Tag Archives: Referendum

Another anti-fluoridation whopper

We are all used to political activists fiddling statistics – but this has gone too far. Local anti-fluoride activists are so narcissistic they are now presenting their own clamouring as representing public opinion – even putting figures to it.

I find this really offensive. As a Hamiltonian, I objected to the undemocratic put our council took in stopping fluoridation in 2013. The attitude of voters was clear from a previous referendum which showed overwhelming support fo this safe and effective social health measure.Protests led to another referendum in October 21013 and again overwhelming support for community water fluoridation (CWF). A clear result and several months later the council reversed its stance –  we now have community water fluoridation again.

Yet anti-fluoride activists argued to reject the referendum result – so what is all the talk now about Patea and Waverly? Are they now objecting to a council which rejected the views of its electors?

Not at all. No referenda were held in Patea or Waverly. As far as I can tell there were no household surveys either. Simply the normal consultation process involving submissions. So where does Fluoride Free NZ (FFNZ) get its figures for the views of residents for the above poster? Are 85% of Patea and 75% of Waverly really opposed to CWF?

Again, no. Those figures represent the proportion of submissions presented to the council arguing against CWF. In fact, half of those submissions came from out of town – somewhere else in New Zealand or overseas. (Paul Connett, from the USA, and other members of his political activist group, the Fluoride Action Network, are regular submitters to New Zealand councils). This is typical of the way that these activists submerge councils with “submissions” when CWF is considered. Many submissions are simply copies or form letters.

By the same logic, FFNZ could argue that 75% of Hamiltonians were against fluoridation (because the overwhelming proportion of submissions to the council were). Despite the clear referenda results showing the opposite. In fact, FFNZ does list the submission number in the case of Hamilton as one of their referenda results!

Now we expect FFN to argue that over 90% of New Zealanders oppose fluoridation because that was the proprtion of anti-fluoride “submissions” to the recent selct committee hearings on the current fluoridation bill!

As they say – pull the other leg.

Wait – there is more!

But FFNZ goes even further over the top in their facebook presentation of this poster. They claim:

 

“In 2012 the South Taranaki District Council asked residents of Patea and Waverley if they would like fluoridation chemicals added to their water supply. The resounding answer was “NO”. However, Council went ahead and voted for it anyway. Because of the blatant disregard for the community’s wishes, New Health New Zealand took STDC to court. STDC have now spent $320,000 fighting this when they could have just backed off from fluoridation. This issue is going to go to Supreme Court some time in the future.
You have to wonder who these people are working for don’t you.”

So somehow the South Taranaki District High Council is to blame for the expenses involved in defending itself against court action – action taken by a lobby group of the New Zealand “natural”/alternative health industry. A big business worth billions that is pumping something like $100,000 a year into court actions agaisnt fluoridation. See Who is funding anti-fluoridation High Court action?Big business funding of anti-science propaganda on health and Anti-fluoridationists go to Supreme Court – who is paying for this?

How ridiculous – even for these political activists.

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Fluoridation: Whakatane District Council makes the Hamilton mistake

Whakatane-DC-logo

Here we go again.

The Whakatane District Council has ignored the results of their own referendum and decided to stop community water fluoridation (CWF). (see Council votes to stop fluoridationand Whakatane mayor stands by fluoride decision).  This mirrors almost exactly the behaviour of the Hamilton City Council three years ago.

But are the Whakatane councillors (or, at least, the 6 who voted to stop CWF) so short of memory that they did not learn from the Hamilton experience? There the decision resulted in protests and petitions, eventually forcing the council to hold yet another referendum at the end of 2013. That showed, once again, clear support (about 70%) for CWF and the council later reversed their decision.

A thoroughly bad experience for that council and a humiliating one for the city. We had the picture of council politicians pretending to know better than the health and scientific experts and attempting to impose their own ideologically motivated position on the voters. It got so silly the council even issued their own leaflet providing oral health advice – advice which was out of step with that issued by health authorities!

Councils ignore voters wishes at their own peril. The Whakatane District Council anti-fluoridationist Mayor, Tony Bonne, justified his move by referring to the low voter turnout in the referendum. Are we to take it that if he loses the next election he will ignore that result and refuse to step down because of the low voter turnout?

Referendum results

The 2013 referendum in the Whakatane District showed that 60.5 per cent of those who voted were in favour of fluoridation, with 39.5 per cent against. However, in the only areas currently fluoridated – Whakatane City and Ohope – support for CWF was even greater – 65.8 per cent and 70.5 per cent respectively. The council is surely silly to ignore that vote without a good reason.

“We listened to the experts.”

Mayor Bonne declared “we listened to the experts” before making the decision. But who the hell were these experts?:

Supporting CWF –  Dr Neil de Wet of Toi Te Ora Public Health and local dental practitioner John Twaddle. OK, these people seem to have some qualifications to be described as “expert.”

Opposing CWF – Mary Byrne and Jon Burness of Fluoride-Free New Zealand. What expertise do these people have? – why should their word be accepted?

Well, they are both activists, belonging to the local activist group which is a chapter of the US Fluoride Action Network. That body is financed by the “natural”/alternative health industry – particularly by the Mercola on-line business.  (Local anti-fluoride actions, such as those in the High Court, have similarly been financed by the NZ health Trust – the lobby group for the local “natural”/alternative health industry. See Who is funding anti-fluoridation High Court action? and Corporate backers of anti-fluoride movement lose in NZ High Court).

Mary has no expertise I know of except her activism. Jon is an alternative health practitioner and business person. He specialises in kinesiology and is a member of the  Society of Natural Therapists and Researchers, NZ. As part of his business he runs the Whakatane Natural Health Centre.

Whakatane Natural Health Centre …… bringing together a comprehensive range of therapies for mind, body and soul. Kinesiology, Massage Therapy, Bowen Tech, Hypnotherapy, Lymphatic Drainage, Herb and Allergies, Acupuncture. – See more at:

OK, everyone has to make a living and I do not want to question the sincerity of either Mary or Jon.

But experts!! Tony Bonne is disingenuous to use that word. He should be representing his voters, not the alternative woo merchants, whatever his own personal ideological beliefs. It is a sad day when we elect councillors (or at least the six who voted for Bonne’s resolution) who cannot differentiate between acceptable scientific and health experts  on the one hand and ideologically driven activists and alternative “practitioners” using very questionable techniques on a gullible public on the other.

Councils not appropriate for fluoridation decisions

Mayor Bonne did, however, make sense with his statement that it should not be left to local bodies to make public health decisions and he would welcome stronger direction from central government. In that he actually agrees with Daniel Ryan, President of the Making sense of Fluoride group who said:

“There is just no excuse any more for John Key’s government to keep making councils juggle the expensive and diversionary hot potato. They want councils to focus on core business and be fiscally responsible – and they say they care about children’s health. With one simple measure on fluoridation they could have a really meaningful impact on all of that.”

The ball is in the government’s court on this issue – and has been for several years since local bodies formally asked central government and the Ministry of Health to take responsibility for decisions on CWF. There is really no excuse to leave this with councils whose decisions are so easily clouded by ideology and personal ambitions that they, or at least some of the council members, will happily ignore the advice of the real science and health experts and the wishes of their voters.

See also: Government considers fluoridation law change

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Onehunga and the “fluoride-free” myth

Onehunga Aquifer optimised

An aerial view of the Onehunga Water Treatment Plant

Recently I discussed the fluoridation issue with a self-diagnosed sufferer from fluoride sensitivity. He claimed to have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) brought on by fluoride in drinking water. His doctor didn’t believe him but he knew better – every time he left his hometown (which is unfluoridated) for fluoridated areas his IBS returned. He assured me that the water in his city is “fluoride-free.”

I checked the published data for his city and found the natural levels of fluoride in the tap water is 0.4 ppm – not too much less than the recommended 0.7 ppm where community water fluoridation is used. He didn’t respond to my comment passing on this information – maybe it brought on an attack of IBS as stress is one of the known factors causing this.

This issue came up again at a recent Auckland City Council meeting which considered a request for fluoridation of the Onehunga water supply. Unlike most of Auckland Onehunga’s water is pumped from the Onehunga springs and is not fluoridated. In fact, a referendum in 2001 voted against a proposal to fluoridate.

But what struck me is the argument presented by one councillor that some resident of Onehunga moved there because the water is “fluoride-free” and it would violate their rights if the water supply is now fluoridated. That seems a very poor argument as anyone with a hangup about fluoride can buy and use a cheap water filter – far cheaper than shifting house. But the claim that Onehunga’s water is “fluoride-free” motivated me to check out the published data for fluoride in the Onehunga water.

This graph summarises the data from reports covering the years 2010 – 2014 (a single report covered 2011-2012):
Onehunga

So, Onehunga water is not “fluoride-free.” The average concentration is about 0.2 ppm (not too unusual for ground-water sources in New Zealand) but the actual concentrations can vary a lot. Customers would have occasionally been drinking water with a concentration as high as 0.9 or 1.1 ppm F during that time period.

Surely this would occasionally send any fluoride sensitive person into a bout of IBS, skin rash, or one of the myriads of other symptoms propagandists against community water fluoridation claim. Or perhaps only if they had been told about the high concentrations (see Fluoride sensitivity – all in the mind?).

Fluorine is the 13th most common element in the earth’s crust so it is inevitable that our food and drink contain traces derived from natural sources. In the real world, there is no such thing as “fluoride-free.”


Note: I don’t know if such variation is common with underground freshwater sources. The Onehunga aquifer  derives from rainwater soaking through lava flows around One Tree Hill. It could well be prone influences from historical industrial or other sources in the locality. Apparently it has high nitrogen levels and may also be influenced by broken sewer pipes.

References:

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Elected officials must ignore activists and listen to own voters

Seel

Karen Williams Seel, a member of the county board of commissioners in Pinellas County, Fla.

A recent US blog article made some very pertinent points about the role of elected officials, such a local body councillors, on important social health issues like fluoridation.  These officials have a responsibilty to avoid pressure from misinfomred activists and must instead  listen to their constituents.

Karen Williams Seel, who wrote the article Fluoridation: Elected officials have a critical duty is a member of the county board of commissioners in Pinellas County, Fla., USA. Three years ago, the board voted 4-3 to stop fluoridating its water supply but reversed that decision in 2012 after voters defeated two incumbent commissioners who had voted against fluoridation. In both instances, Seel voted in favor of fluoridation.

She wrote:

“As Americans increasingly seek health information online, elected officials and other policymakers need to recognize that anti-fluoride activists have created a web-based panoply of false fears. For many fluoride critics, these online messages are the source of their concerns. This spring, for instance, a New York resident wrote a letter to his local newspaper, saying he “was surfing the Web and came across information on water fluoridation and the dangers that lie within this practice.”

And

“Public officials have a responsibility to listen to their constituents. We also have a duty to not allow false fear to drive public health decisions. We should direct our constituents to reputable websites like these sites. We shouldn’t let “guess what I read on the internet” be the reason that we abandon a proven, safe practice like water fluoridation.”

Rotorua District Councillors should take Seel’s points on board as they confront their own decisions about Rotorua’s fluoridation and how to consult citizens on it (see Council votes for referendum on fluoridation).

They should also beware of the”Tribunal” trap the Hamilton City Council fell into which effectively led to them being captured by politically and ideologically motivated anti-fluoridation activists, ignoring the information from scientific and health professionals, and ignoring the views of voters. A mistake which eventually led to pressure for another referendum and a reversal of the council’s faulty decision.

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Fluoridation returns to Hamilton City.

referendums-being-ignored

The Hamilton City Council voted this afternoon to recommence fluoridating the city’s water supply

The vote was overwhelming – 9 for, 1 against. The overwhelming support for fluoridation in last year’s referendum was decisive in the decision.

There is a threat to bring legal action against the council – the Deputy Mayor’s comment on this – “Bring it on – a legal decision will decide for the whole country.”

See also:

Fluoride to return to Hamilton’s water supply
Hamilton votes to restart fluoridation
Fluoride back for Hamilton – Council backs the community response

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Anti-fluoride activists attempt to silence science

Roger Stratford, a local aspiring politician, wants scientist to shut up. He is campaigning against the fluoridation of Hamilton’s water supply (we have a referendum coming up) and is a member of Fluoride Free Hamilton. He is also campaigning for a seat on the Hamilton City Council.

But Roger seems to have a King Canute-like (or is it Walter Mitty-like) perception of his own powers. The Waikato Times this morning reports he wrote to the University of Waikato’s Chemistry Department requesting that it’s staff stop communicating their science (see Anti-fluoride campaigner tries to silence science). He objects to:

“the degree of casual support emanating from the chemistry department in local papers in support of the practice [of fluoridating water] . . . At Fluoride Free Hamilton we intend to limit the debate to the social science and public health aspects of fluoridation. . . . It would be appreciated if we could receive some confirmation from the chemistry department that it will remain publicly neutral on the matter. . . . Fluoride Free Hamilton does not have any issues with the chemistry department academically, it is the implications of modern science in which we differ.”

What a cheek – Fluoride Free Hamilton and Roger Stratford want a deal! They will talk only about social science and the chemists can STFU. Well, we all know that most of the issues around fluoridation are scientific, and mostly chemical. And the anti-fluoridation activists are spreading misinformation about that chemistry as fast and as widely as they possibly can.

What was Roger thinking?

My first whiff of Roger’s stupidity came with a comment of his on the Fluoride Free Hamilton Facebook page:

Facebook-before-2I contacted him asking if he had in fact written to the Chemistry Department. He Assured me in his reply:

“In my experience as a student the chemistry department doesn’t negotiate on anything, it was just a throwaway line of mine to get that Archer fellow from blogging. There is no reason to be alarmed.”

Well, I guess that’s a political answer – an implied but not a factual denial. Mind you, very quickly the comments on the Fluoride Free Hamilton Facebook page changed – see if you can guess what was deleted:

Facebook-after-2

Well, I suppose that is politics. It is really a bit much to expect honesty and integrity from politicians, or from political activists like the Fluoride Free groups.

But I object very strongly to politicians, and political activists, who will do their earnest best to spread misinformation about science – and then tell scientists they have no right to comment on the issues.

See also:

Similar articles on fluoridation
Making sense of fluoride Facebook page
New Zealanders for fluoridation Facebook page

“Smacking not an offence”

I was interested to read the recent (July 10) NZ Police review relating to the operation of the 2007 amendment of the Crimes Act (see 4th review of police activity since enactment of the Crimes (substituted section 59) Amendment Act 2007). It really does show that this current referendum is a pointless farce. Some conclusions form the report:

1: “Smacking” in itself is not an offence. The report had to consider offence codes which weren’t “smacking” but most likely to include “smacking” type incidents.

2:The legislation has had “minimal impact on police activity.”

3: During the review period “police attended 279 child assault events, 39 involved ‘minor acts of physical discipline’ and 8 involved smacking.”

4: There has been a decrease in ‘smacking events’ and ‘minor acts of physical discipline.’

5: There has been an increase (36) of ‘other child assault’ events. (We should be concerned about these).

6: “No prosecutions were made for ‘smacking’ events during this period.”

No wonder polls indicate that most people think this referendum is a waste of time and money. Quite rightly, the government will ignore the result – except possibly making changes to the Citizens Initiated Referenda legislation to prevent future waste of money.

The whole area of normal child upbringing methods has always been an issue of contention and debate. It always will be. The state should not intervene or express an attitude unless children are being harmed, or are in danger of being harmed. Psychologically or physically.

Currently, this referendum seem to be supported mostly by those with a fundamentalist and/or conservative religious agenda.

Thanks to The Standard for the link to the report (see Section 59 and child abuse).

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