive fluoride exposure on caries in permanent teeth.[80] However, they determined that maximum benefit was gained by having both pre- and post-eruptive fluoride exposure. Other groups have also found that a higher percentage of total lifetime exposure to fluoride was associated with lower caries burden,[81-83] indicating that fluoride is effective throughout the lifespan, including pre-eruptively.”

Being a scientific review, let’s list the citations used in the section quoted. Interested readers can check them out:

79: Singh, K.A., A.J. Spencer, and D.S. Brennan, Effects of water fluoride exposure at crown completion and maturation on caries of permanent first molars. Caries Res, 2007. 41(1): p. 34-42.
80: Singh, K.A., A.J. Spencer, and J.M. Armfield, Relative effects of pre- and posteruption water fluoride on caries experience of permanent first molars. J Public Health Dent, 2003. 63(1): p. 11-9.
81: Slade, G.D., et al., Associations between exposure to fluoridated drinking water and dental caries experience among children in two Australian states. J Public Health Dent, 1995. 55(4): p. 218-228.
82: Slade, G.D., et al., Caries experience among children in fluoridated Townsville and unfluoridated Brisbane. Aust N Z J Public Health, 1996. 20(6): p. 623-9.
83: Spencer, A.J., J.M. Armfield, and G.D. Slade, Exposure to water fluoridation and caries increment. Community Dent Health, 2008. 25(1): p. 12-22.

Hardly suprising to anyone recognising that reality is rarely as simple as they might desire. The benefits of fluoride are confered both by a systemic effect on pre-erupted teeth and by a topical or surface effects on existing teeth.

Yet Fluoride Free NZ claims (see Fluoridation review ‘Dirty Science’)

“One surprise is that the review has gone so far as to claim that fluoridation works systemically (i.e. by swallowing) before teeth erupt.

This belief was not only scientifically discredited 15 years ago by the US Public Health Service’s Centers for Disease Control, but has also been acknowledged as wrong in court in sworn affidavits by Health Ministry representatives and is contrary to what the top consultant to the MoH’s National fluoridation Information Service told the Hamilton City Council last year”

No real citations there to list – just the “authority” of ignorance. The idea that, as Isaac Asimov said, “democracy means that my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”

I discussed this attempt by Fluoride Free NZ to distort the evidence and literature in my articles Fluoridation – topical confusion and Topical confusion persists. It seems that Fluoride Free NZ would have been happier if the authors of this review had actually ignored the scientific literature on the topic.

Media Manipulation

I will leave aside for now the emotive language and personal attacks used by the anti-fluoride propagandists in their attacks on this review. Also, I will ignore their laughable suggestions for the “experts’ they would have liked to see on the review panel and their demand that such review should actually be a public discussion (yet they refuse to allow any open discussion on their own facebook pages!).

Let’s just consider why these people take the effort to submit press statements that few credible news sources would bother picking up. I discussed this in Anti-fluoridationist astro-turfing and media manipulation where I illustrated how planted press releases were picked up by tame “natural” health websites, Paul Connett’s Fluoride Alert website and their own Facebook and twitter social media. this self-promotion get’s requoted by anti-fluoride propagandists around the world – and sometime even makes its way into mainstream media.

Wellington Anti-fluoride dentist, Stan Litras, planted just such a press release. He provided a misleading headline Review ‘confirms fluoridation must end’ which was picked up and circulated by Connett’s Fluoride Alert. It has also been heavily circulated on Twitter and anti-fluoride Facebook pages.

I guess there are now a host of anti-fluoride activists around the world who actually believe the Fluoride Review produced by the Royal Society of New Zealand recommended the end of fluoridation!

Yet, in fact, the review concluded:

“Councils with established CWF [community water fluoridation] schemes in New Zealand can be confident that their continuation does not pose risks to public health, and promotes improved oral health in their communities, reducing health inequalities and saving on lifetime dental care costs for their citizens. Councils where CWF is not currently undertaken can confidently consider this as an appropriate public health measure, particularly those where the prevalence and severity of dental caries is high.”

How do these guys sleep straight in their bed at night?

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16 responses to “Dirty politics on the Royal Society fluoride review

  1. designafuture

    The Cluckman/skegg review has given carte blanche for health authorities and local councils to put but whatever medication in our drinking water that is deemed as being in the public good.
    It is a notable review because it is the first one that has completely dismissed the concerns raised around adverse health effects, whereas all others have in common a declaration that more quality research is needed.
    But I am encouraged by the response of people like yourself which is absolutely in line with the sort of responses that have emerged following criticism of all the other reviews over the past 40 years. You should also note that, despite the crowing of individuals such as yourself, the number of opponents of fluoridation continues to grow.
    A review that is set up to achieve a pre-determined outcome and does exactly that will reflect no credit to those who participated and those who support the outcome.
    On a personal note, since the fluoride went back in the water a skin condition which disappeared whilst there was no added fluoride has returned. Give me a scientific reason for that Ken!


  2. Design, you really should read these things before making such sweeping comments.

    There is nothing carte blanche about the review. It dealt only with fluoride and fluoridation. It didn’t consider any medication at all.

    It is not true to say it dismissed any concerns about fluoride. It actually discussed these concerns and comes to conclusions about how real they are based on the exsiting evidence.

    In some cases the review warns that further studies are necessary. For example in the section on renal-impaired individuals it concludes:

    “The authors suggested that chronic kidney disease could be aggravated by relatively low concentrations of fluoride, which (in turn) accelerates vascular calcification. However, further studies are required to test this hypothesis.”


    “Adverse effects of fluoride exposure from CWF in renal-impaired individuals have not been documented. However, the scarcity of data indicates that further studies are required.”

    And the final conclusion finishes with the words:

    “It is recommended that a review such as this one is repeated or updated every 10 years – or earlier if a large well-designed study is published that appears likely to have shifted the balance of health benefit vs health risk.”

    You are silly to repeat the claim that a scientific review was set up to produce a pre-determined result. That’s the sort of job for theologians, not scientists who must rely on evidence. Or political propagandists like Fluoride Free NZ who don’t give a stuff about evidence or the scientific literature.

    As for your skin condition – take it to a health professional, only fools ask for health advice on blog comments and I would be a fool to offer your a diagnosis.

    Mind you, perhaps I could ask you a similar question. Ever since fluoridation was stopped in Hamilton I have been depressed. Now that it has restarted my depression has gone. Does that mean F is necessary for mental health?


  3. The overwhelming majority of Antifluoridationists with whom I’ve had contact and/or interactions seem to have no compunction about disseminating false information. Truth and accuracy appear to be, to them, nothing more than minor annoyances to be discarded in the most expedient manner. When their falsehoods are exposed, they simply disappear, only to reappear in another locale spewing the same verbatim nonsense which had been clearly demonstrated to them to be false.

    This will not change, as it is a matter of skewed core values. The problem, however, is not so much with these integrity-challenged individuals and groups, but with those, in decision-making positions, and/or respected media who accord the anti nonsense any credence. In abdicating their responsibilities in such manner, they provide a great disservice to their entire constituencies, and violate any trust they may have earned.

    Steven D. Slott, DDS


  4. Reblogged this on Talking Auckland and commented:
    Reblogged without comment as it keeps coming up in submissions to various Council Plans including the Unitary Plan


  5. designafuture

    Steve – The overwhelming majority of pro-fluoridationists with whom I’ve had contact and/or interactions seem to have no compunction about disseminating false information. Truth and accuracy appear to be, to them, nothing more than minor annoyances to be discarded in the most expedient manner.
    This will not change, as it is a matter of skewed core values. The problem, however, is not so much with these integrity-challenged individuals and groups, but with those, in decision-making positions, and/or respected media who accord the pro fluoridation nonsense any credence.

    Ken – Thanks for confirming the point I have been making over the past eighteen months e.g. the only way to resolve this issue is for independent scientific/medical research being conducted. My question now is when are you and your pro-fluoride peers going to demand the health agencies do it?
    I am pleased to read you have emerged from the black hole of depression but I caution against attributing that to ingesting fluoride – rather an unscientific approach I conclude!


  6. Design, no of course I was not seriously suggesting that low F causes depression. Just parodying your silly comment about skin condition.

    Well, there is a lot of independent scientific and medical research around fluoride and fluoridation. And the review by the Royal Soceity summarises much of it – particularly the recent stuff.

    The Royal Society and the PM’s Chief Scientifric Advisor were asked to carry out this review by a couple of councils. Presumably they wished to see something from an independent and reputable body as they have been subjected to so much crap from Fluoride Free etc groups who are not idnependent.


  7. Design

    Given your comments, it is obvious that you have no understanding of what constitutes false scientific information. Your opinion on the veracity of fluoridation advocates is therefore meaningless.

    Steven D. Slott, DDS


  8. designafuture

    Steve, your comments read like an apologist for religious fanaticism.
    If the science around fluoride is effectively settled why does SCHER write the following:
    EUROPA > DG Health and Consumer Protection > Public Health
    Source document:
    SCHER (2010)
    Summary & Details:
    6. What further investigations are needed to improve assessment of exposure and of the health effects of fluoride?
    Exposure assessment is the most important element of additional research. In particular, information about health effects of fluoride beyond fluorosis, such as bone cancer and neurological and reproductive effects, is poor quality, with inaccurate exposure measurements and observed effects only at very high exposure levels.
    Improving risk assessment requires:
    1. Development and validation of new biomarkers for direct measurement of long-term fluoride exposure.
    2. Development of standardized methods for exposure assessment, integrating all routes of exposure.
    3. Better information on fluoride in food.
    4. Epidemiological studies to refine data on fluoride, dental fluorosis and dental health.
    The Fort Collins report, the York Review and various University studies all call for updated research on the possible adverse effects of added fluoride on human health. You and your backslappers display considerable arrogance in dismissing the concerns of those who, like myself, have health issues that reduce or disappear when we stop or reduce the ingestion of fluoridated water.
    Even the manufacturers of fluoride, fluoride tablets and fluoride supplements provide warnings around their various products about avoiding ingestion if suffering from kidney problems, allergies, pregnancy, joint pains, osteomalacia, rickets.
    History is strewn with examples of scientific research being skewed, abused or used selectively in support of products and materials that have subsequently been proved hazardous to human and environmental safety and wellbeing. Why is the science around fluoridation different?
    My stand is that there is sufficient evidence to raise serious concerns about fluoridation and it makes sense to do what a growing number of health professionals and indeed scientists are calling for and that is to revisit the primary research on which the practice of fluoridating community water supplies was commenced. Is that too much to ask for or do the fanatics fear they may be proved wrong?


  9. Design

    Ask any legitimate scientist if study on any science issue should ever cease. The answer will always be “no”. Science is a process of continual study and seeking of further knowledge. That an issue is said to warrant further research does not mean that the current knowledge is flawed or should not be trusted.

    Antifluoridationists have had 69 years of trying through every means possible to prove the same, unsubstantiated claims that they have been putting forth since the very beginning. There is no “new emerging science” that sheds some sort of new light on these claims, as antifluoridarionists claim, simply the same, stale, unsubstantiated claims of thyroid, IQ, skeletal fluorosis, dental fluorosis, etc, etc, etc…..that they have tried unsuccessfully to attach to fluoridation for decades.

    Do we need further research? Certainly. Does this mean, in the meantime, we should deprive entire populations the benefits of a very valuable public health initiative which has no proven adverse effects? Certainly not.

    As long as there are antifluoridationists there will be a constant barrage of unsubstantiated claims. No one is obligated to disprove these claims in the absence of valid evidence that that a problem does indeed exist.

    Steven D. Slott, DDS


  10. Design, I notice that the “world Fluoridation expert”, Paul Connett who you so greatly admire, has not done a single bit of research on the subject. Here are all these reviews asking for further research, scientists generallly in that field are doing the research and Paul Connett does nothing but shoot off his mouth telling even more lies. “World expert” my arse.


  11. Let’s be correct here, Ken. He is the “Premier International Authority on Fluoride”, having been declared to be so by the “Premier International Authority on Fluoride” himself.

    The 2006 NRC Committee on Fluoride in Drinking Water spent over 3 years reviewing and picking apart all available fluoride literature. They duly reported all the salient findings in the literature, in much detail. They reported, as was recommended in the studies they reviewed, that further research be done. In the end, after all the review and reporting of findings, the only concerns they noted in regard to fluoride at the level if 4.0 ppm and lower, were the risk of severe dental fluorosis and bone fracture with chronic ingestion of water with a fluoride content of 4.0 ppm or greater. Three years of exhaustive, detailed review, and the only concerns at the level which they were asked to evaluate, were severe dental fluorosis and bone fracture. Had they had concerns with any of the other disorders about which so much was written, they would have been obligated to state so and recommend accordingly. They did not.

    As I’m sure Ken will attest, give a bunch of scientists literature to review, and they will analyze, pontificate, and reanalyze, word by word by boring, miserable word. The telling question is what are their final, true concerns. The NRC Committee answered that in their final recommendation.

    Steven D. Slott, DDS


  12. designafuture

    I wonder if SCHER agrees with you Steven, although I suppose they are just a bunch of foreigners from the other side of the world so may not have caught up with the NRC conclusions.
    I still wonder why SCHER writes; “Information about health effects of fluoride beyond fluorosis, such as bone cancer and neurological and reproductive effects, is poor quality, with inaccurate exposure measurements and observed effects only at very high exposure levels”.
    It is a truism in any discipline that if you don’t look you will not find anything!
    It may surprise you to know that Paul Connett is not my primary source of information on fluoridation and I don’t know him well enough to form a conclusion on his personal attributes or his motivation to end fluoridation.
    I might add the same applies to Ken whom I have only met once for a couple of words and I had trouble understanding either of them.


  13. When was that, Design? I can never understand why people hide behind a moniker like this – seems sort of cowardly or dishonest. Surely if one is being honest and sincere there is no need to hide.



  14. Design

    You supplied a very good quote up above, but I suspect you didn’t read it during your copy & paste.

    Fluoride has “observed (side) effects only at very high exposure levels.”

    Ken and Steve have been saying exactly that all along. At municipal fluoridation levels there are minimal or no side effects from fluoride. Even your own cherry picked source agrees.


  15. Design

    Instead of “wondering” why don’t you actually read the SCHER report and find out? After that, you might try reading some of the rest of the volumes of information on fluoride readily available to anyone, from legitimate, authoritative sources not in any manner associated with antifluoridationist websites, blogs, and books.

    Steven D. Slott, DDS


  16. Pingback: » Anti-fluoridation campaigner, Stan Litras, misrepresents WHO

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