Fluoride Action Network

Heartbreak In NZ – A Personal Story

Fluoride Action Network | Bulletin | December 2, 2021

Heartbreak in New Zealand – a Personal story
By Paul Connett, PhD, FAN Director

After the U.S. I have probably spent more time fighting fluoridation in New Zealand (NZ) than any other country. Since 1997, I must have travelled there at least a dozen times.  As many of you know, FAN’s work doesn’t stop at the coasts of North America, this is an international issue with many of the same players using the same propaganda on a global scale.

It started off so well in 1998 when I had an inspiring and revealing videotaped interview with the late Dr. John Colquhoun. But it ended so badly a few weeks ago, when the politicians caved to misinformation from the fluoridation lobby and voted to mandate fluoridation for the whole country. No longer can local communities determine for themselves whether they will fluoridate or not. This would have been heartbreaking at any time, but at a time when the scientific evidence that this practice causes harm is stronger than it has ever been, it is doubly so.

In this short memoir I will highlight a few occasions where I believe I and other opponents of this practice were treated very shabbily, with the worst treatment being dealt to science itself by both government spokespersons and academia. On this issue both science and the scientific method are dead at the moment in New Zealand. This does not give one much hope for other public health measures there. Am I overstating this? Please judge for yourself as I recount just a few incidents.

2011 Presentation to the Ministry of Health (MOH) in Wellington.

Shortly after our book was published (The Case Against Fluoride by Connett, Beck and Micklem, Chelsea Green, 2010) I was invited to give a talk on the subject to bureaucrats and others from the Ministry of Health. About 20 people listened as I went through the book’s arguments. I stressed that every argument was backed up with voluminous references to the scientific literature (80 pages in all). I concluded by saying that as three scientists (all retired professors) we had done everything you could expect scientists to do with respect to a controversial issue and now it was time for them to do the same.  I invited them to put a team together and go through our chapters and answer every argument in kind, i.e. with references to the scientific literature. I added that if they couldn’t do that then they (the MOH) should neither be supporting or promoting this practice and they should stop forthwith.

In the 10 years since that challenge was made they have not issued any response – not one single word!. But that hasn’t stopped the Minister himself going on TV and accusing opponents of misleading the public on the science of this matter.

2014 The Review of fluoridation by Sir Peter Gluckman and Sir David Skegg.

Right at the time that fluoridation promoters were about to launch the bid to make fluoridation mandatory in NZ – largely because they were losing at the local level to well-organized and well-informed opponents – they recruited two ‘prestigious scientists” to review the practice. Sir Peter Gluckman, at the time, was senior scientific advisor to the Prime Minister and Sir David Skegg, was the head of the Royal Society of NZ. Their short report – probably ghost written -was a real hatchet job. They dismissed the significance of the Harvard meta-analysis of 27 IQ studies with a couple of erroneous sentences.

First, they argued that the levels of fluoride in these largely Chinese studies was 20 times higher than used in NZ, which was nonsense. Two of the studies ranged up to 11 ppm, but many of the studies were at around 2 ppm and the average for the 20 studies with water measurements was less than 4 ppm. As NZ fluoridates at 0.85 ppm these findings offer no adequate margin of safety to protect a population of children from harm.

The second error was even more egregious. They said that the lowering of IQ was less than one IQ point and was essentially trivial. In reality the average loss of IQ in these studies was about 7 IQ points. It turned out that these ghost-writers for Gluckman and Skegg had mistaken a drop of half a standard deviation (7 IQ points) with a drop of half an IQ point.

It gets worse. When their error was pointed out to them instead of correcting it clearly and honestly, they corrected it in a way that few in NZ would have understood. Moreover, they left their inaccurate conclusion intact, claiming now that a loss of half a standard deviation (7 IQ points) was essentially trivial – which of course is utter nonsense at the population level.

In subsequent tours of NZ I have tried to explain the hatchet nature of this report. But both politicians and the media have ignored my analysis, and still continue to cite this report as gospel. If anything, the proponents have portrayed me as the enemy of science on this matter.

2018 presentation in Parliament House.

After the publication of the US government funded Bashash study in 2017, I gave a talk in Parliament House in Wellington, explaining why this study – confirming what had been building up in many studies from China over 20 years -should end fluoridation in NZ. I explained what a high-quality study it was – which unlike any that had come before was based on individual measurements of both exposure (pregnant women’s urinary fluoride levels) and outcomes measures of intelligence at 4 and 8-12 years of age in their offspring. In addition, they controlled for many potential conflicting variables. Sadly, only three MPs showed up for the talk – delivered only a few feet from their offices and it received no media coverage.

2019 Expert Forum in Dunedin.

The University of Otago in Dunedin, on the South Island, has the only dental school in NZ. It has become the hotbed for fluoridation promotion in NZ, with generations of dental students only getting one side of the story on fluoridation. So, when a citizen came to Fluoride Free NZ offering a considerable amount of money to organize a forum on the latest science, this venue was the obvious choice. The message of fluoride’s dangers would be taken to the lion’s den itself. Fluoride Free NZ used the citizen’s generous donation to bring three experts to this forum: Professor Vyvyan Howard, an infant and fetal pathologist from Northern Ireland; Declan Waugh an environmental risk specialist from the Republic of Ireland and myself.

You can watch our three presentations:

Paul’s talk
Vyvyan’s talk
Declan’s talk

So how did the lion’s den respond to hearing the other side of this controversial issue? Not one professor came to the forum. Instead, the first two or three rows were occupied by dental students wearing tin foil hats!


These are just four examples of how government officials, professionals and academics in NZ have avoided a genuine scientific analysis on this public health measure. As I have said, considering the time, energy and effort I have put into helping this country understand what they are doing with this practice, it has been heartbreaking. But it has been even more heartbreaking for the very well-informed and well-organized opponents of fluoridation ranging from John Colquhoun in the 1980s and 90s and the current group of opponents which include dentists like Stan Litras and committed activists like Kane Titchener and Mary Byrne. Ignoring their arguments and efforts has been a national disgrace and sadly the NZ people will pay a heavy price for their arrogance in doing so.


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Thank you for your continued support and efforts to end water fluoridation throughout the world.