WATER fluoridation is an important part of New Zealand health policy. Fluoride is a natural mineral, the 13th most common element on earth. It occurs in earth and water naturally, but levels in water can be adjusted to maximise the benefit on our collective health. Water fluoridation helps prevent dental cavities and reduce inequalities between poor and rich people.
The back story may not be as exciting as the conspiracy theorists would have you believe — here is how water fluoridation came about. During the early 1900s, dentists observed that people living in areas with a lot of natural fluoride in the water had very little tooth decay. A dentist named Trendley Dean soon discovered that water fluoride levels could be adjusted in areas without much natural fluoride. In the 1940s, researchers tracked the dental health of 30,000 school children following artificial water fluoridation in Grand Rapids, USA. Tooth decay rates dropped by more than 60 percent!
At that time, tooth decay in New Zealand was so bad that we had the world’s highest rate of edentulism (no teeth). After seriously assessing the research on the safety and efficacy of water fluoridation, the Government recommended that local bodies fluoridate their water. New Zealanders of my generation have much healthier teeth, in a big way thanks to water fluoridation.
Research continues to show that in the low quantities in which it is added (0.7-1.0 parts per million, or between 0.00007 percent and 0.0001 percent), it is very safe for the body. The science actually suggests a lower rate of hip fracture among older women who drink fluoridated water. There is no evidence of effects on the kidneys, liver, blood or breathing function, even among people exposed to fluoride at far greater levels than one could ever get from fluoridated water. Scientific studies have shown time and again that fluoridated water does not cause cancer, arthritis, thyroid problems or anything else that antifluoridationists declare. At worst, a small number of people get white flecks on the teeth (fluorosis), but that is cosmetic and it normally relates to sources of fluoride other than water (e.g. eating toothpaste). Fluorosis usually fades over time and is surely preferable to the great big holes that tooth decay causes in teeth.
Not only is water fluoridation safe and effective, it is also inexpensive and people can benefit from it without changing the way they live. It is similar to fortifying salt with iodide or breakfast cereal with iron, because fluoride is a mineral, not a medicine. Even with availability of fluoride from other sources like toothpaste, water fluoridation reduces dental decay by 20-40 percent more. Everyone benefits, but especially the disadvantaged and the poor. Most health interventions benefit the rich the most, but this one helps the poor more!
Fluorophobic conspiracy theorists want to undermine this public health measure, making outrageous, emotionally-charged claims, relying on poorly-produced pseudoscience, and presenting misleading interpretations. They copy/paste from the internet with little critical thought.
They apply political pressure to push their agenda, and organise concerted efforts to flood councils with submissions in order to get their way.
I urge you to listen to reputable organisations such as the New Zealand Ministry of Health, World Health Organisation, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Royal Society of New Zealand, and NZ Dental Association. These organisations exist for the public good, and they all advocate for water fluoridation. Te Ao Marama (the Maori Dental Association) refers to fluoridated water as wai ora, or “the water of life”. When we fluoridate water, we are just copying an idea that nature gave us.
• Jonathan Broadbent is a senior lecturer in preventive and restorative dentistry in the University of Otago’s Department of Oral Rehabilitation. His research investigates the natural history of dental disease and health through childhood, adolescence and into adulthood, with a particular focus upon social disparities in oral health.
Some COMMENTS to article published after the article:
I’m afraid Dr. Broadbent is on a very high horse and the higher the horse the harder it is to climb down. Requests from various DHBs for certificates of safety or for unequivocal guarantees of safety for 100% of the people for 100% of the time have yielded nothing. The article is largely “fog” and has the usual endorsements which are pretty meaningless. Those who want fluoride can get it in toothpaste, rinses, gels, varnishes, drops or tablets. It is an individual choice, not a community one.
Hydrofluorosilisic acid, the waste product scrubbed from the chimneys of the fertilizer industry and added to our water has never been tested for human ingestion and safety. The Nobel Medical Institute and Pasteur Institute recommended against fluoridation and 98% of Europe does not fluoridate. In fact 95% of the world’s population does not have fluoridated water.
In the book “The Case Against Fluoride” there are over 1200 scientific references showing fluoride’s harmful effects. The evidence for a benefit is surprisingly weak and in fact the Centers for Disease Control says the effect of fluoride is primarily topical so you can just brush your teeth with it and then spit it out.
Unfortunately Jon Broadbent froths in his efforts to demonize all opponents of fluoridation (22/6).
Water fluoridation advocacy looks like a cult to me.
While fluoridation may have appeared to be science-based 50 years ago, that has been discredited now.
The fluoride cult uses endlessly repeated slogans, like a mindless appeal to trust white-coated authority.
Their slogans are:
“Thousands of studies show fluoridation is safe and effective.”
“Authorities have declared fluoridation to be one of the top 10 public health achievements of the 20th century.”
“Opponents of fluoridation are misguided zealots and get all their information from the internet.”
No surprise to find that each of these slogans is utterly wrong. But does that deter the fluoridation cult? Not at all. Never let the truth get in the way of a self-righteous, emotion-based cult.
It really should be obvious to anyone that the fluoridation cult, cartel, or whatever, is dangerous when they advocate using the public water supply to deliver a profoundly bio-active chemical into people.
Whoever heard of the kitchen tap being an effective or acceptable way of delivering medication into anyone’s body – let alone into the body of every man, woman and child, every hour of every day for ever?
Fluoridation is not done with natural fluoride. A waste product from the phosphate fertilizer industries, hydrofluorosilicic acid or derivative is used. The dentists and the doctors mislead us. No toxicology or safety studies have been done on this chemical in tap water.
Five Canadian studies showing artificial water fluoridation is less than effective with tooth decay are found here: http://cof-cof.ca/convincing-canadian-studies-demonstrating-water-fluoridations-questionable-merit/
Declan Waugh, environmental and water scientist of the Republic of Ireland www.enviro.ie did some research on statistics which came from the World Health Organization, International Agency for Research on Cancer. To his shock he found that the top six countries with the most cancer are all fluoridated countries. They are Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, United States of America, Canada and Israel. The graphs he constructed are available here: http://tinyurl.com/myqxv97
On the page with the graphs you will find other graphs on prostate cancer, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma which also show a higher incidence in artificially fluoridated countries.
His study comparing the incidence of disease between fluoridated Republic of Ireland and the non fluoridated Northern Ireland is available here: http://www.enviro.ie/Feb2013.pdf —look at pages 6, 10 and 12. These 3 graphs will give you a good overview of the study and hopefully entice you to read the whole study.
Artificial water fluoridation is mass medication with a tooth medicine that has not been safety tested in tap water, with no informed consent, no dose control and no regulation. The rights of the individual must be respected and artificial water fluoridation must be stopped.
Conspiracy is speculation, but we have doctors and dentists arguing this issue with scientific studies and evidence. Resorting to using that label is just childish, distracts from the issue and highlights the writer’s hypocrisy. Plus, just because fluoride is naturally occurring does not make the act of artificially fluoridating beyond naturally occurring levels..natural.
Actually, an argument about the science behind fluoridation is not even necessary and is in itself a distraction from the much bigger problem here, and that is the fundamental violation of our rights through the government’s imposed mass medication. This should not be the role of government and not supported by tax dollars and this needs to be acknowledged first.
The people who do not want fluoride in their water have no choice. Rather it should be at the discretion of the individual to add chemicals to their own water supply as they see fit.
Is there something wrong with having clean water? It’s not just in the water, it’s in the beer and any food processed with it. How are food processers going to get on when Europe bans food processed with flouride water? Don’t get sucked in by this fear-mongering. Just brush your teeth and watch out how hard you scrub all that safe mercury fillings, and do question doctors. Your bad health is in their best interest.
Paul Harry Connett
Jonathan Broadbent makes many assertions in his piece promoting fluoridation but offers few if any references to scientific studies to support them. Instead, like many promoters of fluoridation he uses two very familiar tactics.
1) He cites endorsements from government and professional bodies. Here he is using “authority” rather than science to support his case. Such an approach was discredited in the Scientific Revolution that followed the famous dispute between Galileo and the Pope.
2) He attacks the credibility of those who oppose fluoridation. In this case he disparages opponents of fluoridation as “Fluorophobic conspiracy theorists.”
Both tactics are aimed to keep open-minded scientists and others from actually reading the literature for themselves.
I challenge Dr. Broadbent to read the book I wrote with two other scientists (James Beck, MD, PhD and Spedding Micklem, DPhil), “The Case Against Fluoride” (Chelsea Green, 2010) and show that our arguments are based on either fluorophobia or conspiracy theories. In fact our arguments are science-based and are backed up with 80 pages of references to the scientific literature.
It is disappointing to me that if he felt the case I present is weak scientifically then he didn’t take advantage of my three-week trip to NZ (which included Dunedin) in March in which I challenged any dentist, doctor, scientist or public health official to debate me in public. Not one would take me on.
Maybe Dr. Broadbent missed my challenge. Never mind I am coming back to NZ in 2014 and perhaps Dr. Broadbent would indicate to this newspaper his willingness to debate me then. If he is unwilling to do so then I think he should temper his insults.
Paul Connett, PhD, Executive Director of the Fluoride Action Network
Anyone wanting to know about fluoridation needs to watch this interview with former Principal Dental Officer of the Auckland Health Board. Was originally an avid promoter of fluoridation, believing the same as Johnathan Broadbent, but learnt the truth and spent the rest of his life campaigning against it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e8th-Bbb0LQ
In fact this shows those with darker skin are actually 4 x more likely to suffer from fluorosis, this isn’t a racist comment of course, it’s a genetic study
I find it very interesting that several dentists and health professionals (always at the end of their careers) speak out about issues with fluoride.
Note that hardly Limeback someone who was in the exact same position as Broadbent spoke out about fluoride, as well as Harms ( australia) and Colloqhoun ( Auckland NZ)
also worth of note is this statement
AFFIDAVIT OF ROBERT J. CARTON, Ph.D. IN SUPPORT OF MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
Johnathan Broadbent BDS PG Dip Com Dent PhD stands before us in a dental smock and a hygiene mask about his neck and he is an advocate for either himself or the dental and health foundation that tells us, fluoridation in our Gisborne water supply is perfectly safe.
He has laid out the facts and is now on record as an expert to mass medication of fluoridation in our water system, for the good of our health and our teeth.
I have never seen a packet or container of this fluoride chemical that is poured into our water, but I understand that by law, whatever food or beverage we buy, it must have data such as, manufacturer, date of manufacture, place of manufacture, ingredients that are imported or made here, date of expiry and so on.
None of that has been available to the public; it has just been bought from some company and poured into our water supply.
I would like to know who on our council ticks off and signs off the authority to do so on our behalf. also, knowing chemical and the pharmaceutical companies, there is and always has been free gifts to the buyer. Who has collected these free gifts?
I am not sure what this ‘stuff’ does for our teeth or for that matter what it is doing to our bodies and with all the so-called experts giving it the green light and other experts saying that it is a very real poison and may even cause cancer – and let’s face it, we here in Gisborne have a very high rate of cancer; what causes this cancer I don’t know, but would like to know.
Fluoride Free Hastings
Residents have been drinking fluoridated water for 59 years in Hastings yet blood testing for fluoride toxicity has never been done by health authorities. Recently, some long-term residents initiated blood tests which indicate fluoride toxicity. Research has shown people who have lived most of their lives in fluoridated communities are at increased risk of hip fractures, arthritis, kidney conditions, dementia, thyroid conditions, skin conditions and gastric complaints. Ask your doctor for a fluoride toxicity test if you have lived in a fluoridated area for most of your adult life.
As a Professor and Health Researcher I find pro-fluoridationists’ characterisation of those opposed to fluoridation as “quacks”or other derogatory names offensive.
My work is supported by the UK Department of Health, I am a member of the UK Faculty of Public Health and have a number of funded research projects from the National Institutes for Health Research in the UK.
I have consistently opposed fluoridation policy due to the poor evidence base on its effectiveness, genuine concerns about potential health problems (requiring further research) and, therefore, the fact that imposing fluoridation is unethical.
Professor Stephen Peckham BSc. MA(Econ)., HMFPH
Director, Centre for Health Services Studies
Professor of Health Policy
London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Director, Policy Research Unit in Commissioning and the Healthcare System
University of Kent, George Allen Wing, Canterbury, Kent
Stephen Peckham (2012): Slaying sacred cows: is it time to pull the plug on water fluoridation?, Critical Public Health, 22:2, 159-177. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09581596.2011.596818