In May 2013 Hamilton city councillors voted 7 to 1 to stop fluoridation after attending a four-day Tribunal style hearing.
The Tribunal consisted of a 1.5 hour primary presentation from both sides with ½ hour for questions from the councillors after each presentation, ten minute presentations by members of the public and a half hour Summing Up by the Primary presenters at the end.
1,557 submissions were received in total with 1,385 wanting fluoridation stopped. There were 141 requests to speak with 130 of them wanting fluoridation stopped and only 11 wanting it continued. Most of the 11 were dentists or dental therapists.
The Primary presentation for the Case Against fluoridation was given by Fluoride Action Network NZ representatives Dr Peter Scanlon, Dr Lawrie Brett and Dr Andrew Harms. The Summing Up was given by Dr Peter Scanlon, Dr Anna Goodwin, Dr Jane Beck and Prof Robert Mann. (See appendix 1 for qualifications). The Case For, was given by a large number of DHB, MoH and NZDA representatives.
Before the Summing Up councillors posed a series of questions to both sides. Both sides agreed on the first three questions. (See appendix 2 for all questions)
1. Fluoride works by topical application to teeth i.e. from the outside of the tooth not from the inside
2. There is no known benefit of fluoride to pre-eruptive teeth i.e. there is no benefit to babies before their teeth arrive
3. Swallowing fluoride toothpaste is harmful to health.
The councillors subsequently voted 7 to 1 to stop fluoridation. Their reasons are provided in Appendix 3.
A couple of weeks after this decision, soon-to-be mayoral candidate, Councillor Ewan Wilson started a petition to have the decision reversed. Cr Wilson was also a DHB member and, as such, had been excluded from the Tribunal. He was able to garner 2,500 signatures, which meant the council had to consider the petition. One of the other councillors, who was also a soon-to-be mayoral candidate, put the motion forward and because members who had been excluded from the Tribunal (three DHB members and two others) were now allowed to vote, the council ended up voting 7 – 6 to have a referendum.
The result of the referendum was that 34% of eligible voters participated with 68% of those voting to reinstate fluoridation. We were not surprised that the vote was in favour of fluoridation as most people had not taken the time to find out all the on information and the DHB spent/or had access to hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of advertising.
As well as the usual brochures and posters, their campaign included: four billboards twelve metres high outside their buildings, three full city letterbox drops, two-page newspaper advertisements for four weeks in a row, Google and YouTube advertisements, all emails from the hospital and DHB had pro-fluoride messages as part of the signature, a recorded pro-fluoride message on the DHB and hospital phones and even TV screens at the hospital showed pro-fluoridation promotional videos continuously.
On top of that the local newspapers were unashamedly pro-fluoridation. Every editorial and article written on the subject was pro-fluoridation. There were only two opinion pieces printed against fluoridation; one by a Hamilton oncologist and the other by a Hamilton academic and neither of these were posted online even though every other opinion piece and article was.
The general public was not told of any of the information that came out of the Tribunal, and indeed, many people, especially outside Hamilton, were not even aware that a Tribunal had taken place.
The DHB based their campaign around a claim that fluoridation reduces dental decay by 40%. However, figures obtained under the Official Information Act show they are referring to 2.4 fillings compared with 1.5, which were taken from a Ministry of Health publication Our Oral Health. This publication uses data from the 2009 Oral Health Survey which states in three places, that this survey should not be used to ascertain the effect of fluoridation since it was only a snapshot in time and residential history was not known. The four New Zealand studies quoted in this publication that looked at dental health and fluoridation found a maximum of 1 tooth surface savings out of over 120 tooth surfaces.
On the 28th of November councillors voted 7 to 5, to defer their decision until the judge had made his ruling on the Judicial Review that had been taken against South Taranaki District Council by New Health New Zealand.
In March 2014 Judge Hansen ruled that fluoridation was legal, accepting without investigation, that fluoridation is safe and effective because the New Zealand health authorities advise him that it is.
Safe Water Alternative NZ Inc (SWANZ), representing over 11,000 Hamilton residents who oppose having Hydrofluorosilicic Acid added to their water, filed proceedings against the Hamilton City Council in the form of a Judicial Review on 28th April 2014.
SWANZ claimed the Council had not carried out a full consultative process when deciding to re-fluoridate the Hamilton water supply. However, after losing the initial Interim Hearing at the High Court on 26 June 2014 (which attempted to stall fluoridation until the results of the Judicial Review), fluoride was restarted in Hamilton on 3rd July 2014 at 3pm. By that date Hamilton had been un-fluoridated for 378 days, since the Fluoride Tribunal decision in June 2013 and SWANZ had successfully delayed re-fluoridation by eight months.
However on Wednesday 3 September 2014 SWANZ reluctantly withdrew the Judicial Review proceedings against the Hamilton City Council.
The reason was two-fold. Without substantial financial backing from benefactors it was impossible to continue relying on donations and fundraising events for the legal expenses. While SWANZ was advised they had a good legal case, their financial resources were extremely limited compared with the deep pockets of the Council. Another factor was the growing number of legal challenges to fluoridation in NZ, which, if successful would have a bigger impact than this Judicial Review.
SWANZ has since requested that the Council provides Hamiltonians with at least two public non-fluoridated supplies of drinking water using de-ionising technology (at a cost estimated to be in the order of $10,000 to $15,000 to install and up to $3,000 annually to maintain). A public campaign has been mounted, which will not cease until this reasonable request has been granted.
Fluoride Free Hamilton continues to fund-raise, has not given up, and will not go away until Hamilton is once again fluoride free.
Some of the professionals/experts who spoke for us against fluoride:
- Dr Peter Scanlon B.Sc., B.H.B., M.B.Ch.B., P.G.Dip.CEM., F.C.U.C.P.
- Dr Lawrie Brett BDS. (practicing dentist)
- Dr Andrew Harms BDS (former President, Australian Dental Association (SA branch) – practicing dentist in Adelaide)
- Dr Robert Mann (retired Senior Lecturer in Biochemistry and Environmental Studies, Auckland University)
- Dr Jane Beck BSc, MBBS, MRCGP, MFOM (retired specialist)
- Dr Anna Goodwin Bachelor of Science in Biology, Doctorate of Medicine (Hamilton oncologist)
- Dr John Jukes BDS (practicing dentist in Waipukurau)
- DR David Smith BDS (practicing dentist in Te Aroha)
- Dr Mike Godfrey MB BSc (retired doctor)
- David Menkes MD, PhD Pharmacology
- Dr Ted Ninnes MA Hons (First Class), Ph.D Sociology and Psychology, MSc (Retired head of Sociology Waikato University)
- Dr Frank Rowson BvetMed (Matamata Vet, Trustee for Physicians & Scientists for Global Responsibility)
- Barry Cope MSc. (retired scientist)
- Stef Holmes BDS (retired dentist)
- Declan Waugh (Environmental Scientist, Chartered Water and Environmental and Waste Manager, Environmental Auditor. Director of Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland)
- Prof Paul Connett (Executive Director Fluoride Action Network (FAN) & Executive Director American Environmental Health Studies Project (AEHSP). Bachelor’s degree University of Cambridge & Ph.D. in chemistry from Dartmouth College. Retired professor of environmental chemistry and toxicology at St. Lawrence University, USA.
- Dr Keith Sharrock PhD. Biochemistry
- Mark Aitken BSc, LLB. Hons
- Paula Salisbury (biochemical engineer, Waikato University)
- Dr Chad Esaiah BSc, BSc. Chiro
- Lois Titchener (retired dental nurse)
- Robyn Jackson (naturopath)
- Dr Rachel Wood (retired researcher)
- Grant Pearse BA, MSc
- Dr Paul Wood, Ph.D Science Research, B.Sc Hons
- Gus Hastie NHD. Chem Eng
- Denise Davis (retired registered nurse)
- Donna Tito (retired registered nurse)
Some of the professionals/experts who sent written submissions but did not speak:
- Cathy Justus from Pagosa Springs, Colorado (National Spokesperson Against Fluoride Poisoning In Animals) who has the sad distinction of having the first horses to ever be diagnosed with chronic fluoride poisoning from artificially fluoridated municipal water
- Sally Fallon-Morrell (Co-founder and president of The Weston A. Price Foundation) Dr Weston Andrew Price was a graduate (1893) of the University of Michigan, and is well known for his research on nutrition as it affects dental caries
- Dr James Beck, MD, PhD, (co-author with Dr Paul Connett, PhD & Dr H. S. Micklem, DPhil, “The Case Against Fluoride”)
- Dr Kathleen Thiessen, PhD, (senior scientist at SENES Oakridge, Inc., a centre for risk analysis in Tennessee)
- Dr Bruce Spittle, MB ChB with distinction, DPM (Otago) (authored “Fluoride Poisoning” subtitled: Is fluoride in your drinking water—and from other sources—making you sick?). Longtime resident of Dunedin, he is a Fellow of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, recipient of many prizes and awards, a former Senior Lecturer, Department of Psychological Medicine, University of Otago, Dunedin, and Consultant Psychiatrist for the Otago District Health Board 1978-2004
Questions from Hamilton City Council to FANNZ
- 1. Do you agree with the following propositions:
a) Fluoride works by topical application to teeth? Answer Yes
b) There is no known benefit of fluoride to pre-eruptive teeth? Answer: Agreed, the overwhelming consensus from fluoride researchers around the world is that fluoride’s benefit is from topical application to teeth, not from incorporation in the tooth enamel via ingestion.
c) Swallowing fluoride toothpaste is harmful to health? Answer: Yes.
- We have heard two different positions; one say’s fluoride is absolutely safe and there is no evidence of harm, the other says it is not safe and has peer reviewed papers. In Dr Connett’s book saying there are negative health issues with fluoridation of water. What are the three key reasons why you do not accept/believe the other’s position? (Please state this in short, specific sentences, one for each reason:
- We are seriously concerned that water fluoridation is causing harm to people. There are thousands of studies indicating harm from fluoride, yet there is not a single study that shows the level of fluoride people are exposed to, through water fluoridation, is safe. The burden of proof is on the council to prove no harm to anyone.
- The practice of water fluoridation is unethical in that it does not take vulnerable individuals into account, the dose is uncontrolled, it robs the individual of the right to informed consent and the right to refuse medication and there are no affordable ways to avoid it.
- Water fluoridation is completely ineffective as a public health measure squandering precious resources that could be used to seriously help families who are most in need. Resources used promoting fluoridation could be used to tackle, in particular, baby bottle tooth decay which is the cause of most serious dental decay seen in young children and which results in multiple extractions, general anaesthetics, pain etc.
- What is the lowest level of fluoride in the water that you would consider to be effective in protecting dental health?
Answer: Fluoride does not work by swallowing and at the current level of 0.85ppm is already too low to confer a topical benefit. To emphasise this point, the MOH is recommending adult strength toothpaste (1000ppm) for children, as opposed to child strength (400ppm) and encouraging them to spit not rinse, it is therefore obvious that 0.85ppm in drinking water, that passes straight down the throat bypassing the teeth, does not confer any benefit.
Low levels of salivary fluoride result from swallowing fluoride but according to the Center for Disease Control “This concentration of fluoride is not likely to affect cariogenic activity”.
Therefore, no level of fluoride in the water will protect dental health. The background level in Hamilton is 0.2ppm in the water which already is probably quite high for lifetime exposure.
- What level of fluoride ingested by one person, would you consider to be too much – a dose that would cause a poison reaction?
Answer: There is not one size fits all. The amount that would be too much would depend on a multitude of factors such as:
a person’s size, their kidney function, their liver function, their thyroid function, their genetic makeup, their nutritional status, especially iodine status, volume of fluid they consume, the timing of exposure, the stage of life and development, the root of exposure, their previous exposure, their heavy metal exposure, the age of dwelling and associated plumbing fixtures, how much toothpaste, mouth washes, varnishes and other medications the person is taking..
We know that bottle fed babies are exceeding the dose that is known to interfere with thyroid function and cause dental fluorosis. According to NZ studies 30% of children in fluoridated areas, or 45% of all children according to Our Oral Health (MoH publication) have some form of dental fluorosis and therefore have displayed a poison reaction. And these figures are only on permanent teeth which means the numbers may well be higher if we also had the data on baby teeth.
- What additional research, if any, is needed regarding the safety and efficacy of fluoride in water supply?
Answer We do not recommend any research be undertaken. Firstly because water fluoridation is unethical and secondly it would be sadly ironic to start studies of a medical intervention 47 years (in the case of Hamilton) after implementation. Only retrospective studies to assess harm would be legitimate given the existing safety concerns and proven lack of efficacy. It is highly improbable that research to study the effects on people without their informed consent would be given ethical approval.
There has been over 60 years of recommendations for further research. For example the National Research Council undertook a 3 year,12 member panel, review of fluoride in which they concluded that further research was needed on a whole host of bodily effects such as the endocrine system, the bones, the brain, the immune system, dental health, etc, however governments in fluoridating countries have consistently ignored this advice.br</>
According to ESR Report on Dietary Fluoride Intake for NZers July 2009 exclusively breast fed babies ingest 0.001 – 0.005mg/l fluoride (regardless of whether mother is from a fluoridated or non fluoridated water source) Chowdhury et al 1990. The relevant extract is (UL from the study stands for ‘Upper Limits’): The Ministry of Health recommends fluoridation of drinking-water to concentrations in the range 0.7–1.0 mg/L (Ministry of Health, 2005). page 23 of report. “While exceeding the UL is clearly an improbable event for infants consuming infant formula prepared with fluoride-free water, for formula prepared with water containing 0.7 mg/L fluoride simulation modelling suggests that the UL would be exceeded approximately 30% of the time, while at a water fluoride concentration of 1.0 mg/L the UL would be exceeded 93% of the time.”
- What long term effects does the higher fluoride intake have on the bottle fed babies as they become children and adults? (This answer must be supported by research and if there is no research, say so).
Answer: There are no specific studies looking at the long term health effects of the excessive exposure of fluoride that bottle fed babies are consuming compared to breast fed babies. .
However, according to Dr Tuohy (MoH representative) formula fed babies compared to breast fed babies have increased risk of lowered IQ, diabetes and childhood obesity
The review by Stuebe (2009) also shows increased risk of diabetes, childhood obesity, leukemia and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
Recent developments in understanding the mechanisms of low level fluoride toxicity indicate fluoride maybe a major contributor to these outcome differences.
- We hear that tooth decay is mostly caused by poor diet, especially consumption of sugar and sugary drinks, and poor oral hygiene.
What interventions does FANNZ support to address the causes, who should be responsible for implementing them and who should pay the cost of these programmes?
We support health education and appropriate individual interventions where there is personal and/or parental consent as explained in more detail in our presentation.
The DHB and the MOH are responsible for promoting public health policies. The DHB and the MOH are therefore responsible for financing public health strategies.
The NFIS is currently funded to the tune of 1.25 million dollars for three years plus the cost each DHB is spending to promote and/or defend fluoridation and the cost each council that fluoridates spends on consultation.
We believe money used to promote fluoridation would be far better spent on public health strategies that have real, positive outcomes.
Appendix 3 – HCC Reasons for their decision
According to the Hamilton City Council, these are the reasons they stopped fluoridation:
Both sides had a genuine desire to improve the health of children’s teeth and both sides agreed that:
• Fluoride is most effective when applied directly to the teeth
• Poor diet and sugary drinks are the real cause of tooth decay in children
• Poor oral hygiene, i.e. the failure to brush teeth twice a day, is another major cause of tooth decay
On the weight of evidence presented at the tribunal there were six factors that influenced the final decision to remove fluoride from the Council’s water supply:
1. Application by toothpaste or other means that directly affect the tooth surface are much more effective at reducing tooth decay than fluoridation of water supplies
2. Fluoridation is wasteful – of the 224 litres of water used by the average person each day, less than two litres is used for drinking – 99% goes down the drain (i.e. of the $48,000 per year spent on fluoridation, only $480 ends up being fit for purpose)
3. Communities around the world are rejecting the practice – most of Europe does not fluoridate
4. There is strong evidence that fluoride should not be ingested at all by babies under six months old and bottle-fed babies are therefore at greater potential risk.
5. While fluoridation may have some benefits for some, it isn’t good for everyone and fluoridation of the water supply affects personal choice. It is also cheaper for people to get fluoride as needed, and in an effective manner, than it is for people to avoid it from the public water supply
6. Statistical evidence that fluoridation potentially causes harm