Fluoride Action Network

Pro-Fluoridation Institute Acknowledges Harm to Fetus; Council Cancels Hearing

Fluoride Action Network | Bulletin | July 23, 2019


The dental-lobby, along with proponents of fluoridation on the Calgary City Council, worked to pass a resolution in February directing the University of Calgary’s O’Brien Institute for Public Health to conduct a review of fluoridation and present their findings to the council on July 24th.  However, their strategy fell apart this weekend after the O’Brien Institute published their report, in part highlighting the neurotoxic risk posed to the fetus by fluoride.  Yesterday, the City Council voted 13-1 to cancel O’Brien’s Wednesday presentation.

Section Two of the O’Brien report deals with the potential harms of fluoridation, with a portion dedicated to neurotoxicity, including discussion of some of the more recent studies.  They point to the 2017 Bashash Mother-Offspring study that found that certain levels of fluoride in a pregnant woman’s urine will lower the child’s IQ.  They also commented on a second study from Bashash et al. 2018, which found that higher urinary fluoride levels during pregnancy was associated with attention hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms in children at 6-12 years of age.

But maybe more important than these acknowledgements, they point out that criticism from the pro-fluoridation lobby of these two studies was baseless and inaccurate:

One widely-stated stated caveat/criticism for these two ELEMENT studies just described is that the levels of urinary fluoride measured in pregnant Mexican women may not be relevant to Canada. This criticism is, however, addressed by a recent Canadian study…this study reveals that the maternal urinary fluoride levels for women in communities with water fluoridation is comparable to that of Mexican women in the ELEMENT cohort. The amount of black tea consumed may further increase the exposure to fluoride. [p. 20]

The O’Brien report also mentions a soon-to-be published Canadian IQ study, based on this graduate thesis, that re-affirms fluoride exposure during pregnancy lowers IQ at the levels found in “optimally” fluoridated communities.

Summing it all up, the O’Brien Institute writes:

…there is some new emerging evidence that fluoride exposure during pregnancy may be harmful to the brain development of children, with important studies having been published subsequent to the review of this evidence by the National Research Council in the U.S. in 2006…The new emerging studies in this domain need to be tracked very closely, and carefully evaluated as they appear.  [p. 21]

These acknowledgements and conclusions are incredibly damning for the fluoridation-lobby, who have relied heavily upon the mantras that the science is settled, that no studies have found harm, and that no mainstream public health organizations have questioned fluoridation’s safety.

No reasonable parent would trade less than one cavity saved for a lifetime of cognitive impairment for their child.  We can easily fix a cavity, but we cannot fix damage done to the brain.

We suspect that several factors may have contributed to the O’Brien report providing an honest assessment of the neurotoxicity data.

  • First, they were specifically asked by the city council to be objective.
  • Second, local organizers Safe Water Calgary leveraged this request to get the O’Brien Institute to interview some of our experts who highlighted these studies: Hardy Limeback, DDS, PhD, Robert Dickson, MD, and Paul Connett, PhD.
  • Third, in 2018 a Canadian national survey of urine fluoride levels in pregnant women (Till et al.) was performed in fluoridated and non-fluoridated communities.  It discovered similar fluoride levels to those found to reduce IQ in the Bashash studies, making the IQ research nearly impossible for Canadians to ignore.
  • And fourth, local organizers and FAN professionals publicly emphasized the importance of the neurotoxicity studies, sharing this data with councilors.

Aside from also reporting that an increase in dental fluorosis is another side-effect residents ought to expect from initiating fluoridation, the O’Brien report was still heavily biased in favor of the practice.  We expected this, considering that the O’Brien Institute has a long and public history of endorsing fluoridation. They also stated publicly that the Institute’s conclusions would rely heavily on the deeply flawed and biased fluoridation review conducted by the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health (CADTH).

Safe Water Calgary, along with members of the Fluoride Action Network and a team of international health and scientific experts, generated a Statement in Opposition to Artificial Water Fluoridation responding to CADTH’s claims, sharing it with councilors, the O’Brien Institute, and local media.

In response to O’Brien’s report, Canada’s top dental researcher and fluoride expert Dr. Hardy Limeback, has been tweeting his analysis of the O’Brien report to Calgary Council, which our friends at Fluoride Free Peel have compiled on their site.  It’s also definitely worth a look.

Fluoride Free New Zealand issued an excellent press release on the O’Brien Institute’s report, particularly as it excerpted many of their statements in the report.

Cancellation of Presentation and Public Hearing

To make matters worse for proponents of fluoridation, the city council voted 13-1 yesterday to cancel O’Brien’s Wednesday presentation and the ensuing public hearing.  Councilors suggested they reschedule the hearing this fall, after the budget is resolved. Calgary is currently facing a severe budget crisis that will require councilors to cut $60 million dollars in spending this week, some of which will come out of fire and police budgets.  The City’s Administration further torpedoed plans to initiate fluoridation in their recommendation to council, stating:

Given the current conversation related to budget reductions, Administration has not recommended any future work towards new services, including conducting feasibility studies or developing implementation plans (either related to water fluoridation or other dental health initiatives).

With $60 million in cuts being made to critical services, the $20-million price tag for fluoridation is a non-starter, as it ought to be.  Councilors recognized this, prioritizing firefighters, police, schools, and transportation infrastructure over the profits of the fertilizer industry and distributors supplying the chemical.

We expect that the dental associations and American Fluoridation Society will attempt to lobby behind the scenes to amend the O’Brien report and re-ignite the debate this fall.  However, Safe Water Calgary and FAN will build upon our momentum to ensure the public won’t forget the harm posed by fluoridation, no matter how much time some councilors give proponents to re-group or work to revise history.

Please stay tuned, as we plan to provide additional coverage of the fluoridation battle in Calgary, including a bulletin taking an in-depth view of our response to the CADTH review, as well as a new video that includes news of how the fluoridation-lobby is actively working to silence Calgary professionals who speak out in opposition to the practice.


Stuart Cooper
Campaign Director:
Fluoride Action Network

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