Irish whistle-blowing scientist, Declan Waugh has just published his second report on the health risks associated with the Republic of Ireland’s mandatory water fluoridation policy. In our second part of a fluoride investiagion, Hot Press takes an exclusive look at a document that eviscerates the official position on an increasingly controversial public policy.
In the last issue of Hot Press, we interviewed scientist Declan Waugh about Ireland’s policy of mandatory fluoridation of the nation’s water supply. There has been a huge public reaction to the story, with people from all corners of the country making contact to register their opposition to the policy – and to thank Hot Press for taking up the story. Our third installment of this investigation will be published in tomorrow’s issue (Thursday, March 14).
Look at the simple facts about fluoride (see panel overpage) and the bizarre anomalies strike you straight away. We are part of the European Union. Fluoridation is practiced in only three countries within the EU: Ireland, the UK and Spain. The level of fluoridation here is eight times higher than in either of these territories. You have to ask: why are we doing this?
There are very persuasive philosophical arguments against fluoridation. In what other respect is freedom of choice in what is essentially a medical or health issue taken away from people on a universal, one-size fits all basis? There is none here in Ireland. And indeed, it is widely regarded as a mark of civilization that people remain free to make these choices on an individual, a family or even a local community basis. None of those options has been left open to the vast majority of Irish citizens.
It is common for pro-water-fluoridation lobbies to dismiss scientists who blow the whistle on this practice as isolated cranks. Well, to put the boot on the other foot, no reasonable person who studies water fluoridation can deny that there is mounting international scientific concern regarding serious health risks to populations that are exposed to fluoride through their water supplies.
• It is a fact that the practice of attempting to prevent dental caries (decay) in citizens by forcing them to consume the toxic chemical known as hydrofluorosilicic acid through their water, has been rejected by other European countries on ethical, scientific, human health and environmental grounds.
• It is also a fact that dental health in southern Ireland is no better than it is in the rest of non-fluoridated Europe.
We live in one of the small number of places left in the world that still inflicts this form of involuntary mass medication on the population. When you study the risks presented by fluoride exposure and then see the truth that your people are much, much sicker, and have much higher disease mortality rates that your non-fluoridated neighbours you have to ask again: why exactly – unbeknownst to a large percentage of the population, and against the will of many others – are we still being dosed with this stuff on a daily basis, not only in the water directly from our taps, but in our tea, our soup, our bread, our pints?
Irish whistle-blowing scientist, Declan Waugh, is currently being stonewalled by those authorities that have been complicit in promoting water fluoridation in the Republic for the past half century. His work is being ignored. He is being brushed off as if he is a pest.
Needless to say, this isn’t be the first time that authorities in Ireland of one kind or another have closed ranks against criticism. They may not want to listen to Waugh’s dismantling of their water fluoridation policy – but the rest of us need to wake up to the fact that we are being forced to consume a toxic chemical in our water. It’s time that we joined the communities in Australia, Canada and the US who are successfully putting a stop to policies of mass medication of fluoride on their home turf.
The title of Declan Waugh’s latest report is a mouthful: dubbed a Public Health Investigation Of Epidemiological Data On Disease & Mortality In Ireland Related To Water Fluoridation & Fluoride Exposure, it summarises the scientific findings which relate fluoride toxicity to cardiovascular, musculoskeletal and immune system problems; to neurotoxicity (including Alzheimer’s and early onset dementia); as well as to endocrine effects, mental and behavioural disorders, developmental/genetic effects (including Down Syndrome and autism) and cancer.
These findings may be disputed by the authorities here, but their hostile stance cuts little ice with Waugh.
“These risks are well-documented,” he says. “Yet it’s absolutely clear that no public health studies have been done in Ireland to examine the population’s exposure to fluoride. No matter how small the risk is, the precautionary principle should apply. And it hasn’t been applied.”
According to Waugh, Article 174 of the Treaty of Europe mandates the protection of human health on the basis of the Precautionary Principle, which places the burden of proof in relation to risk on those in authority making a decision to act. In other words, the Irish health authorities have to prove categorically that there is no risk to the health of the entire population of Ireland – or otherwise desist from contaminating the water supply with fluoride
“There’s a failure by the authorities,” he says, “to apply best practice with regard to risk management and risk assessment of fluoride exposure in the population. And the question has to be asked: why? Why have there been no epidemiological or toxicological studies? Why have there been no proper fluoride exposure assessments?”
Waugh is doing work that should properly have been undertaken years ago by the authorities themselves. Waugh’s report includes charts showing the variations in disease burden and disease mortality between the Republic of Ireland (ROI), which is fluoridated, and Northern Ireland (NI), which is not. For these charts, Waugh has used data provided by the Irish Institute of Public Health, and the All-Ireland Cancer Atlas published in 2011. The comparisons are deeply disturbing. They show the ROI population to have much higher disease rates than the NI population (see Figure 3 – comparing disease burdens).
“I find it astonishing that the authors of this comparative study between the south and the north didn’t see the association between the inequality in mortality in certain diseases and fluoride exposure,” says Waugh.
“We have a 470% increase in mortality from diabetes in the south of Ireland compared to the north; a 44 per cent increase in mortality from COPD; a 34 per cent increase for asthma; a 53% increased mortality from diseases of the endocrine and metabolic diseases. We have a 300% increase in mortality from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS); a 275% increase for rheumatoid arthritis; and a 150% increase of death from mental and behavioural disorders in the south compared to Northern Ireland.
“The areas that were identified in these studies,” continues Waugh, “show not just an alarming, but an absolutely frightening increased prevalence of mortality – 300/400% higher – from diseases in the south compared to north. And yet, no association was made between increased fluoride exposure in the south compared to the north, despite the fact that (a) the association is well-documented between all those diseases and fluoride; and (b) fluoridated water is the only environmental toxin that we have in the south that they don’t have in the north.
“The HSE has offered no explanation why we have higher levels of cancer compared to Northern Ireland,” continues Waugh. “They’ve stated that the high incidence of cancer in the south is ‘for reasons that are not understood, including the possibility of an unknown environmental factor’. This would be a chemical toxin, and a chemical toxin, for example, would be fluoride.
“The National Cancer Registry last year said that fluoride exposure has no relevance to the increased cancer incidence in the south. But they said this without undertaking any epidemiological studies, and without considering the findings of the US National Research Scientific Committee (NRC), or other scientific publications which have highlighted the carcinogenicity of fluoride.”
Declan Waugh’s growing frustration with the health authorities, who have been ignoring his warnings and dismissing his information and analysis for over a year now, is very apparent.
“I have sent the National Cancer Registry the reports linking fluoride toxicity to cancer,” he says. “It’s a reflection of the quality of the democracy we live in, where public servants whose salaries are paid for by the taxpayer, will not even respond to the legitimate concerns of a member of the scientific community in Ireland, who has gone to the trouble and expense himself to do a considerable amount of research and provided that data to the organisation – and they won’t even respond to it in writing and say thanks for giving us this information. It’s shocking.”
In his latest report, Waugh looks at the fluoride intakes of adults and babies living in the Irish Republic. Fluoride occurs in many of our food and beverage products – but unlike the US, which is starting to label fluoride in food and drink, in Ireland we have no way of knowing how much fluoride we’re consuming, or how to avoid products that contain it. And that’s all on top of the fluoride we’re already consuming through our tap water.
“The very first item which the World Health Organisation (WHO) constantly address in their drinking water guidelines,” Waugh explains, “is that before you consider implementing a water fluoridation policy, you must know what the total dietary intake of fluoride of the population is from all sources. Clearly that recommendation isn’t being followed here.”
Waugh’s analysis of the chronic overexposure of infants in the Irish Republic to fluoride – primarily through formula milk made up with tap water – alongside our high incidence of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), makes for disturbing reading.
“In my report I’ve highlighted that the highest incidences of SIDS around the world are all in fluoridated countries,” says Waugh. “It’s quite remarkable. It’s New Zealand 1, Ireland 2 – although we were highest in the 1990s – US 3, Canada 4, Argentina 5 – which has both artificial and natural water fluoridation – and Australia 6. The countries with the lowest incidences are all unfluoridated.”
Again, these figures may be contested – but Waugh insists that they are correct.
“This fact alone raises the concern that’s in my report about fluoride and chemical intolerance. We know for a fact that between 1 and 5% of every population has a demonstrable chemical intolerance to fluoride. The incidence may be much higher in populations that are historically more homogenous, such as the Irish population. For example, the Maori in New Zealand and the Native Americans in the US show higher intolerance to fluoride. A study published last year talked about the fact that when you have chemical intolerance in the population to any toxin, not only will it affect people in a cognitive way, but also through their musculoskeletal, gastrointestinal, and cardiovascular systems. And SIDS is where a baby dies because their heart stops beating.”
According to Waugh, WHO studies have found a higher incidence of SIDS in infants fed with formula milk compared to infants that are breast-fed.
“But what they’ve never looked at,” he says, “is the fluoride concentration in the formula milk, and what percentage of the babies that died from SIDS were consuming fluoridated formula milk. Formula milk made up with fluoridated water has up to 200 times more fluoride in it than breast milk. And it has been documented in double-blind chemical studies that a small percentage of the population are chemically intolerant to fluoride. SIDS is quite rare, but so is chemical intolerance to fluoride. This is not proof of a connection – but, on the other hand, you cannot discount the possibility that those babies may have died because they may have been intolerant to fluoride as a contributory factor. And you cannot discount this possibility when you consider that there is a much higher incidence of SIDS in the south of Ireland compared to the north – and the only clear cut difference between the diet of a baby in Northern Ireland and the south is that formula milk made up in the north has no fluoride in it.”
Waugh notes that the European Food Safety Authority has said that 90% of the fluoride that babies consume, if their formula milk is made up with fluoridated tap water, is retained in the body of the infant. “It’s not being excreted,” he explains. “It’s being bound into their bones and into the organs of their bodies from the moment they consume it.”
These types of concerns are bringing increasing numbers of organisations, such as the Canadian Paediatrics Association, to recommend that newborn infants should have zero exposure to fluoride. (See the video clip of a US paediatrician discussing her concerns on fluoridealert.org)
The WHO, meanwhile, have advised that there is increasing evidence that chronic disease risks begin in fetal life and continue into old age. “Fluoride toxicity begins while the baby is developing in the womb,” explains Waugh, “because fluoride passes the placenta. So when you look at adult chronic diseases, the risk begins at fetal development. WHO have acknowledged that children fed formula milk have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease and cancer. And there’s a well-documented association in the scientific literature between fluoride exposure and all of those diseases.”
Another growing concern is the link that is emerging between fluoride toxicity and exploding rates of ADHD. “Research undertaken in Sweden found that kids that had ADHD problems had dramatically reduced levels of acetylcholinesterase, which was leading to problems with concentration in learning,” Waugh explains. “Scientific studies have found that silico-fluorides reduce acetylcholinesterase in the body. Yet what I’ve raised in my report – the possibility that silico-fluoride compounds from water fluoridation may act to increase the risk of children developing ADHD – has been completely overlooked. At the same time the prevalence of that disability in children has skyrocketed, especially in the US and Ireland. There are now in the region of 120,000 adults in Ireland who are living with that disability, who grew up in the period when fluoridation commenced.
“We have a rising tide of ADHD problems in the community, and there is a scientifically-proven risk that silico-fluorides may be contributing to it. The perception of risk is what the precautionary principle is all about. In the case of ADHD, there is not just the perception of a risk, but an actual risk. So why are we continuing with water fluoridation?
“We need a fully independent review of the fluoridation policy,” Waugh continues. “Are the health authorities who’ve been promoting fluoridation for years going to pay for studies that show an association between their policy and problems like SIDS? Hardly. Where is the independence and transparency? Certainly not in the government’s ‘expert group’ on fluoride, who are ignoring or dismissing the scientific findings presented in my reports. Who is policing the health authorities? Nobody is.”
The Irish are the biggest consumers of tea in the world (25% higher than the UK, who are number two). Black and green teas alike contain large amounts of fluoride. Add lashings of fluoridated water (the boiling of which increases fluoride concentration), and you have quite a chemical concoction in your cuppa. Not only that: fluoride binds to aluminium, arsenic, nickel, lead, copper and chromium – all contaminants found in tea – and increases the absorption of these toxins into the body and the brain.
“We have a population that’s consuming a lot of fluoride through drinking tea,” Declan Waugh insists. “By fluoridating the water, you’re doubling the amount of fluoride in tea. The WHO has given guidelines that the optimum level of fluoride to help prevent dental caries in a person’s diet is 3 mg per day. And the NRC in their report found there was a risk for the UK population because they drink so much tea, meaning that large sections of their population would be exposed to daily fluoride levels of 9 mg or higher. In Ireland we drink more tea, plus our water is fluoridated, and the UK’s water is not. So you’ve got a sector of the Irish population who are consuming fluoride on a daily basis of more than 10 mg a day.
“The WHO has said that the optimum level for dental caries is 3 mg, plus they’ve warned that anything above 6 mg per day can result in skeletal fluorosis stage 1, which is arthritis and musculoskeletal pain and calcification of your ligaments, as well as dental fluorosis and a whole load of other issues. And we have a population where there is a significant sector consuming more than 10 mg of fluoride a day, through tea alone.
“We have the highest incidence of prostate cancer in the world,” adds Waugh. “We’re 60% above the EU average for that cancer, and 29% higher than northern Ireland. You can’t deny a possible link between fluoride exposure and prostate cancer. They drink a lot of tea in the north as well. If you exclude the fluoride levels here in our water, we’d probably have similar levels of prostate cancer to what the UK and northern Ireland have.”
The principal reservoir for fluoride in the body is the bones.
“The incidence of arthritis in the south is 41% higher,” says Waugh. “Rheumatoid arthritis, which is an inflammatory response of the immune system, is 60% higher in southern Ireland. The highest incidences of rheumatoid arthritis are correlated very clearly with fluoridated countries. And the NRC stated, ‘There can be no question that fluoride can affect the cells involved in providing immune responses’. They also said that fluoride augments the inflammatory response to irritants in the body. Australia, the US, New Zealand, Canada, Singapore – they all have extremely high rates of rheumatoid arthritis, and they’re all fluoridated.
“Again, with osteoporosis, we’re 100% higher than the UK. It’s affecting 400,000 people in southern Ireland. For sarcoidosis, a disease which again is to do with an inflammatory immune response in the body to a toxin, we have twice the prevalence compared to northern Ireland. And in some parts of Ireland, including the Taoiseach’s own constituency in Mayo, we have the highest incidence of it in the world.”
Not all of this is necessarily fouoride related.
“Clearly, more research needs to be done,” Waugh asserts. “There’s been no research done on this in Ireland to find out what what’s causing our high levels of immune disorders. Studies that I’ve read state that the cause of these diseases is unknown. You could say the same about SIDS. But when we have the highest incidence of SIDS, cancer, immune disease mortalities and genetic abnormalities in Europe, and we have the highest exposure to fluorides, clearly there’s a link there for disease burdens and mortality that requires further investigation.
“Where you have an impaired immune system, you’re more susceptible to disease and viruses. So it’s no wonder that – based on figures in the OECD Report, Health At A Glance, from 2009, which gives the hospital admission rates – Ireland, New Zealand and Australia are the three highest in the world for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) admissions (see Figure 1). We’re the highest in the world, about 60% higher than the UK. Similarly, according to the WHO’s European Health For All database, in 2004, we had the second highest death rates from diseases of the respiratory system in Europe after Kyrgyzstan – which is also heavily fluoridated.
“Considering they smoke more in Northern Ireland than they do in the south, and considering that there are many other countries where the incidence of smoking is higher than it is in Ireland, why are our death rates so high here from diseases of the respiratory system compared to other countries? We have nearly twice the death rates from diseases of the respiratory system in Ireland compared to the European region. We’re almost 100% higher according to the WHO.
“The WHO documented that we have the highest incidence of mortality from diseases of the immune system in the world,” adds Waugh. “And the National Research Council in the US in 2006 confirms that fluoride affects the immune system. Yet nobody has looked at the link between mortality in Ireland from immune system disorders and fluoride exposure. It’s just insane!”
The single most important contingency factor in relation to fluoride toxicity is the amount of calcium that is in the fluoridated drinking water. According to Declan Waugh, soft water areas like West Cork, with very low levels of calcium in the water, have much higher disease prevalences than hard water areas. He maintains that this is because soft water populations have much higher concentrations of fluoride in their bloodstreams than hard water populations.
“I’ve produced a map,” says Waugh, “which identifies the soft water fluoridated areas in Ireland. And I have correlated a map of the disease clusters in Ireland with the soft water map. I believe there is a correlation there that shows the association between fluoridated soft water and increased disease in the population (see map).
“We need to look at the cost of all this,” he declares. “Diabetes costs 10% of the HSE’s budget – at least €1.5 billion per year. There’s a tidal wave coming in, of more and more people with diabetes being diagnosed. Take the figure of €1.5 billion – and that’s rising – for the treatment of diabetes. Now, fluoride has been linked to chronic musculoskeletal pain, so add in the cost of chronic pain – estimated in a study at over €5 billion a year in Ireland….
“The cost of the fluoride chemical might be €4 million a year, or whstever figure they quote, but the economic costs to the population in terms of health impacts are in the billions! And there is no cost that you can put on an infant who might die from SIDS, or a person who dies from any disease where fluoride is a confounding factor. There is no commonsense whatsoever in the policy that they’re pursuing.”
Mainland European countries either never adopted water fluoridation policies, or rejected them within a few decades, for health, environmental and ethical reasons. Although a major public protest campaign was involved, there was only a timeframe of a couple of years between the provision of anti-fluoride information by scientists like Dr. Hans Moolenburgh of Denmark – such as the doubling of Down Syndrome incidence in fluoridated Danish cities – and the tipping point where the population insisted that the practice be stopped.
The Irish government’s attitude to the scientific concerns over the safety of water fluoridation contrasts starkly to that of the German government’s reaction decades ago.
“The oldest technical and scientific organisation in the world with regard to water safety was a German body called the DVGW, who advised the German government,” says Waugh. “That organisation had 13,000 members, 450 full-time staff and three research institutes. They came out with a statement in the ‘70s which stopped fluoridation in Germany. And in 1992, after unification in Germany, they came out with a further statement on water fluoridation to confirm that their position had not changed, and that they still disagreed with the fluoridation of drinking water. It’s worth looking at the seven key points that they made.
“The first was that water was a food, and it was the duty of water companies to supply drinking water that meets all the requirements of a food. So drinking water was to be of such quality that there are no known adverse health effects resulting from its consumption. It is not the task of water supply companies to add substances to drinking water intended as prophylactics against illness not caused by drinking water.
“The second point was that dental caries is not the manifestation of a fluoride deficiency, but the result of a generally false nutrition and inefficient dental hygiene in the population. Unwholesome habits resulting in caries are not eliminated by the fluoridation of drinking water – on the contrary, they are promoted.
“Their third point was that the suggested optimum fluoride concentration is very close to the dose from which long-term detrimental effects in people cannot be excluded. There is very little difference between the concentration regarded as being beneficial and prophylactic from a dental point of view, and the concentration which presents a health risk. Also, the different habits and therefore the varying levels of consumption of drinking water, as well as the uncontrolled intake of fluoride from other sources, means that the safety limit for the population cannot be guaranteed. They also noted that the safety of lifelong accumulation of fluoride in the body as a result of increased fluoride intake is disputed in medical science throughout the world. The Irish fluoride expert body says that the safety of fluoride is not disputed. Yet the expert body in Germany say that it is.
“The fourth point is that 1% of the fluoride in drinking water is used for the purpose for which it is intended, and that 99% is discharged as waste water directly into the environment. The DVGW stated that this fluoride emission into waste waters is unacceptable for ecological reasons. I had a whole section in my report addressing that aspect. There is no environmental expert on the Irish expert body.
“The fifth point is that the consumer cannot avoid fluoridated drinking water. To quote: ‘This mandatory intake of fluoride violates the basic right to bodily freedom from injury and free development of personality provided by the basic law of the Federal Republic of Germany’. So it violates the laws of Germany to put fluoride into drinking water, and it doesn’t violate any laws in Ireland, according to the expert body, to do the same thing.
“The sixth point is that fluoride for the prevention of dental caries was more effective with specific measures taken by individuals rather than via fluoridated drinking water – i.e. promoting policies that encourage personal dental responsibility are much more effective than fluoridation.
“The German scientists’ last point was that ‘an assessment of the risks versus the benefits involving both the health aspects and ecological consequences justifies the DVGW’s rejection of fluoridated drinking water’.
“That position was accepted by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Environment of the German government as being of sound scientific basis in 1992,” concludes Waugh. “I have raised the same concerns with the Irish government, Irish Water, the Department of Health, the Department of the Environment, the Chief Medical Officer – everybody you can imagine – and those concerns are being ignored.”
So what do the authorities have to say? I contacted the Department of Health. A long email came back, insisting on the safety and dental effectiveness of water fluoridation and including a statement made by the Junior Minister for Health, Alex White. I wasn’t convinced.
For the Irish State’s stance on water fluoridation, visit www.fluoridesandhealth.ie. While you’re there, note how Declan Waugh’s reports are disparaged. Then, have a look at the very recent ‘fluoridegate’ documentary on You Tube or check out www.fluoridealert.org – and make up your own mind…