Annette King’s Brown-shirt Conference
The 3rd NZ Fluoridation Forum

Annette King

“Fluoridation is the biggest medical fraud in history, and it has been perpetrated on more people than any other. It will dwarf the Thalidomide tragedy.” – Dr Albert Schatz, discoverer of streptomycin.

Your right to pure water is under serious threat from covert work by the Minister of Health and District Health Boards.

As part of the ongoing attack on our water supply and civil rights, NZ’s leading fluoridation zealot, the Minister of Health, Annette King, has been co-ordinating efforts, unseen by the average New Zealander, to push fluoridation down our throats. This is in spite of mounting evidence of harmful effects, and the damning York Report which found no reliable evidence of benefit, no evidence of social equity promotion, and no proof of safety. King addressed the third NZ “Fluoridation Forum” recently, a secretive conference aimed at “developing tactics to overcome opponents.” King lamented that “some things never change“. How true. This strategy, of appointing a fluoridation task force, and holding secret meetings, is a repetition of the Ministry’s subversive acts of the 1950’s. Their 1958 “Fluoridation Symposium” likewise addressed tactics for politically overcoming opponents, with as little regard for the truth as this conference appears to have had. Like the current forum sequence (2001, 2002, 2003), the proceedings were not made public.

The 1958 symposium recommended that promoters “avoid fluoridation becoming a public issue“, and to “avoid fuss in the community – work quietly in the small community groups” and generate a demand by convincing small groups, then promote these to the council as representing mass public opinion. Promoters of fluoridation were advised not to allow the issue to be discussed in the Press, and above all, to avoid open public debate (a position maintained today).

One tactic was to arrange a closed seminar to promote fluoridation to a Council without opportunity for opposing facts or views to be put and to persuade councillors to refer any issues subsequently raised back to the promotional team rather than seeking independent information.

King states “[the forum] has developed strategies to counter anti-fluoridation claims”. Surely the public has a right to reliable research and facts in making health decisions, not “strategies” to counter claims based on internationally published peer-reviewed research, and a position supported by respected scientists, as acknowledged by the Ministry (OIA response, Dr Colin Tukuitonga, acting Director-General of Health.)

King also states “the Ministry continues to fund research into effective strategies for promoting fluoridation” – taxpayers money used against taxpayers for propaganda to promote a misguided, unscientific, unsafe, and unethical practice.

King further states that fluoridation is “pivotal” to New Zealand’s health strategy. By contrast, the Health Minister of Luxembourg described fluoridation as “a naïve utopia without practical effect” at the time Europe was rejecting fluoridation after 10 year trials had proven no benefit.

It is being suggested that, since the public reject fluoridation when given the choice, the decision on fluoridation should be transferred to District Health Boards, who do the Ministry’s bidding, rather than local authorities as at present, and as recommended by the Commission of Inquiry in 1957. This is compulsory fluoridation by the back door: government appointees to the DHBs are required to promote fluoridation as part of their employment contract. This same the strategy has recently been adopted in the USA and UK. Another proposed policy is that water authorities who do not fluoridate should be charged for “additional oral healthcare”, for which no evidence exists. This would be an unlawful fetter on councils as the statutory decisionmakers. It would also be an interesting court case if a DHB tried to prove the cost, in light of the York Review’s finding on the unreliability of any epidemiological study claiming to show benefit. It is also suggested that fluoridation be part of the drinking water standards (again).

It was to meet such an organised attack on the truth about fluoridation, and democratic rights, that a national anti-fluoridation movement arose in 1956, and that, in the same situation, Fluoride Action Network (NZ) was formed in early 2003. The amount of research since 1995 proving adverse health effects is considerable, and has been conducted by independent scientists, not beholden to commercial or political interests for grant money. That research includes proof of central nervous system (Mullinex 1995), increased lead uptake due to silicofluorides specifically (Masters & Coplan 1999), accumulation in the pineal gland and resultant inhibition of melatonin production (Luke 1997 & 2001), and evidence of the creation of alzheimer-like amyloids in the brain (Varner 1998) and disruption of the G-protein cell communication mechanism (Strunecka, 2002). The US EPA, a pro-fluoridation body, acknowledged on 25 April 2002 that silicofluorides used for water fluoridation do not have the same effect on the body as “natural” fluoride and that their human health safety has never been tested.

What is most important is that we, the people of New Zealand, work together now to safeguard our water, health, and rights from a minority of zealots who think they have a right to force their misguided opinions on the rest of us. FAN(NZ) is here to facilitate and co-ordinate such an effort, and will continue to work until NZ is free from the unconscionable practice of water fluoridation.

Annette King’s speech
I am delighted to have been invited to speak to this forum yet again, And let me start by saying “some things never change”. All round the country there are still communities going over the same old ground, or same old water, as they debate whether to fluoridate their water supplies. (Ed – This is what the Health Department argued for in 1963/64, and the Privy Council gave them what they wanted.) Just in the last few weeks the stories have focused on Winton and the West Coast, while the Christchurch newspapers have been publishing dozens of letters to the editor following the push by the Canterbury District Health Board to have that region’s water supply fluoridated.

Something else never changes either from one Water Fluoridation Forum to another. As Health Minister I continue to regard fluoridation of water supplies as the most effective means we have at our disposal to improve the dental health of our children, and to prevent our children having to suffer unnecessary pain and health problems.

I want to thank you for the enormous amount of work that has been and still is being undertaken around the country to promote and protect water fluoridation. Much of what you do can sometimes occur in quite a difficult and confrontational environment, and that makes your contribution all the more valued.

You seem to be bearing up well. I am heartened to see so many familiar faces here, as well as some not so familiar.

You embrace a wide range of participants, from New Zealand Dental Association members, dental health therapists and managers, members of the Maori dental organisation, public health services, medical officers of health, communications experts, and other oral health experts from both public and personal health sectors.

Thank you all, whatever capacity you are here in. Without your help, my job and the jobs of the Health Ministry and District Health Boards in promoting oral health would be immeasurably more difficult.

This forum has progressed remarkably it began in 2001, with that first meeting helping raise awareness particularly about water fluoridation.

The second forum expanded awareness by building and fostering a support base, establishing and maintaining networks to support water fluoridation; and providing participants with tools, information and skills to promote and protect fluoridation within their own communities.

And now this third forum has expanded again, rather successfully, I’m told. It has developed strategies to counter anti-fluoridation claims; has provided updates on important research and proposed research; and has focused more on the relationship between Maori oral health and water fluoridation, and on the role the promotion of fluoridation plays in reducing oral health inequalities.

This forum has also continued the pattern of strengthening networks to support all those involved in promoting water fluoridation.

The work being undertaken here and back in your own professional environments is of great importance. Improving the oral health of all New Zealanders is one of the 13 population health objectives in the New Zealand Health Strategy. Controversial though it can be, water fluoridation is pivotal in achieving this objective.

Access to accurate and credible information is vitally important given the debate over supposed adverse effects of water fluoridation. Anti-fluoridationists are vociferous, and, understandably, communities and local authorities find themselves in a difficult situation when the information gulf between pro- and anti-fluoridationists is so wide.

This forum captures public attention and interest, and provides professional groups, practitioners and communities with factual information about the value of water fluoridation.

I do not need to remind this meeting of the enormous wealth of evidence demonstrating the effectiveness of fluoridating water as an equitable and cost-effective public health measure that can reduce dental decay in children by as much as 50 percent. (Ed – yet the York Review found no reliable evidence of any benefit, and even unreliable studies showed only 15% (1/2 a filling) improvement which the board appropriately described as “hardly massive”. Yet promoters continue to repeat the 50 year lie of 50% improvement, which began with the now discredited studies at Grand Rapids and Newburgh (USA) and Hastings (NZ))

As I said earlier, I am confident that promoting fluoridation is based on sound reasoning and overwhelming evidence, and I am also confident that fluoridation is a safe and effective way to improve the oral health of New Zealanders of all ages.

I also wish to encourage and support the collaborative, consultative approach to the issue of fluoridation where relationships are developed with key stakeholders such as local authorities, DHBs and community health providers. Such relationships help facilitate a more rational basis for debating fluoridation as a community-wide issue.

I know such relationships are difficult to maintain and can even be downright frustrating, but it is an approach that works in a number of places around New Zealand and I encourage you all to embrace it

Much still needs to be done to improve oral health. Substantial inequalities are evident in the oral health of our children, with Maori and Pacific children, adolescents and children from low socio-economic status families having a higher prevalence and severity of dental caries than other children. Under-utilisation of dental care by some groups of adolescents is also a concern.

These children and adolescents may go on to experience substantial Dental problems in adulthood, at personal cost to themselves, the community and the oral health services.

Earlier this year, the Public Health Advisory Committee released its report, Improving Child Oral Health and Reducing Child Oral Health Inequalities, on the status of oral health of our children, and provided me with several constructive recommendations. While the report indicated that clear inequalities exist, there is enormous scope to reduce them. For example, school dental service data show that ethnic inequalities in child oral health status are more pronounced in areas that do not receive optimally fluoridated water. (Ed – note that the PHAC is part of the National Health Committee which in turn is part of the Ministry of Health. The report referred to is critiqued on this site.)

Water fluoridation has clear benefits for different ethnic groups, and contributes to reducing ethnic inequalities in oral health status. Increased fluoridation of drinking-water supplies, particularly in low socio-economic areas, is crucial to combat oral health deficiencies.

As I said, the Committee has provided several recommendations for improving Maori oral health:

  • To fund evaluation of current Maori oral health initiatives;
  • To continue to evaluate and monitor mainstream oral health services for their impact on Maori oral health; and
  • To encourage District Health Boards to make further funding available to improve Maori oral health status.

These recommendations provide important benchmarks against which to Measure the impact of variable water fluoridation coverage on Maori.

For example, fluoridated public water supplies are likely only in larger communities and higher proportion of Maori live in non-fluoridated rural areas.

The Committee report also noted that the prevalence and severity of Child dental caries varied considerably between District Health Board regions, and highlighted the influence of maternal oral health and maternal education levels on child oral health.

The prevalence of adult oral health inequalities are strongly correlated to childhood experiences, such as knowledge of dental hygiene and access to dental health services. That is another incentive to ensure that children have the opportunity to learn skills and access services that can improve their oral health for the rest of their lives.

At your inaugural forum I said that if fluoridated water was extended to reach 75 percent of New Zealanders, the estimated savings could be as high as $23.5 million per annum, not to mention the prevention of pain and personal costs to individuals.

We are still some way off this target, and you, as oral health experts, and central and local government need to work together to ensure our communities are well-informed.

At that first forum I also discussed the Institute of Environmental Science and Research Limited report showing that fluoridating water can be cost effective for a community of 1000 or even lower, and said that the Ministry of Health was investigating the feasibility of subsidies for small communities. As a result of that investigation, the Sanitary Works Subsidy Scheme was launched in May last year as a way to help meet the costs of setting up fluoridation schemes.

In its current form, the Scheme covers 50 percent of the cost of the eligible capital works (on average, approximately $30-40,000), with spending on water fluoridation not exceeding more than 10 percent of the total annual appropriation for the Scheme of $15 million. The scheme will continue to provide an opportunity to increase the number of communities with fluoridated water supplies.

The Ministry continues to fund research into effective strategies for promoting fluoridation and monitoring oral health, and I recently received a scoping report that investigated several policy options that stemmed from recommendations made at your previous two forums. These policy options related to:

  • transferring responsibility for decision-making from local government to the DHBs;
  • considering whether DHBs may recover the costs for additional oral healthcare from territorial local authorities who chose not to fluoridate water supplies; and
  • considering whether fluoridation could be incorporated as part of the drinking-water standards.

I understand a presentation was made to the forum today on this report, so you will be well aware of the complexities and difficulties of implementing such policies that require goodwill and sustained support from local authorities, DHBs and communities. I will continue to follow up on all these issues with the Ministry of Health.

We all know that promoting fluoridation often seems to be an uphill and continual battle, but each year I am reinforced and encouraged by the dedication and determination of oral health experts such as the members of this forum.

You should all be proud of your contributions. I thank you again for all you are doing to improve the oral health of our nation, and I remain convinced that many tens of thousands of New Zealanders will have reason to thank you in the future too.