Dr William Hirzy responds to Taupo Dentist, Dr Nick Wilcox’s Retreat from an Open Public Discussion of Water Fluoridation.
Wilcox’s message to City Councilors of Taupo, New Zealand was a classic example of the kind of hit and run tactics used by proponents of water fluoridation whenever called out to defend the practice in public. Wilcox spoke up after the presentation by Dr. Paul Connett and me at the Taupo Great Lake Center on February 26 on the merits of that practice, and was engaged by us and New Zealander Kane Titchener in a discussion of our presentation. During that engagement he agreed that a debate between proponents and opponents moderated by a neutral party would be a fine idea, and that three from each side should make their cases.
When I was still employed as Senior Scientist in the Risk Assessment Division at headquarters of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D.C., in 2003 I experienced a similar hit and run demonstration, albeit from a bit of distance.
That year, the theme of EPA’s annual Science Forum was “Social Science and Environmental Regulation.” I had been for some time, as an officer of the EPA headquarters professional employees’ labor union, involved in studying and reporting on the toxicity of fluoride, especially to citizen groups opposed to water fluoridation.
I met with Dr. Rita Shoeny who was organizing that year’s Forum and suggested that the social science aspects of resistance to water fluoridation would make a valuable addition to the Forum’s agenda. Dr. Shoeny agreed.
I told her that getting someone to present the reasons for resistance to fluoridation would be easy, but that getting someone to defend the practice would be difficult. I had recently tried to arrange just such an engagement on behalf of the American College of Toxicology. The ACT annual meeting always featured a session titled “The Great Debate.” The previous November’s meeting Great Debate was “Water Fluoridation.”
I started by inviting the U.S. Surgeon General, head of the U.S. Public Health Service, the organization that has promoted water fluoridation since 1950. I asked the American Dental Association for a representative to the debate. No luck. I asked a well known promoter of fluoridation, Dr. Michael Easley, who also indulges in vociferous personal attacks on those who oppose the practice, but he declined as well. Then I went to the Maryland State Dental Association, and finally to local dentists. Not one single promoter would agree to appear before a prestigious group of toxicologists.
Dr. Shoeny told me, when I warned her of my experience, “Don’t worry, we are the Environmental Protection Agency.”
When the Forum took place, not even the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency could persuade, after five weeks effort, any defender of fluoridation to come out from behind their empty proclamations of “safety and effectiveness” to defend the policy in public.
So the cowardly retreat by Wilcox from his commitment is no big surprise, once he realized what he was letting himself and his masters in for – a confrontation, in public, with the truth.
J. William Hirzy, Ph.D.