As the Ministry of Health is steadily losing the battle to keep adding hazardous waste fluoride to public drinking water, the Council of the Royal Society of New Zealand (RSNZ) decided to prepare an advisory paper on the issue.

On 20 July the RSNZ said it was “preparing a statement on the risks and benefits of the treatment of public reticulated water with fluoride for oral health, and the research that underpins this. To assist this work, the Society would welcome information about research that could inform this risk-benefit statement.”

The RSNZ received information from the Government’s $1.25 million lobby group, the NFIS, and from those opposed to fluoridation, notably Fluoride Action Network and the independent NZ Fluoridation Information Service (94 pages, with hundreds of pages of scientific attachments).

Following the 20 August deadline, the RSNZ issued a statement on 31 August that “[following initial evidence gathering, initiated to inform decisions on whether to develop a statement on the risks and benefits of the treatment of public reticulated water with fluoride, t]he Council of the Society has now discussed the matter and decided not to include that topic in its current work programme.”

But the initial request stated clearly the Royal Society had decided to prepare such a statement; not deciding whether to do so or not.

“Perhaps this reversal means the RSNZ took heed of our following recommendation”, says Mark Atkin, speaking on behalf of the Information Service:

“In light of the expenditure of time, resources, and money, and the commitment of international expertise, over the last 50 years, the Society cannot realistically contribute in any meaningful way to the scientific knowledge in this debate, or analysis thereof.

In this information age, many members of the public are already far better versed in fluoridation science than the statutory decision makers in NZ – local body councillors.

The reality is that this issue will not be resolved without open public debate. We therefore recommend that the Society recommend that a national public debate of the science be inaugurated as the only feasible way of resolving this debate.”

The Royal Society stands for scientific integrity. At the same time it has, through its Advisory Panel, indirect links to the fluoridation lobby service, the NFIS.

“NFIS was preparing a submission from day 1. One has to wonder if vested interests prompted the original decision to produce a paper, but the Royal Society realized, on the information received, that it would scientifically have to condemn fluoridation if it proceeded, against the interests of some Panel member organisations, not to mention the Government at large. If so, its easiest way out would be to not proceed with the paper, as now decided, but which was a ‘done deal’ according to its original request for submissions. Or perhaps it just accepted the task was beyond its resources, as was apparent from my original conversation with the Society’s reviewer”, muses Mr Atkin.