A STUDY that links fluoridated drinking water with a rare bone cancer in boys has further fuelled the anti-fluoride debate.
The Gippsland Safe Water Alliance (GSWA) says the study is evidence that fluoridation is dangerous.
GSWA spokesperson Shane Elson said the study by Harvard University scientists should at least raise a red flag and stop the introduction of fluoride into Gippsland’s water supply until further research was undertaken.
“There is now extremely good research and reviews of literature by esteemed research organisations which indicate the need to proceed with absolute caution in introducing fluoride,” Mr Elson said.
“We call for a halt to the introduction of fluoride until independent studies are done in Australia, in our context, to see if the results (of the American study) are refuted or proven.
“Not to do that is to place people in potential harm which is not what good medicine and good science is all about.”
The study, led by Dr Elise Bassin and titled `Age-specific fluoride exposure in drinking water and osteosarcoma’, appears in this month’s edition of `Cancer Causes and Control’, an online journal of Harvard University.
It reports an association between fluoride exposure in drinking water during childhood and the incidence of osteosarcoma, a very rare malignant bone tumour, among males.
Mr Elson said Dr Bassin had first investigated the link between fluoridated water and the cancer in the early 1990s but the findings had been “sat on” by chair of Oral Health Policy and Epidemiology at Harvard Dental School, Dr Chester Douglass.
“It’s been around a long time,” Mr Elson said. “It’s been known for quite a while.”
He added the study was published in Cancer Causes and Control within two weeks of America’s highest scientific body, the National Research Council, releasing a report which also found a number of associations between fluoride and adverse health affects.
“Here we have the most prestigious scientific body in the US finding that fluoride is not safe and effective,” Mr Elson said.
“There is more and more evidence coming out to show those (negative) links. We don’t care about the emotional arguments (for or against fluoridating water), we’re interested in the science.
“We believe the science of fluoride is dinosaur science. It’s (research recommending fluoridation of water) 50 year-old science built on very shaky foundations.
“In the last 15 years there has been quite an amount of research into fluoride. That is the type of science we hope our leaders would be relying on – the new stuff using the latest methods. Fifty years ago everyone said asbestos was safe…”
Mr Elson also critcised what he called the “almost religious zeal” from proponents of fluoride who argue it is safe and effective.
Fluoridation supporter, Labor MLA for Morwell Brendan Jenkins, agreed with Victoria’schief health officer Dr Robert Hall that Dr Bassin’s study did not prove that fluoridation was not safe.
In response to the release of the study Dr Hall said suggestions that fluoridated water supplies may be linked to the bone cancer had not been scientifically established.
“A thorough review of a recently published paper on a possible association between fluoride and osteosarcoma has not diminished the view that water fluoridation is a safe, effective public health measure for preventing tooth decay,” Dr Hall said.
“The data in this paper is part of a much more comprehensive 15-year study by the Harvard School of Dental Medicine which is yet to be published. The principal researcher of the larger study has warned against drawing any conclusions before seeing the full study, which will not suggest an overall association between fluoride and osteosarcoma.”
Mr Jenkins said he was aware of the Harvard study as it was one of those that had been discussed at meetings he had attended.
“There has been research done, this is not a new study. It has been included for some time in the evaluation of available data, but there are arguments to whether the study indicates clear trends or not,” Mr Jenkins said.
“This study was one of the reasons why I asked experts months ago about muscular and skeletal effects of fluoride. Certain experts I’ve asked in the medical field, including orthopaedic surgeons, have discounted these type of results.”
Mr Jenkins said the results of Dr Bassin’s study had to be weighed up against the “continued overwhelming support fluoridation maintains within the dental and medical community”.
“There’s an overwhelming body of evidence that indicates it (fluoridated water) is safe,” he said.
“I’m not discounting the study at all. I’m saying this study is not new information and there continues to be some arguments about what the study findings actually indicate.”
Mr Jenkins said he “absolutely” supported fluoridation of the region’s water supply.
“I’m still supportive of having those same benefits (here in Gippsland) that have existed in capital cities for 20-30 years,” he said.