Anti-fluoridation clarification sought

A United States campaigner against fluoridation has been invited to make a submission to the New Zealand Dental Journal for peer review.

Emeritus Prof Paul Connett, a chemistry professor who taught at St Lawrence University in New York for 23 years, and wrote, with two other retired professors, a book called The Case Against Fluoride, made a presentation to Dunedin city councillors during this week's council public forum.

Prof Connett, who said he did not subscribe to government-controlled mass medication or other conspiracy theories and based his position on science, presented arguments, facts and figures to back up his position that fluoride does not work if you swallow it, that topical application is much more effective and that 46 studies had shown it reduced IQ levels.

It was the third time Prof Connett, also the director of the Fluoride Action Network, had made a presentation along the same lines to the council.

He argued using the public water supply to administer medication was clumsy, and that with better education, the topical application of fluoride would be a far better method and get around the ethical dilemma of people being able to choose whether to take fluoride. As previously, he questioned why scientists, health bureaucrats and practitioners would never debate with him face to face to defend their policies, suggesting they were afraid to speak out against accepted policies for fear of losing their jobs or credibility for other health measures.

Public health physician Dr Marion Poore and dental public health specialist Dr Tim McKay appeared next at the public forum.

Dr McKay, who questioned Prof Connett's qualifications before being forced to apologise by Cr Fliss Butcher, said fluoride had been used safely and effectively for 50 years without any evidence of it harming people and there was no debate to have.

''We're chasing unicorns here.''

Water fluoridation was supported by major health organisations from the Royal Society of New Zealand to the World Health Organisation as the best and most effective way to treat people, particularly those most at risk.

''We believe WHO on so many other things; why not this one?''A 2009 oral health survey in New Zealand showed the oral health of people in areas with fluoridated supplies was better in areas with non-fluoridated supplies and Dunedin's own multidisciplinary study had not found any link between fluoridation and adverse effects..

Dr McKay brought with him an invitation to Prof Connett from Prof Murray Thomson, professor of dental epidemiology and public health at the University of Otago and editor of the New Zealand Dental Journal, to submit to the journal for peer review an original piece of literature in support of his position.

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull said it was unfortunate councils had to make decisions about issues like this, when they were not epidemiological experts and were bound to follow the advice of authorities with such knowledge.

The councillors decided to review the situation after the peer review of Prof Connett's submission was received.

- debbie.porteous@odt.co.nz

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