Health authorities in New Zealand, Australia, the USA and a few other countries endorse fluoridation in glowing terms, proclaiming the science is settled, and the benefits enormous. Opponents are accused of misinterpreting the science, peddling pseudoscience, wearing tin foil hats or being conspiracy theorists.
Yet there is a growing number of scientists, dentists and other professionals with impeccable credentials calling for an end to fluoridation worldwide – due to health concerns, poor evidence of benefits, or ethical considerations. This indicates that the science is far from settled. So who do we believe? The work of two former proponents who ‘changed their minds’ is enlightening.
The late Dr John Colquhoun, former Chief Dental Officer in Auckland, was employed to promote fluoridation throughout New Zealand. After finding evidence that fluoridation was ineffective, he spoke out against it and wrote, Why I changed my mind about water fluoridation.
Dr. Hardy Limeback, recently retired Professor and former Head of Preventive Dentistry the University of Toronto, in 1999 issued a public apology to his faculty and students for having unintentionally misled them about fluoridation, and in 2000 issued the statement, Why I am now officially opposed to adding fluoride to drinking water.
Opponents of fluoridation point to many issues, including dental-fluorosis, lowered thyroid function, and an increased rate of hip fractures. Blood levels during lifelong consumption can harm heart, bone and brain. There are now 36 human studies linking fluoride exposure to lowering of IQ in children. A 2012 Harvard University review of 27 studies (with fluoride concentrations at only modestly raised levels) found an average lowering of 7 IQ points.
As Dr Paul Connett has often explained, with water fluoridation you can control the concentration, but you cannot control the dose, as that depends on how much a person drinks. This is poor medical practice. Also people are exposed to fluoride from many sources besides water, and this exposure has increased significantly since fluoridation first began. So how can anyone guarantee there is an adequate margin of safety, sufficient to protect everyone in the community, between the doses reported to cause adverse effects in the National Research Council 2006 review, and the doses that people are likely to receive from chronic ingestion of fluoridated water, together with fluoride from all other sources – including tea, foods processed with fluoridated water, dental products, pharmaceuticals, pesticides etc?
Then there is the question of ethics. Forget the semantics of whether or not the industrial ‘byproduct’ used in water fluoridation is or is not considered medication or a nutrient. We each have the right to informed consent regarding the medications or nutritional supplements we ingest. Water fluoridation strips us of that right. Once fluoride is added to the water supply it is virtually impossible to escape, because even if we buy bottled water or install a reverse osmosis filtration system, we are exposed through our food.
In light of all this, shouldn’t the precautionary principle apply regarding water fluoridation? Remember, the science was supposedly settled on asbestos, leaded petrol and Vioxx, before it was shown that the science was wrong.