Justice David Collins said the issue of dose was what troubled him most about the water fluoridation case heard this week at the High Court in Wellington. He is asked to decide if the fluoride chemicals added to the water supply, for the claimed therapeutic purpose of reducing dental decay, should be regulated as a medicine, as they clearly fit the Act’s definition.
Fluoride tablets, like all forms of fluoride except those used for water fluoridation, are currently regulated under the Medicines Act and have directions on dose and a warning not to be given to children under 3 and pregnant women. Crown lawyer Jane Foster, appearing for the attorney-general on behalf of the Minister of Health, conceded that a litre of tap water fluoridated at 1ppm delivered the same dose as dissolving 1mg of fluoride tablets in a litre of water. Everyone ingested it when drinking fluoridated tap water. The Judge was clearly worried as he looked at the tablets and then the bottles of fluoridated water.
Justice Collins asked, “Is the dosage set out in the regulations, the dosage I get when I drink a litre of [fluoridated] water?”
Whilst the dose of fluoride in each litre can be regulated, the dose of fluoride that each person receives cannot – it depends entirely on how much water each individual drinks. Dosage (mg/kg/day) depends on how many litres of water are drunk and how much a person weighs. Judge Collins heard that diabetics, athletes and outdoor workers drink far more water than others. Bottle-fed babies receive a far higher dose for their body weight than adults. Further, some people such as kidney patients accumulate more fluoride, and some people are more sensitive to fluoride’s toxic effects. These considerations make fluoridation an extremely bad medical experiment.
And to add even further salt to the wound, the fluoride chemicals added to the drinking water are not pharmaceutical grade sodium fluoride like the tablets, but chemicals that are scrubbed from the chimneys of the phosphate fertiliser industry and contain traces of heavy metals such as lead and arsenic. The Ministry of Health did not challenge these facts.
In fact we know that New Zealanders are receiving toxic doses of fluoride as the Ministry of Health reports that around 40% of children have some form of dental fluorosis. Dental fluorosis is only caused by fluoride toxicity as the teeth are developing. Fluorosis rates are twice as high in fluoridated communities.
The Ministry of Health’s attitude is that if Judge Collins rules, correctly, that fluoridation chemicals are medicines under the Act, it will use the exemption process within the Medicines Act to undermine the very purpose of the Act – to safeguard the public from the improper use of medicines – just to protect its fluoridation policy. The exemption process requires the Minister to consider all the known risks from fluoridation before issuing an exemption – but the Ministry made it clear at the hearing that it will just be a rubber stamping exercise.