Anti-fluoride campaigners 'entitled to share views' at uni

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She said the Gluckman and Skegg report had ``serious errors'', and had been superseded by a US report.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.



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"People were suspicious of science..." Yes, and sometimes with very good reason. Several cities here in Canada have suspended water fluoridation. Exactly why would you want it in your water?

These three speakers are not the experts they pretend to be on fluoridation (none of them has published original research in this area) – in contrast to real experts working at the university. However, despite the way these activists usually misrepresent and distort the science I think they provide a valuable role because it motivates real experts to check their claims.
In claiming “`Fluoride is a Neurotoxin” they erroneously attempt to extrapolate findings of real health problems in areas of endemic fluorosis like China to countries like NZ. But recent research in NZ, Canada and Sweden shows this to be wrong. The Royal Society review of the science also showed their claims are wrong. The claimed health effects are just not seen where community water fluoridation is sued.

Ken, there are glaring errors in the Royal Society 'report' from 2014. How can a 7 IQ point drop be considered a 'statistical artefact of no significance'?

From the report: "Further, the claimed shift of less than one standard deviation suggests that this is likely to be a measurement or statistical artefact of no functional significance" page 7 Royal Society Report.

Kane, your quote simply shows the Royal Society recognised a fact - it cannot be described as a glaring error. The comments refer to the paper of Choi et al (2012) where the authors themselves described their calculated effect (0.45 of a standard deviation) as "small" and "may be within the measurement error of IQ tests."

More importantly, the Choi meta-review of studies from areas of endemic fluorosis in China (cognitive deficits is only one health problem) is not relevant to areas where community water fluoridation is used. Specific high quality studies in NZ, Canada and Sweden show there are no IQ effects from fluoridation.

It is misleading to use studies from areas of excessive F intake in an attempt to discredit community water fluoridation in NZ.

Ken you are being disingenuous. An drop of 7 IQ points across the population is not insignificant. Further research from Bashash et al. has again shown similar results. This time a 5 IQ point drop for every 1mg/L of fluoride. It is well past time that the precautionary principle is applied.

Kane, I quote the authors' own assessment of their results (described their calculated effect (0.45 of a standard deviation) as "small" and "may be within the measurement error of IQ tests.") and you accuse ME of being disingenuous!!

As for the Bashash and Thomas studies. No relationship was seen of child IQ with of child urinary F (although Thomas reported a positive relationship for male children). The relationship reported with maternal urinary F is extremely weak (explaining only 3% of the variance) and would probably disappear if an important risk-modifying factor were included in the statistical analysis. See -

The author completely downplays Dr Vyvyan Howard's credentials by only referring to him as a "Retired University of Ulster academic".

Dr C Vyvyan Howard, MB ChB, PhD, FRCPath, has recently retired as Professor of Bioimaging, Nano Systems Biology, Centre for Molecular Biosciences, University of Ulster.

Vyvyan Howard is a medically qualified toxico-pathologist with expertise on the effects of toxic substances on the foetus and infant during the developmental period of life.

He is probably more of an authority than anyone at Otago University on fluoridation.

Well Kane. If their credentials are so great. Why has the major medical and Dental institutions chose to ignore their "research" This is not the first time "toxic" substances have been mooted to cause all sorts of problems But the point that people forget, is that Fluoride at .7 Parts per million has been proved not to be toxic

Chris, the point is that none of these three speakers has any original research publications to ignore. They just have not carried out research on fluoridation.

All they are doing here is extrapolating from other people's research in areas of endemic fluorosis where high fluoride intake does cause health problems. Their claims are just not relevant to community water fluoridation where dietary fluoride intake is very much lower.

Dr V Howard's credentials seem more than adequate and should have been stated in the article. For most Kiwis, this issue is about freedom of choice and protection of our basic human rights. Enforced mass medication (which is what the Supreme Court has defined fluoridation as) has no place in a democracy and never will. No-one has the right to medicate the water of another. And in any article on fluoridation, it should be clearly stated that the fluoride put into drinking water is artificial and it is sourced from the waste of aluminium smelters and phosphate factories. Scotland has an excellent programme to treat rampant tooth decay; they issue free toothpaste and brushes to school-children and teach them how to clean their teeth. It takes about five minutes each day. No fluoride in the water supply. And they have great results. (Ref: CHILDSMILE). NZ does NOT need more chemicals.

Harriet, two of these speakers have academic qualifications but importantly none of them has done any original research on fluoridation - unlike staff at Otago University. Whatever a speaker's academic qualifications their scientific claims must always be critically and intelligently assessed.

The Supreme Court did not define fluoridation as "enforced mass medication" - quite the opposite. The only place the words "forced medication" occur in the judgement is in a quote from the Human Rights Commission in its 1980 report to Parliament on the fluoridation of water. This report discredits the use of these words describing them as "based on false analogy."

The bogus Gluckman Skegg report simply made a political statement that fluoride did not cause harm. They never researched it - Skegg admitted in an email to Gluckman that the science regarding harm was "too vast" for them to cope with. The panel was not a panel of experts - it was a group of fluoridationists in each others pockets. And if you think the Broadbent Dunedin IQ study has any scientific legitimacy you are clearly not a scientist.

You misunderstand the Royal Society report. Neither Gluckman or Skegg were authors. It was not a research document but a review of the scientific literature related to possible harmful effects of fluoride. It was requested by councils which were fed up with being bombarded by activist claims on the issue and wanted an expert summary of the science.

I suggest if you have any credible criticism to make of the Broadbent study then you should submit your arguments and research to a scientific journal - this is what other critics have done and Broadbent has responded and replied to these critiques. This is the normal approach for genuine scientists.

Chris "has been proved" often trotted out by proponents but never with attribution.
In fact, there never has been a double blind randomised placebo controlled study of Fluoride ingestion regardless of which element the Fluoride Ion is attached to - if you can find one, post a link, as i am sure i am not the only one that would be interested to see it.

CollinBI - there is a reason there has not been a "double blind randomised placebo controlled study" of household fluoridation - no one has yet been able to suggest a practical protocol which would pass an ethics committee (although I would welcome your suggestions). Humans are not rats. As the recent Cochrane review said:

"We acknowledge that studies on water fluoridation, as for many public health interventions, are complex to undertake and that researchers are often constrained in their study design by practical considerations."

However, there is such a study of the efficacy of milk fluoridation with children - "Five-year double-blind fluoridated milk study in Scotland."

Here is the link -

The real reason no full scale "double blind randomised placebo controlled study" has never been conducted is that the results would be very embarrassing. Your comment "humans are not rats" is disingenuous as at any given moment hundreds of human studies are being conducted on all sorts of substances. (and then you quote a human study (not rat) just to add to your lack of logical consistency!)

Please also provide evidence of all the protocols that heave been rejected by ethics committees.

Of interest there was this included comment - "No benefit was noted for previously erupted primary teeth." and they were very careful to not name the fluoride product used.
So no difference for 90 milk drinkers and that extrapolates the polluting of our public drinking water supplies with Hydrofluorosilicic acid.
Thanks but no thanks!

Even in 1984 they were adept at the use of weasel words, note this quote "giving a potential topical benefit of approximately"
NB words potential and topical - so from that we are SUPPOSED to assume drinking water laced with Hydrofluorosilicic acid gives the same/some dental benefit, not an exact benefit but an approximate one.

Alexander, your willingness to discredit the published research would; have more credibility if you yourself proposed a protocol for a double-blinded, study of household fluoridation. The best I have seen suggested by an anti-fluoride campaigner is the development of new suburbs with separate water supplies to randomly selected houses whose owners must be kept in the dark about their water origins. Impossibly expensive. In real life, we go with more practicals solutions.

CollinBl - I take it from your response you concede that there are double-blinded controlled studies where this is possible. That argument is simply a red herring as those using it never demonstrate a feasible and ethically acceptable study of this sort for household fluoridation. In the real world, we go with what is feasible and works and do not abandon the interests of people simply becuase a hypothetical study is impossible.

There is plenty of high-quality credible research demonstrating community water fluodiation is safe and effective.

Don't you just love it - we get a half baked assertion and we are immediately supposed to imagine that the parrott has provided an answer - news flash, i, like a lot of adults have not drunk milk for years, yet we are supposed to assume that a Scottish experiment with fluoridating milk is the same as fluoridating our public water supplies - need i say more.

No one, absolutely no one, is using the fluoridated milk study to prove the safety and efficacy of community water fluoridation (CWF). That is shown by many high-quality research studies of CWF itself - which you reject because an impossible and ethically questionable double-blinded controlled study has not been done.

We live in a real world and we do the best with what is possible.

Ken I'm still waiting for all the evidence that a controlled study is not ethical! (but overdosing bottle fed babies and people with severe health challenges is just fine).

I see you are avoiding your bold assertion and shifted the goal posts by bringing up cost. Would it cost more than the $21.8 million spent on the flag referendum?

Alexander, the ball is in your court. And you have failed to suggest and feasible, practical and ethical double-blinded controlled study for household fluoridation.

I think that illustrates your point. As a scientist I can assure you we are never embarrassed by results - our work involves attempts to prove our hypotheses wrong. I can assure you when this happens it is exciting because it means we are learning something new. And as realists, we attempt to use the best experimental protocols available - not rejecting work because, as is often the case, the ideal is impossible.

Ken Perrott the ball is actually in your court. You have failed to provide evidence that a controlled study is not ethical. That is the claim you made by saying "humans are not rats". (your own words).

Will, come on then. Describe the protocol for your proposed controlled double-blinded study and I will consider it and tell you if I think it ethical or not. Better still, seriously propose it to an ethics committee.

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