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Sunday, February 15, 2009

The need for repetition

Please excuse me if I am repeating myself or going over old ground in this post but sometimes an area of public policy reappears like the proverbial bad penny, that is so pernicious, illiberal and nonsensical that it warrants dredging up some old posts, shaking the dust off still perfectly valid arguments and throwing them full force in the direction of those propagating the nonsense I and many others have objected to and continue to oppose.

Thus were my feelings when I read this article in today's Observer that refers to a consultation to a a small water fluoridation scheme covering 200,000 people in Southampton and southwest Hampshire, which will help shape public attitudes to far bigger proposals countrywide.

The paper says that attempts to increase fluoridation stalled for more than a generation after local councils lost control over public health in 1974 and water supplies were privatised, but a law change at the end of 2003 allowed health authorities to order, rather than ask, water companies to add fluoride. So far about 5.5 million people, a ninth of the population in England, live in areas with added fluoride and another 500,000 with equivalent levels where the chemical occurs naturally. The Scottish government decided against letting local authorities decide on adding the chemical more than four years ago. The Isle of Man dropped the idea last summer.

As I wrote on 1 April 2005: We are all fond of instant solutions these days and often we will embrace a particular course of action because it seems painless, easy to achieve and most efficacious in every way. The reality is very different, because every action, particularly in the field of medicine, has a reaction.

In large enough doses fluoride is a poison. I read an article sometime ago that argued that fluoride affects the thyroid gland, causing teeth to grow more slowly. This therefore, also delays tooth decay. The author asserted that the real cause of cavities in teeth is the over-consumption of sugar in foods and drinks.

The average person consumes 150 pounds of sugar each year, that is the equivalent of approximately seventy five one kilogram bags or 33 tablespoons each day. Action to reduce the amount of sugar in processed food could have a dramatic effect on tooth decay without adding any unwanted substance to people's diet, but nobody seems to be advocating that.

The author of this article continued by asserting that fluroide suppresses the immune system and affects enzymes, disrupting many body functions. Fluoride poisoning can be seen through headaches, skin rashes, nausea, joint pains, mouth ulcers and allergic type reactions. In the long term it can lead to glaucoma, diabetes, kidney failure, arthritis, osteoporosis, cancer and heart attacks. Infant mortality is increased and I.Q. is impaired. He asserted that the old, the young and the ill are most at risk.

Adding fluoride to our water supply is an infringement of our civil liberties. I do not believe that it is the business of government to create a “nanny state”. I believe that people should be able to choose their own lifestyles and the form of medication they receive, not have it administered against their will through their taps.

This is not an anti-science argument. On 9 February last year Ben Goldacre in his Bad Science column of the Guardian effectively debunked the pseudo-scientific arguments used to defend mass-fluoridation:

General Jack D Ripper developed his theories about environmental poisoning and bodily fluids when he experienced a pervasive sense of emptiness during the physical act of love. He instantly identified the cause, as documented in Dr Strangelove: "Do you realise that in addition to fluoridating water, there are studies under way to fluoridate salt, flour, fruit juices, soup, sugar, milk, ice cream? Ice cream, Mandrake? Children's ice cream! You know when fluoridation began? 1946, Mandrake. How does that coincide with your post-war Commie conspiracy, huh?

"It's obvious, isn't it? A foreign substance is introduced into our precious bodily fluids without the knowledge of the individual, and certainly without any choice. That's the way your hard-core Commie works."

Bill Etherington MP calls fluoride "poison". Nazis supposedly used it to subdue people in concentration camps. According to a former Guardian alternative health columnist, fluoride is "in the same league as lead and arsenic".

The reality is that anyone making any confident statement on fluoride speaks way beyond the evidence. In 1999 the Department of Health commissioned the centre for reviews and dissemination at York University to do a systematic review of fluoridation and its effects on dental health. Little new work has been done since. In the review, 3,200 research papers, mostly of very poor quality, were unearthed. The ones that met the minimum quality threshold suggested there was vaguely, possibly, around a 15% increase in the number of children without dental caries in areas with fluoridated water, but the studies generally couldn't exclude other explanations for the variance. Of course, the big idea with fluoride in water is that it can reduce social inequalities in dental health since everyone drinks it. But there isn't much evidence on that either.

So when the British Dental Association says there is "overwhelming evidence" that adding fluoride to water helps fight tooth decay, it is in danger of stepping into line with Ripper. And when Johnson says fluoridation is an effective, relatively easy way to help address health inequalities, he is really just pushing an old-fashioned line which says complex social problems can be addressed with £50m worth of atoms.

Let us hope that those opposing this in Hampshire win. If they do not then we may find ourselves fighting the same fight in our own community.
Wow Peter - a really impressive post!

When you pen stuff like "I read an article sometime ago", it is extremely difficult to argue this kind of supreme intellect.

I bet the British Dental Association are quaking in their shoes right now.

Remind us all. You are a politician are you not?
If the article makes valid and well-argued points then it seems perfectly in order to quote from it.

I notice that you have not attempted to address the issues in the post so clearly your only interest is in negative sarcasm.
Fluoridation Opposition: Scientific, Respectable & Growing

New York -- February 2009 -- Over 2,100 professionals urge the US Congress to stop water fluoridation until Congressional hearings are conducted, citing scientific evidence that fluoridation, long promoted to fight tooth decay, is ineffective and has serious health risks. See statement: http://www.fluorideaction.org/statement.august.2007.html.

This election day, 53 US cities rejected fluoridation joining a growing list of communities saying "No," to fluoridation.

Since the professionals' statement was first issued (Aug 2007), the following occurred:

-- The Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, Canada’s leading voice on environmental health issues, released a statement opposing fluoridation.

-- The National Kidney Foundation dropped its fluoridation support replacing it with this caution: “Individuals with CKD [Chronic Kidney Disease] should be notified of the potential risk of fluoride exposure.” (1)

-- Researchers reporting in the Oct 6 2007 British Medical Journal indicate that fluoridation never was proven safe or effective and may be unethical. (2)

-- “A qualitative review of ...studies found a consistent and strong association between the exposure to fluoride and low IQ,” concluded Tang el al., in "Fluoride and Children’s Intelligence: A Meta-analysis” in Biological Trace Element Research (e-published 8/10/08)

-- Scientific American editors wrote in January 2008, "Some recent studies suggest that over-consumption of fluoride can raise the risks of disorders affecting teeth, bones, the brain and the thyroid gland"

-- Dr. A. K. Susheela, a leading fluoride expert, explains in a video why US physicians overlook fluoride as a possible cause of diseases commonly caused by fluoride. http://tinyurl.com/Susheela

-- An expert panel Health Canada commissioned to study the risks of fluoride exposure says the government should cut the recommended amount in drinking water, encourage the use of low-fluoride toothpaste by children and have makers of infant formula reduce levels in their products.

-- A study in the Fall 2008 Journal of Public Health Dentistry reveals that cavity-free teeth have little to do with fluoride intake. Researchers report, "The benefits of fluoride are mostly topical…while fluorosis is clearly more dependent on fluoride intake."

A Tennessee State legislator who is also an MD is urging all Tennessee Water Districts to stop fluoridation, reported a Tennessee newspaper on 11/29/08. At least 30 Tennessee water districts have already complied with his request.

On 1/5/09, the Burlington Board of Health recommended that Burlington cease fluoridation because fluoridation can harm some people.

On 1/6/09, a Canadian town, Drayton, stopped fluoridation, not to save money, but because it was in the best interests of residents, said the Mayor.

On 2/10/2009 Skagit County, WA officials reversed their 2007 fluorirdation decision

Signers to the FAN statement include:

-- Dr. Arvid Carlsson,winner of the 2000 Nobel Prize for Medicine

-- Vyvyan Howard, MD, PhD, President, International Society of Doctors for the Environment

-- Ken Cook and Richard Wiles, Environmental Working Group

-- Lois Gibbs, Center for Health, Environment, and Justice

-- Joseph Mercola, Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, who runs the #1 most visited natural health website

-- Theo Colborn, PhD, co-author, “Our Stolen Future”

-- Sam Epstein, MD, Chairman, Cancer Prevention Coalition

-- The current and six past Presidents of the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology

-- Board of Directors (2007), American Academy of Environmental Medicine

-- FIVE Goldman Prize winners - given for excellence in protecting the environment

-- Three members of the prestigious 2006 National Research Council (NRC) panel that reported on fluoride’s toxicology

-- Three officers in the Union representing professionals at EPA headquarters

-- Hundreds of medical, dental, academic, scientific and environmental professionals, worldwide.

Nobel Prize winner, Dr. Arvid Carlsson, says, “Fluoridation is against all principles of modern pharmacology. It's really obsolete.”

An Online Action Petition to Congress in support of the Professionals' Statement is available on FAN's web site, http://congress.fluorideaction.net and over 18,600 individuals have signed so far.

Fluoride jeopardizes health - even at low levels deliberately added to public water supplies, according to data presented in a 2006 National Academy of Sciences' (NAS) National Research Council (NRC) report. Fluoride poses risks to the thyroid gland, diabetics, kidney patients, high water drinkers and others and can severely damage children's teeth. (3) At least three panel members advise avoiding fluoridated water.

“The NRC fluoride report dramatically changed scientific understanding of fluoride's health risks," says Paul Connett, PhD, Executive Director, Fluoride Action Network. "Government officials who continue to promote fluoridation must testify under oath as to why they are ignoring the powerful evidence of harm in the NRC report,” he added.

The Professionals’ Statement also references:

-- The new American Dental Association policy recommending infant formula NOT be prepared with fluoridated water.

-- The CDC’s concession that the predominant benefit of fluoride is topical not systemic.

-- CDC data showing that dental fluorosis, caused by fluoride over-exposure, now impacts one third of American children.

-- Major research indicating little difference in decay rates between fluoridated and non-fluoridated communities.

-- A Harvard study indicating a possible link between fluoridation and bone cancer.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a DC watchdog, revealed that a Harvard professor concealed the fluoridation/bone cancer connection for three years. EWG President Ken Cook states, “It is time for the US to recognize that fluoridation has serious risks that far outweigh any minor benefits, and unlike many other environmental issues, it's as easy to end as turning off a valve at the water plant.”


(1) National Kidney Foundation, “Fluoride Intake in Chronic Kidney Disease,” April 15, 2008


(2) "Adding fluoride to water supplies," British Medical Journal, KK Cheng, Iain Chalmers, Trevor A. Sheldon, October 6, 2007

(3) National Research Council (2003-2006): Fluoride in Drinking Water: A Scientific Review of EPA's Standards

SOURCE: Fluoride Action Network http://www.FluorideAction.Net
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