Tag Archives: fluoride debate

Debating science

The Science March in Palmerston North. Credit: Erin Wilson, Twitter.

This last week has certainly raised the profile of the “science debate” in New Zealand. Most importantly we saw big turnouts for the Science March in several major cities – a demonstration that lots of scientists and supporters of science feel that science could be threatened – or at least that it is unappreciated by the politicians and other decision-makers. Maybe even by a section of the public.

And at the other end of importance, we saw a childish spat by local anti-fluoride activists who had attempted to use a member of Parliament’s experience of miscarriages to make the scaremongering claim that these were caused by community water fluoridation. Then they attempted to divert attention from the embarrassing (for them) widespread condemnation by promoting, through their own press releases,  the fake news they had organised a “TV debate” on fluoridation with a local scientist.

The Science March

The Science March was many things to many people. I saw it as a general demonstration of support for science and opposition to attempts to discredit science – examples being the science around climate change, vaccinations, evolution – and yes even fluoridation. Some of the media presented it as a demonstration against US president Trump and his policies – and there may have been many in the US Science Marches who had these motivations. But every country and every region have examples where politicians have downplayed scientific evidence or even attempted to discredit that evidence and the scientists who produced it. These sort of struggles went on long before Trump and they will go on after Trump.

For example, in New Zealand, we have some specific issues over water quality and climate change which are quite unconnected to the US and its politicians. We have to fight out those issues here. Scientists, anyway, strongly resist linking their issues to politics and political movements. We have had a few bad experiences from that. This resistance and the silly intervention of identity politics into the organisation of the US Science Marches did make many scientists wary of participation.

But, in the end, the Science Marches around the world had good turnouts and my impression is that participants felt they had been both worthwhile for science and good experiences personally.

Of course, the Science March will not make the problems go away. There is still a need for the day to day struggle on issues like climate change, water and environmental quality and even fluoridation. This is one of the points I attempted to make in my article Trump didn’t invent the problems – and his opponents didn’t invent protest.

Debating science

And this is where a continuing debate around science issues is important. To be clear – I am not using the word “debate” in the formal sense (more on that later) but in its most general sense. And not necessarily debate involving specific contact between adversaries.

Issues about water quality and the environment come up continually in New Zealand. In the media, in local body and parliamentary considerations, and in government statements. A lot of the commentary may downplay the science on the issue or overplay economic and financial aspects. Some of the commentaries may be outright anti-science – or present misinformation, even distortions, about the science. Activist claims about the “dangers” of the use of 1080 to control predator pests are an example.

The misinformation and downplay of scientific information cannot be allowed free passage – it must be challenged. Hence there is a debate – again not a formal debate, but a debate, nevertheless. The public is exposed to various claims and counterclaims via the media and the internet. Regional bodies and parliamentary committees are deluged with submissions and scientists and supporters of science have a role to play there too.

Scientists and supporters of science should not stand aside and let the opposition win by default – simply because they abhor the political process or ego-driven participation in media reports. But they need to choose their battles – and they need to consider the effectiveness or otherwise of different forms of participation in public debate.

Problems with formal debates

So what about formal debates of the sort the Fluoride Free New Zealand (FFNZ – the local anti-fluoride organisation) claimed via their press releases to have organised? A TV debate between New Zealand Scientist Professor Michelle Dickinson from Auckland University, and Dr. Paul Connett – chief guru at the US Fluoride Action Network. This proved to be a kickback from FFNZ, a diversion from the bad publicity that came their way when Dickinson publicly criticised their use of scaremongering tactics in an email sent to a Green member of parliament. Public commenters were disgusted at the FFNZ claim the miscarriages she had suffered were caused by community water fluoridation.

Professor Dickinson pointed out she had not agreed to a TV debate (which FFNZ then childishly used in another press release to claim she had reneged). And Dr. Paul Connett did not even publicly respond – indicating that while the debate challenge had been made in his name he knew nothing about it.

Kane Titchener, the Auckland FFNZ organiser who made the challenge to Michelle Dickinson, is a bit of a Walter Mitty character and often makes debate challenges in Paul Connett’s name, but without his authorisation. These challenges are his way of avoiding the discussion of the science when he is outgunned. He made a similar challenge to me four years ago – I called his bluff and nothing happened. The debate I did eventually have with Paul Connett was arranged through Vinny Eastwood (a local conspiracy theorist who promote anti-fluoride propaganda), not Kane Titchener – who was probably not even in contact with Connett.

But, in general, scientists are unwilling to take part in the sort of formal debates Kane Titchener was proposing. There are often similar challenges made to evolutionary scientists by creationists and religious apologists, and to climate scientists by climate change deniers. Scientists generally feel their opposition make these challenges in an attempt to gain recognition or status they do not deserve. (I think in this particular case Kane Titchener may have naively thought he could use Michelle Dickinson’s connections with TV personalities to get Connett on TV – something he has found impossible on his recent visits to NZ).

Another, more important, reason is that such formal debates are usually more entertainment than information. In fact, debating is a recognised form of entertainment often driven by egos and aimed at ‘scoring points’ which appeal to a biased and motivated audience. They are rarely a way of providing information and using reasoning to come to conclusions – which is the normal and accepted process of scientific discussion.

Good faith discussion

Don’t get me wrong – I am not opposed to all forms of one-on-one “debate” or discussion. These can be useful – especially when the audience is not stacked by biased activists. An exchange of scientific views or information in front of an interested but unbiased audience can be a useful and good experience.

Similarly on-line, written debates or discussion of the sort I had with Paul Connett in 2013/2014 can also be useful (see Connett & Perrott, 2014. The Fluoride Debate). In this format, ego and debating or entertainment skills are less effective. Participants need to produce information – and back it up with evidence, citations or logic. And one’s discussion partner always has the opportunity to critically comment on that information.

I feel that debate was successful – it enabled both sides to prevent information in a calm way without put downs or ego problems. I often use that debate when I want to check out citations and claims. Interestingly, though, Paul Connett behaves as if the debate never happened – claiming that no-one in New Zealand has been prepared to debate him. The FFNZ activists do the same thing. Ever since that debate, I have been blocked from commenting on any anti-fluoride website or Facebook page in New Zealand and internationally. It’s almost as if some sort of Stalinist order went out to treat me like a “non-person.”

A challenge to anti-fluoridation activists

If these activists are so keen on debating the issue then why don’t they allow it to happen? Why do they block pro-science people from commenting on their Facebook pages? Why do they ignore open letters and offers of rights of reply of the sort I sent to Stan Litras and other anti-fluoride activists (see A challenge to anti-fluoridationers to justify their misrepresentation of New Zealand research). Why did Lisa Hansen – the solicitor for the NZ Health Trust who has been making incorrect scientific claims in her High Court cases opposing fluoridation ignore my offer of a right of reply (see Open letter to Lisa Hansen on NZ Fluoridation Review)? Even the “great helmsman” himself, the man who Kane Titchener seems to think will answer all the questions, refuses to respond to offers of right of reply (see Misrepresenting fluoride science – an open letter to Paul Connett).

Why do these people ignore such opportunities?

One thing I noticed about the submission made by opponents of community water fluoridation to the recent parliamentary Health Committee consideration of the Fluoridation Bill was the overwhelming reliance on scientific claims in almost all their submissions. Claims that fluoridation causes IQ loss, fluorosis and a whole host of sicknesses. Many of the submitters actually used citations to scientific journals or attached copies of scientific papers.

These people claim they have science on their side – yet they seem to be extremely shy about discussing that science in any open way. Why is that?

No, it’s not a matter of Walter Mitty types making debate challenges in the name of Paul Connett. Why don’t Kane Titchener, Mary Byrne, Stan Litras, Lynn Jordan (alias Penelope Paisley on Facebook) and similar activists who love to make “authoritative” scientific claims in submissions or behind the protection of a ring-fenced Facebook page or website participate in an honest open debate?

For a start – what about stopping these silly”challenges” in Paul Connett’s name. Then they could remove restrictions on the discussion on the websites and Facebook pages they control.

And, yes, I would be happy for them to participate in good faith scientific discussion in articles on this blog. That is what my offers of the right of reply to my articles were all about.

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NZ Fluoridation review – Response to Micklen

I welcome open and transparent discussion here so am thankful to Dr Micklen for his response (see NZ Fluoridation review – HS Micklen responds to critique). Unfortunately he is the only author or “peer-reviewer” of Fluoride Free NZ’s report criticising the NZ Fluoridation review to accept my offer of a right of reply to my critiques. A pity, as if any of them think I have got things wrong, and they can support this with evidence, I certainly want to know about it. There are three aspects to Dr Micklen’s reply – dental fluorsis chronic kidney disease and his critique of my letter in the journal Neurotoxicology and Teratology –   Perrott (2015). I will deal with these separately.

Dental fluorosis

I appreciate Dr Micklen is unhappy about my criticisms of his article, and my suggestion his comments of dental fluorosis were muddled. I may have been a bit harsh but he has still not responded to my specific criticism that he:

“unfairly attributes the more severe forms [of dental fluorosis] to community water fluoridation (CWF). Consequently he calculates a cost of dental treatment which is wrong.”

The key problem is that Micklen is assuming that all the  medium and severe dental fluorosis can be attributed to CWF, whereas none of it can. Briefly reviewing the argument – the figure below is from the NZ Ministry of Health’s Our Oral Health – the same source Micklen used. My comment on the relevance of the different grades of dental fluorosis was:

“Moderate and severe grades of dental fluorosis are common in areas where fluorosis is endemic, but relatively rare where CWF is used. Occurrences in the latter case, despite the low concentrations of fluoride in treated drinking water, will have other causes – high natural levels in well water, industrial pollution, excessive consumption of toothpaste, etc.”

The important factor is that severe and moderate forms of dental fluorosis are not caused by CWF. CWF can contribute to mild and very mild forms of dental fluorosis but because these are usually judged positively they certainly don’t need expensive veneers – my dentist colleagues advise simple microabrasion usually works. So Micklen was wrong to suggest the cost of cost of veneers (up to $1750 per tooth) should be attributed to CWF because such costs would be encountered in non-fluoridated areas as well. (In fact, if Micklen had calculated costs for such treatment in non-fluoridated areas using the “Oral Health” data in the literal way he did for the fluoridated areas,  he would have found costs to be higher than in non-fluoridated areas! Certainly doesnt’ support his claim but a meaningless result because of the small numbers and large variability).

Chronic kidney disease

Micklen accuses me of  using “a piece of grammatical legerdemain to pretend that I [Micklen] called for CKD sufferers to be warned to avoid tap water, which I did not.” Granted he left himself a way out by actually writing:

“I suspect that most opponents of fluoridation would call for CKD sufferers to be warned to avoid tap water. Possibly the NZ health authorities have done so.”

OK, so its not a direct personal recommendation (perhaps he doesn’t belong to the group of “most opponents of fluoridation”) but a reader could be excused for getting that message and in this context it comes across as “dog whistling.” However I will accept his assurance now that:

” In fact, I am inclined to agree with him [me] that that might be extreme in the present state of knowledge.”

As for questions like: “Does further research on the topic receive any funding priority, for example?” – well this is a round about way of giving the message that it doesn’t. Perhaps he should actually check that out and give some evidence instead of making an unwarranted implication. This tactic of posing unfounded questions to convey an unwarranted message is typical of the approach Micklen and Connett take in their book The Case against Fluoride. I criticised this tactic in my exchange with Paul Connett (see Fluoride Debate). I reject Micklen’s suggestion that:

“Perhaps it would be embarrassing, too, for a government to insist on putting fluoride in the water and then advise a substantial number of people not to drink it – or so one might think.”

That is silly – it is like a conspiracy theory. Why would genuine health authorities refuse to give warnings to a small group of people who might be put at risk from a social health policy that is beneficial to the vast majority? Surely they are used to such situations. I also think he is waxing lyrical with the word “substantial!” The numbers involved would be very small, if any, and such a group would already be advised about a number of risks to them because of their condition and treatments. Micklen also lets his ideological position take over  by drawing the implication from my article that I am saying CWF is “effective and safe – for some.” Far from it. Surely I am saying it is effective and safe for the vast majority (which is what we can expect from a social health policy) and simply recommending (as in all such policies) that the small group of people, if any, who might be at risk should use alternatives. I am actually saying that CWF is effective and safe for at least  the vast majority and that claims to the contrary should be backed up with evidence which should be considered critically

Severe dental fluorosis and cognitive deficits

I thank Dr Micklen for his comments on my letter in the journal Neurotoxicology and Teratology – (Perrott 2015). I am pleased he accepts the hypothesis that severe dental fluorosis could explain observations of cognitive deficits is worth considering and  he agreed with the other reviewers the letter was worth publishing. Influence of age I take his point that the poor appearance of teeth may not influence young children (ages 6-8 as in the small the group Choi et al, (2015) studied). However, this is pure speculation on his part and is surely a detail. A detail that should be considered in any planned research incorporating this hypothesis, but not in itself a reason for rejecting the hypothesis out of hand – surely? Unless, of course, he can give evidence to support his suggestion. I notice that he does not support the idea with any citations so suspect the idea is more one of straw-clutching  than a serious suggestion. Actually most, but not all, of the citation I used did indeed refer to work with older children. Some were review papers and did not limit their review to any age group. Aguilar-Díaz, et al., (2011) considered children from 8 – 10 years old, Do and Spencer, (2007) studied 8-12 year olds and Abanto et al., (2012) 6-14 year old children. Chikte (2001) studied three groups: 6, 12, 15 year olds. However, I found a quick literature search showed reports of negative effects of oral defects like tooth decay on the child’s quality of life. Kramer et al., (2013) reported this for ages 2 – 5, Scarpelli et al., (2013) for 5 year olds and Cunnion et al., (2010) for 2 – 8 year olds. So, I suggest on the available evidence the negative influence of severe dental fluorosis on quality of life (and possibly cognitive deficits) is likely to occur even in younger children who have not “reached an age to be self-conscious about their appearance.” I don’t think young children are as immune to social attitudes and personal appearance as Dr Micklen suggests. Does effect depend on how common dental fluorosis is?  Dr Micklen suggests that:

“Since fluorosis was common in the community [the children studied by Choi el., 2015], having the condition would not appear abnormal.”

Again I think he is indulging in straw-clutching, or special pleading. special-pleading-fallacy Clearly medium and severe dental fluorosis is far more common in this Chinese group than in countries like New Zealand which use CWF. In the graph below I compare their data with that for New Zealand and USA. Incidentally, this figure shows why the data from Choi et al., (2012, 2015) should not be used as an argument against CWF – yet that is what Micklen did in his original article. DF---good-and-bad But this does not mean that those children with more severe forms will not stand out against the children with less severe forms. There is always a range of appearances of such defects in a group of children. Some will obviously suffer more than others because of their appearance. If Choi et al., do continue to include detailed analysis of dental fluorosis in their future work on this issue then it will be possible to compare cognitive deficit measurements with dental fluorosis indices in a larger group. Such data will be interesting. However, discussion of details like this is premature. My letter simply raised to idea as an alternative worth considering and encouraged the group to continue including detailed dental fluorosis measurements in future work. I was also concerned that they were not being sufficiently open-minded in their choice of a working hypothesis. I concluded my letter with:

Researchers need to be careful not to limit their possible hypotheses or research approaches. Unfortunately Choi et al. (2014) appear to be doing just this with their plans for a larger scale study targeted only at “fluoride’s developmental neurotoxicity.”

Unfortunately none of this group have yet responded to my letter. So, again, I thank Dr Micklen for his feedback on that letter – and his acceptance of the right-of-reply to my article critiquing the FFNZ report. See also:

References

Abanto, J., Carvalho, T. S., Bönecker, M., Ortega, A. O., Ciamponi, A. L., & Raggio, D. P. (2012). Parental reports of the oral health-related quality of life of children with cerebral palsy. BMC Oral Health, 12, 15. doi:10.1186/1472-6831-12-15 Aguilar-Díaz, F. C., Irigoyen-Camacho, M. E., & Borges-Yáñez, S. A. (2011). Oral-health-related quality of life in schoolchildren in an endemic fluorosis area of Mexico. Quality of Life Research : An International Journal of Quality of Life Aspects of Treatment, Care and Rehabilitation, 20(10), 1699–706. Chikte, U. M., Louw, A. J., & Stander, I. (2001). Perceptions of fluorosis in northern Cape communities. SADJ : Journal of the South African Dental Association = Tydskrif van Die Suid-Afrikaanse Tandheelkundige Vereniging, 56(11), 528–32. Choi, A. L., Sun, G., Zhang, Y., & Grandjean, P. (2012). Developmental fluoride neurotoxicity: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Environmental Health Perspectives, 120(10), 1362–1368. Choi, A. L., Zhang, Y., Sun, G., Bellinger, D., Wang, K., Yang, X. J., … Grandjean, P. (2015). Association of lifetime exposure to fluoride and cognitive functions in Chinese children: A pilot study. Neurotoxicology and Teratology, 47, 96–101. Cunnion, D. T., Spiro, A., Jones, J. a, Rich, S. E., Papageorgiou, C. P., Tate, A., … Garcia, R. I. (2010). Pediatric oral health-related quality of life improvement after treatment of early childhood caries: a prospective multisite study. Journal of Dentistry for Children, 77, 4–11. Do, L. G., & Spencer, A. (2007). Oral Health-Related Quality of Life of Children by Dental Caries and Fluorosis Experience. Journal of Public Health Dentistry, 67(3), 132–139. Kramer, P. F., Feldens, C. A., Ferreira, S. H., Bervian, J., Rodrigues, P. H., & Peres, M. A. (2013). Exploring the impact of oral diseases and disorders on quality of life of preschool children. Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology, 41(4), 327–35. NZ Ministry of Health. (2010). Our Oral Health Key findings of the 2009 New Zealand Oral Health Survey. Perrott, K. W. (2015). Severe dental fluorosis and cognitive deficits. Neurotoxicology and Teratology. Scarpelli, A. C., Paiva, S. M., Viegas, C. M., Carvalho, A. C., Ferreira, F. M., & Pordeus, I. A. (2013). Oral health-related quality of life among Brazilian preschool children. Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology, 41(4), 336–44.

NZ Fluoridation review – HS Micklen responds to critique

I have posted several articles in a series critiquing contributions to the Fluoride Free NZ report Scientific and Critical Analysis of the 2014 New Zealand Fluoridation Report which is aimed at discrediting the recent review Health Effects of Water Fluoridation: a Review of the Scientific Evidence produced by the Royal Society of NZ together with the Office of the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor. The articles in this series are collected into a pdf document which can be downloads from Download report analysing anti-fluoride attacks on NZ Fluoridation Review.

In an attempt to encourage a discussion on the fluoridation review and the FFNZ report I offered all the authors and “peer-reviewers” of the FFNZ report the right of reply to my critiques. So far Dr H. S. Micklen (whose article I critiqued in Fluoride Free NZ report disingenuous – conclusion), is the only one to take up this offer.

Here is his reply. 


I thank Dr Perrott for reproducing my notes on the NZ Fluoridation Review and appreciate his comments. My appreciation would be warmer had he spent less time using his imagination and paid more attention to what I actually wrote.  He has me bustling around, agenda in hand, clutching at straws here, raising bogeys there, scaremongering, relying on this, calling for that, and getting confused about different grades of fluorosis (as if..,). All nonsense.  If I “distort the science” as Perrott’s headline proclaims, he does a great job of distorting the distortion.

Most of my short piece merely commented on a few places where, in my opinion, the NZ report failed – through error, omission or incompetence – to reach proper standards of objectivity and impartiality and exhibited ill-founded complacency. Since the NZ report was highly biased in favour of fluoridation, any criticisms of it are likely to have an anti-F flavour. Too bad; I was dealing with the report’s view of the science, not pushing my own. I avoided speculating on the outcome of issues that I consider unresolved, dental fluorosis (where Perrott makes nonsense of what I wrote) being the only exception.

Most of these issues have been argued over ad nauseam and I shall not try to unscramble Perrott’s lucubrations. The question of chronic kidney disease and its possible cardiovascular consequences is perhaps an exception. I gave credit to the Review for discussing the paper by Martin-Pardillos. Agreeing with the Review’s opinion that the results needed to be confirmed, I remarked “The interesting question is, what should happen meanwhile?” That is not a rhetorical question. What does, or should, happen when an alarm bell sounds over a long-established procedure? Does further research on the topic receive any funding priority, for example?  Perrott uses a piece of grammatical legerdemain to pretend that I called for CKD sufferers to be warned to avoid tap water, which I did not. In fact, I am inclined to agree with him that that might be extreme in the present state of knowledge. Perhaps it would be embarrassing, too, for a government to insist on putting fluoride in the water and then advise a substantial number of people not to drink it – or so one might think. But Perrott concludes “Any patients who are particularly worried can then take steps like using filtered water for their own peace of mind. This seems more appropriate than denying the rest of the population access to a simple, effective and safe (for them at least) social health policy like CWF.”  So that’s all right then, thanks to the patients, whom Perrott doubtless consulted, being willing to promote the alleged greater good. He has pricked a hole in the old mantra, though: “effective and safe – for some”.

Perrott asked for my feedback on his idea about the possible effect of dental fluorosis on IQ.  Since then his paper has appeared online as a short article in Neurotoxicology and Teratology. Perhaps the best thing I can do at this stage is pretend that it had arrived on my desk for peer review. I would have commented as follows.

“This communication refers to a recent paper by Choi et al (2014) that reports certain cognitive defects in young children affected by moderate-severe dental fluorosis. Choi et al suggest that this is due to an adverse effect of fluoride on the developing brain. The present author proposes an alternative explanation, namely that fluorosis itself, and the stress of living with it, can affect learning and general quality of life and result in poor performance in certain types of cognitive test. This appears to be a novel idea and, as such, is suitable in principle for publication as a short communication. There is, however, a fundamental question that the author should be invited to address and clarify with a view to possible resubmission.

“The paper is somewhat discursive and lacking in focus and in the course of it the author seems to lose track of what age group he is talking about. Surprisingly, he does not mention the age of Choi’s (2014) subjects, which averaged 7 years  (range 6-8). When he finally presents evidence that moderate-severe fluorosis is aesthetically displeasing and likely to impair quality of life, all of it relates to older children, mainly teenagers, who have reached an age to be self-conscious about their appearance and have been living with fluorosis for several years. In contrast, 16% of Choi’s (2014) subjects had no erupted permanent teeth at all and in the remainder eruption of the first permanent teeth would have been very recent. Since fluorosis was common in the community, having the condition would not appear abnormal. The crucial question is whether the author is proposing that the quality of life of these young children is so compromised by fluorosis as to impair their performance in cognitive tests. Apparently the answer is a tentative affirmative: It is just possible that the negative quality of life associated with oral defects like severe dental fluorosis contribute to cognitive deficits reported by Choi et al. (2012, 2014)’

“The author needs to discuss this issue in a transparent fashion so that readers can judge for themselves whether the proposal is plausible. Conversely, if he is not making such a proposal, that too should be made clear.

“The author might wish to refresh his memory of the paper by Hilsheimer and Kurko (1979), which really is of virtually no relevance to his argument.”

I hope this helps.

H S M 12 February 2015

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Fluoride debate: Second response to Rita Barnett-Rose – Daniel Ryan

Here is Daniel Ryan’s second response to Rita Barnett-Rose’s defence of here unpublished paper Compulsory water fluoridation: Justifiable public health benefit or human experimental research without informed consent“. That defence was posted yesterday at Fluoride debate: Response to Daniel Ryan’s critique – Rita Bartlett-Rose.

Daniel’s second response is available to download as a pdf.


Compulsory water fluoridation: second response to Rita Barnett-Rose

Dan Ryan 2

Daniel Ryan from the Making Sense of Fluoride group

Written by Daniel Ryan

5/10/2014

Introduction

This is my second response to Associate Professor Rita Barnett-Rose to her paper “Compulsory water fluoridation: justifiable public health benefit or human experimental research without informed consent”. It is a response to her document “RE: CWF Working Paper Article” (hereafter referred to as “Rita’s reply.”). I wish to thank Rita for acknowledging in that papers should be referenced accurately by using citations to the original sources rather than simply referencing activist sources. I am also pleased she is getting experts to review the science in her paper and am interested to know who the independent reviewers are.
In this this response I have collected a number of comments to consider under separate headings.

Objectively looking at the science.

Rita’s reply:

“…you object to my failure to include contrary studies that reaffirm the (English speaking countries’) public health agencies’/dental lobby positions on the safety and benefits of compulsory water fluoridation.”

“…with respect to your complaint or desire that I cite to contrary (i.e., pro-fluoridation) studies in addition to (or in lieu of) the published studies that I cite that tend to weigh against fluoridation”

“It is not meant to be an exhaustive examination of all studies on fluoridation and is specifically and accurately identified for what it is”

“…you are just as guilty of ‘cherry picking’ your sources and your studies as you suggest I am.”

“I am not interested in a battle of the studies debate”

“These reasons would remain even if compulsory water fluoridation were proven to be entirely safe, which it most definitely has not, despite the presumed “majority” view in the English speaking countries”

My reply:
Rita implies I only use ‘pro-fluoridation’ or ‘English speaking countries’ papers. This is incorrect – I cite papers which provide the best weight in regards to evidence. Science doesn’t take sides (good papers are neither “anti-fluoridation” nor “pro-fluoridation”, they present data and reasoning) and these are international. To clarify, my issue is not that Barnett-Rose (2014) was not using ‘pro-fluoridation’ papers, it was the quality of the studies themselves. Reviewers of the science should attempt to understand and evaluate the quality of the research.

I also look at the quality of journal. And I try to cite papers which are in high quality journals more as those journals attract the best scientific papers. Journals use a metric called “impact factor” that basically states how many times an average paper is cited by other papers. It is an independent, objective method to judge the quality of published research.
The hierarchy of scientific evidence in the literature is also important I illustrate this in the image below.

cm-evidence-listed-medicines-05-01
Secondary reviews published in peer-reviewed, high-impact journals and high quality randomised controlled trials with definitive results should be the preferred sources. For consideration of human health effects I consider that animal studies would be placed above “expert opinion” in this hierarchy.
Overall one needs to approach the literature intelligently and critically – considering the evidence provided in the individual papers and also considering other published material.

Instead I saw that Barnett-Rose (2014) did not evaluate the evidence well, only selecting evidence of harm in order to persuade the audience to accept her position. There is no reason to use low validity papers when there is plenty of high quality papers but unfortunately this happens when trying to “price” a preconceived idea.

An example of this is Barnett-Rose (2014) used an opinion article from the Scientific American many times as her source. This is not a scientific paper, it is not peer reviewed or in a research journal; furthermore the writer is not a scientist and definitely not an expert on the subject. This type of evidence would come below “expert opinion” on the image above. I hope such problems would be given as feedback from the independent reviewers.
Rita accuses me of cherry picking but fails to back this up. I do try to use only the best sources of evidence – usually systematic reviews. A systematic review is a literature review focused on a research question that tries to identify, appraise, select and synthesize all high quality research evidence relevant to that question.

The evidence shows

Rita’s reply:

“However, what I do believe is that the burden of proving safety and effectiveness lies with the pro-fluoridation side”

“It also appears to me that the pro-fluoridation side is playing “whack a mole” with the studies weighing against CWF – often trying to hammer down/marginalize the opposition each time a negative study pops up, rather than trying to consider the evidence objectively.”

“However, to me, if even one strong study exists, then the entire compulsory practice must be re-evaluated.”

My Reply:
The scientific consensus is that fluoridation works, it is safe and it is cost effective. We have evolved with fluoride and had it adjusted in our water for over 60 years in some countries. Developed countries where natural fluoride levels are low but choose not to use community water fluoridation (CWF) generally use other methods such as milk and salt fluoridation, which again are both safe and effective, or have very effective public health and dental systems. Over 5,500 papers have been systematically reviewed and no consistent association between fluoridation and illness has been found that has been confirmed through later research.

Using the latest evidence: Public Health England just released their water fluoridation review this month – Water fluoridation Health monitoring report for England 2014 and it concluded:

“This monitoring report provides evidence of lower dental caries rates in children living in fluoridated compared to non-fluoridated areas. Similarly, infant dental admission rates were substantially lower. There was no evidence of higher rates of the non-dental health indicators studied in fluoridated areas compared to non-fluoridated areas. Although the lower rates of kidney stones and bladder cancer found in fluoridated areas are of interest, the population-based, observational design of this report does not allow conclusions to be drawn regarding any causative or protective role of fluoride; similarly, the absence of any associations does not provide definitive evidence for a lack of a relationship.”

Last month a reviewHealth effects of water fluoridation: A review of the scientific evidence written on behalf of the Royal Society of New Zealand and the Office of the NZ Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor concluded:

“Councils with established CWF 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. A forthcoming study from the Ministry of Health is expected to provide further advice on how large a community needs to be before CWF is cost-effective (current indications point to all communities of 1000+ people). 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.”

Looking at the many other systematic reviews you will find a similar pattern. CWF is shown to be safe and effective. So the “burden of proof” really is on those claiming evidence of harm. They need to produce well supported and peer-reviewed studies which back up their claims.

If there is a strong evidence for health risks of fluoridation then I totally agree with Rita that it needs to be re-evaluated. Every year many studies are written on fluoridation and continued monitoring of the scientific findings occurs in many countries with the precautionary principle of being alert to any possible negative effects.

Health organisations

Rita’s reply:

“Please also note that any and all of your cites to the ADA lobby, or to the CDC (which, though its oral health division, works hand in hand with the ADA promoting fluoridation and thus has a serious conflict of interest/credibility problem) are unpersuasive to me – as they should be to anyone conducting even a minimum level of research into the history of and politics behind fluoridation (some of which is chronicled in my article, including the story of the EPA’s NTEU battle).”

“it does not take long to discover how politically motivated many “public health agencies” and “professional dental associations” are — or how willing they are to obscure, minimize, or bury contrary evidence or to marginalize the anti-fluoridation messengers, regardless of the evidence or the credentials of those messengers (e.g., Waldbott, Taylor, Marcus, Mullenix, Bassin, Hirzy).”

My reply:
I think Rita is placing her own bias on these judgments. One could equally say:

“It does not take long to discover how politically motivated Dr Paul Connett and FAN are — or how willing they are to obscure, misinform, or bury contrary evidence or to marginalise the pro-science messengers, regardless of the evidence or the credentials of those messengers.”

If Rita has a specific problem with the CDC or the ADA, I can use some of the many other hundreds of health organisations around the world. They all have similar conclusions about fluoridation. As I said in my first response, there is not one reputable health organisation that is against fluoridation. We already have Dr Paul Connett suggesting a massive conspiracy, I hope you do not agree with his accusations as this is generally the last resort for people who cannot find reasonable faults in the evidence but still refuse to believe it.

NRC Report

Rita’s reply:

“However, I believe that its review of fluoride toxicology is highly relevant to exposures from fluoridated water (and its exposure data itself suggests that some people drinking fluoridated water can, indeed, receive doses that can cause adverse health effects, including severe dental fluorosis and bone fractures).”

“In addition, in a number of health risk areas, the NRC panel concluded that there was not enough data, and/or that more research needed to be conducted, before definitive statements could be made with respect to other potential adverse health effects due to excess exposure to fluoride.”

My reply:
I will not repeat what I said in my earlier reply. The review itself said that it was not relevant to exposures to concentrations used for fluoridated water and to say it is “highly relevant” is spreading misinformation. The NRC report furthered shows the safety of fluoridation. As for the “more research needed”, that is always the case with science. That is why responsible public health agencies continue to monitor research findings.

Ethics

Rita’s reply:

“I would genuinely be interested in knowing why you feel so strongly that imposing this practice on everyone is ethically justifiable.”

“Thus, I am very curious as to why there appears to be such an aggressive campaign on the pro fluoridation side to impose this practice on the world – and why anyone believes that personal liberties and rights to bodily integrity should be sacrificed for a public health practice addressing a non-contagious disease.”

“I would also be interested in understanding where you personally believe compulsory public health practices should begin and end (e.g., do you believe governments should mandate compulsory flu shots? What about the HPV vaccine that the Governor of Texas tried to mandate for girls? Where should the personal right to bodily integrity begin and end, in your opinion? And how comfortable are you with public health officials mandating what is good for you?…)”

My reply:
I don’t see how you conclude that I “feel so strongly that imposing this practice on everyone”. I, myself, could say I am strongly against misinformation. The MSoF society is here to help explain what the actual scientific evidence shows to the public, not to advocate for CWF at any cost. It is up to the communities if they want to use CWF and we, the MSoF Society, support their democratic right to decide.

But regarding ethical aspects, you might be interested in what the Nuffield Council on Bioethics decided. It:

  • Rejected the prohibition of water fluoridation based on the argument of mass medication and restricting personal rights.
  • Affirmed that water fluoridation should be accepted based on the quantified risks and benefits, the potential alternatives, and, where there are harms, the role of consent.

They also used a ‘stewardship mode’ to analyse the acceptable degree of state intervention to improve population health, concluding that water fluoridation can be justified based on its contribution to the goals of stewardship: the reduction of health inequalities, the reduction of ill health, and the concern for children, who represent a vulnerable group.

The New Zealand High Court this year ruled that fluoridation of the water supply:

  • is not a medical treatment,
  • does not violate the right to refuse medicine,
  • is not in breach of the Bill of Rights, And that
  • the Council was thoughtful and responsible in making their decision to begin fluoridation, and had no obligation to consider “controversial factual issues” (anti-fluoride propaganda).

You could say there is an aggressive campaign on both sides, but people are pushing for fluoridation simply because it works – reducing up to 40% of caries over a whole population.

Dental caries is a serious chronic disease, it makes no difference if it is contagious or not. The Royal Society Review pointed out that:

“…tooth decay (dental caries) remains the single most common chronic disease among New Zealanders of all ages, with consequences including pain, infection, impaired chewing ability, tooth loss, compromised appearance, and absence from work or school. Tooth decay is an irreversible disease; if untreated it is cumulative through the lifespan, such that individuals who are adversely affected early in life tend to have pervasive decay by adulthood, and are likely to suffer extensive tooth loss later in life. Prevention of tooth decay is essential from very early childhood through to old age”.

The Royal Society Review also suggested that removing fluoridation would have direct and indirect costs to society.

“Tooth decay is responsible for significant health loss (lost years of healthy life) in New Zealand. The ‘burden’ of the disease – its ‘cost’ in terms of lost years of healthy life – is equivalent to 3/4 that of prostate cancer, and 2/5 that of breast cancer in New Zealand. Tooth decay thus has substantial direct and indirect costs to society.”

I am all for protecting the vulnerable. If individuals do not consent, they can simply choose not to partake of the community water supply (bottled water, filters, rain water, etc.). I feel this is starting to head slightly off-topic but to answer your question, if the vaccine given out is safe and effective for the general public then I have no problems with compulsory shots for children. While choice is nice thing to have, you cannot always get it, especially if it is going to lower the quality of life in children.

The New Zealand High Court summarised some ethical aspects in the decision I referred to above:

“Provided it does not have consequences for public health a person has the right to make even the poorest decisions in respect of their own health. But where the state, either directly or through local government, employs public health interventions, the right is not engaged. Were it otherwise, the individual’s right to refuse would become the individual’s right to decide outcomes for others. It would give any person a right of veto over public health measures which it is not only the right but often the responsibility of local authorities to deliver.”

The World Health Organization

Rita’s reply:

“Data published by the WHO suggests that the decline in dental caries is similar in both fluoridated and unfluoridated countries, and I have heard of no massive outbreak of a worldwide dental carie epidemic that has been attributed to a lack of fluoridated water (rather than to poverty, poor nutrition, or a lack of access to proper dental care).”

My reply:
Petersen & Lennon (2004), a WHO funded study showed dental caries remain a major public health concern, affecting 60–90% of schoolchildren and the vast majority of adults. While fluoride is not a silver bullet, it is just part of the problem, it should not be ignored when it can clearly help very effectively. Their study goes into a number of suggestions for alleviating tooth decay, one being fluoridation.

“Water fluoridation, where technically feasible and culturally acceptable, has substantial advantages particularly for subgroups at high risk of caries. Alternatively, fluoridated salt, which retains consumer choice, can also be recommended. WHO is currently in the process of developing guidelines for milk fluoridation programs, based on experiences from community trials carried out in both developed and developing countries.”

As for the similar DMFT decline between fluoridated and unfluoridated countries Rita claims this needs to be considered critically. Fluoride occurs naturally everywhere and it is very hard to compare one country to others because of the many other contributing factors such as; history, culture, ethnic differences, as well as differences in health services, dental practice and assessments. The graphical evidence FAN promotes on their website and elsewhere they do not account for naturally occurring fluoride or other programs (fluoride vanish, mouth rinse programs, etc.) and different history and social practices. Their graphs also use only 2 data points for each country. There is no consideration of also changing fluoridation amounts over time and their graph is very confusing. It does not enable proper consideration of different DMFT declines in different countries. The stats show Denmark having the lowest DMFT and FAN marked them as not fluoridated, but they actually have high levels of naturally occurring fluoride.

Irish-2
If you look at the WHO data in more detail (graph left does this for the Irish Republic using the same WHO data) you will find that fluoridated areas show faster declines in DMFT than unfluoridated areas.

Making Sense of Fluoride

Rita’s reply:

“…you complain about FAN not being a legitimate source of credible scientific information, but your organization is also a political advocacy (pro-fluoridation) group”

“I urge you to conduct such a battle with a more appropriate sparring partner, such as FAN-NZ.”

My reply:
Like yourself, I am not a scientist – I am a software developer; my responses get checked by scientists but I would always look into the evidence in scientific studies. I avoid political or activist organisations (legitimate or not). The Making Sense of Fluoride society is not a pro-fluoridation group, we are a pro-science group. We will go with what the scientific consensus says and will spread warnings, if for example: some time in the future, CWF was really found to be harmful.

The objectives of the MSoF incorporated society are:

a) To foster awareness and dispel misinformation regarding fluoride with a focus on CWF.
b) Use the scientific method as the foundational platform upon which this awareness is promoted.

FANNZ, now known as Fluoride Free NZ (and a close partner of FAN), will always be anti-fluoride no matter what the evidence shows. For that reason it is usually not fruitful debating them. Their incorporated society main purposes make clear their opposition to CWF irrespective of the science:

a) To bring about the permanent end to public water fluoridation (“fluoridation”) in New Zealand.
b) To provide resources, both personal and material, to others opposing fluoridation in New Zealand.
c) To provide a central contact point for those opposing fluoridation in New Zealand.

Apology

Rita’s reply:

“This statement about “mounting scientific evidence” at the start of my paper (near fn. 2) actually references an entire section of my article – (“See discussion infra Sec. II-B”) — and not an opinion piece by Colquhoun, which is only referenced – appropriately – at footnote 65 (referring to “formerly avid fluoride proponents” who have changed their minds). I have no desire to engage with insincere zealots, so I hope that you simply made a mistake there.”

My reply:
I apologise for my mistaking you and any offense it may have caused you. It was clearly a simple mistake that anyone could have made and I had no intention to twist your words.

Wrapping up

Rita’s reply:

“After this exchange, however, I am only interested in a private discussion with you, which is something you may not be interested in as it may not advance your organization’s agenda”
“However, your Facebook posting has generated some contact to me by a few rude (and seemingly unbalanced) pro fluoridation folks”

My reply:
MSoF is always happy to have private discussions if you are willing to listen to our feedback. A lot of our work is outside of what the public sees but we always up for public exchanges to share to our followers.

You will find that your paper got sent all over Facebook and the media; because it was publicised in a press release from FAN. That is how I found out about it.
It is a pity you were subjected to insults because of that publicity. That said I was also hit with insults on Fluoride Free NZ Facebook pages because of my response to you. These insults are common and something I have gotten used too; in either case it is a shame that people feel it best to engage in debate in disrespectful ways. Fluoridation is an emotional topic for some – personally I do my best to stick with the science and keep my emotions out.

Thank you Rita for making time in reading our feedback and responding to us.

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Fluoride debate: Response to Daniel Ryan’s critique – Rita Bartlett-Rose

Rita F. Barnett

Rita Barnett-Rose, author of Compulsory water fluoridation: Justifiable public health benefit or human experimental research without informed consent” has replied to Daniel Ryan’s critique of her paper. Daniel’s critique was posted yesterday at Fluoride debate: A response to Rita Barnett-Rose – Daniel Ryan.

Rita’s reply is available to download as a pdf


RE: CWF Working Paper Article

Dear Daniel,
I have now had a chance to consider your comments to my draft article. In some respects, I am flattered that you have devoted so much time to an unpublished working paper, and I thank you for giving me some of your opinions. I absolutely want to make sure that I have cited to sources accurately and have not mischaracterized any particular study I reviewed. To that end, I have now engaged independent review of my article from several highly-qualified scientists/researchers with the specific request that they review my article for scientific accuracy. After I have received their comments, I will revise my draft accordingly.

Unfortunately (or fortunately for me), I did not find in your review any specific places where I actually mischaracterized any cited study. Instead, your primary points of contention seem to be twofold: (1) you object to my use of Fluoride Action Network’s (“FAN”) website as a cited source; and (2) you object to my failure to include contrary studies that reaffirm the (English-speaking countries’) public health agencies’/dental lobby positions on the safety and benefits of compulsory water fluoridation.

First, with respect to my reliance on FAN. Of the 209 footnote references in my article, I believe only 17 of them are cites to FAN. Of those 17 cites, I am citing to the FAN website primarily as an easy way to get to the primary source material (e.g., studies or newspaper articles from around the world). For example, in footnotes 85-87, I could have listed the primary source studies, but I have found that many of these studies are hard to get on the internet for those who do not have paid subscriptions to the various science databases. I myself had to order a number of the primary sources from my University intra-library loan system and felt that it would be better to simply provide a link so that the reader could see the names of the studies and determine for himself/herself how to get to those primary sources. Nevertheless, your point is well-taken that I should not give the appearance of relying upon an advocacy group (including yours), and I will review those 17 cites to see if I should instead cite to primary sources.

Second, with respect to your complaint or desire that I cite to contrary (i.e., pro-fluoridation) studies in addition to (or in lieu of) the published studies that I cite that tend to weigh against fluoridation, as I have already indicated to you on two occasions: I am not interested in a battle of the studies debate, and I urge you to conduct such a battle with a more appropriate sparring partner, such as FAN-NZ. Specifically: you complain about FAN not being a legitimate source of credible scientific information, but your organization is also a political advocacy (pro-fluoridation) group, and, from your critique, you are just as guilty of “cherry picking” your sources and your studies as you suggest I am. Moreover, and in stark contrast to you, the section of my article where the studies are discussed is specifically entitled: “Scientific Evidence Against Compulsory Water Fluoridation.” It is not meant to be an exhaustive examination of all studies on fluoridation and is specifically and accurately identified for what it is. I am well aware of many of the pro-fluoridation studies — as well as the criticisms of many of those studies (in terms of who funded them, flaws in methodology, conflicts of interest, etc.) by those opposed to fluoridation. I do not believe either side has definitively proved their case with respect to safety/benefits or lack thereof. However, what I do believe is that the burden of proving safety and effectiveness lies with the pro-fluoridation side, as it is your side that is insisting on imposing this “public health measure” on everyone else, even in the face of substantial objection and despite existing studies suggesting serious risks of harm. It also appears to me that the pro-fluoridation side is playing “whack a mole” with the studies weighing against CWF – often trying to hammer down/marginalize the opposition each time a negative study pops up, rather than trying to consider the evidence objectively. I note throughout your critique that you often refer to studies that weigh against fluoridation as “flawed” or “debatable” or as somehow lacking in proper control mechanisms – while studies that support fluoridation are “quality studies.” (p.8). You also minimize any existing evidence weighing against fluoridation by qualifying it: “there is no quality research” (p. 4) “there is no robust evidence” (p. 4), “there is no strong evidence” (p. 6). However, to me, if even one strong study exists, then the entire compulsory practice must be reevaluated.

Please also note that any and all of your cites to the ADA lobby, or to the CDC (which, though its oral health division, works hand in hand with the ADA promoting fluoridation and thus has a serious conflict of interest/credibility problem) are unpersuasive to me – as they should be to anyone conducting even a minimum level of research into the history of and politics behind fluoridation (some of which is chronicled in my article, including the story of the EPA’s NTEU battle). Incidentally, as someone who did not have a pony in this race before doing the actual research (i.e., I am not a long-time anti-fluoridation advocate), it does not take long to discover how politically motivated many “public health agencies” and “professional dental associations” are — or how willing they are to obscure, minimize, or bury contrary evidence or to marginalize the anti-fluoridation messengers, regardless of the evidence or the credentials of those messengers (e.g., Waldbott, Taylor, Marcus, Mullenix, Bassin, Hirzy).

With respect to the NRC Report, I agree with you that it did not specifically address compulsory water fluoridation. However, I believe that its review of fluoride toxicology is highly relevant to exposures from fluoridated water (and its exposure data itself suggests that some people drinking fluoridated water can, indeed, receive doses that can cause adverse health effects, including severe dental fluorosis and bone fractures). In addition, in a number of health risk areas, the NRC panel concluded that there was not enough data, and/or that more research needed to be conducted, before definitive statements could be made with respect to other potential adverse health effects due to excess exposure to fluoride. This is hardly a ringing endorsement of the safety of fluoride or fluoridation. Nor is the NRC Report irrelevant to the fluoridation debate.

I see no point in going through your critique page by page to point out various flaws in it, as mostly you seem to be trying to persuade me with contrary evidence rather than identifying any mischaracterizations of the studies I did cite. I will, however, point out that your opening accusation on p. 2 that my “paper starts off by saying there is mounting scientific evidence against fluoridation” and that I used an opinion piece by John Colquhoun as my “evidence” to support this statement is outrageously incorrect, and it almost prompted me not to respond to you at all, as I do not appreciate my words being twisted or my cites misused to inflate your argument. This statement about “mounting scientific evidence” at the start of my paper (near fn. 2) actually references an entire section of my article – (“See discussion infra Sec. II-B”) — and not an opinion piece by Colquhoun, which is only referenced – appropriately – at footnote 65 (referring to “formerly avid fluoride proponents” who have changed their minds). I have no desire to engage with insincere zealots, so I hope that you simply made a mistake there.

As I said to you privately, I am more than willing to revise my article where I have misstated any of the cited scientific evidence. However, I disagree with you that a discussion on the legal and ethical aspects of CWF would be “confusing” or “pointless” at this point and I would genuinely be interested in knowing why you feel so strongly that imposing this practice on everyone is ethically justifiable. Data published by the WHO suggests that the decline in dental caries is similar in both fluoridated and unfluoridated countries, and I have heard of no massive outbreak of a worldwide dental carie epidemic that has been attributed to a lack of fluoridated water (rather than to poverty, poor nutrition, or a lack of access to proper dental care). Thus, I am very curious as to why there appears to be such an aggressive campaign on the pro-fluoridation side to impose this practice on the world – and why anyone believes that personal liberties and rights to bodily integrity should be sacrificed for a public health practice addressing a non-contagious disease. I would also be interested in understanding where you personally believe compulsory public health practices should begin and end (e.g., do you believe governments should mandate compulsory flu shots? What about the HPV vaccine that the Governor of Texas tried to mandate for girls? Where should the personal right to bodily integrity begin and end, in your opinion? And how comfortable are you with public health officials mandating what is good for you? Do you contend that they haven’t been wrong on a public health issue before?).

As for me, I remain convinced that CWF is legally and ethically unjustifiable. My article sets forth my reasons, so I won’t repeat those arguments here. These reasons would remain even if compulsory water fluoridation were proven to be entirely safe, which it most definitely has not, despite the presumed “majority” view in the English speaking countries. You will also find many of my reasons articulated by dissenting justices in fluoridation cases over the last 60+ years, when presumably even less “science” was available to support their nevertheless valid legal/ethical objections to CWF. I include some of these cases and dissenting opinions in my article.

Daniel, I thank you for your (heretofore) civilized exchange with me and I do welcome your thoughts if you have any on the legal and ethical justifications of CWF. After this exchange, however, I am only interested in a private discussion with you, which is something you may not be interested in as it may not advance your organization’s agenda. However, your facebook posting has generated some contact to me by a few rude (and seemingly unbalanced) pro-fluoridation folks, and I have no interest in entertaining their rants (which certainly do nothing but convince me that the pro-fluoridation side has something to hide). In any event, I do thank you for reaching out and for your interest in my article. I hope to ensure that my final draft will address any legitimate criticisms/issues.
Sincerely,
Rita


Daniel Ryan’s response to Rita’s reply will be posted tomorrow. See Fluoride debate: Second response to Rita Barnett-Rose – Daniel Ryan.

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Fluoride debate: A response to Rita Barnett-Rose – Daniel Ryan

Dan Ryan 2

Daniel Ryan from the Making Sense of Fluoride group

Daniel Ryan President of the Making Sense of Fluoride group responded to the scientific claims made in Rita Barnett-Rose’s unpublished paper Compulsory water fluoridation: Justifiable public health benefit or human experimental research without informed consent“.

That section of Rita’s paper was posted as the first article in this exchange yesterday at Fluoride debate: The scientific evidence against fluoridation – Rita F. Barnett.

Daniel’s critique is available to download as a pdf.


Compulsory water fluoridation: A response to Rita Barnett-Rose – Daniel Ryan

Introduction

I have contacted Associate Professor Rita Barnett-Rose about her unpublished paper Compulsory water fluoridation: justifiable public health benefit or human experimental research without informed consent.”  It concluded that “The evidence continues to suggest that compulsory water fluoridation is no longer justifiable as a public health benefit” and “human rights burden and economic costs are not reasonable or justifiable”.

There were claims about the science which (presumably) are important for the legal/ethical conclusions. We at Making Sense of Fluoride (MSoF) felt there was misinformation on the science and a public exchange would be a good way to engage in a discussion of the claims – even withdrawing those claims if found wrong. We thank Rita for listening to us and hope that we find common ground even if it’s just in the science.

Discussion

For the most part of this discussion I will stick to pages 13-19 with the header “Scientific Evidence against Compulsory Water Fluoridation” and breaking down into the sub-headers.

First off, looking at the sources used, there are many that are comments and articles from political activists rather than primary research sources. For example Fluoride Action Network is not a credible scientific organisation. This is not a good way of reviewing the scientific literature; in fact it is very poor practice. This is a fundamental problem with this paper.

The paper starts off saying there is mounting scientific evidence against fluoridation. The evidence used was an opinion piece from John Colquhoun. Dental Watch has a paper “Why We Have Not Changed Our Minds about the Safety and Efficacy of Water Fluoridation: A Response to John Colquhoun” that critiques his paper:

“His paper rehashed earlier criticisms of water fluoridation, using selective and highly biased citations of the scientific and non-scientific literature”.

Why I Am Now Officially Opposed to Adding Fluoride to Drinking Water” from Dr. Hardy Limeback and “Dr. William Hirzy Portland letter” are also opinion pieces. It is important to note that Dr. Hardy Limeback is a member of the Advisory Board of Paul Connett’s Fluoride Alert Network. Dr. William Hirzy works for Fluoride Action Network as a paid political lobbyist. “Mounting scientific evidence”– nothing could be further from the truth. There is not one reputable health organisation that is against fluoridation.

1: Dental Fluorosis

There is no argument that having too much fluoride when the teeth are forming will cause dental fluorosis but this isn’t the case for fluoridation. There is little difference in frequency and severity of fluorosis between non-fluoridated and fluoridated areas, something which Barnett-Rose (2014) seems to ignore. The CDC source given was looking at fluorosis as a whole and not at fluoridated vs non-fluoridated, but it states that “community water fluoridation programs were developed to add fluoride to drinking water to reach an optimal level for preventing tooth decay, while limiting the chance of developing dental fluorosis”. If there were any large differences in fluorosis then I would be all for another look into balancing the levels of fluoride in those areas. In fact health authorities in many countries continually monitor research findings for this very reason and that was the reason for the National Research Council (2006) review which did recommend reducing the primary MCL of 4 ppm.

Any increase in fluorosis due to CWF would be in the very mild to mild fluorosis range. The dental fluorosis about which they speak in Warren’s et al. (2009) “Iowa study” is overwhelmingly of the barely detectable nature. The 2009 New Zealand Oral health Survey found very little difference between fluoridated and non-fluoridated areas, in terms of the levels of mild to very mild fluorosis (which has no effect on appearance, form or function of teeth), as shown on the graph below. In fact, Lida & Kumar (2009) have demonstrated mildly fluorosed teeth to be more decay resistant.

fluorosis-NZ

The statement that fluorosis is “the first sign of fluoride toxicity” is debatable. What sign of which particular toxicity? Just because there might be other effects which have not yet been shown is not proof that there are other effects. It presumably has been a common feature of teeth through the centuries and is harmless.

The American Dental Association website says:

“Yes, it is safe to use fluoridated water to mix infant formula. If your baby is primarily fed infant formula, using fluoridated water might increase the chance for mild enamel fluorosis, but enamel fluorosis does not affect the health of your child or the health of your child’s teeth”.

The recommendation by health authorities that parents use unfluoridated water to make up formula is a peace-of-mind suggestion, not a firm recommendation. For example the CDC says:

“However, if your child is exclusively consuming infant formula reconstituted with fluoridated water, there may be an increased chance for mild dental fluorosis. To lessen this chance, parents can use low-fluoride bottled water some of the time to mix infant formula”.

For infants and children in their tooth-developing years of 0-8, the upper limit (UL) for fluoride is lower, but only due to a risk of development of mild dental fluorosis. That’s why the UL for daily fluoride jumps to 10mg/day after age 8, once the teeth are formed.

The rest of the “Dental Fluorosis” section in Barnett-Rose (2014) talks about moderate to severe dental fluorosis, which is not caused by community water fluoridation and so is pointless to discuss.

2: Skeletal Fluorosis and Bone Fractures

Again, there is no disagreement that chronic exposure to high levels of fluoride can cause skeletal fluorosis and increase the risk of bone fractures. But you don’t see these problems at levels of 0.7-1.2 ppm in community drinking water. The Institute of Medicine has established that the daily upper limit for fluoride intake from all sources, for adults, before adverse effects will occur, short or long-term, is 10 mg. There is no quality research to show skeletal fluorosis can develop at the levels of 0.7-1.2ppm. Even the source used in Barnett-Rose (2014) says “Crippling skeletal fluorosis may be produced by levels of 10-20 mg/day over 10-20 years”.

National Fluoridation Information Service has released a report this month on fluorosis and concluded:

“There are no known health risks associated with CWF in New Zealand, and no severe dental fluorosis, or skeletal fluorosis, has been found. While fluoride is incorporated into teeth and bones, there is no robust evidence of toxic accumulation of fluoride in other tissues in the body”. It also noted in its conclusion “As with many vitamins and minerals, such as iron, and vitamins A and D, fluoride intakes at high levels can be toxic. However, it is impossible to experience acute fluoride toxicity from drinking water optimally fluoridated at levels between 0.7 mg/L to 1.0 mg/L (MoH, 2009), and there is no evidence of skeletal fluorosis resulting from CWF in New Zealand. It makes sound clinical sense to ingest a substance at a level that achieves maximum benefit with minimal adverse effects (Bowen, 2002)”.

One needs to be careful of cherry picking scientific studies. When you look at all the data you will find bone fracture is not an issue. Vestergaard et al. (2007), in a meta-analysis that used 25 studies, came to the conclusion that “there was no effect on hip or spine fracture risk”. He also noted that “in subgroup analyses a low fluoride dose (< or =20 mg/day of fluoride equivalents) was associated with a significant reduction in fracture risk”. This showed that fluoridation can help bones when at the optimum fluoride levels.

Ingestion of some fluoride is necessary as the bioapatites in our body contain both fluoride and carbonate as normal, natural components. The incorporation of ions like fluoride into bioapatites can change their solubility product by several orders of magnitude according to Driessens (1973). Posner et al. (1963) attribute the improved stability of bone to “the isomorphous substitution of fluoride in the apatite structure”.

3. Pineal Gland and Endocrine Disruption Studies

Fluoride can accumulate in the pineal gland. Calcification of the pineal gland is caused by calcium, phosphate and old age. Because the bioapatites in calcified tissues are actively undergoing mineralisation and remineralisation they easily incorporate fluoride into their structure and this leads to higher concentration of fluoride in calcified tissues than in bones generally. No evidence of harm has been found.

There is no known link to hypothyroidism at the levels we get in water fluoridation. I’m not sure where the evidence for “The fluoride dose capable of reducing thyroid function is low – just 2 to 5 mg per day over several months” from Barnett-Rosie (2014). Her source, the Fluoride Action Network website, points to a study Galletti & Joyet (1958), which says:

“Our aim was to elucidate the inhibitory effect of chronic administration of fluoride upon thyroid function in cases of hyperthyroidism. It was demonstrated that such an action appears only occasionally among persons subjected to massive doses of this substance”.

The study was working with prolonged administration of a daily dose of 2-20 mg (on top of their diet). This was also a very small study of 15 people who suffered from hyperthyroidism. Galletti also noted that

“Despite the relatively large amounts administered (up to 20 mg. of F~ for one injection), neither immediate nor delayed toxic manifestations were observed”.

This demonstrates my point that primary sources should be used, and definitely not activist websites.

The ADA concludes on its fluoridation facts document:

“There is no scientific basis that shows fluoridated water has an adverse effect on the thyroid gland or its function”.

It also states:

“The researchers concluded that prolonged ingestion of fluoride at levels above optimal to prevent dental decay had no effect on thyroid gland size or function. This conclusion was consistent with earlier animal studies”

4. Cancer Studies

Bassin (2006) data presentation did not show how many cases and controls were included in each of the models; and fluoride exposures were estimated rather than measured directly. The authors commented that “Further research is required to confirm or refute this observation”. The NHMRC (2007) observed that:

“Shortcomings in their study mean the results should be interpreted with caution pending publication of the larger study results. Co-investigators of Bassin point out that they have not been able to replicate these findings in the broader Harvard study that included prospective cases from the same 11 hospitals”.

There is no demonstrable link between fluoride and cancer. The American Cancer Society says:

“The general consensus among the reviews done to date is that there is no strong evidence of a link between water fluoridation and cancer”.

The National Cancer Institute says:

“Fluoride in water helps to prevent and can even reverse tooth decay. More than 60 percent of the U.S. population has access to fluoridated water through public water supply systems. Many studies, in both humans and animals, have shown no association between fluoridated water and cancer risk”.

This is backed up by systematic reviews e.g. the York Review (2000) reported “No clear association between water fluoridation and osteosarcoma”. The National Research Council (2006) commented:

“Assessing fluoride as a risk factor for osteosarcoma is complicated by the rarity of the disease and that population is all generally exposed to some level of fluoride”.

SCHER (2010) reported:

“a possible link between fluoride in drinking water and osteosarcoma, but studies are equivocal. No evidence from animal studies to support the link, and thus fluoride cannot be classified as to its carcinogenicity”.

5. Lower IQ’s in Children

It is debatable that Mullenix et al. (1995) interpretation on the study was flawed, it doesn’t matter if it was in a “well-respected peer reviewed journal” or not. Plenty of well-respected journals have released poor papers. One such example was Wakefield’s (1998) claim of a link between vaccines and autism, published in The Lancet.

The study by Mullenix et al. (1995) was refuted by Ross & Daston (1995):

“In summary, much of the ambiguity in the interpretation of these results could have been avoided with information from two concurrent or historical control groups: 1) a group to define the behavioral signature resulting from long term adulteration of the drinking water, and 2) a group to define the behavioral signature of animals with hippocampal damage in this testing system. Such controls are an essential feature of test validation and experimental design. Novel behavioral chemicals of unknown toxicity are dosed, and all possible results interpreted as neurotoxicity. Instead, both positive and negative control materials should be evaluated, and the results linked with well-characterized functional and morphological indices of neurotoxicity.

We appreciate the opportunity to provide our interpretations of this study. We do not believe that the study by Mullenix et al. can be interpreted in any way as indicating the potential for NaF to be a neurotoxicant.”

On top of that, it is also debatable if plasma levels in rodents due to high levels of fluoride are equivalent to those in humans. The National Research Council (2006) discussed the contradictory data used for attempting to show a ratio between humans and rats for blood plasma levels and concluded:

“Dunipace et al. (1995) concluded that rats require about five times greater water concentrations than humans to reach the same plasma concentration. That factor appears uncertain, in part because the ratio can change with age or length of exposure. In addition, this approach compares water concentrations, not dose. Plasma levels can also vary considerably both between people and in the same person over time (Ekstrand 1978)”.

Choi (2012) described 27 studies found majority in obscure Chinese scientific journals. China is not artificially fluoridated and the studies used high levels of naturally occurring fluoride in the well water of various Chinese, Mongolian, and Iranian villages. The concentration of fluoride in these studies was as high as 11.5 ppm. By the admission of the Harvard researchers, these studies had key information missing, used questionable methodologies, and had inadequate controls for confounding factors. These studies were so seriously flawed that the lead researchers, Anna Choi, and Philippe Grandjean, were led to issue a statement in September of 2012. Anna Choi said:

“These results do not allow us to make any judgment regarding possible levels of risk at levels of exposure typical for water fluoridation in the U.S. On the other hand, neither can it be concluded that no risk is present“.

Broadbent et al. (2014) used data from the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Study, which is world-renowned for the quality of its data and rigour of its analysis, and found no significant differences in IQ by fluoride exposure, even before controlling for the other factors that might influence scores. It controlled for childhood factors associated with IQ variation, such as socio-economic status of parents, birth weight and breastfeeding, and secondary and tertiary educational achievement.

6: Benefits from Systemic Fluoride Intake?

For this section I’ll limit the discussion to the benefits of systemic and topical intake of fluoride.

Even if the primary role of fluoride was topical, water fluoridation has a beneficial effect and makes a good delivery system. Consumption of fluoridated food and water enables transfer of fluoride to saliva and biofilms on the teeth. This fluoride, together with calcium and phosphate on the saliva, reduces acid attack on the teeth and so helps prevent tooth decay. Because fluoride concentrations in saliva decrease within an hour or so after brushing, fluoridated water complements use of fluoridated toothpaste. Our teeth are in more regular contact with food and water than they are with toothpaste.

Buzalaf et al. (2011) reports:

“More than 60 years of intensive research attest to the safety and effectiveness of this measure to control caries. In this case, however, it should be emphasized that despite being classified as a ‘systemic’ method of fluoride delivery (as it involves ingestion of fluoride), the mechanism of action of fluoridated water to control caries is mainly through its topical contact with the teeth while in the oral cavity or when redistributed to the oral environment by means of saliva. Since fluoridated water is consumed many times a day, the high frequency of contact of fluoride present in the water with the tooth structure or intraoral fluoride reservoirs helps to explain why water fluoridation is so effective in controlling caries, despite having fluoride concentrations much lower than fluoride toothpastes, for example. This general concept can be applied to all methods of fluoride use traditionally classified as ‘systemic’. In the light of the current knowledge regarding the mechanisms by which fluoride control caries, this system of classification is in fact misleading”.

Featherstone (2000) also demonstrated that:

“The cariostatic effects of fluoride are, in part, related to the sustained presence of low concentrations of ionic fluoride in the oral environment, derived from foods and beverages, drinking water and fluoride-containing dental products such as toothpaste. Prolonged and slightly elevated low concentrations of fluoride in the saliva and plaque fluid decrease the rate of enamel demineralization and enhance the rate of remineralization”.

The main benefit is from topical application but systemic ingestion still plays a role. Buzalaf et al. (2011) also states that:

“Evidence also supports fluoride’s systemic mechanism of caries inhibition in pit and fissure surfaces of permanent first molars when it is incorporated into these teeth pre-eruptively”.

Quality studies continue to show fluoridation to be effective today. Newbrun (1989), Brunelle & Carlos (1990) and Griffin et al. (2007) have proven water fluoridation continues to be effective in reducing dental decay by 20-40%.

National Research Council Report:

I will touch on the National Research Council (2006) report as Rita has asked me to give my assessment and it is used throughout her paper. The 2006 NRC Committee was charged with evaluating the adequacy of the US EPA primary (4 ppm) and secondary (2 ppm) MCLs for fluoride to protect the public against adverse effects, it did not look at the benefits. The EPA’s guidelines are not recommendations about adding fluoride to drinking water to protect the public from dental caries. Guidelines for that purpose (0.7 – 1.2ppm) were established by the U.S. Public Health Service. It reported:

“this report does not evaluate nor make judgments about the benefits, safety, or efficacy of artificial water fluoridation. That practice is reviewed only in terms of being a source of exposure to fluoride”.

After the Committee looked at all relevant fluoride literature, it recommended that the EPA primary MCL for fluoride be lowered from 4.0 ppm. The stated reasons for this recommendation 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. No other reasons. Had this Committee had any other concerns with fluoride at this level, it would have stated so and recommended accordingly. Additionally, this Committee made no recommendation to lower the EPA secondary MCL for fluoride, 2.0 ppm which water fluoridation at 0.7ppm is 1/3 of this value.

In March of 2013, Dr. John Doull, the internationally respected toxicologist who chaired the NRC committee, made the following statement:

“I do not believe there is any valid, scientific reason for fearing adverse health conditions from the consumption of water fluoridated at the optimal level.”

Final recommendation of this Committee showed nothing that doubt on the safety of fluoride at the recommended optimal level. It also has no bearing on water fluoridation so using the NRC report to as a reason to stop fluoridation would be misguided.

Conclusion

I have outlined major flaws of the science of this paper, with the major criticism being not using primary sources. There was no assessment of the quality of the evidence. One should start with secondary reviews published in peer-reviewed, high-impact journals, including meta-reviews, review articles, and Cochrane Collaboration reviews; otherwise, high quality clinical trial reports with fairly large number of subjects.

Any further discussions on the ethics or legal matters with fundamental flaws in the science would make any exchange confusing and pointless.


Rita Barnett-Rose’s response to Daniel Ryan’s critique will be posted tomorrow. See Fluoride debate: Response to Daniel Ryan’s critique – Rita Bartlett-Rose

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Fluoride debate: The scientific evidence against fluoridation – Rita F. Barnett

Recently an unpublished paper by Rita F. Barnett, an associated professor of Legal Research and Writing at Chapman University, was heavily promoted by Paul Connett’s Fluoride Action Network and associated social media groups. Although basically a legal paper it did have a comprehensive section on the scientific  aspects of fluoridation.

Rita F. Barnett

She argued that the science indicated that community water fluoridation was neither effective or safe and was criticised for that. One of her critics, Daniel Ryan from the Making Sense of Fluoride group, participated in an exchange with her about the science.

As this has only been available in downloadable pdf format I am posting this exchange over the next few days as part of the ongoing fluoridation debate.

This post today is the section from Rita Barnett’s paper in which she argues that the science does not support community water fluoridation.


Scientific evidence against compulsory water fluoridation

(extract from Compulsory water fluoridation: Justifiable public health benefit or human experimental research without informed consent by Rita F. Barnett.)

Fluoridation proponents have historically characterized those opposing or questioning fluoridation as “irrational, fanatical, unscientific, or fraudulent,” regardless of the legitimate scientific credentials of those opposing fluoridation.64 However, the mounting scientific evidence against fluoridation has begun to persuade an increasing number of scientific researchers and dental and medical professionals, and even some formerly avid fluoride proponents.65

While a comprehensive review of all existing and emerging toxicological, clinical and epidemiological studies weighing against fluoridation or urging further research is beyond the purview of this article, a brief discussion of some current areas of concern follows.

1: Dental Fluorosis

Dental fluorosis occurs when children absorb too much fluoride. This excess fluoride “causes the biochemical signal to go awry, thereby creating gaps in the crystalline enamel structure.”66 When the tooth finally erupts, is it unevenly colored, and may even be pitted and brown.67

Although early fluoride proponents claimed that mild dental fluorosis was the only potential, and relatively rare, negative side effect to systemic fluoride exposure, today about 30-40% of American teenagers show visible signs of dental fluorosis, with the rate as high as 70-80% in some fluoridated areas.68

Exposure to multiple sources of fluoride beyond fluoridated water supplies may partly explain the higher than expected rates of dental fluorosis, the first sign of fluoride toxicity. Indeed, it is nearly impossible today to avoid consuming fluoride even in non-fluoridated areas, since fluoride is now found in fluoridated toothpaste, the pesticide residue on fresh produce, processed food and beverages made with fluoridated water, and many pharmaceuticals.69 Yet, research from the Iowa Fluoride Study, the largest long-running investigation on the effects of fluoride, has indicated that the most important risk factor for dental fluorosis is exposure to fluoridated water.70 Perhaps for this reason, the American Dental Association now recommends that parents use non-fluoridated water for infant baby formula, while the Institute of Medicine recommends that babies only consume a miniscule 10 micrograms of fluoride daily, a near impossible feat when babies are fed infant formula reconstituted with fluoridated water – even where levels are within the “optimal” range of 0.7- 1 ppm.71

Despite the fact that dental fluorosis not only produces unattractive teeth but may also increase the risk of tooth loss, the EPA and other U.S. public health officials downgraded even moderate to severe dental fluorosis from an adverse health effect to a purely cosmetic one.72 This downgrade has been largely perceived as a bow to political pressure rather than a legitimate health risk assessment.73 In any event, “it is widely acknowledged that dental fluorosis is a manifestation of systemic toxicity,” leading to far more serious health risks than unattractive teeth alone.74

2: Skeletal Fluorosis and Bone Fractures

Fluoride, of course, is not equipped with a smart GPS, able to provide benefits to teeth while bypassing bone and other organs of the human body.75 Instead, approximately 93% of ingested fluoride is absorbed into the bloodstream, and while some of it is excreted, roughly 50% is deposited into bone, potentially leading to skeletal fluorosis.76 Skeletal fluorosis is characterized by painful and limited joint movement, spinal deformities, muscle wasting, and calcification of the ligaments.77 Numerous studies have already linked skeletal fluorosis to excess fluoride intake, and although health officials had formerly insisted that skeletal fluorosis would not develop unless a person ingested 20 milligrams of fluoride per day for over 10 years, current research now suggests that doses as low as 6 mg/day can cause early stages of the disease, and that skeletal fluorosis can develop even with fluoride levels as low at 0.7 to 1.5 ppm, the range used in many fluoridation schemes throughout the United States.78 Unfortunately, skeletal fluorosis may go undetected or misdiagnosed because some of the symptoms mimic symptoms of arthritis or other bone diseases, and because many doctors do not know how to diagnose it.79

In addition to skeletal fluorosis, epidemiological studies have now also linked high fluoride exposure to an increase in bone fractures, especially in vulnerable populations such as the elderly and diabetics.80 Related studies have shown that people once given fluoride to “cure” osteoporosis wound up having increased fracture rates.81

3: Pineal Gland and Endocrine Disruption Studies

Researchers have now discovered that an even greater amount of fluoride accumulates in the pineal gland than in teeth and bone.82 The pineal gland is responsible for the synthesis and secretion of the hormone melatonin, which regulates the body’s circadian rhythm cycle and puberty in females, and helps to protect the body from cell damage from free radicals.83 While it is not yet known if fluoride accumulation affects pineal gland function in humans, experiments have already found that fluoride reduced melatonin levels, interfered with sleep-wake cycles, and shortened the time to puberty in animals.84

In addition, studies have now shown that fluoride can contribute to hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid), which is unsurprising, since fluoride was once used as a prescription drug to reduce thyroid gland function in patients with hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid).85 The fluoride dose capable of reducing thyroid function is low – just 2 to 5 mg per day over several months. This is well within the range of what individuals living in fluoridated communities are receiving on a regular basis.86

4: Cancer Studies

Numerous studies have now suggested a link between cancer and fluoride.87 However, perhaps even more disturbing than the evidence supporting the fluoride-cancer link is the evidence suggesting that political and other agendas have played a large part in the outright suppression of this evidence.88

First, in the early 1950’s, Dr. Alfred Taylor, a biochemist at the University of Texas, conducted a series of experiments in which cancer prone mice consuming water treated with sodium fluoride were found to have shorter lifespans than cancer-prone mice drinking non-fluoridated water.89 After discovering that his first round of tests had been contaminated because both groups of mice had eaten food containing fluoride, Dr. Taylor repeated the experiment, and found the same results – a shorter life span for the mice drinking the fluoridated water. However, because these damaging results appeared around the launch time of the early fluoridation schemes, and because public health officials had already come out in staunch support of fluoridation, Dr. Taylor’s work was misrepresented. Specifically, fluoridation proponents falsely claimed that Dr. Taylor had never conducted the second study revealing that the fluoride-cancer link was still present when the necessary controls were put in place.90

Then, in 1990, a study conducted by the U.S. government’s National Toxicology Program (“NTP”) found a positive relation for osteosarcoma (bone cancer) in male rats exposed to different amounts of fluoride in drinking water.91 When NTP downplayed the results in order to avoid a public outcry over compulsory fluoridation, a storm of controversy erupted, with a number of scientists outraged at the failure to report the cancer linked results accurately.92

Finally, in 2006, Elise Bassin and her colleagues at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine published a study in the peer-reviewed journal Cancer Causes and Control, which also showed a link between fluoridation and osteosarcoma in young men.93 Incredibly, Bassin’s own dissertation advisor at Harvard, Chester Douglass, wrote a commentary in the same journal warning readers to be “especially cautious” about Bassin’s results. This lead to yet another controversy, with Bassin’s defenders calling for an ethical investigation of Douglass, since, as it turned out, Douglass had some conflicts of interest and was the editor in chief of a newsletter for dentists funded by Colgate. 94

5: Lower IQ’s in Children

Researchers have also begun to focus on the damaging effects fluorides appear to have on the human brain. In the 1990’s, researcher Phyllis Mullenix studied the brain and behavioral effects of sodium fluoride on rats.95 Her study revealed that pre-natal exposure to fluoride correlated with life-long hyperactivity in young rats, while post-natal exposures often had the opposite, “couch potato” effect.96 Although Mullenix’s research was published in a well-respected peer reviewed journal, the fluoride proponents attacked her methodology and declared her results flawed.97 Since then, however, forty-six other studies have emerged showing a connection between excess exposure to fluoride and lowered IQ’s in children, with 39 of the 46 finding that elevated fluoride exposure is associated with decreased IQ, and 29 of the 31 animal studies showing that fluoride exposure impairs the learning and/or memory capacity of animals.98

In 2012, after conducting a meta-analysis of 27 of the fluoride-human IQ studies, conducted mostly in China, a team of scientists from Harvard’s School of Public Health and China’s Medical University in Shenyang concluded that the studies suggested an average IQ decrease of about seven points in children exposed to raised fluoride concentrations.99 In 2014, one of the chief authors of the initial 2012 meta-analysis, Harvard professor Philippe Grandjean, concluded in a follow-up article that “our very great concern is that children worldwide are being exposed to unrecognized toxic chemicals that are silently eroding intelligence,” and that fluoride’s effect on the young brain should now be a “high research priority.”100 Notably, a majority of the 27 studies analyzed were of water fluoride levels of less than 4 mg/L, which falls under the allowable concentrations of fluoride under current EPA regulations.101

6: Benefits from Systemic Fluoride Intake?

With so many current studies linking fluoride to serious health risks beyond dental fluorosis, the question remains whether fluoride’s public health benefits outweigh any and all of these risks. The Centers for Disease Control has deemed water fluoridation one of the “top ten health achievements of the 20th Century.”102 Proponents therefore insist that even if there are a number of recognized risks of fluoridation, there has been enough evidence to show that these risks are remote and are far outweighed by the benefits.103 Yet much of the available scientific data today suggests that any benefit from fluoride in terms of preventing tooth decay has been from topical application, rather than systemic ingestion.104 Moreover, even the benefits of topical fluoride treatments have been recently questioned, since most dental caries today are in the “pits and fissures” of the molars rather than on the flat surface of teeth, and various studies have now indicated that fluoride has no impact on the pits and fissures.105

Research conducted over the last twenty years has also shown that the estimated reduction in tooth decay due to compulsory water fluoridation has been grossly exaggerated. While at one time proponents boasted a 50-65% reduction in tooth decay, a great deal of current evidence suggests the real percentage is significantly lower, with some studies showing no measurable reduction at all. 106 Confounding claims of benefit even further, numerous studies have shown a substantially similar decline in the dental caries rate in countries that do not fluoridate, and in areas within the United States that remain unfluoridated.107

Nor have the asserted economic benefits of compulsory water fluoridation come to fruition. In fact, a number of economic evaluation studies have indicated that the costs of dental care may actually be higher in fluoridated communities than in non-fluoridated communities.108

Unfortunately, rather than considering the new data objectively, public health officials and dental lobbies spearheading fluoridation schemes often ignore, reject, or suppress the evidence that does not toe the pro-fluoride party line.109 Nevertheless, as evidence against fluoridation continues to 20 Compulsory Water Fluoridation [23 Sept 14 accumulate in a variety of health risk areas, two conclusions seem readily apparent. First, there remain significant unanswered questions about the risks and benefits of systemic fluoride, and further research before imposing or continuing fluoridation schemes seems not only scientifically prudent, but ethically necessary. Second, it is no longer acceptable for public health officials to simply dismiss the accruing negative data and to continue to insist that the levels of fluoride children and adults are receiving on a daily basis are without any serious health consequences. Fortunately, tentative moves by the EPA and other federal agencies suggest that at least some public health authorities are inching towards similar conclusions.

References

64 See e.g. Hileman, supra note 18, at 4. See also Graham, supra note 17, at 195 (noting a pro-fluoridation report characterizing fluoride opponents as follows: “The opposition stems from several sources, chiefly food faddists, cultists, chiropractors, misguided and misinformed persons who are ignorant of the scientific facts on the ingestion of water fluorides, and, strange as it may seem, even among a few uniformed physicians and dentists.”). See also Leila Barraza, Daniel G. Orenstein, Doug Campos- Outcalt, Denialism and Its Adverse Effect on Public Health, 53 JURIMETRICS J. 307, 307 (calling those who oppose fluoridation “denialists” who “misuse science to advocate positions that contradict the overwhelming weight of existing evidence”).

65 See e.g., John Colquhoun, Why I Changed My Mind About Water Fluoridation, 41 PERSPECTIVES IN BIOLOGY AND MEDICINE 1 (1997); Dr. Hardy Limeback, Why I Am Now Officially Opposed to Adding Fluoride to Drinking Water, FLUORIDE ACTION NETWORK (April 2000), http://fluoridealert.org/articles/limeback/; J. William Hirzy, Dr. William Hirzy, Former Head of EPA’s Headquarters Union Recommends Portland Flush Fluoridation Proposal (March 2013), FLUORIDE ACTION NETWORK, http://fluoridealert.org/content/hirzy_portland/.

66 Fagin, supra note 26, at 78.

67 Fagin, supra note 26, at 78; Hileman, supra note 18, at 9.

68 See Beltran-Aguilar, et. al., Prevalence and Severity of Dental Fluorosis in the United States, 1999-2004, NCHS DATA BRIEF NO. 53 (2010), http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db53.pdf. See also Czajka, supra note 13, at 125.

69 Beltran-Aguilar, supra note 68; Peckham, supra note 13, at 165.

70 Fagin, supra note 26, at 79 (children exposed to fluoridated water were 50% more likely to have dental fluorosis than children living in non-fluoridated areas).

71 Peckham, supra note 13, at 165-66.

2 See Hileman, supra note 18 at 10.

73 Id.

74 Peckham, supra note 13, at 166.

75 Limeback, supra note 65 (“it is illogical to assume that tooth enamel is the only tissue affected by low daily doses of fluoride ingestion.”); Colquhoun, supra note 65 (“Common sense should tell us that if a poison circulating in a child’s body can damage the tooth-forming cells, then other harm also is likely.”).

76 Czajka, supra note 13 at 125.

77 Null, supra note 17, at 74.

78 Czajka, supra note 13, at 125.

79 Null, supra note 17, at 74; Hileman, supra note 18, at 13.

80 Fagin, supra note 26, at 79.

81 See Null, supra note 17, at 74-75.

82 Jennifer Luke, Fluoride Deposition in the Aged Human Pineal Gland, 35 CARIES RESEARCH 125-128 (2001). See also Czajka, supra note 13, at 126.

83 Fluoride Action Network, Pineal Gland, FLUORIDEALERT.ORG, http://fluoridealert.org/issues/health/pineal-gland/ (last visited June 25, 2014) (discussing/listing pineal gland studies).

84 Id.

85Fluoride Action Network, Thyroid, FLUORIDEALERT.ORG, http://fluoridealert.org/issues/health/thyroid/ (last visited June 25, 2014) (discussing/listing numerous thyroid studies).

86 Null, supra note 17, at 71. See also Fluoride Action Network, Endocrine, FLUORIDEALERT.ORG, http://fluoridealert.org/issues/health/endocrine/(last visited June 25, 2014) (discussing/listing numerous endocrine system studies).

87 Fluoride Action Network, Cancer, FLUORIDEALERT.ORG, http://fluoridealert.org/issues/health/cancer/ (last visited June 25, 2014) (discussing/listing numerous cancer studies).

88 See e.g., Null, supra note 17, at 77; Graham, supra note 17, at 229-240.

89 Null, supra note 17, at 77.

90 Id.

91 NTP Toxicology and Carcinogenesis Studies of Sodium Fluoride in F344/N Rats and B6C3F1 Mice (Drinking Water Studies), 393 NATL. TOXICOL. PROGRAM TECH REP SERV. 1-448 (1990).

92 Null, supra note 17, at 78-79.

93 E. B. Bassin et. al., Age Specific Fluoride Exposure in Drinking Water and Osteosarcoma, 17 CANCER CAUSES & CONTROL 421-28 (2006) (finding an association between fluoride exposure in drinking water during childhood and the incidence of osteosarcoma among males but not consistently among females). See also S Kharb et. al., Fluoride Levels and Osteosarcoma, 1 SOUTH ASIAN J. CANCER 76-77 (2012) (finding positive correlation between fluoride and osteosarcoma).

94 Fagin, supra note 26, at 80. 95 Phyllis J. Mullenix, Neurotoxicity of Sodium Fluoride in Rats, 17 NEUROTOXICOLOGY AND TERATOLOGY 169-177 (1995).

96Fagin, supra note 26, at 80. See also Null, supra note 17, at 74 (describing an ad campaign promoting a fluoridated spring water “for kids who can’t sit still.”).

97 Fagin, supra note 26, at 80.

98 Fluoride Action Network, Brain, FLUORIDEALERT.ORG, http://fluoridealert.org/issues/health/brain/ (last visited June 25, 2014) (discussing/listing numerous brain studies).

99 See Anna L. Choi et. al, Developmental Fluoride Neurotoxicity: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis, 120 ENVIRON. HEALTH PERSPECT. 1362-1368 (2012).

100 Philippe Grandjean & Philip Landrigan, Neurobehavioural Effects of Developmental Toxicity, 13 THE LANCET NEUROLOGY, 330-338 (2014) (“untested chemicals should not be presumed to be safe to brain development, and chemicals in existing use and all new chemicals must therefore be tested for developmental neurotoxicity.”). See also Diana Rocha-Amador, Decreased Intelligence in Children and Exposure to Fluoride and Arsenic in Drinking Water, Cad. Saude Publica, Rio de Janeiro, 23 Sup. S579-587 (2007).

101 See discussion infra Sec. III.

102 CDC FLUORIDATION, supra note 18.

103 Hileman, supra note 18, at 2.

104 See Czajka, supra note 13, at 127.

105 See e.g., Letter from Dr. Paul Connett to Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks, the European Committee, at #7 (March 30, 2009), available at http://www.fluoridealert.org/wp-content/uploads/scher.march_.2009.pdf (“Since 1950, it has been found that fluorides do little to prevent pit and fissure tooth decay…This is significant because pit and fissure tooth decay represents up to 85% of the tooth decay experienced by children today.”).

106 Hileman, supra note 18, at 5.

107 Hileman, supra note 18, at 6-7. See also Michael Connett, Tooth Decay Trends in Fluoridated vs. Unfluoridated Countries (March 2012), FLUORIDEALERT.ORG, http://fluoridealert.org/studies/caries01/ (noting that decay rates in non-fluoridated countries have declined at the same rate as those in fluoridated countries).

108 Hileman, supra note 18, at 7. 109 See e.g., Voices of Opposition Have Been Suppressed Since Early Days of  Fluoridation, CHEMICAL & ENGINEERING NEWS (August 1, 1988), available at
http://www.nofluoride.com/CEN_Voices_of_opposition.cfm.


Daniel Ryan’s first response to Rita’s unpublished paper will be posted tomorrow – see Fluoride debate: A response to Rita Barnett-Rose – Daniel Ryan

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Download The Fluoride Debate

Fluoride-debate-pdf

I have put together the posts from the exchange between Paul Connett and me in the form of a single document. This will be more convenient for anyone who wishes to browse the articles. Hunt down details or refer to material off-line. Click in the image or this link to download a pdf of The Fluoride debate document.

For those who have not followed this exchange here is a bit of history and explanation from the document.


This is a collection of articles written by Paul Connett and Ken Perrott in their exchange of opinions on the fluoridation of drinking water and related issues. While loosely titled The Fluoride Debate this was in no way meant to be a debate in the gladiatorial sense. It was not about “winners” and “losers.” Our intention was to discuss the science in a format encouraging good faith discussion and intelligent participation from commenters.

I leave it to readers to decide how successful, or otherwise, we have been in this.

Introducing the authors

The authors in this “debate’ have similar academic and professional backgrounds. Both have PhDs in chemistry, worked as research chemists and are now retired. Neither of us have done original research on fluoridation specifically, although both have become involved in the public discussion of it since there retirements.

Paul Connett is an executive director of the Fluoride Action Network and campaigns throughout the world against fluoridation. He is, together with James Beck & H. Spedding Micklem, author of the book “The Case Against Fluoride.” Paul has made several speaking tours in New Zealand as part of his campaign and will have another tour in February, 2014.

Ken Perrott is a retired research chemist. These days he writes a blog, Open Parachute, which deals issues related to science, human rights, philosophy and religion. Many of his articles have argued against pseudoscience and the misrepresentation of science. He has written a number of articles on scientific issues related to fluoridation.

Format of debate

The exchange occurred as posts on the blog Open Parachute. Paul originally proposed it as 5 pairs of articles with Paul starting and raising specific arguments against fluoridation followed by my reponse.– Paul Connett’s specific argument first with my response second. I thought this would be a convenient size for a series of blog articles.

Paul’s first article went live on October 30, 2013. Without the discipline of an external moderator the series ended up a longer than originally planned – we ended up with 8 pairs of articles, with my final closing article posted on January 23, 2014.

Responding to requests from commenters about my own personal, rather than scientific, motivations I also posted an extra article Why I support fluoridation on November 11. Inevitably its content was also debated.

Editing of articles

The articles here are basically the same as originally posted in the debate. I have corrected some typos and added reference lists to my own articles recognising that the hot links provided in a blog article may not be suitable for all readers of this document. I have avoided editing or altering Paul’s articles except for a few minor issues like adjusting image size.

Comment discussions

Many others, representing both sides of the “debate,” participated in this exchange through the comments section of each article. Some commenters were very well informed, often with professional experience related to fluoridation. There were almost 2000 comments in total with many of them containing useful information and citations. Unfortunately it is not feasible to include the comment discussion here but I urge interested readers to browse through them on-line.

Links to debate

You can easily find original blog articles, together with comments, at the link Fluoride Debate.

Advice to readers

Such lengthy articles, and so many of them, might be intimidating to some readers. My advice is to browse, read the articles that interest you or cover issues of interest. I imagine only the most dedicated reader would start at the beginning and read to the end.

Any reader wishing to make contact with me can do so via my About me blog page.

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Fluoride debate: Final article – Ken Perrott

This is the last, final, article in the Fluoride debate. There will be nothing more. It is  Ken Perrott’s response to Paul Connett’s last article Fluoride debate: Paul Connett’s Closing statement.

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


“Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense.”― Carl Sagan

Paul has used his right of reply and it really is time to close off this exchange.

I am not going to sieve through Paul’s long article and comment point by point – we are well past this. Instead I will discuss a basic issue central to the exchange (Paul’s reference to “weight of evidence analysis”) and show with several examples how superficial, and unscientific, Paul’s understanding of the approach is.

“Weight of evidence” – different things to different people

Weight of evidence can mean anything from a vague metaphorical description to a methodological approach or a theoretical/conceptual framework. Paul doesn’t clarify any further, but when he talks about balancing one set of studies or papers against another I find his concept very mechanical. It reminds me of the way the Hamilton City Council treated the submissions to last year’s hearings on the fluoridation issue (see my article When politicians and bureaucrats decide the science). Council staff 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.”

Council, and Council staff, were impressed by these numbers – after all, place the submission printouts on a kitchen scales and of course the anti-brigade wins! Silly, I know, but this was one of the arguments staff supplied to council for ignoring the result of the referendum (where almost 70% supported fluoridation), at their November 2013 meeting. This extract from the draft resolution submitted by staff:

“All evidence has been considered carefully by Council and, while finely balanced, Council preference is to continue not to fluoridate the city water supply because: . . .

vi. Not fluoridating the city water supply reflects the majority of views expressed through the Council tribunal process.”

The silliness of such an approach is obvious when one starts to consider the quality and not the quantity of submissions. Here are a few examples from those opposing fluoridation:

Submission No 58:

I do not believe there is enough evidence to support the mass medication of our water supply’s for the good of all people. It is our right to choose to medicate ourselves with fluoride not the government right to force this medication I believe the fluoride in our water is toxic and needs to be stopped.

Submission 60:

Water Fluoridation is medication ‐ even if the pro fluoridationist say it is not. Council does not have the right to medicate the water. Please STOP!

Submission No 61:

From what I have come to understand, Fluoride is a toxin that has been and will continue contribute to chronic long term health illnesses. Fluoride a toxic substance we don’t want in our water supply for our younger generation to be exposed to.
Regards Connie

Submission No 65:

I do not want N0 KEMICALS into my drinking water.Thank you very much,Dorel”

Submission No 975:

“There is no acceptable reasoning to mass dose the whole population. There is a significant amount of information describing the side effects of Fluridation of the water supply. If people want extra Fluoride then they can take tables. 90% + of the fluoride added to the town supply ends up in the environment. There are more than 100 pesticides manufactured from Fluoride.”

Submission No 237:

I love New Zealand, it’s such a beautiful country. Fluoride is not necessary in the water supply. Please let people make their own choice about whether or not they want to ingest fluoride. It should not be forced upon anyone by adding it to the water supply. This is just plain and simply wrong!”

The local anti-fluoride activist organisation, the Fluoride Action MNetwork of NZ (FANNZ), promoted such meaningless submissions by proving a template form for their supporters. They were going for quantity and not quality – they are political activists, not scientists.

This shows why I reject the mechanical “weight of evidence” approach Paul often seems to be advocating. He certainly fights hard to avoid consideration of the quality of evidence he uses.

I can only agree with a “weight of evidence” approach if it is qualitative, not simply and mechanically quantitative. In fact, I would avoid the term and instead say our approach should be a balanced one, looking (as far as practicable) at all the evidence and considering it critically and intelligently.

Hence the quote from Carl Sagan at the head of this article.

I don’t think Paul does this. I show this in my comments and responses below.

From logical possibility to conspiracy

Paul’s book, The Case Against Fluoride, provides clear examples of a formula he uses to cast doubt on existing science, build up a library of claimed negative effects of fluoride in the human body and to suggest the scientific community conspires to suppress research findings and prevent important research from going ahead. It’s the sort of stuff ideologically driven opponents of fluoridation lap up enthusiastically. These tactics are not new – we have seen it all before with the creationists and the climate change deniers.

This formula has 3 steps:

1: Advance a claim with no real evidence. This can be done in several ways.

A): Establish a logical possibility. Paul uses a lot of “possibles,” “mays,” etc., in his book. No research evidence at all is required for this – just speculation and suggestion. For example:

“. . . if fluoridation were to increase the rates of hip fracture in the elderly, it would be serious and certainly grounds in itself to eliminate water fluoridation.” (p174).

“. .  a possible mechanism exists whereby fluoride could bring about an excessive production of TSH from the pituitary. This may help explain why . . .” (p163).

“These speculations need to be investigated.”     “Although more difficult to prove, it is reasonable to assume that many of the effects seen in vitro can occur in the whole body.” (p125)

“The bone is the principal site for fluoride accumulation within the body, and the rate of accumulation is increased during periods of rapid bone development as occurs in growth spurts during childhood. Thus, the cells in the bone are exposed to some of the highest fluoride concentrations in the body.” (p182)

This last speculation is fallacious as fluoride exists as a structural component of the solid bioapatites in the bone – not in solution – so the term “concentration” is misleading.

B): Use poor research evidence. He often uses the old trick of implying a cause from a correlation, or using research papers who have relied on this fallacy.

The graph below illustrates the fallacy. Most of us find the suggestion eating organic food is the cause of autism silly and we are not at all convinced – despite the excellent correlation. Maybe there are a few people who are so hostile to organic food that they take this suggestion seriously – we can see how their bias might lead them to claim this as evidence and even promote their story with such figures.

But replace the organic food sales with a vaccination statistic – we have a demographic who serious believe vaccinations are harmful and would easily lap up such a fallacious figure. (We are getting a bit close to the bone here – Paul’s Fluoride Action Network (FAN) is organisationally aligned with anti-vaccination (National Vaccine Information Center), anti-GM (Institute for Responsible Technology), and similar outfits through the Health Liberty Coalition.)

Now do the same with a fluoridation statistic and we are getting into very familiar territory. Think Declan Waugh and his graphs showing correlations between fluoridation and practically every illness known to humanity. In fact, Declan Waugh is doing this for autism on his Facebook page. Here is his graph.

Another approach is to just rely on poor quality research – selected to fit his desired conclusions. Consider Paul’s obsession with poor quality Chinese research papers showing a negative correlation of IQ and fluoride concentration in drinking water. These studies have problems with IQ measurement and confounding factors. How can one seriously claim causation when the studies don’t consider, for example, detailed analysis of education and family social conditions. Or other more important contaminants in the environment,

Paul sort of admits speculation or reliance on poor quality research but quickly leaves his admission behind in his eagerness to claim harmful effects:

“there are about twenty studies (albeit with questioned methodologies in some cases) suggesting potential damage to the brains of young children” (p156).”

“Although the validity of the scoring methods used for fractures is acknowledged by the authors to be questionable, this is a potentially important finding,” (p170)”

“At present there is no direct and unassailable proof that fluoridation per se harms anyone’s thyroid. This may be due to the paucity of studies conducted;” (p164)

“We emphasize that proof that fluoride acts on the thyroid in these ways in vivo is still lacking. Further research is needed, but, meanwhile, the mechanisms are plausible and based on existing science.” (p163).

“Although there is no direct evidence that fluoride can inactivate deiodinases, it is well known as an inhibitor of many enzymes, and the hormonal derangements reported in fluoride-exposed people have been interpreted in terms of effects on deiodinases.” (p162)

Paul builds his arguments on very flimsy foundations. He often admits as much but attempts to confound his readers with a fair bit of hand waving and Gish galloping.

2: Collect together any sources which can be interpreted to support the speculation. This may often need a bit of dredging – obscure journals or newsletters, comments recorded at meetings, foreign language sources, etc. Here a naive mechanical “weight of evidence” approach is useful as a pile of Byelorussian, Chinese, Indian, etc. papers from obscure or poor quality sources, often newsletters or reported statements and not scientific papers, weigh a hell of a lot more than one or two papers from reputable journals, by reputable research teams, who report contrary findings.

And of course the well-known problem of lack of reporting negative effects weighs in at zero.

Paul is very proud of the 80 pages of citations in his book. But many of them are repeated several time, are from sources not normally considered for scientific citation, or from sources difficult to track down. Very many of the citations are to his own activist FAN web site. A particularly disturbing aspect of the last sources (often used when referring to translation of foreign language material) is that very often the links lead nowhere. They have either been lost during web site reorganisation or may never have even existed. Who is to know?

3: Use the lack of reputable sources for his claims as evidence of a conspiracy. Paul can “double dip” with the “missing” research and publications from credible reasearch teams and journals. He records paucity of evidence from credible sources to support his own claims relying on poor quality sources, then implies the lack of material indicates at least an unwillingness to research problems or at worst a conspiracy not to do the research and/or hide the results. Of course such descriptors of unwillingness or conspiracy can also be turned on researchers or publications with contrary evidence. He can discount them by suggesting links with industry or personal bias – hence introducing a sort of negative quality to good research while refusing to allow judgement on the quality of the bad research.

For example:

“Most of the concerns about the immune system are largely speculative; once again the scarcity of literature on this reflects a lack of interest by governments that promote fluoridation. The same can be said about reproductive effects; despite an extensive literature indicating that, at high levels of exposure, effects of fluoride on the reproductive system have been observed in a wide range of animals and reptiles, very few human studies on the subject have been published or even undertaken.” (p197)

“The failure to explore the plausible connection between fluoridation and arthritis in any fluoridating country is difficult to understand. It is particularly surprising since the causes of most forms of arthritis (e.g., osteoarthritis) are unknown but are usually associated with the aging process. For those living in fluoridated communities the aging process will coincide with lifelong accumulation of fluoride in their bones and joints.” p170/171)

“We do not claim that these IQ studies add up to conclusive evidence that water fluoridation impairs cognitive development. . . . . it is wise to sit up and pay attention. The health authorities and governments of fluoridating countries show little sign of doing that.” (p156)

“A small minority of people, perhaps 1 percent, appear to be acutely sensitive to exposure to fluoride at the concentrations present in fluoridated water. The wide range of signs and symptoms resemble those seen in poisoning with larger amounts of fluoride. These findings date from the 1950s. However, far from leading to more extensive studies, they were ridiculed when introduced and have since been largely ignored.” (p136)

Fluoridation and IQ

Paul’s mechanical and selective understanding of “weight of evidence” sticks out like a sore thumb when he claims fluoride influences development of the child’s brain. Even though he notes the mainly Chinese studies he relies on had “questioned methodologies in some cases” (p156 of his book) this is perhaps his most favourite claim for rejecting fluoridation. In his last article he even spent some time developing a margin of error from the studies – rather previous, I think, as he had not established that the data he used was reliable or indicated causation

The European Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks (2010) took a more intelligent and critical approach to the Chinese studies. This from their document Critical review of any new evidence on the hazard profile, health effects, and human exposure to fluoride and the fluoridating agents of drinking water:

“A series of studies on developmental effects of fluoride were carried out mostly in China. They consistently show an inverse relationship between fluoride concentration in drinking water and IQ in children. Most papers compared mean IQs of schoolchildren from communities exposed to different levels of fluoride, either from drinking water or from coal burning used as a domestic fuel. All these papers are of a rather simplistic methodological design, with no – or at best little – control for confounders, e.g., iodine or lead intake, nutritional status, housing condition, parent’s education level or income.”

This document concluded:

“Available human studies do not allow concluding firmly that fluoride intake hampers children’s neurodevelopment. A systematic evaluation of the human studies does not suggest a potential thyroid effect at realistic exposures to fluoride. The absence of thyroid effects in rodents after long-term fluoride administration and the much higher sensitivity of rodents to changes in thyroid related endocrinology as compared with humans do not support a role for fluoride induced thyroid perturbations in humans. Limited animal data cannot support the link between fluoride exposure and neurotoxicity,
noted in the epidemiological studies, at relevant non-toxic doses. SCHER agrees that there is not enough evidence to conclude that fluoride in drinking water may impair IQ.”

The NZ National Fluoridation Information Service (2013) also critically reviewed literature on this issue (see NFIS Advisory A review of recent literature on potential effects of CWF programmes on neurological development and IQ attainment).They concluded:

“The available evidence raises the possibility that high levels of fluoride in drinking water may have subtle effects on children’s IQ. However all of these studies have limitations in design and analysis, a clear dose-response relationship between DWFCs and assessed IQ are often not evident. The study authors are frequently very cautious in their comments, and several noted that any indicated negative effect applied only to high DWFCs. An hypothesis of fluoride neurotoxicity would also be supported by some experimental animal studies, however the great majority of these have only considered high fluoride intakes.

However collectively the data described are not robust enough to draw a firm conclusion that high fluoride levels in drinking water supplies contribute to retarded development of children’s brains. Also there is no clear evidence to suggest an adverse effect on IQ at lower fluoride intakes such as that likely to occur in New Zealand, where fluoridated water supplies contain fluoride in the 0.7 to 1.0 mg/L range.

Thus the balance of current scientific evidence does not suggest any risk for the development of full IQ potential for New Zealand Children from current community water fluoridation initiatives, where maximum DWFCs are 1 mg/L.”

Paul will respond that the studies were good enough to warrant further investigation but then he alleges that western researchers are either willfully ignoring these studies or even conspiring to suppress them and refuse to investigate further.

He never considers that, perhaps, the lack of better quality studies really is evidence of lack of effect – given the reluctance to publish studies with nil results.

Think about it, if there really was this effect from salt, milk or water fluoridation wouldn’t we be aware of it by now? After all, many countries do collect the sort of data about their populations, especially children, which would show any effect.

Maybe publication of the Choi et al (2012) meta-review will encourage more specialists to extract this data in their own countries and publish analyses. I personally know of one such study in New Zealand which shows no IQ effect of fluoridation. This study is of higher quality than the ones Paul relies on because  the data was sufficiently extensive to allow consideration of confounding effects (eg. breastfeeding, education, income level, etc.). A paper has recently been submitted for publication so unfortunately I cannot offer a citation until it is “in press.”

Osteosarcoma

Again, the importance Paul gives to a single study on fluoride and osteosarcoma illustrates his mechanical and selective approach to “weight of evidence.” He has not bothered including either the study by Comber et al (2011) of this issue in Ireland or the study by Levy & Leclerc (2012) for the US. Possibly because both of these concluded that water fluoridation has no influence on osteosarcoma incidence rates.

The NZ National Fluoridation Information Service (2013) briefly considered this literature and cancer incidence rates for New Zealand (see Community Water Fluoridation and Osteosarcoma – Evidence from Cancer Registries). Their conclusion:

“The analysis confirms that osteosarcoma is extremely rare in New Zealand with only 127 new cases registered during this period averaging 14.1 per year. The peak age is 10 to 19 years for both sexes. These rates indicate that there is no difference in the rates of osteosarcoma cases between areas with CWF and areas without CWF for both sexes, findings which are consistent with the two international studies.”

But, I guess, not consistent with the one study Paul relies on! A study Paul described as “unrefuted.”  See what confirmation bias does to “weight of evidence?” Although his “unrefuted” strangely conflicts with his qualification about this research in his book:

“The evidence that fluoride causes osteosarcoma is not clear-cut. The studies of the relationships in both animals and humans are mixed.” (p 181)

Update: Here’s another paper published this moth which I guess Paul will studiously avoid. Blakey et al (2014). Is fluoride a risk factor for bone cancer? Small area analysis of osteosarcoma and Ewing sarcoma diagnosed among 0-49-year-olds in Great Britain, 1980-2005.

Breast feeding and the naturalistic fallacy

I understand Paul’s points about dose and dosage – they are not difficult concepts. Obviously they are important when we consider ingestion of fluoride and other environmental elements by infants. My reading indicates that those involved in health advice and regulation do consider dosage when discussing fluoride. I am at a loss to know why Paul thinks this issue is being avoided.

Paul keeps returning to the low level of fluoride in breast milk so I can’t help think he is still trapped by the naturalistic fallacy. He even links this to IQ claiming “whether by accident or by evolutionary “design” mother’s milk is protective against lowered IQ.”

Paul may make some mileage out of the naturalistic fallacy if he stays with fluoride, but bring in the other trace elements which present problems because of deficient levels in human breast milk and the fallacy has far less credibility.

A brief scan of the literature shows breast fed children are prone to some microelement deficiencies. For example, Kodama (2004) and Domellöf, et al (2004) report deficient levels of zinc, selenium and iron in breast milk. Supplementation of breast-fed infants with micronutrients, including fluoride, is sometimes recommended.

Hastings project

Paul’s treatment of this issue shows how simple his concept of “weight of evidence” is. He relies only on one-sided discussions by Colquhoun (1987), Colquhoun & Mann (1986), and Colquhoun & Wilson (1999). He seems not to have done anything to check the original papers from the project and relies on a single out-of-context letter from a bureaucrat which he interprets  to his own satisfaction.

  1. Paul adamantly and publicly declares the Hastings fluoridation project a “fraud.” That is an extremely serious charge in the scientific community – scientific   fraud is one of the worst accusations possible and usually leads to loss of career. It is unprofessional to make such a charge without being prepared to pursue it legally. I question the ethics of such an attack on people who are no longer here to speak in their own defense.
  2. Paul says:
    “What convinces me the final report was a fraud was the authors did not mention the change in diagnosis when claiming the drop in tooth decay was due to fluoridation.”
    Yet he does not reference the “final report” or show any indication he has checked this charge rather than take it on trust from his anti-fluoridation sources.
  3. He claimed in his second to last article that the decision to drop Napier as a control city was made for “bogus reasons” – yet gave absolutely no evidence to support such a serious claim. He now wants to  avoid that responsibility by saying the issue (his claim) is a “red herring.” Sorry Paul, one should not avoid responsibilities – if you wish to make a serious allegation be prepared to back it up or withdraw and apologise –  not run away from it.

I know from experience the complexity of long term trials involving many people doing different jobs. It is easy to take a bureaucratic letter out of context, oversimply or misinterpret problems of personal approaches to methodology and ignore the fact that managers of such trials inevitably face difficulties from factors outside their control. As for reporting findings, the data amassed and details of methodology and their changes can be mind-boggling for an outsider who attempts an understanding.

I will not pretend to have got my head around that project but here are a few observations:

  1. The findings from the trial were presented as scientific papers in the New Zealand Dental Journal (Ludwig and Ludwig, et al. 1958, 1959, 1962, 1963, 1965, 1971). The issues with Napier, originally proposed as a control, are discussed by Ludwig et al (1960), Ludwig & Healy (1962) and Healy et al (1962). Paul does not seem to have consulted any of these papers yet he considers his “weight of evidence” enough to make serious charges of “bogus” and “fraud!”
    The authors did not trumpet their study “showed that fluoridation was a great success” – scientists are usually more circumspect. In this case conclusions were more along the lines “The results obtained in Hastings during a period of  75-78 month’s fluoridation are very similar to results obtained overseas after a comparable period of fluoridation.” (Ludwig 1962).
  2. The important data was reported in papers from 1958 – 1971. These are very brief but all include the statement that further information on methodology, data and statistical analysis is available to interested people. The details Paul’s seems to want may be in that unpublished “further information.”
  3. Colquhoun & Mann (1986) and Colquhoun & Wilson (1987) both quote from unpublished reports and communications where discussion of diagnostics and methodological changes occurred. Colquhoun and Mann even report that researchers believed evidence from the Napier data indicates these changes did not have an overriding effect. Even a simple glance at the published data shows that the decline in tooth decay was not restricted to the early period where diagnostic and methodological changes would have been expected to exert any effect. Compare the plots below.

Hastings

Hastings data shows similar improvement in oral health even if project had started in 1957. Plots are for different ages.

I think Paul is irresponsible to make such damning charges of “fraud” without considering all the material. He actually has no evidence at all the project was a “fraud” or that the reasons for dropping Napier as a control were “bogus.” His behaviour is unprofessional.

The problems with longitudinal studies

There are inevitable problems with longitudinal trials of the sort which the Hastings Project eventually became. They are influenced by undetected confounding factors and hence can be difficult to interpret. This may not have been sufficiently recognised at the time and that may have coloured interpretation of the results.

But let’s not forget that much of the harsh criticism of fluoridation made by Colquhoun (1997) and Diesendorf (1986) rely on their own biased interpretation of such longitudinal trails. And today’s anti-fluoridation propagandists make the same mistake even though we now know better. Paul himself used the WHO data showing improvement in oral health in many countries in his first few articles to argue that fluoridation had no effect. He did not consider the multifactorial causes of that improvement or mention that where measurements made in single countries (like Ireland) clear differences between fluoridated and unfluoridated areas were seen.

Should we now accuse Paul of “fraud” because he made no mention of the full Irish data in his claim that the WHO data showed fluoridation ineffective?

Paul continually avoids systemic role of fluoride

He does this by stressing the surface mechanism initiating caries is “topical” and not “surface” and works hard to imply “topical application” methods are required. He has conceded to including the word “predominantly” when referring to the surface mechanism but seems not to understand the meaning of the word.

My dictionary definition for “predominant” is “Most common or conspicuous; main or prevalent.” The word does not mean “only” as Paul seems to assume.

Neither is tooth decay simply about the initiation of caries. It also involves the strength and hardness of the teeth where systemic fluoride plays a beneficial role – especially during teeth development in the pre-eruptive stage. Paul continually avoids this as he also does the normal and natural role of fluoride in bioapatites.

Paul has not even acknowledged the citations I have given supporting this systemic function for fluoride. I guess all I can do is add another one – published this month – Cho, et al (2014). Systemic effect of water fluoridation on dental caries prevalence.

Paul’s concessions

I guess we should acknowledge there has been some progress during this exchange as Paul has made a few concessions. It is worth recording them here to show they have occurred – but of course I am interested to see if he still repeats his original claims elsewhere.

Fluoridated and unfluoridated data for the Irish Republic. Finally Paul seems to understand my point on this. At least he apologises and said he should have checked.

I really can’t understand why he was confused  for so long (I raised is in my first article) but we all have our moments, I guess. He should now understand that use of WHO and similar data showing improvement of oral health in both fluoridated and unfluoridated areas is not a proof that fluoridation is ineffective. This fallacy is repeated again and again by opponents of fluoridation and ignores completely the multiple issues involve in oral health. Scientifically literate people should not resort to such fallacies.

I will be interested to see if he avoids this fallacy in future. A sign of good faith would be for him to remove or amend the section on the FAN website which promotes this fallacy.

Xiang et al’s margin of safety calculation. I asked Paul several times to clarify this because he was using a figure of 1.9 ppm yet Xiang’s paper was completely silent on how the value was obtained and seems to ignore the large variability of the data –  another sign of poor reviewing by the journal Fluoride. Paul now seems to have walked away from reliance on Xiang et al (2003) and a threshold value of 1.9 ppm and wants to take a different approach.

But, he still wants to use the poor quality Chinese data and does nothing to justify using that data in the absence of demonstration of any causal, and not incidental, relationship between fluoride in drinking water and IQ. I think this makes his calculations meaningless.

In the meantime could he please remove the sections of his FAN website arguing for the 1.9 ppm margin of safety?

What happens when fluoridation is stopped. Paul has accepted my point that at least in the cases of the former DDR and La Salud, Cuba, the results are consistent with use of alternative fluoride sources such as fluoridated salt, mouth rinses and dental applications. While admitting I had a valid point he says:

“Ken responded that in two of these studies other measures were taken which might have explained why tooth decay did not increase. I in turn argued that that if this was the case it shows that there are alternatives to fluoridation that work.”

Two points.

No one claims there are no alternatives to fluoridated drinking water. I have pointed out again and again that there are. So why the red herring? Paul was citing these studies to “prove” fluoridation is ineffective and I showed his conclusions were not justified.

Paul appears desperate to cling to any case I have not looked at. Must I go through every example and look at the details? Can he not do this himself? If there are no mitigating circumstances this would surely support the argument he wants to make. We should not do science this way. We should always approach the literature and research critically and intelligently.

Having conceded on La Salud and the former DDR is he prepared to modify his claims about these situations in his FAN website?

National Fluoridation Information Service

Some discussion of this body is important as Paul’s confusion extends a lot further than its name. He is demonstrating how he cynically uses terms like “weight of evidence analysis.” Cynical because he rejects the very body (NFIS) that is taking this scientific approach in New Zealand and throws his advocacy behind the body which is biased, uncritical and unintelligent in considering the evidence. The body which cherry-picks literature and interprets it selectivity to support its confirmation bias. He supports the NZ Fluoridation information Service (NZFIS).

As I wrote in my last article the NZFIS is an astroturf organisations set up by the FANNZ. Paul well knows that FANNZ has a clear bias and political aims with a declared purpose of “bringing about the permanent end to public water fluoridation (“fluoridation”) in New Zealand,” (quote from FANNZ rules).

Simple consideration of the NZFIS web site shows that it does no active work on the fluoridation issue. It’s material is old, biased and there is no current activity. However, the organisation is used for distributing biased press releases and attempting to claim scientific credibility. (See, for example, my recent article False balance and straw clutching on fluoridation.)

I can understand why Paul throws his support behind FANNZ and the NZFIS. They are part of the international tentacles of his organisation FAN. This is not about science or “weight of evidence analysis” at all. It’s about political activism.

So of course Paul must bad-mouth the organisation which is doing the work and taking a scientific approach in NZ – the National Fluoridation Information Service (NFIS). He says:

“My concern here is the use of taxpayer money (about 1 million dollars) to support the promotion of fluoridation rather than presenting a balanced view of the evidence.”

Well he would say that wouldn’t he? He treats public funding of NZFIS as a smear! That is the typical naive conspiracy theory approach taken by climate change deniers and any other anti-science organisation who attempt to discredit scientific findings. It distorts the facts completely – governments don’t employ scientists to produce a predetermined conclusion – if they wanted that theologians would be more appropriate and a lot cheaper. Research funding is not used to confirm a bias but to employ the people and resources who can answer important questions.

He also seems to think dropping a figure like “about 1 million dollars” acts as a smear. Let’s put this into context – here is the NFIS budget for 2012/2013. From the 2012-2013 annual plan.

NFIS-2013

And, no, the NFIS does not spend its time issuing misleading press releases or providing institutional status to political activists. Here is how an early evaluation document described its role:

“NFIS is an information and advisory service which will support District Health Boards and Territorial Local Authorities by providing robust and independent scientific and technical information, advice and critical commentary around water fluoridation.”

Go to the NFIS website and have a look at its output – it is professional and balanced. It is a laugh to even compare the barely operating astroturf NZFIS with it. Of course Paul wants to discredit the NFIS – he would like our scientists and health professional to rely on his own biased political organisations instead.

My criticism of FAN

Paul says that in making criticisms of FAN I am playing a “pro-fluoridation activist rather than a scientist.” I disagree because scientists must be concerned about the quality of material they consider. The must be aware of ideologically driven cherry-picking, opportunist use of selected research and the promulgation of unwarranted conclusions being promoted for political or ideological reasons. This is all part of looking at all the evidence critically and intelligently.

Scientists are concerned about poor quality and misinterpretation. It is disingenuous of Paul to make an accusation of activism to ignore or deny, the legitimacy of these concerns.

Paul claims that even if “FAN is a terrible organisation .  . . That does not affect the scientific case for and against fluoridation.” I agree – the scientific case rests on objective reality and the science itself – not on reputation or rumour. But the determination and presentation of a case is very much influenced by the bias and the ideological and political positions of an organisation making the case.

In my last article I analysed the way that FAN worked to demonstrate why their information and claims are unreliable. I believe that was perfectly justified from a scientific perspective.

Similarly I think my arguments above analysing Paul’s mechanical interpretation of “weight of evidence,” and what he means by it in practice, are also justified from a scientific perspective.

Surely such analyses must be part of the critical  and intelligent consideration of the arguments of organisations and people? Isn’t this what Carl Sagan meant with:

“Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense.”

Concluding message

Several times I have stressed my motivations in this debate are scientific and not supporting a specific policy. I am concerned at the way the scientific literature and findings are being misrepresented by ideologically driven activists. We have seen this before on issues like evolutionary science and climate change. Similar misrepresentation is currently rife among advocates of alternative and natural medicine and health. I believe it must be opposed.

Hopefully many readers have taken my point on this. While I currently believe fluoridation of drinking water is a worthwhile social policy in New Zealand I don’t see it as the end of the world if it is rejected by a community. Nor do I see it as the only way of overcoming deficient levels of fluoride in our diet. And, of course, there is always the possibility that future research may change the current scientific consensus that fluoride at the levels used in water or salt fluoridation is safe and beneficial. Science is like that. Because our knowledge is always provisional, but improving over time, we sometimes do modify our conclusions.

So, if readers take my point about the need to overcome misrepresentation of science in these sorts of issues I will consider participation in this exchange worthwhile – even if most readers do not change their political views on support or opposition to fluoridation of water.

References

Balls, M., Amcoff, P., Bremer, S., Casati, S., Coecke, S., Clothier, R., … Zuang, V. (2006). The principles of weight of evidence validation of test methods and testing strategies. The report and recommendations of ECVAM workshop 58. Alternatives to laboratory animals : ATLA, 34(6), 603–20.

Blakey, K. et al (2014). Is fluoride a risk factor for bone cancer? Small area analysis of osteosarcoma and Ewing sarcoma diagnosed among 0-49-year-olds in Great Britain, 1980-2005. International Journal of Epidemiology, 2014, January 14.

Cho, H.-J., Jin, B.-H., Park, D.-Y., Jung, S.-H., Lee, H.-S., Paik, D.-I., & Bae, K.-H. (2014). Systemic effect of water fluoridation on dental caries prevalence. Community dentistry and oral epidemiology.

Choi, A. L., Sun, G., Zhang, Y., & Grandjean, P. (2012). Developmental fluoride neurotoxicity: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Environmental Health Perspectives, 120(10), 1362–1368.

Colquhoun, J. (1987). Education and fluoridation in New Zealand: an historical study. Ph.D. thesis. University of Auckland, New Zealand.

Colquhoun, J. (1997). Why I changed my mind about fluoridation. Perspectives in Biology & Medicine, 41(1):29-44.

Colquhoun, J.; Mann, R. (1986). The Hastings fluoridation experiment: Science or swindle? Resurgence & Ecologist, 16(6), 243–248.

Colquhoun, J., & Wilson, B. (1999). The lost control and other mysteries: Further revelations on New Zealand’s fluoridation trial. Accountability in Research, 6(4), 373–394.

Comber, H., Deady, S., Montgomery, E., & Gavin, A. (2011). Drinking water fluoridation and osteosarcoma incidence on the island of Ireland. Cancer causes & control : CCC, 22(6), 919–24.

Diesendorf M. (1986) The mystery of declining tooth decay. Nature 322 125-129.

Domellöf, M., Lönnerdal, B., Dewey, K. G., Cohen, R. J., & Hernell, O. (2004). Iron, zinc, and copper concentrations in breast milk are independent of maternal mineral status. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 79(1), 111–5.

Healy, W.B.; Ludwig, T.G.; Losee, F. L. (1961). Soils and dental caries in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand. Soil Science, 92(6), 359–366.

Kodama, H. (2004). Trace Element Deficiency in Infants and Children — Clinical practice. Journal of the Japan Medical Association, 47(8), 376–381.

Levy, M., & Leclerc, B.-S. (2012). Fluoride in drinking water and osteosarcoma incidence rates in the continental United States among children and adolescents. Cancer Epidemiology, 36(2), e83–e88.

Ludwig, T. G. (1958). The Hastings Fluoridation project I. Dental effects between 1954 and 1957. New Zealand Dental Journal, 54, 165–172.

Ludwig, T. G. (1959). The Hastings fluoridation project: II. Dental effects between 1954 and 1959. New Zealand Dental Journal, 55, 176–179.

Ludwig, T. G. (1962). The Hastings fluoridation project III-Dental effects between 1954 and 1961. New Zealand Dental Journal, 58, 22–24.

Ludwig, T. . (1963). Recent marine soils and resistance to dental caries . Australian Dental Journal, 109–113.

Ludwig, T. G. (1965). The Hastings fluoridation project V- Dental effects between 1954 and 1964. New Zealand Dental Journal, 61, 175–179.

Ludwig, T. G. (1971). Hastings fluoridation project VI-Dental effects between 1954 and 1970. New Zealand Dental Journal, 67, 155–160.

Ludwig, T. G.; Healy, W. B.; Losee, F. L. (1960). An association between dental caries and certain soil conditions in New Zealand. Nature, 4726, 695–696.

Ludwig, T.G.; Healy, W. B. (1962). The production and composition of vegetables in home gardens at Napier and Hastings. New Zealand Dental Journal, 58, 229–233.

Ludwig, T.G.; Pearce, E. I. F. (1963). The Hastings fluoridation project IV – Dental effects between 1954 and 1963. New Zealand Dental Journal, 59, 298–301.

NFIS (2013) Community Water Fluoridation and Osteosarcoma – Evidence from Cancer Registries. (2013), (May).

NFIS (2013) A review of recent literature on potential effects of CWF programmes on neurological development and IQ attainment.

Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks SCHER (2010).  Critical review of any new evidence on the hazard profile , health effects , and human exposure to fluoride and the fluoridating agents of drinking water.

Xiang, Q; Liang, Y; Chen, L; Wang, C; Chen, B; Chen, X; Zhouc, M. (2003). Effect of fluoride in drinking water on children’s intelligence. Fluoride, 36(2), 84–94.


The links to all the articles in the exchange are listed by date on the Fluoride Debate page. I will shortly  put the articles together in a PDF document (and maybe an eBook format) so readers can download and consult at their leisure. Maybe we could even use Paul Connett’s speaking tour of New Zealand early in the year to encourage people to read the exchange.

Thanks to Paul Connett for agreeing to this exchange (it was actually his idea to try it as an on-line exercise) and to all the people who participated in the comments discussion.

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Fluoride debate: Paul Connett’s Closing statement

Yes, this is the absolute, guaranteed, final statement from Paul Connett in this exchange. It responds to Ken Perrott’s last article Fluoride debate: Ken Perrott’s closing response to Paul Connett?

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


A final attempt to bring this debate back to science.

The structure of this posting.

 Part A.  A few introductory comments

 Part B.  Ken’s claim that the Hastings trial was not “fraud” but bad science

 Part C.  Major issues that have been avoided or poorly addressed

  1. The difference between concentration and dose
  2. The need for a Weight of Evidence analysis – especially on fluoride’s impact on the brain
  3. The need for a Margin of Safety Analysis when harm has been found at a certain level
  4. A margin of safety analysis for lowered IQ
  5. Bottle-fed babies: a special case
  6. Osteosarcoma: politics versus science

PART D. A response to some of the issues raised in Ken’s last posting Ken Perrott’s closing response to Paul Connett? December 30, 2013  not covered in Parts A-C.

 PART E.  A Summary of the key arguments against fluoridation

 PART A. Introductory comments

 A.1) Attacking the messenger instead of dealing with the message

 A lot of time was wasted in Ken’s final posting  Ken Perrott’s closing response to Paul Connett? December 30, 2013  in attacking the Fluoride Action Network, FAN-NZ and other opponents of fluoridation.  In my view, Ken would have served his pro-fluoridation position better by providing solid scientific references to support the proponents’ claims of effectiveness and safety. I address some of the specific issues he raises in part D below.

A.2) There are some important unresolved issues, which I have raised in earlier posts but not fully addressed by Ken. I will cover these in Part C.

 PART B. 

 B.1 The Hastings-Napier Fluoridation Trial Fraud

Let me summarize the bare bones of the issue here.

The Hastings Napier trial was meant to have Hastings as the fluoridated community and Napier as the control. In other words it was going to be cross-sectional study – comparing tooth decay in two cities at the same point in time after one had been fluoridated and the other had not. Shortly into the experiment the control city was dropped, thus the study became a longitudinal one. In this case comparing the tooth decay in one city (Hastings) at the beginning and end of the trial.

For such a comparison to be valid, there must be no change in key parameters during the trial. However, there was a change in one of the key parameters in this trial and it was a major parameter – the method of diagnosing and treating tooth decay. This was less stringent at the end than it was at the beginning. Thus the drop in tooth decay attributed to fluoridation was part, or all, the result of making the diagnosis and treatment of tooth decay less stringent.

What convinces me the final report was a fraud was that the authors did not mention the change in diagnosis when claiming the drop in tooth decay was due to fluoridation. In my view this was more than an oversight or just “bad science” as Ken argues.  As this trial was used to promote fluoridation throughout NZ it is a very serious matter indeed.

Ken makes three points that do not pertain to the central fraud discussed above and completely ignores the “smoking gun” letter from NZ Dental Director G.H. Leslie.

First, Ken says that the method of changing the diagnosis of tooth decay was applied throughout NZ and not just locally. Ken argues:

“My own family remembers this change in dental technique by the school dental service because it was country-wide – not restricted to Hastings as Colquhoun, and Paul, imply. There goes the conspiracy theory and Paul’s claim of a scientific fraud.”

No it doesn’t. Whether the diagnosis and treatment of tooth decay was changed locally or nationally, the authors of the report should have acknowledged this very important change in their report. Their failure to do so – and claiming that their study showed that fluoridation was a great success – was a fraud.  What legitimate researchers should have done was to instruct the nurses not to change the way teeth were treated in Hastings (regardless of what was happening in the rest of NZ). In this way they could have maintained the same situation with this key parameter at the beginning and the end of the trial. But they didn’t.

Ken’s second point was to argue about why the control city was dropped. However, whether the control city was dropped for bogus or legitimate reasons the central charge remains the same. The resulting longitudinal study in Hastings was a fraud because of the fundamental change that was made and not announced by the authors.

Ken’s third point is his citation of paper by Akers (2008) to convince us that it wasn’t a swindle but bad science.  But Akers’ comment is certainly not a rebuttal, if anything it is a confirmation.

Here is the quote from Akers:

 “The changing of NZSDS [NZ School Dental Service] diagnostic criteria for caries and the cessation of the NZSDS nurses’ practice of prophylactic restoration of fissures further confused interpretations. While later antifluoridationists justifiably claimed that the changed diagnostic criteria contributed to the fall in caries (Colquhoun, 1999), their “science or swindle” questioning of methodology and findings (Colquhoun and Mann, 1986; Colquhoun, 1998; Colquhoun and Wilson, 1999) simplified confounding variables and dismissed international evidence supporting community water fluoridation as one factor in declining community caries incidence (de Liefde, 1998).”

 Readers will note that Akers does not claim that the diagnostic wasn’t changed. He admits that it was and he acknowledges that, “antifluoridationists justifiably claimed that the changed diagnostic criteria contributed to the fall in caries”

Whether there were other confounding factors not acknowledged by Colquhoun, the charge of fraud centers around the important change in diagnostic that was not acknowledged by the authors of the report.

Ken also ignored the incriminating evidence presented in the letter from G.H. Leslie, the Director of Dental Health for NZ that I quoted in my previous post.

There is no doubt about the validity of this letter. This “smoking gun” letter was obtained by Colquhoun who used the Official Information Act 1982 to obtain all the files pertaining to the Hastings-Napier trial from Department of Health files (1951-1973) now held in National Archives, Wellington. This letter from Leslie was found in those files and was reprinted in the paper by Colquhoun and Wilson (1990).

Here is the letter again:

                                                                                  12, October 1962

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 

According to Colquhoun and Wilson (1990) what was concerning Leslie in 1962 (which was 8 years into the 10-year Hastings trial) was that the Hastings tooth decay statistics showed little difference between those exposed to fluoridation in Hastings and the rest of unfluoridated New Zealand. In other words, fluoridation wasn’t working.

Miraculously, two years after this letter was written, the Fluoridation Trial report showed that the Hastings trial was a great success!

In conclusion, I can find no evidence of a published rebuttal of the conclusion that this Hastings trial amounted to fraud. Certainly Colquhoun’s co-author Professor Robert Mann is not aware of one and I have checked with him.

PART C: Elaboration of some key issues so far not satisfactorily resolved

 C.1) The difference between concentration and dose

In our exchanges Ken has never commented on the key difference between concentration (mg/liter) and dose (mg/day). This question is important because leading proponents, organizations and agencies that promote or defend fluoridation often blur this key distinction in a self-serving manner.

For example, the American Dental Association (ADA) denied the relevance of the National Research Council’s groundbreaking review on the toxicology of fluoride in drinking water (NRC, 2006), to water fluoridation – on the day it was published – because they argued that the NRC panel only found harm in the range of 2 – 4 ppm and in the U.S. we fluoridate in the range of 0.7 – 1.2 ppm. The Oral Health Division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) made similar claims six days later as did the Australian Government’s NHMRC Report in 2007.

One of several things wrong with this argument by the ADA, CDC and NHMRC is that above-average water drinkers in communities with 0.7 – 1.2 ppm could easily get higher doses than some of the below-average water drinkers in the communities at 2 ppm and even 4 ppm. In short, the concentrations may be different but the doses overlap – and it is the dose that can cause harm.

Fluoridation proponents continue to make the same claims today when they argue that we can ignore the studies that have found a lowering of IQ associated with fluoride exposure (Choi et al, 2012) because they were carried out at higher concentrations than the levels we use in water fluoridation programs.  The weaknesses of such arguments will become clear in my margin of safety analysis based on 5 of the studies in the Choi review below.

C.2) The need for a “weight of evidence” analysis – especially on fluoride’s impact on the brain.

 In toxicology we seldom have a definitive study about the risks or safety of a particular substance sufficient to resolve a dispute to everyone’s satisfaction, especially to the satisfaction of those with special interests. That is why some bodies favor the application of the Precautionary Principl, (Tickner and Coffin, 2006) into which we go into in some detail in chapter 21 of The Case Against Fluoride… .

Less controversially many regulatory agencies settle for a “weight of evidence” analysis where they carefully balance all the studies – including both human and animal, as well as epidemiological, clinical, and biochemical – before they conclude one way or the other whether a particular chemical is going to cause harm to any specific population.

I have provided a list of studies on the brain from which the “weight of evidence” suggests that fluoride is a neurotoxin and could well be lowering the IQ of children.  Ken has yet to produce any studies that would outweigh this conclusion. Here is that list again:

In over 100 animal studies that we have examined, at least 40  show that prolonged exposure to fluoride can damage the brain

 At least 19 animal studies report that mice or rats ingesting fluoride have an impaired capacity to learn and remember

 At least 12 studies (7 human, 5 animal) link fluoride with neurobehavioral deficits

 3 human studies link fluoride exposure with impaired fetal brain development, and we are not aware of any that don’t

 37 out of 43 published studies show that fluoride lowers IQ, of which 27 were part of a meta-analysis conducted by a team from Harvard (Choi et al. 2012)

The full citations to all these studies can be accessed at www.fluoridealert.org/issues/health/brain

With respect to the lowering of IQ several of the studies are strengthened by the fact that the lowering of IQ was inversely related to urine fluoride levels (Xiang et al., 2003 and Ding et al, 2011). In addition, Xiang et al (2011) showed that the lowering of IQ was inversely related to plasma fluoride levels. In other words the lowering of IQ can be related to individual exposure to fluoride.

The NRC (2006) report had a whole chapter on this matter and so do we, in The Case Against Fluoride…,  but the proponents of fluoridation have done their level best to ignore, downplay or distract attention from this landmark NRC review as well as the updated discussion in our book, and most recently the systematic review by Choi et al (2012).

As far as the IQ studies are concerned, at the time the NRC (2006) reviewed the matter there were only five IQ papers available to them. Even so, the NRC panel – while pointing out some weaknesses in these studies – commented on the consistency of the results and recommended more research. But none has been published in the U.S. or any other fluoridated country in the 7 years plus since the NRC recommendation was made.

Thanks to translations made available by the Fluoride Action Network of studies previously published in China, and several new studies from Mexico, Iran and India, there are now 43 IQ studies available. 37 of these indicate a statistically significant lowering of IQ associated with fluoride exposure. The Harvard team reviewed 27 of these studies (Choi et al, 2012) and found a lowering of IQ in 26 studies, with an average lowering of about 7 IQ points.

Ken is rightfully concerned about the well-being of children from low-income families, but is he willing to put the questionable benefit from fluoridation above the possibility of harm to their neurological and mental development? Especially when other countries have achieved success with alternative approaches. Why force whole populations –especially low-income families who cannot afford avoidance measures – to take such risks?

C.3) The need for a “Margin of Safety” Analysis when harm has been found at a certain level

This analysis is critical when you are considering rejecting the relevance of a study based on the dose levels used, or concentrations in the case of fluoridation proponents.

It is important to remember that in any large population we can anticipate a very large range of sensitivity to any toxic substance. Like most other human traits such sensitivity follows a normal distribution curve (the famous bell-shaped curve). Most people cluster around the average  – the bulge of the bell – and will have an average response but at the tails of this curve – the lips of the bell – we will have people who are very sensitive at one end and very resistant at the other. Typically toxicologists assume some people are going to be at least 10 times more sensitive than the average person. This is used to generate a default safety factor of 10 (sometimes referred to as the “intra-species variation” safety factor). This default value is only dropped to a smaller value than 10 if the population in the study group is very large.

Thus if we find harm in a small human study and wish to determine the level that would protect everyone in a large population from that harm this is what we do. We take the dose (mg/day), which has been found to cause no harm (the so-called no observable adverse effect level or NOAEL) and divide that dose by 10 to give a safe dose for the most sensitive individual in the population. Frequently we don’t have a NOAEL and so we have to use a LOAEL (the lowest observable adverse effect level) and divide that by 100. Sometimes this process is corrupted and it is the LOAEL not the NOAEL that is divided by 10. The method used by Xiang (2003 a) is a variant on this method, but it usually arrives at similar end points.  It uses all the data in a study to find the dose-response curve, not just the NOAEL and LOAEL.

Applying these calculations in a real world situation is called a Margin of Safety Analysis and shockingly it is very seldom considered by people who promote fluoridation. They simply use the very crude and highly misleading approach of comparing the concentration used in the study group with the concentration of the fluoride in the water of the fluoridated population, as discussed above in C.1.

C.4 A margin of safety analysis for lowered IQ

Ken has reasonably questioned how Xiang determined the threshold value that I used in the Margin of Safety analysis in a previous posting. In rechecking Xiang’s explanation I find it is rather complicated, even though he appears to have used a methodology advocated by the US EPA. I have no problem with Ken raising this question but I do have a problem with the way he has used this one detail as a way of avoiding the main exercise.  That main exercise is how one goes about determining a safe dose for everyone in a large population when one has evidence that there is harm in a small study group.

I am going to repeat the margin of safety analysis for lowered IQ  without using Xiang’s threshold value of 1.9 ppm. Instead, I will start with the nine studies where IQ was lowered at a fluoride level less than 3 ppm.

Of these nine studies I have used five of the six where the result is  statistically significant . The sixth is a study by Lin et al (1991), which I have excluded because it is complicated by the iodine levels involved.  These five studies had levels where IQ was lowered in the high-fluoride village at 1.8; 2; 2.38; 2.5 and 2.9 ppm. See Table 1.

Connett-Table-1

 TABLE 1

 Here is a step-by-step explanation of my margin of safety analysis.

 Step a) As our starting point I choose the study that found a lowering of IQ at the lowest concentration. That was 1.8 ppm.

 Step b) Our next task is to estimate the reasonable dose range this represents for the children in the study group – which of course, will depend on how much water they drink and how much they get from other sources. We assume (correctly, we believe) that very few of these rural Chinese children use fluoridated toothpaste and that their daily dose comes largely from the water.

  • If they drank 2 liters of water per day at 1.8 mg/liter  (i.e. 1.8 ppm) their daily dose would be (2 L x 1.8 mg/L) = 3.6 mg/day.
  • If they drank 1 liter of water per day their daily dose would be 1.8 mg/day
  • If they drank 0.5 liters of water per day their daily dose would be approx 0.9 mg/day.

In other words a reasonable estimate of the range of the dose leading to a lowered IQ was approximately 0.9 – 3.6 mg/day.

Step c) Our third task is to determine a safe dose to protect all the infants and children from lowered IQ in a large population.

From this range the LOAEL is 0.9 mg/day. We do not have a NOAEL so we have to divide the LOAEL by 10. So the NOAEL = 0.09mg/day.

To protect every child (including the most vulnerable) we have to divide the NOAEL by a further factor of 10. This is being very conservative, but it is the standard procedure unless one has data from a large population study.

Thus we would not want any child in a large population ingesting more than 0.009 mg/day of fluoride to protect against lowered IQ (NOAEL divided by 10). This translates into 9 ml of water fluoridated at 1 ppm . Here is the calculation. 9 ml = 0.009 Liters.  0.009 L x 1 mg/L = 0.009 mg/day

Of course this is a rather crude measure because the subjects in this study were children, whose weight (and hence perhaps tolerance of fluoride) varies according to age and other factors. We shall refine this shortly in relation to infants.

Conclusion. Based upon the five statistically significant IQ studies that found a lowering of IQ at less than 3 ppm a responsible regulatory authority would not allow water fluoridation. Little wonder then that fluoridation promoters are doing everything they can to criticize these IQ studies.

Note: this is an analysis based on the data available. Of course there are things we don’t know which can affect the interpretation. For example we don’t know that post-natal fluoride consumption is the most important variable: it might be prenatal exposure.

C.5) Bottle-fed babies: a special case

Let me return to the issue that got me involved in this matter 17 years ago: the level of fluoride in mothers’ milk. I do not believe Ken has provided a convincing explanation as to why we should ignore this issue.

The level of fluoride in mothers’ milk is very low. For a woman in a non-fluoridated area it is about 0.004 ppm (NRC, 2006, p.40), although a range of values has been reported.

There are certain realities about the fluoride ion which make it incompatible for a lot of biochemistry – always given the important caveat of the concentration levels reached – and these are its ability to seek out positive centers like metal ions and hydrogen bonds – both critical for biochemical structure and function.

These fundamental attractions can easily explain fluoride’s known ability to inhibit enzymes, help to switch on G-proteins non-specifically, and possibly cause oxidative stress. These interactions are so fundamental that we should not be at all surprised if many ailments may be caused by fluoride. It was the American Medical Association (before fluoridation began) that used old-fashioned terminology when it stated that fluoride was a “general protoplasmic poison” in its warning not to rush into water fluoridation in a 1943 editorial in JAMA.

So let us briefly extend the margin of safety analysis to bottle-fed babies.

Here we have to take into account the extra problem of the baby’s small bodyweight.  To take bodyweight into account we use a different measure of exposure: i.e. dosage instead of dose.

Dose is measured in mg/day, dosage is measured in mg/kilogram bodyweight/day.

If we consider that the ‘safe’ dose we have determined (0.009 mg/day) and apply that to 20 kg child, then we would say the safe dosage was 0.00045 mg/kg/day (0.009 mg/day divided by 20 kg). Then the safe dose for a 7 kg baby would be 0.00315 mg/day. (7 kg x 0.00045 mg/kg/day = 0.00315 mg/day).

A breast fed baby (with mothers milk at 0.004 ppm) drinking 800 ml a day would get 0.004 mg/L x 0.8 L = 0.0032 mg/day which is very close to the level we have determined is safe. So based on these calculations, the fluoride that naturally occurs in breast milk does not pose a risk of lowering the IQ in babies.

A bottle-fed baby (with water at 0.7 ppm) drinking 800 ml a day would get 0.7 mg/L x 0.8 Liters = 0.56 mg/day. This is 0.56/0.00315 = approx 180 times higher than the safe level to protect against lower IQ.

A bottle-fed baby (with water at 1.2 ppm) drinking 800 ml a day would get 1.2 mg/L x 0.8 Liters = 0.96 mg/day. This is 0.96/0.00315 = approx 300 times higher than the safe level to protect against lower IQ.

So whether by accident or by evolutionary “design” mothers’ milk is protective against lowered IQ but formula made up with fluoridated water (0.7-1.2 ppm) is not. The latter delivers a daily dose of fluoride, that is a factor of 180-300 times too high for a 7 kg baby.

C.6) Osteosarcoma: politics versus science

This is another issue to which Ken has not responded. It also one of the 10 “Ugly Facts,” which I feel should have ended the fluoridation experiment. This ugly fact occurred in 2001 when Elise Bassin, a dentist completing her doctoral thesis at the Harvard Dental School, found in a carefully conducted matched case-control study, that young boys exposed to fluoridated water (at 1 ppm) in their 6th to 8th years had an associated 5-7 fold increased risk of succumbing to osteosarcoma. Osteosarcoma is a rare but frequently fatal bone cancer.

Her study was first hidden (politics) from the public and scientific community, but was eventually published in 2006. Despite published promises from her thesis adviser that his larger study would refute her finding (politics), his study when it was finally published in 2011 entirely failed to do so (Kim et al., 2011).

So what we have here is an unrefuted study that indicates that a few young boys may be losing their lives by drinking fluoridated water.  I am really amazed that promoters of fluoridation can take this issue so lightly. The small number involved should not justify turning a blind eye to this. As John Colquhoun asked in my videotaped interview with him in 1997 how much tooth decay saved would be an adequate exchange for “one death of a teenage boy from osteosarcomahttp://fluoridealert.org/fan-tv/colquhoun/

I am also disturbed that the Pew Charitable Trusts (a multibillion dollar foundation that is actively campaigning in support of fluoridation) would mischievously claim that the Kim et al (2011) study has put the matter to rest when it clearly has not.

The issue of fluoride and osteosarcoma has a long and fascinating history. There is a lot of politics involved, which is not surprising because if this connection was proven it would spell the end of fluoridation. We go into this sixty year history in some detail in Chapter 18 of our book, The Case Against Fluoride…  A timeline can be found on the FAN website at http://fluoridealert.org/studies/cancer05/ where full citations of the references can be found. Space forbids including it all here so we will jump to 2001.

2001. Even though Bassin’s thesis advisor Professor Chester Douglass had signed off on her thesis, in the three years that elapsed after her research was successfully defended he did not inform his peers, the NRC panel or his funders of this dramatic finding (politics). Instead he kept insisting when asked that his “own” study found no relation between osteosarcoma and fluoridation, without indicating that his own graduate student had found the opposite to be the case (and with better methodology).

Douglass knew of course that if this connection between fluoridation and osteosarcoma was established it would end fluoridation, and stated as much in a paper he had co-authored ten years earlier (McGuire et al.,1991).

2005. Eventually Bassin’s doctoral thesis was found in one of the Harvard libraries in 2005.  The Environmental Working Group charged Douglass with academic misconduct for hiding this finding and asked the NIH (which had funded the study) to investigate.  The investigation was handed over to Harvard. A committee appointed by the Harvard Dental and Medical Schools investigated the matter and in a short 4-paragraph statement exonerated Douglass, finding that he did not “deliberately” hide these findings. Harvard refused repeated requests for them to provide the basis for this decision.

2006. Bassin’s findings were finally published in the journal Cancer Causes and Control (Bassin et al., 2006). In the same issue of the journal a letter was published from Douglass that stated that his larger study would show that Bassin’s thesis did not hold (Douglass and Joshipura, 2006). Douglass told the NRC panel that this larger study would be available in the Summer, 2006. But it did not appear for five years.

Meanwhile, Douglass’ promise of a study in a letter was used by the NHMRC (2007); Health Canada (2011) and health authorities in the UK as if it was an actual peer-reviewed and published study (more politics).

2011. Eventually the Douglass paper was published in 2011, but oddly enough not in a cancer journal but in a dental journal, although it had nothing to do with teeth (Kim et al., 2011). The study has many weaknesses, but the key fact is that it did not refute Bassin’s findings. Nor could it possibly do so. Because the biometric of exposure was the accumulated fluoride levels in the bones. As the authors themselves admitted, there is no way such levels could be used to determine the exposure to fluoride during the critical age window of vulnerability found by Bassin (the 6th to 8th years).

Conclusion: a well-researched study found a possible relationship between exposure to fluoridated water – at a specific age range in young boys – and a rare but frequently fatal bone cancer. Despite promises to the contrary, which were greedily gobbled up and repeated ad nauseam by promoters and supporters of fluoridation, this study has never been refuted.

It may be that fluoridation is killing a few – not many – young boys each year from this cancer. This is not fearmongering on my part. It is the current state of affairs as far as legitimate scientific research is concerned.

As with the lowering of IQ we are talking about serious albeit unproven risks here. When even prominent promoters of fluoridation have acknowledged that the predominant benefit of fluoride is topical and not systemic (CDC, 1999 and 2001), it remains puzzling – at least from a scientific point of view – why promoters are willing to take these risks.  Especially, when it is clear that tooth decay is being reduced in the vast majority of countries that fluoridate neither their water, nor their salt, nor their milk.

There are alternatives, including education on dental hygiene, education for better diets (especially pregnant women and young children) and targeted topical treatments for the most vulnerable populations as currently being practiced in Scotland.

Part D

 Here I address some of the issues presented in Ken’s Final Posting Ken Perrott’s closing response to Paul Connett? December 30, 2013  not covered in Parts A-C.

 Ken’s comments are in bold and blue.

D.1) Correcting some misrepresentations 

This is Ken’s title for a super-gish-gallop of complaints and accusations, some trivial, some contentious, some correct and a few that raise important issues. Some deserve or require response. It seems rather a pity to end the exchange, which in some ways has been interesting and informative on such a ding-dong and largely negative note. I shall try to conclude with something a bit more positive.

D.2)…I would be perfectly happy to see New Zealand switch to fluoridated salt.

Certainly fluoridated salt would be an improvement over fluoridated water because it would give citizens a choice on whether they wanted to increase their ingestion of fluoride or not

D.3) “Maybe the most empathetic solution is that society as a whole compensate this small number of people [who have increased sensitivity to fluoride, PC] in some way to aid them with their predicament.”

I am sure that those with this predicament are grateful for Ken’s empathy but probably believe, like I do, that the chances of the NZ government compensating them for a condition it does not recognize and is not willing to study is next to nil. So perhaps he might agree that  a better way to relieve their symptoms would be simply to stop fluoridating the water.

D.4) Paul criticises public funding of an information service in New Zealand set up specifically to facilitate a “weighted evidence approach” towards fluoridation research.

My concern here is the use of taxpayer money (about 1 million dollars) to support the promotion of fluoridation rather than presenting a balanced view of the evidence. Yes, I was confused by the similar names; my mistake.

The citizens of NZ have reason to be grateful that a counterbalancing site has been set up. Its mission statement is worth reading because it clarifies why it came into being and how the organizers perceive their role:

“The New Zealand Fluoridation Information Service has evolved from frustration that useful, factual information about fluoridation has become almost impossible for the public and even professionals to sort out. NZFIS’ main goal is to facilitate full public and scientific examination of this public policy, which has become obscured by biased or inept media treatment (or lack thereof), by political rhetoric, and because of the obfuscation surrounding important information.

Probably the best that independent people can do, who are interested in this controversial issue, is to read the material on both sites and make their own judgment.

D.5) Paul is still confused about the graphic I introduced early in this exchange showing data for fluoridated and unfluoridated areas of the Irish Republic.

My apologies. I should have checked back.

D.6) He (Paul) has already lost that argument (about fluoridation cessation studies not leading to increased tooth decay) and he is desperately clutching at his remaining straws…

I have acknowledged that Ken had raised some valid arguments pertaining to the effects of ending water fluoridation but he takes this a little too far. Here is the background: proponents have argued that ending fluoridation would be a disaster as far as tooth decay was concerned. We have cited four modern studies that indicate that tooth decay did not increase when fluoridation was halted in Cuba, former East Germany, Finland and British Columbia, Canada.

Ken responded that in two of these studies other measures were taken which might have explained why tooth decay did not increase. I in turn argued that if this was the case it shows that there are alternatives to fluoridation that work, removing the need to force this practice on people who don’t want it.

In checking one of the other studies from British Columbia (Maupomé et al, 2001 and Clark et al, 2006) I came across a study commissioned by the City of Toronto Public Health Board. This study examined the very issue of what would happen if fluoridation was ceased in Toronto (Azarpazhooh, 2006) and in the process carefully examined all the cessation studies available at that time. I think you can gauge from the fact that this pro-fluoridation board would not publicly release this report, that the results were not favorable to a pro-fluoridation position. After a great deal of effort the group Canadians Opposed to Fluoridation finally obtained this report and it can be accessed from their site.

http://cof-cof.ca/2006/08/azarpazhooh-oral-health-consequences-of-the-cessation-of-water-fluoridation-in-toronto-msc-thesis-report-faculty-of-dentistry-university-of-toronto-city-of-toronto-public-health-2006/

D.7) He (Paul) again avoids the importance of including social good in ethical considerations of social health policies like fluoridation.

 I have no problem with entertaining the idea that a social good may over-ride individual preference (e.g. seat belts are a good example, and so is smoking in public). But I do not think that this notion applies in the case of water fluoridation. For those like Ken who believe it does, there are three hurdles in my view that they have to cross.

If they wish to force a practice on the whole population, against the express wishes of many, they at least need to demonstrate three things:

a) They must be sure that the good they are attempting to achieve is substantial and has been demonstrated with near certainty. We agree that no RCTs have been done to establish certainty and I think we may agree that the effect found in less rigorous studies has not, since the advent of fluoridated toothpaste, been all that impressive in absolute terms.

b) They must be sure that the good they are trying to achieve outweighs any harm that it may cause. In this case we have the undisputed increase in dental fluorosis, which can cause psychological harm when it reaches the moderate and severe levels, as well as being very costly to treat. In addition we have several distinct risks, which – largely due to a lack of will to seek evidence to corroborate or disprove them – should be seriously considered. These include impairment of brain development and IQ; long tem bone damage including some forms of arthritis; small increases in cancer deaths due to fluoride itself or arsenic contamination of the fluoridating chemicals; and (cf D3 above) production of sensitivity reactions in some individuals.

c) They can demonstrate that there are no other cost-effective approaches that can achieve the same aims (primarily the reduction of tooth decay among low-income families).  This is hard to demonstrate because many countries have achieved the same reduction in tooth decay without fluoridation. And I have also cited the targeted Scottish program, which appears cost-effective and has achieved remarkable results with the children of low-income families using fluoride only for topical application.

I think it is fair to say that none of the three hurdles has been cleared or even seriously attempted during this debate.

D.8) Paul’s emotional (or political) obsession with individual choice often comes though in the most unlikely places. Why should he use the term “forced fluoridation” in a polite scientific exchange?…. There is always a choice for those prepared to make the effort to satisfy their convictions.

Ken objects to the “impolite” word “forced” in connection with water fluoridation. Okay, someone like me, or like him I guess, living in a fluoridated community can install a reverse osmosis filter (expensive), avoid eating out or visiting friends (restrictive) and refrain from eating prepared foods (hmm). But let’s see what “forced” means to low-income families who are supposedly the main beneficiaries of the program. They can’t necessarily afford bottled water for drinking and cooking, and they can’t afford reverse osmosis units. They are trapped by this program. If these families do not share Ken’s belief that this program is doing them good, and may even be causing them harm, there is little they can do.

If these same families cannot afford bottled-water to make up baby formula, then they may be forced to give their babies about 200 times more fluoride than nature provides.  In this situation they are worse off than children from middle-income and higher-income families because fluoride’s toxic effects strike hardest on those with poor nutrition, low calcium, low protein, low vitamins and low or borderline iodine.

Let me introduce an idea about fairness into this discussion: the idea of “disproportionate imposition.” Clearly if you remove fluoride from the community’s water supply or add it, you are going to make some people happy and others unhappy. But let’s look at the “disproportionate imposition” involved here. For those who don’t want it – and it is added – they have to go at the least to the expense and inconvenience that I have discussed above . At the worst, they may be unable to avoid it at all.        In contrast, those who do want it – and it is removed from the public water supply – merely have to content themselves with fluoridated toothpaste, which they are probably using already – if they insist on ingesting fluoride they can drink fluoridated bottle-water or take sodium fluoride tablets.

I think the imposition to both sets of people is dramatically different. Thus at the very least – and on top of all the other arguments – this practice is unfair because of this disproportionate imposition factor. The idea that fluoridation is a social good is quite fallacious.

D.8) I am surprised Paul has taken the approach of blaming practically every illness or change on fluoride. 

I do not do this and we didn’t do it in our book. But it is a standard technique used by proponents of fluoridation. They ridicule the position of the opponents of fluoridation by claiming that we assert that every disease known to man is caused by fluoride. They sometimes include nymphomania, which is an invention entirely of their own making, to add to the ridicule.

Certainly there are some specific health concerns, most of which have been discussed at some length in this exchange. Those concerns deserve to be taken seriously because there are scientific reasons for postulating that fluoride may be involved in some way and to some extent in their pathogenesis. The case for investigating them is much enhanced by the fact that millions of people are having their total fluoride exposure increased by fluoridation.  Ken goes on to list these concerns, though he doesn’t really need to at this stage, but then he just dismisses them as a mere tactic of non-scientific activists!  Later he drags obesity into the discussion and his argument, if there is one, then becomes unintelligible to me. But let’s just look at the first on his list: arthritis.

Arthritis is of concern because the first symptoms of fluoride’s poisoning of the bone in endemic fluorosis areas are symptoms just like arthritis. We have argued that with arthritis reaching epidemic proportions in several fluoridated countries it would be a responsible thing for health agencies there to investigate whether there is any relationship between long-term exposure to fluoridated water and increased arthritis risk. It is not an unreasonable hypothesis. It is testable and one can reasonably argue that it should be tested. No fluoridated country has done so. I don’t think anyone is naïve enough to claim that all arthritis is associated with fluoride. Certainly I would never advocate anything so silly.

D.9) Paul insists on using the authority fallacy – out of context quotations from authoritative figures.

An example in his last article was that by David Locker. Perhaps he is not aware he is doing this – it seems to be an instinctive reaction for anti-fluoridation activists. He should appreciate that the world is never as simple as implied by such quotes. I see his resort to such fallacies as a weakness, not a strength.

I often quote the late David Locker. It is interesting that he, who has been pro-fluoridation reached a similar conclusion to my own, namely that today there seems to be not much of a significant benefit that can be associated with fluoridation (e.g. Brunelle and Carlos, 1990) or ingesting fluoride (e.g Warren et al., 2009).

For those who would like to see more of David Locker’s views on this subject I would encourage them to view a TV program featuring a three-way debate/discussion featuring David, myself and a representative of the Canadian Dental Association. The program (22 minutes in length) is a little rushed but still shows that you can have a civilized discussion on this with people who fundamentally disagree. http://fluoridealert.org/fan-tv/water-fluoridation-medical-hot-seat-debate/

I think David by occupying a middle position was key to the success of this program. Sadly he has since passed away at far too young an age.

It is ironic that Ken should complain about “anti-fluoridation activists” quoting authoritative figures because that strategy has been absolutely central to the promotion of fluoridation since the 1950s. They have used an endless list of endorsements from professional bodies, surgeon generals, Benjamin Spock, US Presidents  – you name it.  All this as a substitute for actual science!

D.10) Nature of Fluoride Action Network

If Ken wants to play pro-fluoridation activist rather than scientist, that’s fine by me.

He may convince himself and the rest of the world that FAN is a terrible organization, but that does not affect the scientific cases for and against fluoridation, which is what this debate is supposed to be about.

However I do urge readers, rather than taking Ken’s views of FAN at face value, to go to our homepage at (www.FluorideAlert.org) click on “researchers” top right, explore from there and draw their own conclusions.

PART E.  Summary: The Key Arguments Against Fluoridation

Based upon all the above I believe that my key arguments against fluoridation remain largely untouched. Here they are again.

E.1) Fluoride is not an essential nutrient. There is no need to swallow it or put it in the drinking water.

E.2) It is bad medical practice – you cannot control the dose or who gets the fluoride. It goes to everyone, for a lifetime with no individual monitoring for side effects or the accumulated dose in the bones.

E.3) It is an unethical practice – you are forcing fluoridation on people who don’t necessarily want it.

E.4) It is a reckless practice. It is reckless for several reasons but particularly because it involves giving bottle-fed babies about 200 times more fluoride than breast-fed babies.

E.5) The evidence that swallowing fluoride reduces tooth decaysignificantly in today’s conditions is weak. Ken failed to address the many epidemiological studies that I cited (and we discussed in our book in chapters 6-8), most of which were conducted by pro-fluoridation scientists or pro-fluoridation agencies, that suggested that very little absolute benefit comes from swallowing fluoride.  I singled out two studies. These were the studies by Brunelle and Carlos (1990) and Warren et al. (2009).

Both these studies were funded by the US taxpayer and both were conducted by pro-fluoridation researchers. So if there were any bias involved it would not have been in favor of the anti-fluoridation position. One study was very large and the other was small but very precise in its scope and nature.

Brunelle and Carlos (1990). This was the largest survey of tooth decay ever undertaken in the U.S. The teeth of 39,000 children from 84 communities were examined. The authors compared the Decayed Missing and Filled Surfaces (DMFS) for children who had always lived in a fluoridated community with children who had never lived in a fluoridated community. The average difference in tooth decay of the permanent teeth was 0.6 of one tooth surface and even this small saving was not shown to be statistically significant.

Warren et al., (2009). This study was part of the U.S. government funded “Iowa Study” where children’s tooth decay has been tracked from birth. The authors were attempting to find the so-called “optimal dose” needed by a child to reduce tooth decay. But they couldn’t find that dose. In fact, they could not find a clear relationship between tooth decay and the amount of fluoride ingested on a daily base. The authors concluded that, “These findings suggest that achieving a caries-free status may have relatively little to do with fluoride intake…”

E.6) Those countries in Europe that have opted not to fluoridate their water or their salt show little evidence that this decision has ruined their children’s teeth.

Ken argues that even though they don’t have fluoridated water, many use fluoridated salt and milk.  In actuality, the majority of European countries fluoridate neither their water nor their salt. The only country that still has even a small amount of fluoridated milk in a few schools is the UK. Bulgaria and a few other former-communist countries experimented with fluoridated milk, but it has never been given to more than a miniscule percentage of European kids.  Furthermore, with both fluoridated salt and fluoridated milk you are offering the individual a choice in the matter.

These countries have found alternative ways of fighting tooth decay, which do not involve forcing people to swallow fluoride who don’t want to. Those alternatives include early education for better dental hygiene, better diets, reduced sugar consumption, and targeted preventive measures (including topical treatments) for children from low-income families.

E.7) The admission by leading promoters of fluoridation like the CDC (1999, 2001) that the predominant action of fluoride is topical not systemic probably explains the findings in both E.5) and E.6) above.

E.8) There is a growing amount of evidence emerging that documents health effects at levels which offer no adequate margin of safety to protect everyone drinking fluoridated water, including the potential to lower IQ.

In the case study margin of safety analysis for lowered IQ (see C.4), I estimate that to protect every child drinking fluoridated water at 1 ppm, he or she should drink no more than 9 ml of water. The same analysis indicates that a breast fed baby is just about at the safe level to prevent lowered IQ, but a bottle fed baby will be getting 180 – 300 times above the safe level if its formula is made up with water at 0.7 and 1.2 ppm respectively (see C.6).

E.9) There is an unrefuted study that young boys drinking fluoridated water in their 6th to 8th years have an associated 5-7 fold increase of succumbing to osteosarcoma by the age of 20. As this rare bone cancer is frequently fatal, it is a shocking but real possibility that several young boys may be killed by this practice each year.

E.10) Since the U.S. Public Health Service endorsed water fluoridation in 1950 very little serious scientific attention has been directed into investigating both short and long term health effects of ingesting fluoride. Inexplicably the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has never regulated fluoride for ingestion and its official classification of fluoride is an “unapproved drug.” The U.S. National Research Council review of 2006 reveals many important but unanswered questions about ingested fluoride. The NRC also concluded that certain subsets of the population are exceeding the EPA’s reference dose for fluoride (the IRIS level) drinking water at 1 ppm fluoride; this includes bottle-fed infants and people with poor kidney function. The NRC recommended that the EPA Office of Water perform a new risk assessment to determine a new and safer MCLG (maximum contaminant level goal) for fluoride in drinking water. After nearly 8 years this new risk assessment has not been done. If determined honestly a new MCLG would almost certainly force an end to water fluoridation. Politics not science is keeping this practice afloat in the U.S.

Overall Conclusion. It is time to end water fluoridation worldwide. The very small and questionable benefits do not justify the huge risks being taken. New Zealand would be a good place to start the process. If it did so it would not make the U.S. health agencies that have doggedly promoted this practice for over 60 years very happy. However, NZ has shown itself capable of bucking the tide on other international issues in which the U.S. has held a strong contrary position. It would be refreshing for at least one fluoridating country to admit that it has made a mistake with this policy and set out to return scientific integrity to the center of its public health policies.

I thank Ken for sharing this debating platform with me. Of course we have disagreed on many things, which one would expect in any debate –but hopefully readers of all persuasions will have found enough to engage their interest.

References

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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.

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