That’s the question before the Hastings Council, which Tuesday hosted a packed-chamber smack-down between American anti-fluoride campaigner, Paul Connett, and three representatives on behalf of the Hawke’s Bay DHB — Dr Robin Wyman of the NZ Fluoride Information Service, Michael Beasley from the National Poisons Centre, and Dr David Marshall, HBDHB’s principal dental officer.

Connett, a PhD chemist, has co-authored the bible of anti-fluoride campaigners, The Case Against Fluoride: How Hazardous Waste Ended Up in Our Drinking Water and the Bad Science and Powerful Politics That Keep It There. His specialty is environmental chemistry and toxicology. His Canadian and British co-authors hold doctorates in medicine and biophysics, and biological sciences.

He directs the international Fluoride Action Network, and he’s studied the effects of fluoride in drinking water for fifteen years as his exclusive focus.

I suspect the DHB was hoping the anti-fluoride crusader would turn out to be long on rhetoric and short on empirical knowledge, with horns, two noses and no teeth. Indeed, when Angela Hair recently presented to the DHB Board and mentioned Connett, one Board member queried: But is he a dentist … does he treat people? As if practicing dentists are authorities on epidemiological studies.

Unfortunately for the DHB, as it turned out, Dr Connett would merit being billed as the fluoride establishment’s worst nightmare.

At his HDC presentation, it was evident that Connett is more directly and intimately familiar with the scientific research on fluoride efficacy and effects than anyone fronting for the Ministry of Health/DHB … to say nothing of your typical practicing dentist. He dissected (skewered?) the very studies cited by the DHB representatives as the core of their case for fluoridation … studies in some cases he had peer reviewed. In example after example, he displayed superior knowledge of the details of the studies, their strengths and weaknesses, and their implications.

In short, no flake! No whacko!

His case was straighforward (keeping in mind I can’t do justice in a blog post to his hour plus presentation) …

1. Drinking fluoride has either no, or at the very best, the tiniest impact on reducing dental caries (tooth decay). Connett argues that the studies most used to assert fluoride’s efficacy have major methodological flaws … indeed are much more suspect than studies on adverse health-effects that the fluoride establishment seeks to minimise or discredit.

2. The scientific evidence of adverse health effects is in fact credible, alarming … and mounting.

3. In the face of nil positive impact and worrisome adverse effects, if government wants to impose an involuntary medical treatment on the general population (unethical on its face, he argues), at the very least it should be morally responsible for conducting far more substantial research on the impacts of that treatment on its own people. On this he gives NZ a failing grade.*

In making his case, I’d have to say, IMHO, Connett carried the day. If I were a Hastings Councillor, my confidence in the authoritativeness of the NZ fluoride establishment would be shaken.

So, I give this Round in the match to the anti-fluoride brigade, led locally by Angela Hair, who instigated today’s ‘debate’ and recruited Dr Connett as champion.

What’s the next Round?

Mayor Yule asked what seemed to me a telling question at the end of the meeting. To paraphrase: If the NZ Ministry of Health is so certain that fluoride in drinking water reduces tooth decay and is safe, why does it leave any discretion at all in the matter to local authorities? Why doesn’t it or the DHB simply order it done? The DHB rep stumbled for an answer.

And so, today, the choice — Round Two — does lie with the Hastings Council. The Mayor indicated that a staff paper (HDC? DHB?) would be brought back to the Council to inform its actual debate and decision … in two months or so. With the exception of Councillor Henare O’Keefe (“I’m drawing a line in the sand here today … no fluoride!”), Councillors did not indicate positions and their questions didn’t reveal any particular leanings.

A potential Round Three could be a referendum on the issue. Either initiated by the Council itself, if it lacks the will to decide the matter as our representative body. Or, I suspect, initiated by the local anti-fluoride brigade if the Council retains the status quo.

If you want to voice your opinion now, go here to take the BayBuzz Fluoride Survey.

Tom Belford

*Speaking of grades, discussing why old paradigms persist, Connett, who has been speaking throughout New Zealand, described how the deans of the medical and dentistry schools at Otago refused to allow his presentation at those institutions.


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19 Comments

  1. Thank you for this. It is well stated.
    Dr.Connett’s information, and some excerpts from his groundbreaking book, are available at http://www.fluoridealert.org, and on FaceBook at Fluoride Action Network.
    The Irrelavent Dental Bosses of the “Live Free or Die” state in the US, -New Hampshire- have felt threatened by activists in Portsmouth (www.fluoridefreeportsmouth.com) and nearby Dover. Since systemic treatment of the body with medication is not in the dental purview, they attempt to Endorse and Endorse. They Huff and they Puff- but Dr. Connett, along with his colleague in the Granite State, Dr.Roger D.Masters, Dartmouth have built their houses of solid science, and these will stand strong.
    As this state is finding itself more and more populated by Free State Project libertarians, the “Get the F Out of the Water!” movement there is gaining momentum.
    Best, Pat at Surviving Fluoride (blogspot)

  2. Sir
    The issue of whether to add fluoride to the public water supply returns to the Bay where it began its fraught history in our country. I was the main supervisor of John Colquhoun’s doctorate on the subject of fluoridation, and published with him the exposé (in The Ecologist ) of the rigged Hastings/Napier ‘test’, as mentioned by Dr Connett at the recent hearing.

    Your readers may be interested in the ‘encyclopaedia’ piece of mine (appended) which is, if nothing else, evidence that some academics had seen through the fluoridation racket a quarter-century ago.

    It certainly does some harm, and in view of the fact that it does little if any good, the practice should be stopped.

    Yours sincerely
    Robert Mann
    Senior lecturer (rtd) in Environmental Studies
    University of Auckand

    The Earth Report ed. E Goldsmith, N Hildyard. London: Mitchell Beazley 1988 p. 149

    Fluoridation — Technique of adding fluorides to public water supplies, with the intention of reducing tooth decay.

    Fluoridation transformed a liability of the aluminium industry (bulk sodium fluoride) into a commercial product. Some fluoridation is done with fluosilicic acid, a waste from manufacture of superphosphate fertiliser.

    Tooth decay turns out to have declined by about two-thirds since the 1950s in the wealthy countries that gather dental statistics. This welcome trend is not understood; possible causes may include improved diet and brushing, widespread antibiotics secreted in saliva, and, recently, fluoride in toothpaste, a concentrated direct application that may well be effective. But thorough surveys have corrected the earlier claim that natural fluoride in water is correlated with relative freedom from tooth decay. Trials claimed to demonstrate benefit from fluoridation have been severely criticized for lack of controls, and other major defects.

    In some still-controversial studies, fluoridation has, on the other hand, been rather closely correlated with cancer. Various other types of harm have been suspected; the one established beyond dispute is dental fluorosis – bilaterally symmetrical diffuse white mottling of the teeth, a form of damage commonly observed among children drinking water fluoridated to 1 ppm. The margin, if any, is uncomfortably slim between 1 ppm and levels known to cause serious damage to bones (skeletal fluorosis). In addition, there is the possibility of adverse synergistic reactions between the fluoride added to water and the thousands of other chemicals to which modern industrial systems expose us. – RM

  3. Fantastic blog Tom. That meeting was an extraordinary moment in Hastings history and I hope will be the end of water fluoridation in Hastings, Havelock North and Flaxmere forever.

    Dr Connett's information raises serious concerns about both the efficacy and safety of water fluoridation, and the DHB should do the honorable thing and recommend the removal of fluoride from Hastings water NOW.

  4. Surely the wider issue has to be – as this practice has been foisted on us for the last 50 or so years and is based on flawed/no science – why does it take so much time, money and effort on the publics part, to get the practice removed. What makes our elected representatives so immune to logic and reason?

  5. My view, as so often is the case, is to follow the money. My primary questions would be directed towards how and who funds the Otago Dentistry School. What are the corporate connections, what is the history of those corporations, how are the key people and what is their history (what do they stand to gain). I always look for motives rather than simply comparing data. This usually tells the story very clearly. We may use the terms, vested interests, agendas, or ulterior motives to describe under the table shiftings of fundings and backroom dealings.
    I would ask, where is the Flouride sourced, who determined that it should be placed in the water supply and what they stood to gain. I would look to bias in reporting and the methods of interpreting data. You will soon see these people showing their true colours because they only think of their own agenda and never the well being of people above all. They are devious, cunning and even believe their own lies and deceptions. Some admittedly are ignorant and yet ignorance is not an excuse and it certainly gives no remedy where the law is concerned. So it should give no remedy when it affects the health of the general public in the face of irrefutable evidence that Flouride from industrial waste is very bad. If concentrated it will burn a hole in most substances. Do you want to even drink a tiny amount? Would you drink a tiny amount of Arsenic? I think i jnow your answer.

  6. Thanks Tom, for being my eyes and ears yet again. I couldnt make that meeting but feel you have kept us informed! I still cant believe the sad ill-informed set of "stats" that is the basis for the DHB for push for fluoridation. Lets hope real science and commonsense prevails.

  7. Tom,
    Well precied. Kerry and I attended the 2hr session with Dr Connett at the Havelock Nth Community Centre the previous evening, prior to the Council meeting and what a compelling and authoritive advocate for anti-fluoridation he is. Angela Hair is to be applauded in her campaign and for bringing this world authority out. To me it is a no brainer. Get it out.
    David Mackintosh

  8. I find it peculiar that fluoridation, being one of the most inconclusive topics in science, has so many against fluoride in our water. I suspect it is because people easily get emotional over mass-medication.

    It reminds me of an article I saw on the internet, some time back. It was a pledge to ban the ‘Invisible Killer’, Dihydrogen monoxide. You may have read this one:
    -It is known as hydroxyl acid, and is the major component of acid rain.
    -Contributes to the “greenhouse effect.”
    -May cause severe burns.
    -Contributes to the erosion of our natural landscape.
    -Corrosion and rusting of many metals.
    -May cause electrical failures and decreased effectiveness of automobile brakes.
    -Has been found in excised tumours of terminal cancer patients.
    After a large scale survey, the majority of surveyees were adamant on banning this substance. But, lost in all these scientific claims, the antis of dihydrogen monoxide failed to realize that they were trying to outlaw water.

  9. @ Mary:
    Perhaps I could have been more sensitive with my words. I promise you, I always have an open mind and respect for other people’s opinions. But, as raw as it was, what I said was quite honestly how I feel. I am neither pro or anti fluoride myself, but I fear that there are a group of people protesting against fluoride on the basis that mass-medication sounds awful, whether it is a good or bad practice. Also, it is too easy to get caught up on scientific claims that sound convincing, but are not always completely credible and are not always approved by other experts in the area. To me, as strong of a case Dr Connet has posed and in spite of his impressive work in the field, it’s still only a few bricks on the wall of research that has gone into the study of fluoride.

    Mary, what you’re forgetting is that, it’s easy to take away the fluoride, so people like yourself can drink ‘safe’ water; but, there are a lot of families on the bottom end of the social gradient, that either cannot afford tooth care, or choose to prioritize their money on other needs. With the exception of selected foods, fluoridation becomes their only means of prevention of tooth decay. Relying on food as their intake of fluoride, poses the risk of generally bad dental health in their social group and a large dental bill for our local government.

    @Mary’s response @ Colin:
    Mary, let me sum up what you just said:
    If the councilors don’t agree with your views on fluoride, they are putting their jobs before the health of the people.

    I don’t think they are pro-fluoride for the sake of it. You seem to have a discerning view of our councilors, but I think that they all have a genuine want to improve the health of our society. And, they have very good reason to be pro-fluoride. It is science that almost no-one can disagree with; fluoride prevents tooth decay, (to whatever extent) and by correlation, youths who live in areas with fluoridated water, tend to have fewer cavities. Fluoride works with saliva, so, drinking fluoridated water throughout the day keeps the reaction with the enamel and ensures the enamel coating is strong. Although bias, (Like every other fluoride website), I found this one particularly insightful.

    http://fluorideinfo.org/FAQ.html#anchor2

  10. Referring to Stephen's post on the 8th April – what he obviously hasn't grasped is respect for other people's opinions. If he wants fluoride no one is stopping him from getting it. However, the public water supply is owned equally by all residents and therefore no one has the right to add their medications to it when others don't want it.

    And in response to Collin on the 7th, msot of our elected representatives put votes (their job) before the health of the people. They probably placate themselves by saying that it's not as bad as we, anti-fluoridation people are making out, and anyway, they can just blame the MOH for advising them to do it. Therefore, the only way to get these elected representatives to do the right thing is to make them realise (and make that a reality) that they won't get our vote if they keep adding this hazardous waste to the public drinking water.

  11. Stephen – time to take your blinkers off and stop regurgitating the likes of this rubbish from that link you posted;
    Leading scientists and health professionals, numerous professional organizations, and governments around the world support community water fluoridation.
    No attribution; no science and clear evidence you slept thru Dr Connett’s presentation. Have a read of Christopher Brysons book, there is a good chance something will penetrate, sooner or later.

  12. That was a very daring comment, Collin.

    I spend a fifth of my full-time study, per week, studying fluoride.

    So, naturally, I am very familiar with both sides of the story.

    All my science stated above is very solid.

    But it's a lot easier to call it rubbish, to help your argument, isn't it?

  13. Go to your local supermarket and read the lists of ingredients on toothpaste boxes. Fluoride is listed on most of them. Take a magnifying glass and maybe a powerful torch to aid in your research: the info tends to be printed in dark ink on a dark or reflective background and, as you know, the lighting in some supermarkets is pretty weak. If fluoride is in most toothpastes, why does it need to be in drinking water?

  14. Mary Byrne has touched on it, but not fastened on it.

    Whether or not fluoride in drinking water will be harmful or beneficial could probably be debated forever without conclusive result.

    However, that's not the point. The point is a principle, and we need to remember that our behaviour should always be directed by principles, as should legislation.

    In this instance, the principle which is being violated is that it is not permissible to put medications into the public water supplies.

    If you're not sure that this really is a principle, ask yourself how you'd react if other medications were put into public water supplies, for example, contraceptive pills, inoculations/vaccines.

    So, oppose the fluoridation of our water, but oppose it for the right reasons.

  15. Can you explain why hospital admissions will increase due to serious complications as a result of dental abscesses when fluoride is removed and that dental interventions on children who live in Napier are higher than children who live in Hastings

  16. i am still waiting for one of the pro fluoride group to post info on a randomised double blind trial with fluoride being ingested to show improved dental health.

    My bet – it will never happen as the trial as not been carried out.

    Our very own MOH still relies on Fear and not science – some will have seen the recent picture of the diseased gums that accompany warnings about this happening to your kids teeth, if Fluoridation of water supplies is stopped.

    In both attempts to get some data – Newburgh/Kingston in New York State and Napier/Hastings here in NZ, both done in the 1950s, data had to bureaucratised to get the stunning supposed improvement of 0.6 out of 100+ tooth surfaces.
    Peer reviewed data – not even the IPCC flawed system was used.

    Think about it folks, here in NZ the only country that actually measured dental carries in 5 y/o’s, Napier was dropped as a control.
    If ingesting fluoride was so great, would not the MOH being ‘banging its gums’ about how much better Hastings was because of ingesting Fluoridation, but no, a deafening silence and suddenly Palmerston North replaced Napier as the control.

    All should be thinking “diet affects dental health” and keep in mind the Pro Fluorides fav pic of diseased gums, does not mention the diet of that child, or even if it had coca cola in his babies bottle many years ago, or heaven forbid, if it was from a fluoridated area.

    Yes the entire picture is skewed and we should do as we are told cos officials know best – yeah right.

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