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The University of Otago is defending its decision to let anti-fluoride campaigners speak on campus, as a retired biostatician compares them to a ``flat earth society''.
Retired University of Ulster academic Dr Vyvyan Howard, Irish scientist Declan Waugh, and well-known United States anti-fluoride campaigner Prof Paul Connett are speaking at an event organised by Fluoride Free New Zealand, titled ``Fluoride is a Neurotoxin that Reduces Children's IQs''.
A university spokeswoman said there was ``substantial'' research on the efficacy of fluoride and people should draw ``their own conclusions about claims made''.
``The group is entitled to share its views.''
Emeritus Prof Peter Herbison, a retired biostatician who worked within the university's division of health sciences, agreed the university was an appropriate venue for the campaigners to speak.
However, he said the evidence was clear fluoride ``doesn't do any harm''.
A report prepared for the government in 2014 found it was not dangerous.
If the group was a ``flat earth society'' there ``wouldn't be such a fuss'', he said.
Emeritus Prof Herbison spoke in support of adding fluoride to the water at the Central Otago District Council's long-term plan submissions in June.
People were ``suspicious of science'' and even health professionals and academics could find it hard to interpret statistical data, he said yesterday.
``I think it's quite difficult to work out what's real, and what's not real.''
The report, by then Prime Minister's chief science adviser Sir Peter Gluckman and Royal Society of New Zealand president Sir David Skegg said a panel of experts unanimously concluded there were no ``adverse effects'' of ``any significance'' arising from fluoridation in New Zealand.
Fluoride Free New Zealand co-ordinator Mary Byrne said most people opposed to fluoride, including health professionals, originally supported it.
In response to Emeritus Prof Herbison's suggestion people did not understand the data, she said speakers were all highly qualified.
She said the Gluckman and Skegg report had ``serious errors'', and had been superseded by a US report. People were invited to come to the talk at the university on September 4 and hear for themselves.