Stop the Rotten Spin on Fluoride! How a city tries to propagandize a people about fluoride


(Photographs of dental fluorosis by Dr Hardy Limeback, Dr Iain Pretty, et al, fluoridealert.org)

By Spencer D Gear

During July and August 2004, the Bundaberg, News-Mail (Qld., Australia) ran a series of short features titled, “Stop the Rot,” which presented only one side of the fluoride debate – support fluoride being added to the local water supply.  Throughout this article, I’ll quote from a number of “Stop the Rot” articles.  Not one article in “Stop the Rot” series took an anti-fluoride perspective.

Let’s examine this issue and the Bundaberg situation.

A.   Civic leaders & media must favour it. 

The Australian Dental Association of Queensland Vice-President, Mike Foley, in advocating the addition of fluoride to a city’s water supply, claimed that “you would only get it through if the civic leaders and the media were in favour.” [1]

To date the local newspaper, the Bundaberg News-Mail, has been true to form in following Mike Foley’s advice that fluoride would only be supported if “the media were in favour.”  This has been some of the News-Mail‘s approach that I have observed:

1.  Bias is the name of the game.  Only present one side of the fluoride debate.

As indicated above, in July-August 2004, the News-Mail published a series of pro-fluoride articles, “Stop the Rot.”  I wrote this letter to the News-Mail, published on August 12 2004, p.6, “Biting into fluoride issue”:

A recent letter referred to “anti-fluoridation ratbags.” and I sent this letter to the editor of  the Bundaberg News-Mail:

Roy Theodore [a retired editor of the News-Mail] (News-Mail July 31) calls us “flat-earth anti-fluoridationists.”

These are name-calling logical fallacies that make rational discussions about any subject impossible.

I emailed one of these “ratbags”, Dr Hardy Limeback, Associate Professor and Head of Preventive Dentistry at the University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada to ask why he had moved from pro-fluoride to anti-fluoride in 1999.

His response was: “I am still opposed to water fluoridation. The letter I wrote in 2001 [available on the Fluoride Action Network website at: http://www.fluoridealert.org/ remains essentially my view today except that I have collected even more studies to add to the list of peer-reviewed scientific studies that point to problems associated with long-term fluoride ingestion.”

When I supplied him with some of the snippets of information from the News-Mail’s “Stop the Rot” one-sided series, he wrote, “Furthermore, using toddlers with early childhood dental decay as the ‘poster children’ for severe dental decay is not only deceptive, but it is immoral.”

These public health officials are trying to use sympathy and fear tactics to win over people to the side of the proponents of fluoridation.

I think it is about time the News-Mail “stopped the rot” of printing essentially a one-sided editorial view of fluoride.

                SPENCER GEAR

                Bundaberg

Editor’s note: All anti-fluoridation letters sent by readers of the News-Mail have been published by the paper in an effort to keep the debate balanced.  The News-Mail is calling for local governments to take the issue to the ratepayers in the shire, not to put fluoride in the water supply.

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While the News-Mail editor on this occasion stated that “all anti-fluoridation letters sent by readers . . . have been published by the paper in an effort to keep the debate balanced,” the following article will challenge the view that “effort to keep the debate balanced” has continued to be promoted by the News-Mail.

2.  Censor opposing views

I have had personal examples of the way the Bundaberg News-Mail censored letters so that the truth about the dangers of fluoride was not presented as it should have been.  These are the details:

a.  This letter was not published

While the News-Mail was publishing its pro-fluoride series of articles, “Stop the Rot,”  I sent the following letter to the paper that was not published:

Why I am against fluoride added to drinking water, 23rd July 2004

Letters to the Editor,
The News-Mail

Dear Editor,

May Bundaberg’s civic leaders consider these facts before taking away our civil liberties by putting fluoride in our water supply (N-M, July 23, p. 3).

One of the world’s leading centres for the manufacture of medical, chemical, and drug supplies (a centre of pharmacology) stopped fluoridation of its water supply in 2003 after 41 years of fluoride.  The Canton of Basel-Stadt, Switzerland, withdrew fluoride for the same reasons that Bundaberg should not fluoridate its water supply.  The Swiss gave these reasons:

1.  The preventative effect of the fluoridation of drinking water could not be proved by any study.  When specialists do not succeed in producing definitive proof in 40 years, the issue has to be abandoned.

2.  In spite of the fluoridation of drinking water, caries (tooth decay) has been on the increase with children.

3.  The danger of fluorosis is played down; nobody talks about fluorosis of the bones.  The fluoridation of drinking water is particularly problematic in the case of young children and babies.

4.  Less than 1% of the fluoride in drinking water is actually used for “prevention of caries”, more than 99% of the fluoridated water is used for washing, cleaning, industrial production, etc. and thus only pollutes the environment, a very undesirable imbalance [statement by Rudolf Ziegelbecker & Konradin Kreuzer]. [1a]

For those who want to use fluoride, tablets are available from the Bundaberg City Council.  This toxin should not be forced on people in a democracy.

Dr. Charles G. Heyd, Past President of the American Medical Association, said: “I am appalled at the prospect of using water as a vehicle for drugs.  Fluoride is a corrosive poison that will produce serious effects on a long-range basis.  Any attempt to use water this way is deplorable.”

Please keep Bundaberg’s water clear of this unnecessary toxic drug — for health sake.

Yours sincerely,
Spencer Gear
Bundaberg

P.S.  Editor: If you are interested, I am available to write an article opposing fluoride with some of these emphases: Fluoridated water is a hazard to health because:

3d-silver-star It’s impossible to provide medication consistently through drinking water;

3d-silver-star The margin of error between a therapeutic dose and deleterious health effects is small;

3d-silver-star We already are getting too much fluoride through the soil, food and water;

3d-silver-star Fluoride has been demonstrated to be a carcinogen (cancer link);

3d-silver-star Fluorosis is a bone disease caused by fluoride;

3d-silver-star The efficacy in preventing tooth decay has not been shown;

3d-silver-star It’s an expensive exercise for any Council to fluoridate;

3d-silver-star The scientific case for fluoridation is flawed;

3d-silver-star Dr. Hardy Limeback, BSc, PhD, DDS, is Associate Professor and Head, Preventive Dentistry, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada.  He’s no dummy when it comes to dentistry.  Read his article, “Why I am now officially opposed to adding fluoride to drinking water.” [1b] Vancouver, Canada, does not have a fluoridated water supply, but has a lower rate of dental decay than Toronto, Canada, which has had fluoridation for 36 years. Dr. Limeback’s reasons provide some evidence.  Previously he was a leading promoter of fluoride in Canada — but no more!!

3d-silver-star Tooth decay is preventable through other resources.  We can do something now about preventing cancer, hip fracture and osteoporosis associated with fluoride use.  Don’t fluoridate!

The United Nations (UNICEF) states: “But more and more scientists are now seriously questioning the benefits of fluoride, even in small amounts.” [1c]

Recently, Dr. Hardy Limeback, Canada’s foremost promoter of fluoridation, head of Preventive Dentistry, University of Toronto and President of the Canadian Association of Dental Research, told his colleagues and students that he had unintentionally misled them.  “For the past 15 years, I had refused to study the toxicology information that is readily available to anyone.  Poisoning our children was the furthest thing from my mind”.  Among the findings that finally opened Dr. Limeback’s eyes was a recent study at the University of Toronto which confirmed that “Residents of cities that fluoridate have double the fluoride in their hip bones vis-a-vis the balance of the population.  Worse, we discovered that fluoride is actually altering the basic architecture of human bones”.  Skeletal fluorosis is a debilitating condition that occurs when fluoride accumulates in bones, making them extremely weak and brittle.  The earliest symptoms?  “Mottled and brittle teeth”, said Dr. Limeback.  “In Canada we are now spending more money treating dental fluorosis than we do treating cavities.  That includes my own practice.” [1d]

Dr. Hardy Limeback, biochemist and Professor of Dentistry, University of Toronto, former consultant to the Canadian Dental Association. “Children under three should never use fluoridated toothpaste. Or drink fluoridated water. And baby formula must never be made up using Toronto tap water. Never. In fluoridated areas, people should never use fluoride supplements. We tried to get them banned for children but (the dentists) wouldn’t even look at the evidence we presented.” [1e]

Not only was the letter not published, but the editor of the NewsMail did not take up my offer to write articles to provide an alternate anti-fluoride view.  To demonstrate the NewsMail‘s biased view, I submit the following information.

b.  “Fluoride debated” (my anti-fluoride letter) 

On March 7, 2005, p. 6, the News-Mail published my letter:

Where is the scientific evidence that proves “20% of Bundaberg’s smiles had 80% disease” (Dr Michael Foley, Australian Dental Association, NM [ie NewsMail] 17/02/05, page 3)?

Dr Mark Diesendorf, University of New South Wales, states: “Contrary to the false impression created by some health and dental authorities, there is no scientific evidence supporting the notion that fluoride at a daily dose of several milligrams per day is a nutrient—indeed, there (are) many communities around the world with much lower fluoride intakes who have excellent teeth.

“Those who provide http://www.fluoridealert.org/medications have a duty to inform patients of the risks and benefits of the medications” (Chemistry in Australia journal, Jan/Feb 2005, “Toxic chemicals: the case against fluoride”).

Dr. Foley claimed that Bundaberg’s alleged higher incidence of dental disease “comes down to other states having fluoridated water”.

Let us check the facts from the Child Dental Health Survey.

In 1997, the decay for primary teeth, five to six-year-olds in Queensland (5% fluoridated), was less than that for Victoria which had extensive fluoridation.

In 1998 decay in permanent teeth of 12-year-olds in Queensland was less than in Tasmania which had extensive fluoridation.

Fluoride supporters, Jason Armfield and John Spencer, in an article published in the journal Community Dentistry Oral Epidemiology (vol. 32, pp. 283-96, 2004) found no statistically significant benefit for permanent teeth through fluoridation in South Australia.

We know there are topic benefits (applied outside of the teeth), but the benefits of ingesting fluoride must be questioned.

For those who want to ingest fluoride, the Bundaberg City Council provides fluoride tablets on request.

SPENCER GEAR, Bundaberg

Surprise!  Surprise!  Dr. Michael Foley, now President, Australian Dental Association, came back with a letter-to-the-editor to try to refute my claims:

c.  “Fluoride clarification” (Michael Foley’s letter)

On 15 March 2005, p. 6, this letter was published in the Bundaberg News-Mail:

In arguing against fluoridation (NM 7/3/05), Spencer Gear has completely misunderstood the Spencer and Armfield study he cites.
The quote: “no statistically significant benefit for fluoridation in South Australia” is Mr Gear’s alone, and appears nowhere in the study.

Spencer and Armfield actually stated that “Numerous studies in the last two decades and recent reviews provide support for the positive health consequences of the consumption of fluoridated water”.

This should come as no surprise as more than 100 of the world’s leading health and scientific authorities have strongly endorsed water fluoridation as being both safe and effective in combating tooth decay.  And fluoride tablets are not the answer, as  they only help the small number of children who are taking them.

Fluoridated water is far more effective, much cheaper, and strengthens everyone’s teeth from the very young to the very old.

Queensland’s tooth decay epidemic is a disgrace, and one for which the costs to the community are massive.

DR MICHAEL FOLEY, President, Australian Dental Association

How do I respond to such a scathing letter against my statements on the Spencer and Armfield research?  I believe that I had correctly represented the views of these Australian researches.  Dr. Foley did not think so.  I sent an email copy of Dr. Foley’s letter to Dr. Paul Connett a noted scientist who has concluded that fluoride in the water supply is not good for teeth decay prevention.  This was:

d.  Dr. Connett’s reply to the News-Mail letters

Dr. Connett wrote;

Letters-to-the-Editor (NewsMail: editorial@news-mail.com.au)

March 16, 2005.

Dr. Michael Foley in his letter of March 15 disputes Spencer Gear’s claim that Armfield and Spencer “found no statistically significant benefit for permanent teeth through fluoridation in South Australia.”

But in challenging Gear, Foley cites these authors talking about what other studies have shown not their own. He quotes Armfield and Spencer as saying:

“Numerous studies in the last two decades and recent reviews provide support for the positive health consequences of the consumption of fluoridated water.”
But this is what Armfield and Spencer actually say about their own findings in the abstract of their paper:
“The effect of consumption of nonpublic water on permanent caries experience was not significant.”

So Spencer Gear was right, and Dr. Michael Foley was wrong.

But it is not just in the details that Michael Foley is wrong, the whole sweep of his claims about fluoridation are off the mark. For example he claims that “more than 100 of the world’s leading health and scientific authorities have strongly endorsed water fluoridation as being both safe and effective” but he fails to point out that only 9 countries in the world have more than 50% of the population drinking fluoridated water.  If fluoridation is such a good idea why isn’t it practiced in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland,  France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Luxemburg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden or Switzerland? And why are their teeth just as good as those countries which practice fluoridation?

It is largely the English speaking world that has succumbed to this silly American idea. Unfortunately, once the US Public Health Service endorsed the practice in 1950 (before one single trial had been completed) many of the health and scientific “authorities” Foley cites, fell into line, because they receive their funding from this source.  Too many dentists swallow the second hand assertions of “authorities” on this matter, rather than read the primary literature.

But I am glad that Dr. Foley is speaking out. I have visited Australia three times since 2002 and on each occasion I have challenged representatives of the Australian Dental Association in four states to debate this issue with me in public and to date they have all refused. Now that Dr. Michael Foley has declared his hand perhaps he will take me on during my next visit. If he will then perhaps he will let your readers know, otherwise I recommend that they take his views with a piece of salt (and make that sodium chloride not sodium fluoride)!

Dr. Paul Connett,
Professor of Chemistry,
St. Lawrence University,
Canton, NY 13617.
1- 315-379-9200
paul@fluoridealert.org

Surprise!  Surprise!  The Bundaberg News-Mail did not publish Dr. Connett’s letter.  But this is the newspaper that stated on August 12, 2004, following one of my letters:  “Editor’s note: All anti-fluoridation letters sent by readers of the News-Mail have been published by the paper in an effort to keep the debate balanced.  The News-Mail is calling for local governments to take the issue to the ratepayers in the shire, not to put fluoride in the water supply.”

By 16 March 2005, it had changed its view and had censored Dr. Connett’s correction of Dr. Foley’s erroneous views.  I provided two follow-up letters to the News-Mail supporting Dr. Connett’s evidence, but neither letter was published, thus confirming this newspaper’s position of not allowing continuing “balanced” debate on this subject.

B.   World Health Organisation [WHO], government & professional bodies support water fluoridation. 

The Queensland government supports fluoridation:  “I support the extension of water fluoridation wherever it receives the endorsement of the local community. . .  It has received the endorsement of the World Health Organisation, government and professional bodies in many countries including Australia. [2]  Health council chairman and former mayor of the Kolan Shire Council [near Bundaberg, Qld.], Viv Chase, “said his personal view was there was a strong case in favour of fluoridation.” [3]  Dentist, Dr. Michael Foley of Brisbane stated, “According to the World Health Organisation, fluoridation of water supplies significantly improves dental health, and where possible, is the most effective public health measure for the prevention of dental decay.” [4]

Let’s investigate:

1. World Health Organization (WHO) and Fluoride

The WHO’s published view is:

Despite great improvements in the oral health of populations across the world, problems still persist particularly among poor and disadvantaged groups in both developed and developing countries. According to the World Oral Health Report 2003, dental caries remains a major public health problem in most industrialized countries, affecting 60–90% of schoolchildren and the vast majority of adults. Although it appears that dental caries is less common and less severe in developing countries of Africa, it is anticipated that the incidence of caries will increase in several countries of that continent, due to changing living conditions and dietary habits, and inadequate exposure to fluorides. Research on the oral health effects of fluoride started around 100 years ago; the focus has been on the link between water and fluorides and dental caries and fluorosis, topical fluoride applications, fluoride toothpastes, and salt and milk fluoridation. Most recently, efforts have been made to summarize the extensive database through systematic reviews. Such reviews concluded that water fluoridation and use of fluoride toothpastes and mouthrinses significantly reduce the prevalence of dental caries. WHO recommends for public health that every effort must be made to develop affordable fluoridated toothpastes for use in developing countries. Water fluoridation, where technically feasible and culturally acceptable, has substantial advantages in public health; alternatively, fluoridation of salt and milk fluoridation schemes may be considered for prevention of dental caries (World Health Organization 2005).

We can therefore conclude that the WHO’s position is pro-fluoride.  But what about governments?

2. Governments and fluoride

This is a mixed bag.  Locally, a representative from the Kolan Shire Council, near Bundaberg, Qld., mayor Viv Chase, supports fluoridation (see above).

a.  Brisbane’s Lord Mayor & fluoridation

There had been a report in the Brisbane Courier-Mail (19 July 2004) of a new “bid to put fluoride in [Brisbane’s] water” (Griffith 2004).  In The Australian newspaper, 24 February 2005, the heading was, “Beattie [Qld. Premier] to demand fluoride in water” (Parnell 2005).  In this article it was reported:

Mr Beattie indicated he was more likely to support financial incentives being provided to councils.

“There are very strong arguments in favour of fluoridation and we’d be delighted to see councils do it, but it is a council responsibility at the moment,” Mr Beattie told The Australian.
The Local Government Association of Queensland, however, wants the state to take control. It estimated the cost of statewide water fluoridation to be $80 million, regardless of who made the decisions.
Queensland Health has put forward a figure of $13 million upfront and at least $3.8 million in annual maintenance costs, but maintains the benefits would far outweigh the costs. The issue has already been raised in budget committee and Labor caucus meetings.

Former Brisbane Labor lord mayor Jim Soorley opposed fluoridation, but the incumbent, Liberal Campbell Newman, has been more open to the idea  (Parnell 2005).  However, in December 2004, the Labor Party in Queensland was divided over this issue:

The Queensland government is split over whether to add fluoride to the state’s water supply.  he issue has pitted Premier Peter Beattie against his health minister after Mr Beattie ruled out taking charge of fluoridation.  Mr Beattie killed off any likelihood of blanket fluoride protection in the state’s water supply on Tuesday, saying local councils held the decision-making power for using fluoride.
However, the announcement has pitted him against Health Minister, Gordon Nuttall, who has strongly advocated the introduction of statewide fluoridation to address childhood dental disease (National Nine News 2004).

On 24 February 2005, I sent this email to Lord Mayor Campbell Newman of Brisbane to check out his position:

Good Evening Lord Mayor,

I saw your news item about fluoride on tonight’s [24 Feb. 2005] Channel 7 news, wanting the State Government to impose fluoridation on Queenslanders.

It just about caused me to choke on my chicken wrap as I ate dinner and watched Rod & Kay.

Channel 7 rushed to a spokesman for the Australian Dental Association (ADA) to give the ADA one-eyed pro-fluoride push.  Why didn’t they get the balanced facts?  These are just to whet your appetite for the truth and nothing but the truth about fluoride:

1.         Why don’t you check out some of the scientific information AGAINST fluoride, from dental specialists such as Dr. Hardy Limeback?  He’s no Johnny come lately when it comes to dental research, being the Associate Professor and Head, Preventive Dentistry, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada.  Take a read of his article, “Why I am now officially opposed to adding fluoride to drinking water” available at: http://www.fluoridealert.org/limeback.htm.   He gives the “new evidence for lack of effectiveness of fluoridation in modern times.”

2.         Dr. Mark Diesendorf, Senior Lecturer at the Institute of Environmental Studies, University of New South Wales, Sydney, has his article, “Toxic chemicals: the case against fluoride,” [4a] in the January/February 2005 issue of Chemistry in Australia journal, also available online at: [http://www.raci.org.au/chemaust/] .  Since fluoride in the water supply is used as a treatment for people, no matter what redefinition people try, it is still a medication. Dr. Diesendorf   states that, “Contrary to the false impression created by some health and dental authorities, there is no scientific evidence supporting the notion that fluoride at a daily dose of several milligrams per day is a nutrient – indeed, there [are] many communities around the world with much lower fluoride intakes who have excellent teeth. Those who provide medications have a duty to inform ‘patients’ of the risks and benefits of the medications.”

Dr. Diesendorf states that “people are being misled by pro-fluoridationists  that: (1) The ingestion of 1 ppm fluoridated water is highly effective in reducing dental caries (when the mechanism of action is redominantly topical), and (2) Ingestion of 1 ppm fluoride is safe for everyone.”

3.         “New York — April 30, 2003 –Over forty years of water fluoridation failed to reduce tooth decay in Basel, Switzerland, where children’s cavity rates increased from 1996 – 2001, according to a Swiss Government Report.

Basel, the only Swiss city adding fluoride to water supplies, halted fluoridation on April 9, 2003, on the advice of their governmental Health and Social Commission.

“Europe’s cavity rates declined despite being 98% fluoridation-free. The UK and Spain remain fluoridated at 10% and 3%, respectively. Ireland is 73% fluoridated, where 12-year-olds have more cavities than 12-year-olds in four non-fluoridated European countries and the U.K.

“Twenty years ago Levittown, New York, stopped 29 years of water fluoridation. Neighboring New York City’s daily newspaper, “The N.Y. Daily News” predicted Levittowner’s teeth would rot. However, many studies show cavity rates improve when fluoridation ends” (available from: http://www.fluoridealert.org/news/1154.html).

I call upon you to turn to those who give us the whole truth and nothing but the truth when it comes to fluoride.  And there is plenty of BAD news about adding fluoride to our water supply.

Yours sincerely,
Spencer Gear,
Bundaberg

(I have children who live in Brisbane.)

P.S.  Dr. Limeback has two doctorates, one in dental science.  He’s no dill.   Why don’t you contact him for an interview on why we should not add fluoride to Brisbane’s  (and Queendland’s) water supplies?  Here are his contact details:

Dr. Hardy Limeback, BSc, PhD, DDS
Associate Professor and Head,
Preventive Dentistry
University of Toronto
Toronto, Ontario, M5G-1G6
Fax (416) 979-4936
Tel(416) 979-4929
E-mail: hardy.limeback@utoronto.ca

Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Campbell Newman, sent me this email reply:

12 March 2005

Mr Spencer Gear
[he included my email address]

From Campbell Newman
Lord Mayor, Brisbane
Email: LORD.MAYOR@brisbane.qld.gov.au

Dear Mr Gear

I refer to your email of 24 February 2005 regarding your concerns about fluoridation of Brisbane’s public water supply.

As you may be aware, following the recommendation of a Lord Mayoral Taskforce on Fluoridation in 1997, Brisbane City Council decided that Brisbane’s water supply should not be fluoridated. During the course of the Taskforce, Council invited a number of experts on both sides of the issue to put forward their case, including Dr Mark Diesendorf referred to in your email.

Council’s decision was based on a number of factors, including concerns about health effects and the impact of a lifetime consumption of fluoridated water. Council was also concerned about the absence of Australian-based research that had been recommended by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

I have made my own position clear that I would not support water fluoridation for Brisbane unless a sound and coherent case can be made that convinces the community that their health concerns are unfounded.

Thank you for the Internet references that you have provided. We have added them to our already extensive library on fluoridation.

Yours sincerely
Campbell Newman
LORD MAYOR
Ref: 238919

It’s interesting that The Australian newspaper of 24 February 2005 reported that “Liberal Campbell Newman,has been more open to the idea [of fluoridating Brisbane’s water supply], yet Newman wrote to me on 12 March 2005 declaring his position that “I would not support water fluoridation for Brisbane unless a sound and coherent case can be made that convinces the community that their health concerns are unfounded.”  I await the “sound and coherent case” in support of fluoridation to convince me and the community.  To date, the evidence against fluoridation is too substantive for me.  Why would the governments of Europe be overwhelmingly against fluoridation?

b.  The governments of Europe

According to the Fluoride Action Network, “98% of western Europe has rejected water fluoridation. This includes: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the majority of the United Kingdom (90%)” (Fluoride Action Network 2002).

The above evidence indicates that some governments support the addition of fluoride to the water supply, but there’s a swag of them that do not.

c.  What about the USA?

It has been stated that “in about 60% of 2000 referenda held in the U.S. since 1950, fluoridation has been voted down.”  For a list of  USA “communities which have rejected fluoridation since 1990” see: http://www.fluoridealert.org/communities.htm.  For an indication of the “Fluoridation Status” of the various states of the USA from the years1992-2002, see: http://www2.cdc.gov/nohss/FluoridationV.asp.

3.  Professional bodies support water fluoridation. 

The Australian Dental Association supports the introduction of fluoride to the water supply.  Its policy on “Community Oral Health Promotion” of fluoride is that the use of fluorides in dentistry is one of the most important ways of preventing dental caries and has the support of all peak public health and dental authorities. International bodies such as the US-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], the World Health Organisation [WHO] and the US Surgeon General actively promote water fluoridation. The CDC placed water fluoridation in the top ten public health  achievements of the 20th Century. Similarly, scientific bodies in Australia,  recognised public health groups and professional organisations support water fluoridation. Community water fluoridation continues to be the most cost-effective, equitable and safe means to provide protection from tooth decay and has been successfully utilised in Australia for over 50 years. The effect of water fluoridation is predominantly topical, with some systemic influence in children. (Australian Dental Association 2004).

For a list of the professional associations in support of water fluoridation, see The American Dental Association (2005).  These include:

  • American Academy of Family Physicians
  • American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry
  • American Dietetic Association
  • American Heart Association
  • American Medical Association
  • American School Health Association
  • American Society for Nutritional Sciences/American Society for Clinical Nutrition
  • American Water Works Association
  • Australian Dental Association
  • British Fluoridation Society
  • British Medical Journal
  • Canadian Dental Association
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Division of Oral Health
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/MMWR

What is the situation in Europe where most of the countries are opposed to fluoridation?

C.   Young children’s teeth removed through decay.

“Bundaberg children as young as four were having all their teeth removed because of shocking decay.” [5]

D.   All the information for an informed decision. 

“Our role is to ensure people have all the information so that they can make an informed decision.” [6]

E.   Fluoride is not poisonous:

“Fluoride at the level recommended for fluoridation is totally safe.” [7]

F.   Water fluoridation better than fluoride tablets. 

Fluoride tablets are not as effective as “water fluoridation for the majority of the population.  Fluoride works mainly by a topic effect, washing over the teeth and becoming incorporated in saliva.” [8] Bundaberg dentist, Harry Akers: “Fluoride tablets were not an effective substitute for fluoridating the water supply.” [9] “Tablets, toothpaste and fluoride treatments from dentists are neither as effective nor as efficient as water fluoridation.” [10]

G.   Fluoride is a health issue.

Bundaberg dentist, Harry Akers, states that “all other Australian states legislatively regard fluoridation as a health issue but in Queensland it’s a local authority issue.” [11]  I agree with my personal dentist, Mr. Harry Akers, that fluoride is a “health issue.”  But what’s the evidence, either positive or negative, from the research on fluoride in the water supply?

My Response:

Dr. Robert K. Ferrie is a practising physician with an MD (doctor of medicine).  What’s his view on the “health issue” of fluoridation?

I am a physician practicing in Alton [Ontario, Canada] and my wife is a medical science writer and publisher of books on health and environment.  We attended the May 6th [2004] meeting and presented our objections to fluoridation.   The currently available international scientific literature shows beyond any doubt that fluoridation is ineffective as a preventive measure against tooth decay and seriously harmful to the immune system and it is a known carcinogen at even minute levels.   We urged an open discussion of all the available information, especially also to the residents of  Bolton  , so that legally mandatory informed consent is observed (Ferrie 2004).

Dr. Ferrie quoted the American Medical Association’s (AMA’s) views on fluoride:

Dr. Charles Gorden Heyd, the AMA’s past president [1936-1937, died 1970], recently said, “I am appalled at the prospect of using water as a vehicle for drugs; fluoride is a corrosive poison that will produce serious effects on a long-term basis.”  The current position of the AMA is that the safety of fluoride, at any dilution, cannot be proven (Ferrie, 2004).

Dr. Ferrie goes on to quote the Ontario Government’s (Canada) Lockyer Report of 1999 came to the following cautious conclusions:

Ontario Government’s 1999 commissioned Locker Report was not mentioned at all either.   That report came to the following cautious conclusions:

“The magnitude of the effect…  is often not statistically significant, and may not be of clinical significance… Canadian studies do not provide systematic evidence that water fluoridation is effective in reducing decay in contemporary child populations.  The few studies of communities where fluoridation was withdrawn do not suggest significant increases in dental caries as a result.” (Page 4) “ The main limitations of current research on the effectiveness of water fluoridation are its exclusion of adults and elderly and failure to consider quality of life outcomes.  Since water fluoridation is a total population strategy, its benefits to the population as a whole need to be documented.”(Page 62) [in Ferrie 2004, emphasis in original].

There is an opposing view.  The City of Mountain View, California, commenced fluoridation of its water supply in 2001 and in its “Fluoride Fact Sheet,” it stated:

The following organizations endorse water fluoridation as an important public health measure reducing tooth decay:

The American Dental Association (ADA) endorsed fluoridation in 1950, and reaffirmed its endorsement in 1997.

The American Medical Association (AMA) endorsed fluoridation in 1976, and reaffirmed its endorsement in 1982.

As part of its “Healthy People 2000” project, the United States CDC set a goal of providing fluoridated water to 75 percent of the American people by 2010.

The State Department of Health Services has approved Mountain View’s fluoridation program. . .

Fluoride is a safe, effective way to prevent tooth decay and is endorsed by numerous professional health care and governmental organizations. Increasing the amount of fluoride in the water to the “optimal level” should not change the water’s taste, smell or appearance (City of Mountain View 2001).

H.  Water fluoridation is good for all people. 

“Water fluoridation, because it predominantly works through a topical effect, benefits all of the population who have their own teeth.” [12]

My Response:


Dr Arvid Carlsson, Nobel Laureate in medicine in the year 2000, disagrees that water fluoridation benefits all people.  In an article for the Journal of the Swedish Medical Association he opposed adding fluoride to drinking water, stating that

in this situation a poison [fluoride] should deliberately be distributed throughout our environment in enormous quantities represents an ill-considered action, especially as this is a poison which, through industrialization, will probably find its way in increasing quantities into our environment. Water fluoridation also goes against leading principles of pharmacotherapy, which is progressing from a stereotyped medication – of the type 1 tablet 3 times a day – to a much more individualized therapy as regards both dosage and selection of drugs. The addition of drugs to the drinking water means exactly the opposite of an individualized therapy. Not only in that the dose cannot be adapted to individual requirements. It is, in addition, based on a completely irrelevant factor, namely consumption of drinking water, which varies greatly between individuals and is, moreover, very poorly surveyed (Carlsson 1978).

Dr. Carlsson continues:

Judging from current Scandinavian studies – no marked reduction in caries can be expected; one cannot, in fact, be sure that there will be any completely positive effect. Secondly, there is the danger of adverse effects in some individuals, among other things in the form of enamel damage, an increased tendency to caries and other symptoms of ailments, together with disruptions to the development of the growing individual. There is, if not definite proof, sound reason for doubt relating to such negative effects of water fluoridation (Carlsson 1978).

I.   Children under age 8 benefit most. 

“While children under eight benefit most because fluoride strengthens their growing teeth, everyone benefits because fluoride in saliva kills bacteria. . .  Bundaberg children aged six have twice the Australian average number of decayed, missing and filled teeth.” [13]

J.   Water fluoridation is not costly. 

In Bundaberg, “it would cost about 80 cents per person per year for water fluoridation.  In return it would save the average person about $50 in dental costs.” [14]

K.   Water fluoridation is the most cost-effective way to reduce tooth decay.

“All major reviews of water fluoridation have concluded that it is the most cost effective means of reducing dental decay.” [15]  “Water fluoridation is recognised safest, most cost-effective and equitable intervention available to reduce dental decay.” [16]  Bundaberg dental surgeon, D. D. Hoffman stated that fluoridated water “is safe, cheap and effective.” [17]  “There has never been a better time to introduce water fluoridation to this community. . .  Fluoride is the cornerstone of any preventive dental treatment and fluoridated water is the most effective way to dose the low levels required to benefit the entire community.” [18]

L.   Water fluoridation chemicals are not dangerous.

“This issue has been looked at many times by many groups, the latest being the UK Medical Research Council in 2002 which found no evidence of any health effects.” [19]

M.   Fluoridated water & immediate effects. 

Mike Charles, “Bundaberg residents are likely to notice the effects of drinking fluoridated water immediately. . .  Fluoridate water would start to reverse tooth decay as soon as people took a sip.” [20]

It’s interesting that that is not the case in Ireland:

A GROUP of more than 100 dentists have demanded an end to fluoridation of tap water over cancer fears.
Their action came yesterday following a study by the Harvard School of Dental Health which found an increased cancer risk in children.
The research has already led to the Environmental Working Group, a Washington research organisation, calling for the US government to list fluoride as a carcinogen.  In Ireland public water supplies have been fluoridated by law since the 1960s and we remain one of the few countries in Europe still adding the chemical.

Dr Don McAuley of the Irish Dentists Opposing Fluoridation (IDOF) said the US research shows that boys drinking fluoridated water from the age of five to ten will experience a greater risk of osteosarcoma bone cancer when they are older.

Another study comparing figures between the Republic of Ireland (fluoridated) and Northern Ireland (unfluoridated) also found a 40pc rise in bone cancer levels. In 1996, Northern Ireland refused to dose drinking water with chemical fluoride when 25 out of 26 councils voted against water fluoridation because of concerns over fluoride health damage (Hogan 2005).

N.   Most dentists support fluoride. 

Mr. Charles “said 98% of Queensland dentists were in favour of councils fluoridating water and Queensland health was urging the community to consider the benefits.” [21]

My Response:

That may be the case, but there is an increasing number of dentists who are objecting, based on the evidence.  As indicated above, “A group of more than 100 [Irish] dentists have demanded an end to fluoridation of tap water over cancer fears” (Hogan 2005).

O.  Many studies show fluoride reduces cavities. 

“Many studies have concluded fluoridation can reduce cavities by 15% to 40%.” [22] “We only have to look at the amount of tooth decay in Queenslanders and it defies logic, to me as an individual, why we have not had fluoride in our water for years.” [23]

P.  All water contains some fluoride. 

“All water supplies have some fluoride.  In the Bundaberg area it is about 0.1 parts per million of water.  Health authorities recommend one part per million to benefit teeth without staining.” [24]

Q.  Unfluoridated areas with more teeth decay. 

“A 1992-1994 study found that children in unfluoridated Brisbane had higher cavities than in fluoridated Townsville.” [25] A Bargara dentist asks parents, “Was your child born in New South Wales or Victoria?  You can tell this because their children [as opposed to children in Queensland] have no cavities and the enamel of their teeth has no defects.  Their teeth are so much better that you can tell they come from a fluoridated area. . .  It’s a choice between fluoridation or dental infection, possible dental abscess, root canal therapy or surgical extractions.” [26]

R.  Legs will fall off & brown teeth. 

“Antifluoridationists will claim that your legs will fall off and we will all end up with brown teeth if we fluoridate water.” [27]

S.  How bad teeth look in North America & Europe.

“Have you also noticed how bad the teeth look on the 300 million North Americans and the (roughly) 200 million Europeans that drink fluoridated water?” [28]

T.  If you don’t like fluoride, go & buy a water filter! 

“If you do not like fluoride go and buy a water filter and let the rest of us who like adding (about) one kilogram of fluoride to a thousand tons of water is infinitely safer than having a severe dental infection requiring a week of several very strong anti-biotics, several x-rays, and some uncomfortable or painful surgical procedure.” [29]  “Let the antifluoridationists drink bottled water.” [30]

U.  Fear tactics. 

See Lincoln Harris above. [31]  Scare tactics of anti-fluoridationists.  “Once the anti-fluoridation people get in there with their scare tactics people just play safe and say ‘no'” says Mike Foley. [32]

V.  All major health bodies support fluoridation. 

“All the major health bodies support fluoridation.” [33]

W.  Logical fallacies & fluoride. 

Feature writer and former editor of the Bundaberg News-Mail, Roy Theodore, claims that “the anti-fluoridation lobby was responding with so much alarming and emotional claptrap that the subject was a certain vote loser,” and those who oppose water fluoridation are “the flat-earth anti-fluoridationists . . . the flat-earthers.” [34]  Dental surgeon, J. P. J. Davidson wrote of “the anti-fluoridation ratbags.” [35]

My Response:

This claim, said this way, stymies discussions because it uses an ad hominem logical fallacy.  A what?  What is a logical fallacy? “A fallacy is an invalid form of argument, an instance of incorrect reasoning” (The Philosophical Society 2005). These are known as fallacies because they present arguments that my mislead a person into accepting a false conclusion.  Sometimes these are used so frequently that they are accepted as a common method in discussion.  Others make honest mistakes by using them, while at other times people make these deliberate actions that stifle logical discussion and may influence people to make decisions based on false premises.

The logical fallacy known as argumentum ad hominem (“argument against the person”) is commonly used these days.  It attacks the person and not the argument that the person is making. The Philosophical Society states that it is a fallacy in which someone argues against a position or claim by assailing the proponent of it. The truth or falsehood of a position doesn’t depend on who does (or doesn’t) espouse it. e.g. “You can’t trust Jones’ theory of electromagnetic particles because he’s a communist.” (The theory is good or bad because it comports (or doesn’t comport) with certain facts and evidence, not because the man propounding it holds a political affiliation (The Philosophical Society 2005).

So when these writers attack people who oppose fluoride by calling them “flat-earthers” and “ratbags” they are attacking the person by name-calling and not dealing with the issues of why these people oppose the addition of fluoride to drinking water.

Using the argumentum ad hominem, the arguments against fluoride are not treated on their merits.  In any debate or discussion, statements for or against a position ought to stand or fall on the basis of their own qualities.  The personal qualities of the person affirming or denying a position should not come into the question.  In this case, what are the strengths of the arguments for or against fluoridation.

Strictly speaking, the merits of  fluoride or anti-fluoride argument stand or fall on the content of the argument, not the personal characteristics of the presenter.  This ad hominem argument does not state the scientific or logical reasons for rejecting fluoridation.  It doesn’t provide the evidence to refute the anti-fluoride position, but attacks the persons, calling them “flat-earthers” or “ratbags.”  This insults the person rather than providing the evidence in support of one’s position.

We should be quick to halt or withdraw from discussions if the person is being attacked instead of a reasoned argument being presented.  It is impossible to have a logical discussion with somebody who engages in the use of argumentum ad hominem.

X.  Harmful if too much drunk. 

Back in the 1950s, Dr. George Christianson, a Brisbane oral surgeon, said that “it could be harmful . . . if you drank a bathful of water every day.” [36]

 

 

Endnotes:

1.  “Stop the Rot” series, “Fear campaigns to hit fluoridation,” Bundaberg News-Mail, July 26, 2004, p. 5.

1a. These details are from, “Fluoridation demise in Switzerland: Fluoridation stopped after 41 years experimenting on the people,” The Australian Fluoridation News, May-June 2003, p. 1.

1b.  Available from,  http://www.fluoridealert.org/limeback.htm [23rd July 2004]

1c. “UNICEF’s Position on Water Fluoridation,” available from: http://www.nofluoride.com/Unicef_fluor.htm [23rd July 2004].

1d.  Barry Forbes, Mesa, AZ Tribune, cited in Linda Chae, “Fluoride,” available from: http://www.lindachae.com/fluoridenews.htm [23rd July 2004].

1e.  Cited in “Fluoride is a Corrosive Poison,” available from: http://www.apfn.org/apfn/poison.htm [23rd July 2004].  See more at, “Fluoridation in Calgary,” available from: http://www.fluoridation.com/news.htm#Toronto%20Star [23rd July 2004].

2.  Gordon Nuttall MP, Health Minister (Qld.), Member for Sandgate, letter to the editor, “Nuttall bites into issue,” Bundaberg News-Mail, July 29, 2004, p. 6.

3.  “Stop the Rot” series, “Fluoridation put on the agenda,” Bundaberg News-Mail, July 30, 2004, p. 5.

4.  Dentist, Dr. Michael Foley, Brisbane, letter to the editor, “Sad story on teeth,” Bundaberg News-Mail, July 29, 2004, p. 16.

4a.  The article by Dr. Mark Diesendorf is actually titled, ‘Sustainable development and toxic chemicals: The case of fluoride’, available from: http://www.raci.org.au/chemaust/docs/pdf/2005/CiAJan-Feb2005p14.pdf [2 July 2005].

5.  “Fear campaigns to hit fluoridation,” reference above.

6.  “Stop the Rot” series: Dr. Mike Charles, Queensland Health Oral Health Wide-Bay Burnett director, “Answers to fluoride fears,” Bundaberg News-Mail, August 14, 2004, p. 13.

7.  Ibid.

8.  Ibid.

9.  “Stop the Rot” series, “Fluoride should be a local health issue,” Bundaberg News-Mail, July 24, 2004, p. 4.

10.  Specialist orthodontist, Phil Saxby, letter to the editor, “Action on fluoride,” Bundaberg News-Mail, July 29, 2004, p. 6.

11.  “Fluoride should be a local health issue,” reference above.

12.  “Answers to fluoride fears,” p. 13.

13.  “Stop the Rot” series, “Fluoride: some facts,” Bundaberg News-Mail, July 28, 2994, p. 9.

14.  “Answers to fluoride fears.”

15.  Ibid.

16.  Gordon Nuttall MP.  See reference above.

17.  D. D. Hoffman, Dental Surgeon, Bundaberg, letter to the editor, “Budget stretch,” Bundaberg News-Mail, July 29, 2004, p. 17.

18.  Paul Stockham, dentist, Burnett Dental Centre (Bundaberg), Letter to the editor, “Push for fluoride,” Bundaberg News-Mail, July 29, 2004, p. 16.

19.  “Answers to fluoride fears.”

20.  “Stop the Rot” series, “Fluoride’s benefits to start working for teeth,” Bundaberg News-Mail, July 27, 2004, p. 3.

21.  Ibid.

22.  “Stop the Rot” series, “Fluoride: some facts,” Bundaberg News-Mail July 28, 2004, p. 9.

23.  Gordon Nuttall MP, Qld. Health Minister, reference above.

24.  “Fluoride’s benefits to start working for teeth,” reference above.

25.  Ibid.

26.  Letter to the editor, Lincoln Harris (BDSc), Bargara, “Fluoride the answer,” Bundaberg News-Mail, July 29, 2004, p. 6.

27.  Ibid.

28.  Ibid.

29.  Ibid.

30.  Specialist orthodontist, Phil Saxby, reference above.

31.  Dentist, Lincoln Harris, reference above.

32.  “Fear campaigns to hit fluoridation,” reference above.

33.  “Fluoride: some facts.”

34.  Roy Theodore, “Just for the Record” feature, “The buck-passing tragedy,” http://www.fluoridealert.org/Bundaberg News-Mail Weekender, July 31, 2003, p. 4.

35.  J. P. J. Davidson, Dental Surgeon, Bundaberg, letter to the editor, “Facts on fluoride,” Bundaberg News-Mail, July 29, 2004, p. 17.

36.  Roy Theodore, “Just for the Record” feature, “The wicked wordsmith,” Bundaberg News-Mail Weekender, August 14, 2004, p. 5.

Bibliography

American Dental Association 2005, ‘Oral Health Topics A–Z: Fluoride &  Fluoridation’, available from: http://www.ada.org/public/topics/fluoride/fluoride_links.asp [2 July 2005].  Australian Dental Association Inc. 2004, ‘Policy Statement: Community Oral Health Promotion Fluoride Use’, available from: http://www.ada.org.au/media/documents/Policies%20and%20Guidelines/April05/FluorideUse.pdf [2 July 2005].
Carlsson, A. 1978, “Current problems relating to the pharmacology and toxicology of fluorides’, Journal of the Swedish Medical Association, vol. 14, pp. 1388-1392, available from: http://www.fluoridealert.org/carlsson.htm [14 August 2004].

City of Mountain View (California) 2001, ‘Fluoride fact sheet’, available from: www.mountainview.gov/citynews/fluoride_fact_sheet.htm [2 July 2005].

Ferrie MD, R. K. 2004, “Doctor comments on ‘Myths,'” Caledon Citizen [Ontario, Canada],  June 2, 2004, Available from: http://www.kospublishing.com/html/comments.html [2 July 2005].
Fluoride Action Network 2002, ‘Facts about Fluoridation’, March 2002, available from: http://www.fluoridealert.org/fluoride-facts.htm [2 July 2005].

Griffith,  C. 2004, ‘Bid to put fluoride in water’, The Courier-Mail, 19 July 2004,  available from: http://www.fluoridealert.org/news/1975.html [2 July 2005].

Hogan, T, “Dentists demand end to ‘Cancer Risk’ fluoride in water’, Irish Independent (14 June 2005), Available from: http://www.fluoridealert.org/news/2288.html [2 July 2005].
National Nine News 2004, ‘Queensland spilt over fluoride issue’ (22 December 2004), available from: http://www.fluoridealert.org/news/2139.html [2 July 2005].

Parnell S. 2005, ‘Beattie to demand fluoride in water’, The Australian (24 February 2005), available from: http://www.fluoridealert.org/news/2183.html [2 July 2005].

The Philosophical Society 2005, ‘Logical fallacies’, available from philosophical ociety.com at: http://www.philosophicalsociety.com/Logical%20Fallacies.htm [22 June 2005].

World Health Organzation 2005, ‘Effective use of fluorides for the prevention of dental caries in the 21st century: the WHO approach’, available from: http://www.who.int/oral_health/media/en/orh_cdoe_319to321.pdf [2 July 2005].

 

Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear.  This document last updated at Date: 9 October 2015.

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