Fluoride Action Network

PEW persistently misinforms legislators and the public about fluoridation

FAN Bulletin | December 06, 2013

Launched in 2008, the Children’s Dental Policy arm of The Pew Charitable Trusts is using its political clout and money, coupled with misinformation and untruths, to promote fluoridation initiatives and preserve existing schemes in many cities and states.

According to Pew’s fluoridation promoter Matt Jacob (Ref 1), Pew’s outreach to states for community water fluoridation (CWF) included the following:

• Arkansas: “Funded a poll and offered other assistance to pass a state mandate in 2011.”

• California: “Provided assistance to a successful campaign to secure CWF in San Jose.”

• Kansas: “Assisted oral health advocates in Wichita pass a fluoridation policy.”

• Mississippi: “Provided message training for oral health field staff.”

• Montana: “Assisted successful effort to preserve CWF in the city of Bozeman.”

• New Hampshire: “Helped defeat a statewide ban on CWF.”

• Oregon: “Offering funds and research for a campaign in Portland.”

• Wisconsin: “Provided research and technical assistance to preserve CWF in Milwaukee.”

Pew loses in Wichita and Portland

However, PEW’s PR, money and devious tactics lost big time to common sense and truth in Portland Oregon and Wichita Kansas when voters rejected fluoridation in referenda in both towns with a margin of 60% to 40%.

Buying votes

In Portland the pro-fluoridation team –aided by PEW – outspent citizens opposed to fluoridation 3 to 1 and gave at least $143,000 to local minority groups who supported fluoridation. These five groups each received $20,000: Urban League of Portland, the Latino Network, the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon, Center for Intercultural Organizing, and the Immigrant & Refugee Community Organization. The Oregon Latino Health Coalition got $5,000, while the Native American Youth and Family Center received $37,810. The Portland chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), who opposed fluoridation, received nothing (Ref 2).

Pew hires Willam Maas

In an effort to sway voters and decision makers, Pew has hired as its fluoridation adviser, dentist William Maas, former head of the CDC’s Oral Health Division. Those credentials may look impressive on paper but not in person. When grilled by the Sedgwick (KS) County Commission, he looked nervous and admitted that the so-called “mild” fluorosis (in this category 50% of the enamel of the affected teeth is impacted) occurs even in children who live in non-fluoridated communities, and then he actually claimed fluorosis is attractive.  (Watch the hearing – Maas speaks at 31:00 minutes).

This remark angered a Sedgwick Commissioner who says others may not find it so attractive. The Sedgwick Commissioner was right. Studies have repeatedly found that children find teeth with so-called “mild” fluorosis to be objectionable – a point that even the CDC, Maas’s old boss, has conceded.

The Sedgwick Commissioner added:

“If I found on my daughter’s teeth a substance that is abnormal, caused by chemicals introduced in our water supply … I’d be beyond irritated,” Skelton said. “I would wonder what internal effects would be going on, what kind of white spots is she going to have on her bones, etc. That’s a symptom of something larger, sir (Ref 3).”

Pew spokesperson Bill Maas insults opponent but won’t debate

In another appearance in Wichita a citizen asked Maas if he would debate the head of FAN, retired environmental chemistry Professor Paul Connett. He refused saying that Connett was a brilliant debater and he (Maas) had only given about 6 public presentations. But then he added that Connett was “the leader of misinformation on this issue in the country.” This didn’t sit well with citizens at the meeting, most recognizing that you shouldn’t insult someone if you are not prepared to take that person on in public when challenged. 

Pew continues to mislead the public on the Harvard IQ study

In the Pew Children’s Dental Campaign October 2013 letter to Des Moines Water Works (Ref 4) Shelly Gehshan, Director, Children’s Dental Policy continues to misrepresent and misreport the fluoride/IQ studies conducted by a Harvard team (Choi et al., 2012) even though FAN and others have corrected her misrepresentations in media release. 

Pew’s Gehshan confuses concentration and dose

Ms. Gehshan writes that the “levels of fluoride in the water” (i.e. concentration) in the IQ studies were at least four or five times higher than the level used to fluoridate water in Des Moines” (Ref 4) thus continuing to confuse the difference between concentration (measured in mg of fluoride per liter) and dose (measured in mg fluoride ingested per day). The latter depends upon how much water people drink and how much fluoride they get from other sources.

According to Paul Connett, “An above average water drinker in a fluoridated community, and also getting fluoride from other sources, could easily get more fluoride than a below average water consumer in several of the Chinese studies.”

The need for margin of safety ignored by Gehshan

Connett adds, “To make matters worse Gehshan’s simplistic comparison ignored the larger concern for the need to apply a margin of safety to a dose that has been found to cause harm in order to protect the most vulnerable children in a large population. For this a safety factor of 10 is usually chosen. The job of people in regulatory agencies is to make sure they are protecting everyone not just the average person. Gehshan should know that.”

A false charge

Gehshan also repeated the false charge that “the Harvard researchers [Grandjean and Choi] publicly distanced themselves from the way that anti-fluoride groups were misrepresenting these IQ studies.” In actual fact Choi and Grandjean tried to distance themselves from comments made by a Wichita journalist who claimed that the Harvard team thought the study was irrelevant to U.S. populations.

The truth, Grandjean writes, is that “only 4 of 27 studies” in the Harvard review used had high water fluoride levels, and “clear differences” in IQ “were found at much lower exposures.”

In his new book, “Only One Chance: How Environmental Pollution Impairs Brain Development, Grandjean says fluoride is a brain-toxic chemical that may lower the intelligence of generations of children.

More distortion by Pew in Portland

One of the first tactics of fluoridation promotion, as advised by Pew’s PR fluoridation specialist Matt Jacob, is to identify a problem and lead with a need.   So Portland fluoridation promoters claimed that non-fluoridated Portland has more tooth decay than fluoridated portions of Oregon.  An  ABC-TV investigative reporter looked into this claim and found it to be untrue.  In fact, non-fluoridated Portland children actually have less tooth decay than those in fluoridated areas.

Pew sullying its reputation

For many people who have respected the Pew Charitable Trusts on other issues, its cavalier disregard of the possibility that a practice that Pew is advocating – in the name of improving children’s health – may actually be lowering children’s IQ is very disturbing. Especially so since this Foundation claims on its website:

The Pew Charitable Trusts is driven by the power of knowledge to solve today’s most challenging problems. Pew applies a rigorous, analytical approach to improve public policy, inform the public and stimulate civic life.

Where are they now?

Pew hired Salter Mitchell a PR firm to teach them strategy and created this website http://www.ilikemyteeth.org/ but this site is now under the umbrella of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Matt Jacob is now with the Children’s Dental Health Project (CDHP) https://www.cdhp.org/team/matt  Hopefully, the CDHP will be more careful about what Jacob says in their name about fluoridation. 

In conclusion

The problem when advocates – with a lot of money to spend – hire a PR firm to present their side of the story is that truth and honest science go out of the window. Winning is everything. That’s what the PR firm is paid to do. That is what Pew is trying to do. But citizen power is capable of beating this “machine” when the truth is on their side and they are prepared to organize as the citizens in Wichita and Portland did. FAN was pleased to help.

Carol S. Kopf, Media Director

Fluoride Action Network

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1. Jacob, 2012. Matt Jacob. A Prevention Agenda to Improve Children’s Oral Health, Florida Oral Health Conference, August 23, 2012. The Pew Center on the States. PowerPoint, page 33.

2. The Tooth Fairy: Minority groups backing Portland’s pro-fluoride measure have received $143,000 in payments from the campaign, by Nigel Jaquiss, Williamette Week (Portland), April 24, 2013.

3. Health aspects of fluoridated water debated at Sedgwick County meeting, By Dion Lefler, The Wichita Eagle, October 17, 2011.

4. Shelly Gershan. 2013. Letter to Des Moines Water Works, Iowa. October 15.
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