Radio New Zealand – Jim Mora Show 27th February 2015
Panelists Finlay MacDonald and Chris Gallavin
Transcript of Jim Mora and Rob Beaglehole. Fluoride Free NZ comments in red.
Jim: Fluoride could cause depression and weight gain, that’s the headline and the same sort of headline in more than one English paper, not just the Daily Mail. ‘Fluoride added to local water supplies in England may cause depression and weight gain’ says the University of Kent. Its scientists warn local authorities should cease adding the mineral to drinking water in the interests of public health. Particularly high numbers of under-active thyroid glands occur in areas with high levels of fluoridation. The University of Kent compared the medical records from nearly 8,000 GP practices, that’s a lot of medical centres, and they found patients had considerably higher rates of under-active thyroid in practices situated in areas where water fluoridation levels were 0.3 mg/L or higher and I think we are about between 0.7 and 1, mg/L in New Zealand. Professor Stephen Peckham of the University of Kent says “his teams findings are worrying for people exposed to water fluoridation”.
We are going to get some expert comment.
Dr Rob Beaglehole is principal dental officer with the Nelson-Marlborough DHB, joining us on the panel. So is the science up in the air, do we have to rethink fluoride again?
Dr Beaglehole: I’m also the NZ Dental Association spokesperson on water fluoridation.
And I think what we need to make it extremely clear the science is totally settled. Water fluoridation has absolutely no link with anything the anti-fluoridationists have linked to it. It’s not just us at the Dental Association that are saying this, it’s also the Medical Association, the American Dental Association and the World Health Organisation say it. I think it’s also a good thing to point out that the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor, Sir Peter Gluckman, a very smart man, has also come out, saying that there is no evidence whatsoever that water fluoridation causes any problem.
FFNZ: Endorsements are not science. The science is obviously not settled if papers are being published in prestigious peer reviewed medical journals. Besides, those endorsements are not good enough for the vast majority of European countries so why should we accept them without question.
Jim: So why the results please from the English University?
That’s a good question. The paper that came out from the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health is highly flawed. The major flaw is that it fails to highlight that iodine deficiency is actually a major cause of hypothyroidism and the two areas that this paper singled, which actually has water fluoridation, also has very high levels of iodine deficiency. And iodine deficiency, as we all know, is the major cause of goiter or hypothyroidism.
FFNZ: Authors were asked if they allowed for iodine deficiency. Their response:
We were asked to pay attention to iodine deficiency by the reviewers. This was our response:
We examined the literature on iodine intake. This suggests that for most of the post war period iodine intake was considered adequate. However, recent research on young women and pregnant women’s intake suggests that there may be inadequate intake. Given the available evidence on iodine intake we do not consider that people living in areas that are fluoridated will have distinctively different iodine intake than those living in non-fluoridated areas. Diet is the main determinant of iodine intake. The British Geological Survey concludes that generally all topsoil (except some coastal areas) is iodine deficient but given that soil and water iodine content contributes such a small part of total iodine intake that differences across the UK would not affect total iodine intake. It is estimated that average daily iodine intake comprises 156ug I per day from food (42 % from dairy produce), 12 ug I from air and 12 ug I from water (BGS Commissioned report CR/03/057N – http://www.bgs.ac.uk/research/international/DFID-KAR/CR03057N_COL.pdf
Also, the two areas singled out were Birmingham and Manchester. Birmingham is fluoridated and Manchester is not. It was not two fluoridated areas. These two cities were probably used as comparisons as these are the two cities the British Dental Association use when comparing dental decay rates.
Jim : But they say that they looked at medical practices across a wide geographical area. So would an iodine deficiency be that wide spread in Britain?
Dr Beaglehole: They did look at a number of GP practices, but a very important fact here out is that Professor Stephen Peckham from the University of Kent is actually an ardent anti-fluoridationist and he didn’t notify the journal of that fact, and all around the world public health people, public health dentists have looked into this paper and actually scoffed at this paper because it was an ecological study and it didn’t take into account any of the confounding factors such as iodine deficiency at any of these GP practices.
FFNZ: It is disingenuous for Dr Beaglehole to say “they did look at a number of GP practices” since they looked at practically all practices; 7935 out of 8020. Nor did Dr Beaglehole answer the question. Answer is contained above in author’s response.
Dr Beaglehole’s criticism of Prof Peckham is a bit like the pot calling the kettle black since Dr Beaglehole is an ardent fluoridationist. It is also true that just about every study that has claimed to show that fluoridation reduces dental decay is authored by a person who is known to be in favour of fluoridation. The recent IQ-fluoridation study from Dunedin was carried out by Dr Jonathan Broadbent, dental researcher who said on TV that doctors opposed to fluoridation were quacks. Dr Broadbent can in no way be seen to be neutral.
Dr Beaglehole says that public health dentists are scoffing at the paper but it was published in a prestigious, peer reviewed mainstream journal, and as pointed out above they did consider the issue of iodine deficiency but decided it was not required since iodine status could be presumed to be largely the same throughout England. This was accepted by the peer reviewers.
Jim: It was claimed locally during the stoush in Hamilton that fluoride is an endocrine disruptor. That was the phrase used and it can effect bone and the brain and the thyroid gland and the pineal gland and blood sugar levels for diabetic etc, so you are reassuring us, Dr Rob Beaglehole, yet again that all the literature disputes and disproves this.
Dr Beaglehole: All the literature that has been well conducted highly disputes that water fluoridation has contributed anything and anti-fluoridationists have mentioned that it causes lowering IQ, hair loss, ME, MS anything that they could pin their stripes to they’ve mentioned. But we need to be clear here, water fluoridation, evidence is clear, it reduces tooth decay by at least 40% particularly amongst the most deprived members of society. So water fluoridation is a great public health initiative because it actually reduces inequalities.
FFNZ: Prof Peckham’s study was highly conducted which is why it was published in a medical journal affiliated with the British Medical Journal, unlike the 40% claim that Dr Beaglehole makes. New Zealand fluoridationists use this claim of 40% reduction even though the MoH have admitted that this statistic comes from the MoH publication Our Oral Health which was a snapshot in time and they did not know where children had been living their entire lives. Consequently it says it cannot be used as a fluoridation study but fluoridationists, even those at the MoH, continue to do so. This claim of 40% reduction would not be accepted by any medical journal based on that.
Jim : About ten years ago in one of the big British medical papers, it wasn’t Lancet, it could have been the British Medical Journal, there was a review of fluoride evidence, just vis a vis what you’ve just said, at York University, finding that tooth decay in children across Europe had fallen irrespective of whether there was fluoride in the water or not. Now was that the research project of another fluoridation skeptic or in fact is the jury out at all on, not the danger of fluoride, but the efficacy of it?
Dr Beaglehole: Well efficacy, you can get fluoride in a number of different modes; you can get water fluoridation, you can also get fluoride in salt, or toothpaste or varnishes. But the anti-fluoridationists often use the fact that lot of countries in Europe don’t use fluoridation but they fail to highlight to the public, that some countries, such as Switzerland, have a very high rate of cover from fluoridated salt . Other countries around Europe most of the people get their water not from the tap but actually from the bottled water. And bottled water comes naturally out of springs and mountains in Europe which is actually naturally high in fluoride. So, I find it sad that the anti-fluoridationists confuse the matter and if you look into it they are going down the route of pseudo science. It’s actually not science backed up by rigorous scientific research.
FFNZ: Fluoride Free New Zealand does explain that some countries use salt fluoridation. See http://fluoridefree.org.nz/fuoridation-status-countries/. This is far more information than the Ministry of Health give. Many people in Europe do use bottled water, but so do many in New Zealand. Spring water generally has 0.1 mg/L or less.
Hear audio at 16m36s http://www.radionz.co.nz/audio/player/20169020