New Zealand health authorities have locked themselves into a position and are ignoring the scientific evidence about the dangers of fluoride, according to a Waikato University academic.

Ted Ninnes, who co-ordinates the university’s social sciences programme, said at least 800 peer reviewed published scientific studies now existed showing links between fluoride and health problems.

Yet fluoridation of water was now an integral part of the Health Ministry’s policy and named in its publications as one of its 13 health strategies.

Some Health Ministry and Waikato District Health Board employees had the role of promoting fluoride included in their employment contracts.

“It makes it very hard for them to look at any evidence which is critical of fluoride,” he said.

Dr Ninnes said his research had led him to support a referendum on the issue which Hamilton City Council is to debate on February 20.

He wanted to to see fluoridation stopped as a precautionary measure.

“Water fluoridation should be stopped until such time as it has been proven that it is ethically justified, proven safe and is effective in improving oral health.”

But Waikato Medical Officer of Health Felicity Dumble rejected his assertions, saying authorities were simply committed to maintaining the health of the population.

She said the Health Ministry weighed up all the evidence available. “We are always looking out for something new.

“Obviously the Ministry of Health and Waikato District Health Board would alter our stance if there was anything to suggest fluoride was unsafe or didn’t work,” she said.

Dr Ninnes, who delivered a paper on fluoride at a national sociology conference last year, said corrupted science was responsible for many studies supporting fluoride.

Dr Ninnes said the history of fluoridation in the US had seen science become “the handmaiden of industrial giants” such as the Sugar Research Foundation of America and Superphosphate companies which produced fluoride as a toxic byproduct.

Scientists who came up with contrary findings were often discredited and only one side of the fluoride story had been presented to the public.

Dr Dumble said there were no other influences involved in the Health Ministry’s decision-making on fluoride.

“It’s purely a health decision.”

“I have to live with myself. Also I live in Hamilton and I don’t want my children to be drinking fluoridated water if its going to harm them.”

Dr Ninnes likened the fluoride debate to that around dioxin, which he said for years was backed by health authorities until the evidence was too powerful to ignore.

“Governments in New Zealand and the United States refused to accept scientific evidence of the toxicity of dioxin to humans for 30 years, even though the scientific evidence of its toxicity was overwhelming.

“You seem to have to wait until its overwhelming before they do anything.”