Debating fluoridation and tyranny – Tom O’Connor responds

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Individual consent – what does it mean and how is it obtained?

This article below is a guest contribution from Tom O’Connor responding to my article Attempting a tyranny of the minority on fluoridation. I invited Tom to discuss the issue here, and offered him a right of reply because I think there is value in discussing the points he raised in his Timaru Courier opinion piece and  that I critiqued in my article.

Unfortunately, in this issue, the scientific arguments are very often a proxy for underlying values issues, at least on the part of opponents of fluoridation. It is in the nature of values issues that there is no “correct” answer (in contrast to arguments about facts). Nevertheless, the values issues are important so I hope they can be developed in discussion here around Tom’s original opinion piece and his response here. In the end, such issues are decided by democratic and political means so open discussion of the issues is important.


Firstly I am not opposed to the use of fluoride to combat tooth decay per se. Nor do I have any “anti-fluoride mates” as you put it. If the government wants to make fluoride freely available there are many ways of doing that without imposing it on everyone.

There are three main elements to the fluoride debate. The first is the efficacy or otherwise of fluoride as a preventative for tooth decay.

The second is the use of reticulated potable water as a means of delivering anything other than clean water to the community.

The third is the issue of mass medication, or mass treatment or mass therapy of people without individual consent and practical convenient and affordable alternatives. Legislating to declare a medical treatment is not a medical treatment simply on the ground that the dose rate is measured in parts per million is one of the most stupid and dishonest things I have ever seen any government do. Many medications are measured in such minute quantities.

The Grey Power Federation objection to the proposed addition of fluoride to potable reticulated water is based on the third element only. We do not have a policy in the first element simply because we do not have the expertise or scientific qualifications to develop such a policy. We have not considered the second element.

That policy has been, in my view, adequately explained in the Timaru Courier opinion piece you refer to. The following comments are therefore mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Grey Power members or anyone else.

Efficacy

As you rightly point out there is probably nothing to be gained in participating in the endless argument between proponents and opponents of fluoride as an oral health treatment. Both sides have accused the other of engaging in pseudo-science and scare mongering. Both are, to some extent, probably accurate and in agreement on that point alone. However, where doubts exist, it is probably better to err on the side of caution.

Reticulated water

Territorial local authorities have the responsibility to provide potable water to their communities where no other sources are available or suitable. The principle responsibility of local authorities, as outlined in the Drinking Water Standards for New Zealand, administered by the Ministry of Health, is to ensure drinking water is as free from all other substances and organisms as possible. Using reticulated potable water to convey anything else, be it medical or not, is contrary to that principle.

The use of chlorine to remove micro-organisms and other pathogens is designed to remove unwanted and potentially unsafe matter from drinking. At the end of that process there is not supposed to be any detectable chlorine. That there often is demonstrates the difficulty of getting the addition of trace elements correct. That is a very different matter to the deliberate introduction of an additional substance which many people don’t want.

Mass treatment and individual consent

This is not the first time mass medication or treatment has been introduced in New Zealand. Iodine deficiency, as a cause for goitre, was discovered in the early 1900s and to address the problem table salt was iodised at up to 80mg of iodine per kilogram of salt in 1938. This was accompanied by an extensive public education programme and there was always un-iodised salt as a practical, convenient and affordable option on grocer shop shelves for those who did not want it.

Suggesting that those who object to fluoride in the water they pay their local authority to deliver can obtain alternative supplies from a community tap or buy it from the supermarket is unacceptable. These options are not possible, practical, convenient or affordable for many people.You may also recall a recent proposal to add folic acid to all bread products as a means of addressing a reproductive issue for women. The public outcry which saw that proposal dropped was not solely based on doubts about the efficacy of folic acid but the fact they many people simply did not want their bread medicated with anything for any reason.

You may also recall a recent proposal to add folic acid to all bread products as a means of addressing a reproductive issue for women. The public outcry which saw that proposal dropped was not solely based on doubts about the efficacy of folic acid but the fact they many people simply did not want their bread medicated with anything for any reason.

There are practical and cost effective methods of providing fluoride for those who want it. Forcing it on those who don’t want it is simply unacceptable in a free society.

Tom O’Connor


I will post a response to Tom’s arguments in a few days. Meanwhile, readers are welcome to make their own arguments in the comments section.

Ken Perrott

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25 responses to “Debating fluoridation and tyranny – Tom O’Connor responds

  1. soundhill1

    “Legislating to declare a medical treatment is not a medical treatment simply on the ground that the dose rate is measured in parts per million is one of the most stupid and dishonest things I have ever seen any government do. Many medications are measured in such minute quantities.
    If an infant drinks 600 ml of milk a day and is recommended to get 0.4 mcg of vitamin B12 that is under 1 part per 1,000 million.
    “https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB12-HealthProfessional/
    But if it is fluoridated water they will get 0.8 parts per million or 500 times the dose of fluoride that is recommended in terms of vitamin B12.

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  2. Brian, what is the relevance of your confusing apples and oranges, or to be specific, fluoride and vitamin B12?

    Next thing you will be using that argument to say infants should only be drinking microlitre quantities of dihydrogen monoxide.

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  3. chris price

    I am glad you have clarified the Grey Power position. It was just your letter was quite misleading.
    I expected to get a reply from you but instead I got chastised for not attending meetings. Some of us have commitments on Friday afternoons, like work

    You talk about “mass medication” This chestnut has been tried in courts here and in the U.S.A and none have won.
    You say “Many medications are measured in such minute quantities”
    So where does natural fluoride come into this description, seeing no one has processed, inserted, added natural fluoride to any water ground or air,

    Also once Fluoride is added to the water it completely hydrolyses with the existing water and cannot be detected at the tap , so how can it be “Medication”
    You go on to state” However, where doubts exist, it is probably better to err on the side of caution”. I agree. The evidence and support for Community Water Fluoridation has been proved beyond doubt in the last 70 Years

    At the moment there is over 360 million people using CWF world wide, not counting the millions that have used it in the last 3/4 of a century. If there was any doubts about its safety they would have been well documented and studied by now.
    But when you ask for medical or Dental case studies to prove any danger, at the levels used, There is none. So there is no doubt to be discussed

    No on is forcing you to do anything you make you own choices,The Community water is provided and if the majority want to have it fluoridated, that is the end of it.
    Its like Auckland Transport The trains and buses are provided as an alternative to driving and being stuck in traffic But people moan about the motorways because they think, as that is the way they want to travel,
    It should be sorted for their personal use, and forget about the alternatives

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  4. To err on the side of caution? Using this logic means you completely ignore the overwhelming weight of evidence and take a values-based position. If you applied the same logic to driving, you’d have to leave your car in the garage because of the possibility you might die in a crash. (Or you could instead base your decision on the evidence that traffic fatalities have been steadily dropping in NZ since the 90s.)

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  5. Simple questions for Mr O’Connor:

    Do you regard naturally occurring fluoride in municipal water to be a medicine? If not why not? if yes what is the acceptable medication ‘dose’ that ought to be permitted and how do you arrive at the figure?

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  6. Steve Slott

    O’Connor clearly examples the fact that antifluoridationists do not object to fluoridation based on science, facts, or reason. Their objections are grounded soley in personal ideology which they continually seek to impose onto entire populations, at the expense of the health and well-being of those populations. Instead of basing their opinions on facts supported by credible scientific evidence, these activists have, through the decades, done just the opposite. They have tried to mold science and reason to fit their ideology, with truth and accuracy being cast by the wayside in the process.
    .
    Given this, as O’Connor demonstrates, no amount of facts, evidence, and credible science presented to them will change their minds. Thus, it is a complete waste of time to even attempt to do so. The best that can be done with antifluoridationists is to go behind them with a broom consisting of facts and evidence, and clean up the mess they constantly spew all over the internet and in any other forum they can find or create.

    Steven D. Slott, DDS

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  7. Tom O'Connor

    It boils down to the simple and undeniable fact that in a free society people have a right to choose what they have added to their water. That includes the right to make the wrong decision in the minds of those with a different opinion. We don’t have to agree with them but we do have to honour their right to make that decision. We can not and must never impose such a regime on people who don’t want it.. That was the philosophy of Adolf Hitler’s Germany.
    New Zealand lacks a number of essential trace elements such as iodine and copper cobalt but fluoride is present in natural quantities, as far as I know.
    At 72 years old I still have most of my teeth and those I have lost have been through accidental impact from motor cycle accidents and rodeo riding in my youth. I have rarely used tooth paste as we cleaned our teeth with sea water so I don’t need chemicals in my water for dental health..
    The only thing I will ever allow anyone to add to my water is a splash of good quality Scotch whisky and even then I will decide how much and how often.

    Tom O’Connor

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  8. chris price

    Thats an interesting comment about sea water as it contains around 1.4 PPM of fluoride

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Steve Slott

    No, Tom, you do not have the right to personally dictate the contents of any public water supply. You have the right to consume that water, or not, but there is no inalienable right in any society, free or otherwise, to personally decide what will or will not be added to public water supplies. Ironically, while antifluoridationists frequently invoke “Hitler”, and “Nazis” in theitr ridiculous claims of “personal liberty” and other such irrelevant arguments, it is those antifluoridationists who obviously have Hitler on their brains who seek to impose their personal ideology unto entire populations….as did he.

    As is clearly demonstrated in your comment, antifluoridationists are all about “I”, caring nothing about the “we” of society. Optimal level fluoride in water is odorless, colorless, tasteless, and causes no adverse effects. It does absolutely nothing but benefit you, and everyone else who may consume it. However, no one forces you take advantage of that benefit. You are entirely free to obtain your water from another source, with a content more to your personal preference.

    If you want to live in your own little “I” world, fine, but understand that the Nazi hogwash certainly applies far more to your narrow minded perspective than to those who are seeking to make life better for everyone.

    Steven D. Slott, DDS

    .

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  10. Tom you seem to decline to answer the simple questions I put to you that arose from your article.

    Your refusal does not put you in a good light.

    Not a good light at all.

    I have rarely used tooth paste as we cleaned our teeth with sea water so I don’t need chemicals in my water for dental health..

    Hmmm. I will retrain the urge to unpack that statement.

    Out of politeness.

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  11. I will respond to Tom’s general comments in an upcoming post. However, some matters of fact need correcting here.

    1: New Zealand does not lack “essential trace elements such as iodine and copper cobalt.” These elements are in fact “present in natural quantities.” It’s just that these “natural quantities” are deficient from the point of view of animal and human health. Hence the need for dietary supplementation in one form or another. Because deficiencies are relatively common in NZ the public accepts this need and most people do not oppose social policies achieving this.

    2: Fluoride is also present in “natural quantities” – but in New Zealand, that level is below the optimum for human health in the vast majority of places. Hence, the benefits that accrue from a social policy supplementing fluoride intake.

    Fluoride is present in “natural quantities” throughout the world but in some places (eg parts of India, China, Middle East, Eastern Europe and the US) the “natural quantities” are excessive for human and animal health. In these places, social policies aimed at reducing fluoride intake (usually fluoride in drinking water) or identifying and using alternative sources are needed.

    Tom, are you suggesting that your values/political system is happy about supplementation of iodine, cobalt, copper (and presumably selenium and molybdenum) but not happy about fluoride? If so how do you justify the difference?

    And if you lived in China or India would you be opposed to efforts by governing bodies to remove or lower the “natural quantities” of fluoride in the water supply? If not, how do you accommodate that in your system fo freedom of choice and individual rights?

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  12. You may also recall a recent proposal to add folic acid to all bread products as a means of addressing a reproductive issue for women. The public outcry which saw that proposal dropped was not solely based on doubts about the efficacy of folic acid but the fact they many people simply did not want their bread medicated with anything for any reason.

    There was no public outcry.

    There was a well funded campaign funded by grocery and foodstuff manufacturers publicly headed by a spokesperson with close political ties to the more extreme right of the National Party, Katherine Rich.

    Public outcry, my arse.

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  13. soundhill1

    Ken wrote:”Brian, what is the relevance of your confusing apples and oranges, or to be specific, fluoride and vitamin B12?

    Next thing you will be using that argument to say infants should only be drinking microlitre quantities of dihydrogen monoxide.”

    My comment was backing up Tom’s ““Legislating to declare a medical treatment is not a medical treatment simply on the ground that the dose rate is measured in parts per million is one of the most stupid and dishonest things I have ever seen any government do. Many medications are measured in such minute quantities.”

    Sorry I missed closing the quotation marks at the end of my quote of Tom.

    Dihydrogen monoxide is a form of water. It is not regulated as a medicine, of course, though lack of it may cause illness.

    Tom said fluoride was not being considered a medicine because people only get parts per million. Then why should vitamin B12 require registration at parts per billion?

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  14. Apples and oranges, Brian – or fluoride and vitamin B12 – two entirely different species.

    Surely you are not that thick?🙂

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  15. soundhill1

    So are you saying Tom is wrong, Ken, to comment on the regulators putting weight on the “milligrams” factor as to why fluoride is not a medicine?

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  16. Yes, both of you are wrong and I shouldn’t have to point out the fallacy, it is so obvious.

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  17. soundhill1

    Ken so you are saying ppm was not a part of the Govt case against fluoride being a medicine?

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  18. No I am not – don’t be so thick.

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  19. soundhill,

    Read what Ken said. You are attributing things to him that he did not say.

    That suggests your imagination is overactive.

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  20. Steve Slott

    Soundhill

    Just curious…….if dihydrogen monoxide is “a form of water”, then what exactly are the chemical formulas for whatever other forms of water you believe there to be?

    Steven D. Slott, DDS

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  21. Ashton Dempsey

    “There are practical and cost effective methods of providing fluoride for those who want it.”

    Tom – fluoridation is primarily aimed at improving the dental health of young children and, lets be honest, is of maximum benefit to those in low income groups.

    Given this, what exactly are these alternative delivery methodologies you propose, and how would the cost of provision compare? Please provide your data on the efficiency and effectiveness of these delivery systems, especially for the group noted above

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  22. Tom O’Connor says, “It boils down to the simple and undeniable fact that in a free society people have a right to choose what they have added to their water.”

    While that may be a very strong emotional argument, in this case you are literally arguing for the right to have poorer oral health. That is not rational. Moreover, you are attempting to impose your irrational beliefs upon those who could truly benefit from this safe and effective health initiative.

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  23. Steve: “Just curious…….if dihydrogen monoxide is “a form of water”, then what exactly are the chemical formulas for whatever other forms of water you believe there to be?”

    When I was 13-16 I used to bus to school and used to do rote learning some of the way. One thing that always sticks with me is the electronegativity series with fluorine the greatest going on
    F O Cl N C H
    After fluorine oxygen is the next strongest atom for holding on to electrons

    HF and H2O consequently still have electron-attracting power even after they have formed their HF or H2O. This results in their being liquid at a much higher temperature than say that for H2S, S however being in the same chemical group as O with 6 electrons in its outer shell. S is less electronegative. (Even Cl is enough less electronegative that HCl is a gas at room temperature.)

    One description:
    https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20130814122113AAxrVxD
    ” It turns out that groups of water molecules stick together and act as if their formula was H16O8 or H14O7 or…….you get the idea? So technically there are groups of molecules in liquid water which constantly change their formulae ..”

    Liked by 1 person

  24. David: ” Moreover, you are attempting to impose your irrational beliefs upon those who could truly benefit from this safe and effective health initiative.”

    This is not a one shoe size fits all scenario.

    I know analogies are not always valid, and Stuartg will say I am changing the subject. However please think of how an increase in road speed limit would benefit most people since they would get to their destination faster. There are only a few who would cause crashes. For roads we set rules for the minority of drivers who do not have good judgement. We are imposing on everyone need for a speed limit based on our belief in their minority welfare and the welfare of the small number they hurt.

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  25. Soundhill: “This is not a one shoe size fits all scenario.”

    Actually it is. My argument is that when making the argument for freedom of choice – in relation to Community Water Fluoridation, (not raising a speed limit on a street of your choosing) a person is literally arguing for the right to have poorer oral health. That argument does not apply to raising the speed limit.

    And I argue it is not rational to ask for the right to have poor health. Please provide an example in which arguing for the right to have poorer health of any kind is rational. That IS a one size fits all scenario.

    If I argue for the right to hit my hand with a hammer, that would not be rational. If I argue for the right to give myself cancer because I want to smoke, that is not rational. Sorry, but it’s not.

    As I write this, it occurs to me that arguing for the right to commit suicide kind of falls along these lines. That would be a rational argument if one has poor health and wants to end suffering. So again, this is not the same thing. Arguing for the right to end suffering may be rational, but arguing for the right to cause yourself to suffer is not rational.

    Like

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