Need to keep open mind on fluoride research: specialist

Tim Mackay
Tim Mackay
Fluoride is considered both safe and effective in New Zealand, but the health community needs to monitor new studies and not get stuck in scientific dogma, a specialist in the area says.

Southern District Health Board dental public health specialist Tim Mackay yesterday responded to a Canadian study that concluded maternal exposure to higher levels of fluoride during pregnancy was associated with lower IQ scores in children aged 3 to 4 years.

The issue arose after a Fluoride Free NZ billboard that said fluoridated water ''lowers kids' IQ'' was removed from outside Dunedin Airport.

The airport told the advertising company that put it there it was not comfortable with that message on its land.

The billboard referred to the Canadian study.

Asked to respond to the issue, Dr Mackay said he was aware of the study.

But there had been a lot of work done recently in New Zealand on fluoride as part of the Health (Fluoridation of Drinking Water) Amendment Bill.

The Bill, if passed, would allow health boards to make decisions about the fluoridation of local government drinking water supplies in their areas.

He said the result of that work was the conclusion fluoride was ''safe and effective''.

However, Dr Mackay said health specialists were prepared to look at new evidence as it came along.

When a new study like the Canadian one came out, the Ministry of Health or university researchers needed to consider it, and discover, for instance, whether there was cause and effect in associations found between fluoride and children's IQ, and whether issues such as socio-economic status were taken into account.

For scientific issues it was important not to become ''stuck in a dogma''.

Good studies on a large scale could shift scientific thinking.

However, at the moment, there were no good, published studies that had shifted the balance of thought, Dr Mackay said.


Debate should never be stifled. Medical evidence either way is unclear. Many European cities and countries refuse compulsory water fluoridation because the benefits (unclear) and potential side-effects. One should research when and why the first water fluoridation started- and it is not tooth health reasons. But how many of us would rather turn on the TV and soak in the programming than do a little research for 10-15 minutes.

Tim MacKay needs to review his professional standards especially if he wishes to retain the confidence of the public. His mouthings are at significant variance to the published facts. Just Doi

Perhaps you'd cite the 'published facts'. Health professionals work to evidential science. They're not unprofessional just because you disagree with them.

It is of concern that Southern District Health Board dental health specialist Tim Mackay does not take an immediate and STRONG responsible reaction to the most recent study showing babies whose mums took fluoridated water in pregnancy had reduced IQs -
How long do studies have to be repeated for government to respond? This is not the first study showing brain damage from fluoridated water. How long does it take for government to own up to a mistake? Fluoridated water may save a tooth or two. But teeth can be mended. A damaged brain cannot be drilled, filled and mended in the same way. And particularly NOT by your dentist who in the first place, wanted the fluoride put in your water!

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