The UK House of Lords spent just over an hour debating amendments to two clauses (147 and 148) in the Health and Care Bill that would take authority for fluoridation away from local authorities and give it to the central government. It is currently at the committee stage in the House of Lords, which involves examination of the Bill’s details and various sections by members, and offers an opportunity for amendments to be made.
FAN has isolated video of the debate and we are sharing it below in full. It’s important that the world witness not only the articulate case against fluoridation offered by Lord Reay and other opponents of the measure, but also–in contrast–the danger posed by those who are only half-educated on an issue and rely upon appeals to emotion and “authority” rather than science-based analysis. Also take note of their condescending–and borderline tyrannical–attitude towards constituents when they talk about local opposition leading to no expansion of fluoridation in the UK over the past 40 years. Instead of respecting this opposition, they claim the public isn’t capable of making the correct decision, and therefore the national government must step in and “help them” by force.
Speakers in the video:
0:00 – Lord Philip Hunt (Pro-F)
7:38 – Baroness Lindsay Northover (Pro-F)
12:26 – Lord Reay (Opposed)
25:47 – Procedural Break
27:07 – Baroness Natalie Bennett (Opposed)
32:35 – Lord George Young (Pro-F)
34:56 – Lord Mike Storey (Opposed)
38:00 – Baroness Joan Walmsley (Pro-F)
46:00 – Baroness Gillian Merron (Pro-F)
52:00 – Lord Earl Howe (Pro-F)
1:04:33 – Questions
The Good News:
No other national legislative body in recent times has heard such a concise and scientifically accurate and up-to-date presentation on the dangers posed by water fluoridation as that delivered by Lord Reay. Others added powerful arguments including Baroness Bennett (Green party) who was concerned that introducing nationwide mandatory fluoridation would further lower trust in tap water, increase the number of plastic bottles going into the environment and further erode trust in the government on health issues. Lord Storey, explained that Liverpool had rejected fluoridation in the early 2000s and introduced an educational program which had proved more effective than fluoridation. He said:
“When I was leader of the council in Liverpool, all political parties together—I have to tell my colleagues—decided against fluoridation, so we took the view that perhaps there was a different way of doing it. We were setting up the network of children’s centres in the early 2000s. We therefore made dental health in the nought to five age group one of the highest priorities in the city council’s strategic plan. We also issued additional guidance to our primary schools, asking them to make encouraging better dental health a higher priority. As a result, 10 years later in 2013, the British Dental Association’s 10-yearly survey showed that a reduction of 28% in caries had been achieved in Liverpool’s schools. The targeted approach achieved an outcome double that identified in the York review as the average caries reduction from fluoridation.”
The Bad News:
Several of the peers who spoke in favor of fluoridation are not on top of the latest science of fluoride’s dangers. Their ignorance is understandable perhaps, but not the arrogant way they dismissed Lord Reay’s well-researched testimony.
A key example came from Baroness Walmsley who said at the 40-minute mark that if she had to choose who to believe on fluoridation’s dangers between Public Health England (PHE) and Lord Reay she would choose PHE.
Here is her exact quote:
“The 2018 report from Public Health England made that clear and did not report adverse effects. In Clauses 147 and 148, the Government intend to ensure that the whole country has access to drinking water with at least 1 milligram per litre of water, the level believed to be most effective in reducing tooth decay without the unwanted effects mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Reay, and without waiting for local authorities to initiate schemes. I have to say that I believe Public Health England rather than the noble Lord.”
It’s a pity she had not carefully read the PHE statement from 2018. It only has one paragraph on fluoride’s impact on the brain, which is a superficial and outdated dismissal of fluoride’s possible effects. Most importantly, even though it was dated 2018 it failed to mention the game changing study of Bashash et al., 2017 which was pivotal to Lord Reay’s concerns.
Here is the totality of what PHE said about IQ and the two outdated (and biased) references that they cited.
“Intelligence Quotient (IQ) At the time the PHE working group were considering health outcomes, the evidence for an association between lower IQ and fluoride in water was considered weak (22, 24), and there were no quality routine datasets available for analysis. Therefore IQ was not considered a priority health outcome for inclusion.”
22. Sutton M, Kiersey, R., Farragher, L., Long, J. Health Effects of Water fluoridation: An evidence review. . Health Research Board (Ireland); 2015.
24. Royal Society of New Zealand and the Office of the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor. Health effects of water fluoridation: A review of the scientific evidence. Wellington; 2014
The two outdated citations were actually inaccurate critiques of a 2012 meta-analysis of 27 studies from China and Iran by a team from Harvard (Choi et al., 2012). This Harvard review concluded that while they had concerns about the lack of information about confounding factors in several studies, the findings were remarkably consistent: 26 out of 27 studies found a lowering of IQ and the average was 7 points. Another weakness was that all the studies were ecological in design i.e. measurements of exposure and outcomes were based on community averages not individual measurements.
The NZ review from 2014 (reference 24) inaccurately reported that the meta-analysis showed an average loss of IQ of less than one point and therefore had little practical significance. But the loss was actually 7 IQ points – a big difference. The NZ mistake was repeated by the Irish review in 2015 (reference 22).
What made the Bashash 2017 study (ignored by PHE and dealt with in some detail by Lord Reay), such a game-changer was that it avoided these weaknesses in the Chinese studies. It was based on individual measurements of both the mothers’ fluoride exposure and their offsprings’ intelligence. This 12-year US government-funded study was critically important to this debate – but apart from Lord Reay not many Lords seems to know (or care) about it; or the other 3 US-government’s studies discussed by Lord Reay.
The fact that the Baroness cited this 2018 Review as a way of dismissing concerns on fluoride’s impact is a reflection of the very poor job the government’s Policy Paper – which was given to parliamentarians – covered this issue.
Instead of investigating the science carefully and objectively, once again decision-makers are putting their faith in “authority” in citing PHE, 2018, as well as the Four Chief Medical officers of England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. These CMOs were equally poorly informed by the Policy Paper (see our detailed critique in our second letter to Boris Johnson).
Despite efforts by Vyvyan Howard, myself and the late Spedding Micklem to inform Boris Johnston (two letters); the Parliamentary Public Health committee and many individual Lords it would appear most were not listening to what the science actually has revealed and instead prefer to believe in the authority of Lord Hunt (Chairman of the British Fluoridation Society), the PHE and whoever wrote the Policy Paper. Is this a replay of the Church’s suppression of Galilieo? Several even cited beliefs and evidence they had relied on many years ago as if science never changes!
Sadly, the end result – if this Bill goes through with the nationwide fluoridation clauses intact – is that the UK will unnecessarily limit the future intellectual abilities of British children and the economic success of the country as a whole.
Listening to the government’s response to the Lord Reay’s by Lord Howe reminded me – based on my teaching in an English public school (i.e. fee-paying) – how brilliant the British upper classes are at giving you the proverbial shaft while at the same time persuading you that they are doing it in your own best interest!
We will return to our commentary in the next bulletin.
Paul Connett, PhD
Fluoride Action Network