An interesting thing happened on the way to medical armageddon: Public health authorities recognized that their policies are injurious and even deadly to people so, rather than change their ways and admit liability, they simply state their expertise and refuse to answer serious questions.

Public health authorities believe that to publicly debate public health policy will only confuse us.

SPOKANE, Wash. — People for Healthy Teeth, authors of Spokane’s water fluoridation initiative, Proposition 1, refused to participate in a debate held at Gonzaga University October 28, 2000. All eight seats reserved for the pro-fluoridation panel were empty.

Dr. Paul Connett, Ph.D, a professor of chemistry at St. Lawrence University in Canton, NY, who received his Ph.D in chemistry from Dartmouth after accomplishing his undergraduate work at Cambridge, volunteered to come to Spokane to debate the fluoride proponents. Connett specifically wanted to debate Dr. Michael Easley. Easley, a dentist and professor at the University of Buffalo in New York who travels around the country promoting fluoridation in closed meetings with other proponents, has refused to debate Dr. Connett for four years now.

Don Caron of Spokane’s Fluoride Awareness Coalition and organizer of Saturday’s debate received the following response from Easley in response to Caron’s invitation for him to participate in the debate. “Science is not decided by debating and to give the quacks a forum that they otherwise wouldn’t have is a bad strategy.

“Last time I checked, Neither Al Gore or George W. Bush have agreed to debate gadfly Ralph Nader, or any of the other non-serious presidential candidates. Paul Connett is not qualified to share the stage with dedicated public health officials, local health professionals, and qualified scientists. I might have agreed to do a formal presentation, but not to a debate. The public ends up confused by the lies, bogus claims, & propaganda presented by the anti-fluoride zealots — and the debate format does not provide adequate opportunity for the proponents to counter those lies and present the truth. Worse, because of the format, the media treats a debate as if they were two legitimate points of view with equal science on each side — and nothing could be further from the truth.

“Debates might be fine for matters not related to health, but they are not appropriate for this issue. Sorry, but the debate format is not an acceptable way to deal with any scientific issue — that’s what extensive clinical research, results submitted to qualified peers for evaluation, and publication in qualified scientific journals is for — science is not decided by sound bites.”

Seven other local doctors and dentists were invited to the debate. Chairwoman of People for Healthy Teeth Mary Smith, DDS; Health Officer, Spokane Regional Board of Health Kim Thorburn, M.D.; Vice President Robert Shaw, DMD, of the Washington State Dental Association; Sue Weisharr, DDS, of the Spokane District Dental Society; People for Healthy Teeth Committee member John Ames, DDS; Deb Harper, MD, of the Spokane Medical Society; John Moyer, MD, Former Senator.

Only Mary Smith responded, with an excuse of having made other plans.

According to an article in the October 29 Spokesman-Review, Dr. Smith had other reasons for refusing to debate Connett. “You don’t debate science. He talks about the chemistry of fluoride, which is different from water fluoridation.”

The article also stated that Dr. Smith did not approve of how organizers were conducting the debate, citing that the moderator was a fluoride opponent. She also does not believe Connett is qualified to speak on the basis of public health policy since he is a chemist and not a dentist. It is interesting to note that Dr. Smith worked as a chemist for a mining company before she became a dentist.

Caron made the following observation regarding Dr. Smith’s refusal to participate: “Apparently she doesn’t realize that if you put an initiative on the ballot you are morally and ethically required to defend it in public debate. They don’t have to however. They have spent $70,000 promoting this already, and the ads are now hitting full force here. Why would they defend themselves in public when they can afford to sway public opinion with the force of funding?”

Consequently Dr. Connett gave a presentation elaborating on his pamphlet, “50 Reasons to Oppose Water Fluoridation.”

Dr. Connett pointed out that all of the current research indicates that the benefits of fluoride, if such benefits exist, are from topical application only. There is no advantage to ingesting it.

Dr. Connett’s beliefs are supported by a study by Dr. John Featherstone regarding fluoride ingestions v. topical application which was published as the cover story in the the July, 2000 edition of the Journal of the American Dental Association.

Dr. Connett went on to detail the risks indicated by peer reviewed, published studies from the past five years, which show fluoride’s causative relation to osteosarcoma, kidney disease, g-protein interference, hormone interference, pineal gland disturbances, and behavior modification in children.

Dr. Connett concluded with the question, “If all the benefits are topical and all the risks are systemic then why would we put it in the water?”

He suggests Spokane and other cities should apply the precautionary principle before exposing hundreds of thousands of people to a potentially dangerous toxic substance.

Dr. Connett believes that adding fluoride to public water supplies should never be initiated and should be discontinued in other cities until long-term studies can prove its safety. Caron stated, “Too many serious questions have been raised and not answered. And no one is stepping forward to answer these questions, because, in fact, there is no answer. Fluoridation is not based on sound science; it is based on sound bites.”

Dr. Connett, after researching fluoride extensively, has asked for a pro-fluoridation authority to debate him for four years.

He finally got a pro-fluoridation dentist to take him up on his offer. On Monday, October 23 in New Jersey the fluoride debate occurred and was chaired by the Morris County League of Women Voters.

The reason that this was such a rare event is that the pro-fluoridation forces have been sticking to a strict “No-Debate” policy, saying that this lends credibility to the anti-fluoridation cause.

This fall, Dr. Connett traveled to Salt Lake City, San Antonio and other cities that are voting on water fluoridation in November. Dr. Connett counts himself among a growing number of scientists, dentists and doctors opposed to fluoridation. He notes that most doctors and dentists don’t study the issue and simply believe the endorsements made by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the surgeon general. Afterall, the CDC ranks fluoride among the 20th century’s top 10 public health achievements.

According to Dr. Connett, “That is all propaganda.”

He may be right. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health rates fluoride alongside lead and arsenic for its toxicity to humans.