Fluoride Action Network

Promotion of fluoridation in NZ: If all else fails change the language!

FAN Bulletin | January 7, 2015

Dear Supporter:

In the last few years NZ health authorities have gone to some extraordinary lengths to continue their support and promotion of the outdated, unscientific and unethical practice of water fluoridation (see discussion below). But now they have reached a new low in their public relations tactics. They are attempting to change the language itself. Under the NZ Medicines Act they are trying to maintain that fluoride is a medicine in tablet form but not at the concentrations used in water fluoridation programs. But this is absurd. A medicine is not defined by the dose used, but by the purpose for which it is administered

If one looks up the word “medicine” in any major dictionary in the English language the definition is very simple and clear. A medicine is “a substance that is used to treat, prevent or mitigate a disease.” In other words it is defined by its purpose. It is not defined by the dose used or even by whether it works or not.

Fluoride chemicals are added to the water supply – in the few countries that practice water fluoridation – in order to fight tooth decay, which is a disease. This makes these fluoride compounds medicines by universal definition. To claim that somehow these are no longer medicines in the doses* delivered via water fluoridation is nonsense. Assuming that fluoride at some higher dose was considered by NZ’s Medicines’ Act was a medicine, lowering the dose to a level of approximately 1 ppm used in water fluoridation could do two possible things: a) it could lower its effectiveness and b) it could reduce its toxic side effects, but it would not change the purpose for which these substances were added to the water supply. At whatever dose used in tablet form, or whatever the concentration added to water (0.6 ppm, 0.7ppm, 1.0 ppm or 1.2 ppm) the purpose remains the same: to fight tooth decay. Therefore they remain medicines and water fluoridation remains medical treatment.

For the NZ Ministry of Health to attempt to change the definition of fluoride as used in water fluoridation from anything else but a medicine would make its support of this unscientific and unethical practice even more embarrassing than it already is. The effort to change the language itself represents the last desperate exercise in the application of arbitrary governmental power in support of a bankrupt policy. Clearly reason and scientific argument have failed. It is consistent with a series of steps taken recently in NZ to keep the practice of water fluoridation going at all costs.

*note. It should be remembered that one of the weaknesses of adding a medicine to the public water supply, which makes it a very clumsy form of medicine, is that while the concentration (measured in mg/Liter) can be controlled, the dose (measured in mg/day) cannot. Dose depends on how much water citizens drink, which varies over a large range, i.e. dose in mg/day = concentration in mg/liter) x the number of Liters drunk per day.

We only have until Friday, January 9th to tell the New Zealand government that we oppose efforts to exempt fluoridation chemicals from the Medicines Act.

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Recent biased promotion of fluoridation in NZ.

Here are just a few examples of the unscientific, unprofessional and biased behavior of both government health authorities and other fluoridation promoters that have been observed over the last few years.

In Feb 2011, shortly after the publication of the book I co-authored, The Case Against Fluoride by Connett, Beck and Micklem (Chelsea Green, 2010) I was invited to give a presentation on the subject to Ministry of Heath staff and several of the experts on whom they rely in their offices in Wellington. About 20 people were in attendance.

At the end of my presentation I argued that the three co-authors – all scientists, all retired professors (one a chemist, one a physicist and MD and the other a biologist) – had done everything you could expect of three scientists opposed to this practice in outlining our case.  We made all the arguments transparent and backed them up with citations from the literature, 80 pages in all. I then asked these civil servants to read our text carefully and respond in kind with suitably referenced arguments for fluoridation which would refute our case. I added that if they could not deal with our arguments scientifically then they should abandon this practice forthwith. After nearly 5 years there has been no written response to our text. However, this has not prevented the Minister of Health from going on national TV and charging opponents of fluoridation of miss-representing the scientific literature. He offered no specifics. He offered no written critique of our text.

Meanwhile, District Health Boards throughout NZ have continued to follow Ministry of Health instructions and aggressively promote fluoridation at every turn including attempting to influence the outcome of local referenda. It would appear that for these government civil servants “obeying MOH orders” is more important than actually offering objective information about this practice. None have acknowledged the weaknesses of the evidence that swallowing fluoride actually lowers tooth decay or have warned the public of the possibility of serious side effects, especially the voluminous evidence that fluoride is neurotoxic. Nor do they mention that it is most unwise to bottle-feed babies with fluoridated water at levels over 100 times higher than the levels in mothers milk.

Government health officials continue to downplay the many (over 40 studies) that have found an association between fairly modest exposure to fluoride and lowered IQ in children, by maintaining the fiction that all these studies were carried out at much higher concentrations of fluoride than used in NZ. In reality in some of these studies the range of doses would almost certainly overlap the doses experienced by NZ children drinking fluoridated water and getting fluoride from other sources like dental products. For example in one Chinese study the lowest fluoride concentration where lowered IQ was observed was 1.26 ppm (Xiang et al, 2003, Table 8). This offers no margin of safety to protect all NZ children drinking fluoridated water at 0.7 ppm from the full range of sensitivity to any toxic substance expected in a large population. Moreover, in this study the children were not using fluoridated toothpaste and were most likely breast-fed not bottle-fed. Thus in these two respects NZ children would be getting higher exposure to fluoride than the Chinese children.

In the absence of solid scientific support for their case, promoters turned to their true and tested method of fluoridation promotion: they produced a “Blue ribbon” panel to prove that fluoridation was “safe and effective” by cherry picking the studies examined.

Even then it became blatantly obvious that the prestigious figureheads for this hatchet job, namely Sir Peter Gluckman, the New Zealand Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor and Sir David Skegg, President of the Royal Society of New Zealand, had not read the papers they purportedly claimed to have reviewed. For example, in their review of the important Harvard meta-analysis of 27 IQ studies (Choi et al, 2012) instead of reporting the results of the study itself they reproduced 2-year old propaganda claims, which had long since been discounted by independent reviewers and the study authors themselves.  Gluckman and Skegg reproduced claims by pro-fluoridation propagandists who had confused a drop of half a standard deviation with a drop of half an IQ point. Actually a drop of half of one standard deviation equates not to half an IQ point but to 7 IQ points! This of course is a huge difference, but more importantly it shows that Gluckman and Skegg were reproducing information given to them by fluoridation promoters not information they purportedly had obtained from the reviewing the study themselves. In other words they were simply giving their names to other people’s review not their own.

Please act today by telling the New Zealand government that fluoridation chemicals should not be exempt from the Medicines Act.

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Paul Connett, PhD
Director, Fluoride Action Network
Co-author of “The Case Against Fluoride” (Chelsea Green, 2010)
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