New Zealand’s fluoridation debate heated up last week, when the chief executive of the Waikato District Health Board, Craig Climo, described anti-fluoridation campaigners as “middle-class conspiracy theorists” who seem to be unable to capture our community decision makers. Ad hominem attacks and a propensity to rig the debate with biased media are likely to increase, now that Chief Conspiracy Theorist, Professor Dr. Paul Connett has arrived in New Zealand to add much needed science to the debate.
Craig Climo’s denunciation of scientists and concerned citizens as middle class conspiracy theorists was far from the first scandal to heat New Zealand’s fluoridation debate. In December, the citizens of New Zealand could add some cold “conspiracy facts” to the debate after it was discovered that a public poll about fluoridation in the Waikato Times reversed the results, meaning that each time a reader voted against fluoridation, the newspaper’s poll registered as if it was a pro fluoridation vote.
Responding to the chief executive of the Waikato District Health Board’s denunciation of concerned citizens as middle class conspiracy theorists New Zealand’s Fluoride Action Network (FAN) invited Prof. Dr. Paul Connett, who has arrived in the country for a series of public meetings.
Connett, a chemistry professor, has spent 17 years campaigning against drinking water fluoridation. The FAN quotes Connett as saying:
“It’s a bad medical practice to use the water supply to deliver medicine. … You can’t control the dose, you can’t control who gets the medicine and you are forcing it on people who don’t want it.”
Besides citing bad medical practice, Dr. Connett’s opposition to drinking water fluoridation is supported by a growing body of peer reviewed evidence that suggests not only that the dental benefit of fluoride comes from topical use, not from metabolizing it through the digestive system, and a substantial body of evidence that points towards numerous adverse effects, spanning from dental fluorosis, over skeletal fluorosis to adverse cognitive effects.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) and many scientists maintain that fluoridation is an effective way of reducing tooth decay. FAN states that more than half of the New Zealand population is covered by councils who fluoridate their citizen’s water.
“It is safe and effective and it benefits everyone across the population,” says Dr Julia Peters of the Auckland Regional Public Health Service. “We are here about protecting the health of everybody in this region.”
Meanwhile, the arguments for fluoridation become increasingly undermined by evidence, as well as by the fact that many of the studies which support the beneficial effects of water fluoridation are chronically plagued by conflict of interest, to say the least. The pro-fluoridation argument also becomes undermined by the fact that the pro-fluoridation lobby, increasingly, finds it appropriate to use ad hominem arguments rather than evidence.
FAN reports that Dr. Connett has been called a quack by some of his opponents, adding that Connett just wants a proper debate.
“The evidence that it is causing harm is getting stronger by the day, and in particular I’m most concerned about the lowering of IQ,” he says. “We now have 37 studies that indicate an association with lowered IQ.”
Auckland health authorities say fluoride can cause fluorosis, or white spots on the teeth, but it is safe. FAN quotes the Auckland Medical Officer, Richard Hoskins, as saying:
“The studies that have implicated adverse health effects have almost universally been of very poor quality”.
Dr. Connett’s first speech will be held in Auckland on Tuesday. His visit could coincide with a ruling due out any day from the High Court on whether the South Taranaki District Council had the authority to introduce fluoride into its water system.
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