OPINION: Scientific research is selective. It’s what scientists with a brief don’t tell us that should keep us alert.

Take the recent Northland District Health Board report which urges our council to resume fluoridation of water supplies in Kaikohe and Kaitaia – and extend it to other areas.

Thankfully mayor Wayne Brown is seeking further community input before he asks his councillors to vote on such a hot issue.

It would be unfair to expect our medically unqualified councillors to make a decision about enforced medication of an entire community without its consent.

So before you soak up material released by the board and the Health Ministry, take a careful look at what they’re not telling us.

Anti-fluoride campaigner Bruce Spittle of Dunedin sees a number of flaws in the Far North survey:

– He says that the biggest reduction in one chart appeared to be in non-fluoridated Kawakawa/Moerewa

– He questioned lack of information about the socioeconomic status of the schools involved

– He says the survey size of 550 was small compared to much larger studies that have been done, for example 39,000 in the United States.

And he – like a number of locals – is concerned about lack of discussion in the report about the effects of fluoridation on parts of the body, other than teeth.

The Northland District Health Board report makes no mention of a 507-page review of fuoride in drinking water by the US National Research Council, which raises safety issues including effects on the thyroid, brain, joints, and fertility.

“I think the people of Northland would need to hear much more about the other side of the issue to that presented in the report to have adequate information to make a proper judgement,” says Dr Spittle.

The 2006 507-page report on fluoride in drinking water, by the US National Research Council, identified many research studies in which animals or humans drinking fluoridated water had adverse health effects including moderate dental fluorosis (chalky white patches on the teeth), bone fractures, decreased thyroid function, impaired glucose tolerance, brain cell damage, lowered IQ in children, alzheimer-like symptoms, kidney damage and arthritis.

Dr Robert Carton found that when the effects on the thyroid, joints and brain were considered there was no room for adding any fluoride to water and three years ago the American Dental Association recommended that fluoridated water not be used to mix infant formula because of the risk of dental fluorosis.

A study from Harvard University, dated 2006, found a five to seven-fold increase in osteosarcoma, a bone cancer, in young men associated with exposure to fluoridated water during the ages six to eight years.

Further, a scientific consensus statement says about fluoride:

“The question is what level of exposure results in harmful effects to children. The primary concern is that multiple routes of exposure, from drinking water, food and dental care products, may result in a high enough cumulative exposure to fluoride to cause developmental effects. It is not clear that the benefits of adding fluoride to drinking water outweigh risks of neurodevelopment or other effects such as dental fluorosis.”

Panel members included doctors and other health professionals from Harvard Medical School, Johns Hopkins University, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Harvard School of Public Health, Massachusetts General Hospital, Mt Sinai School of Medicine, University of Cincinnati, Learning Disabilities Association of Canada, University of California, Science and Environmental Health Network and University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. This consensus document references 205 research articles.

Last month State University of New York researchers found more premature births in fluoridated than non-fluoridated upstate New York communities.

In New Zealand, the late John Colquhoun – former principal dental officer for the Auckland City Council – concluded from studies that there was no significant difference in decay rates between fluoridated and unfluoridated areas and he asked how many teeth you had to save to justify one person dying from bone cancer.

Fluoridation of drinking water is unethical, unsafe and ineffective, Dr Spittle says.

And he says it’s nonsensical to swallow a substance that is considered to act topically. “This is equivalent to swallowing sunblock to prevent sunburn.”

Clearly there is deep concern among scientists about the harmful effects of fluoridated water. Added to that, the substance is classified as a marine pollutant.

Instead of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on long-term fluoridation of our drinking water, the authorities would serve us better if they provided our children with free and easily accessible dental care – as they do with the mobile ear clinic – and free toothbrushes.