A guest post on Whale Oil by a Mr David Whyte appeared a couple of weeks ago. Read here . This is our response to David.
David Whyte’s arguments for fluoridation proved to suffer from exactly the same criticisms he levelled at the arguments against fluoridation. “Most, but not all, fall under the title of half truth or selective data picking. That is, there is some truth in their statements but they are not telling the whole picture.” However he also said “sound solid rational debate is missing”. I concur with David that rational debate is missing and applaud him for engaging in the way that he has, providing an actual argument around the facts rather than around the personalities of opponents of fluoridation. I have therefore responded in kind and provide a rebuttal of David’s arguments
I will start first with one of David’s concluding arguments “However there are risks associated with fluoridation for bottle fed new borns. This risk increases if their teeth are brushed with fluoridated toothpaste in the first 2 years of life.” So while David has attempted to be rational, this admission should have led him to the conclusion that fluoridation needs to be stopped immediately.
It is not acceptable to put bottle fed new borns at any risk for the sake of maybe saving a filling in another child. Especially when those risks are serious, they are imposed without parental consent and are completely unnecessary. It amazes me that anyone could acknowledge this risk and continue to support fluoridation.
Therefore, there should be no need to argue any further but just to put the record straight, I will provide the information missing from David’s arguments.
David says that tea has high levels of fluoride and that those opposed to fluoridation, such as Fluoride Free New Zealand (FFNZ), should campaign against tea consumption. The first reason FFNZ does not campaign against tea consumption is because no one is forced to drink tea and most people do not give tea to their children and definitely not to their babies.
Secondly, most people drink tea with milk, so the calcium in the milk will provide some protection from the fluoride, since fluoride binds with calcium, making it less available to the body. Tea also contains many antioxidants such as vitamin C which may bind with fluoride and therefore may also make it less toxic than the equivalent amount of fluoride in straight water. That said, it is agreed that it is unwise to drink a lot of tea.
The first outright mistake David has made is that the level of fluoride in drinking water recommended by the New Zealand Ministry of Health is 0.85ppm not 0.7ppm. The only reason some councils such as Hamilton, Kapiti Coast, Hastings and Dunedin have opted for the lower 0.7ppm or 0.75 ppm (Dunedin) is because of information provided by FFNZ to the councils, and they all did so despite opposition from the MoH.
David says that fluorosis is a serious condition of teeth degradation, but this is one of the examples where David is not giving the whole picture. Fluorosis can be either, or both, dental fluorosis or skeletal fluorosis. Both of these are very serious conditions and it is not correct to confine fluorosis to just the effect on teeth.
Fluoride is poisonous at low doses. David thinks this argument is not valid because we accept that selenium needs to be supplemented in the diet and low level of selenium can be poisonous. But David is not comparing apples with apples. Selenium is an essential nutrient whereas fluoride is not. There is absolutely no bodily function that requires fluoride. And even though people need selenium, and NZ soils are said to be deficient in selenium, we do not add it to the drinking water and force it upon people that don’t need it or don’t want it.
David then gives the upper threshold for fluoride, as set out by the World Health Organisation (WHO), but this is disingenuous, as the upper threshold is different than the required minimum intake. Also, WHO came up with their Upper Threshold long before all the IQ studies became available. If they were to review that now, in light of the 41 out of 45 published studies that show fluoride lowers IQ, their recommended Upper Limit would most likely be set much lower.
It was surprising to read David’s claim that European countries fluoridate their salt and therefore our argument that European countries do not fluoridate their water is not valid. Only four European countries (Germany, Austria, France and Switzerland) have SOME fluoridated salt that people can choose to buy or not. In France, only 17% of the salt has added fluoride. Spain is the only country in continental Europe with some water fluoridation (11%). The vast majority have no water or salt fluoridation.
David says “An area (typically somewhere in China) has low fluoride in water (and population has fluorosis of the teeth..” but because ingestion of fluoride can occur via contaminated air, the fluoride intake via the water is likely to be the smaller part of the daily intake. However, we do not need to rely on data from China since around 30% of children in fluoridated parts of NZ have some form of dental fluorosis. NZ air should not be contaminated with fluoride and dental researchers agree that fluoridated water causes an increase in dental fluorosis. In fact NZ studies show twice as much dental fluorosis in fluoridated areas as opposed to non-fluoridated areas.
“Already in our water supply”. David claims this is an argument used by those opposed to fluoridation to argue that “we get enough already”. However, we do not argue that we already get enough; we argue that we already get too much. David claims that the levels are not enough to prevent dental decay, but it is now well established that fluoride does not work by swallowing.
“Fluoride injected into the water is a waste product from the chemical industry. Is not food grade and has low levels of fluoride. Thus implying it contains lots of other nasty chemicals.” The argument is that there are low levels of other contaminants such as lead, arsenic, mercury and aluminum contained in the hydrofluorosilicic acid. This is a fact. The US EPA recommends that the maximum contaminant goal for arsenic is 0 as it appears that any arsenic raises cancer rates. However the goal and the maximum allowable levels are different as it is costly to remove arsenic from water supplies. Arsenic is an established carcinogen and no levels are safe, therefore it does not make sense, nor should it be acceptable, to add any amount of arsenic to the public drinking water.
David says that an argument against fluoridation is “Needs to touch the teeth’s surface to work and drinking water does not touch your teeth as you drink it.” However, this is only part of the argument. Last year, Dr Robin Whyman, consultant to the Ministry of Health, explained to councillors and the public in Hamilton that the primary benefit from fluoride is topical rather than systemic. In other words, it needs to be in contact with the tooth surface rather than ingested. He said fluoridation worked by providing a topical benefit because when fluoridated water was swallowed half the fluoride would be stored in the bones and soft tissue and during the day the fluoride would be released back into the blood stream which would raise the fluoride levels in the saliva providing a topical benefit.
However, fluoride released from saliva is only 0.001ppm or 0.016ppm if the person is consuming fluoridated water. This very low level is not enough to confer any topical benefit. If it were why would fluoridated toothpaste be 1000ppm? The Ministry of Health advises that children use adult strength toothpaste at 1000ppm rather than child strength at 400ppm because they say child strength is not strong enough. It therefore makes nonsense that 0.016ppm, which is 62,500 times less than 1000ppm, can provide a topical benefit. Considering this is the theory that fluoridation rests on today, it should be obvious to anyone that the argument for swallowing fluoride is preposterous.
Fluoride lowers children’s IQ. There are now over 100 published animal studies showing fluoride interferes with brain development. There are 45 published studies looking at fluoride intake and IQ. Forty one of these studies show that high levels of fluoride during brain development lower IQ. The lowest “high” level was 1.22ppm. That is not far off New Zealand’s 0.7ppm – 1ppm range. Most of these studies were carried out in rural Chinese villages where children were mostly breast fed. Breast milk contains only a very low 0.004ppm even if the mother is consuming high amounts of fluoride. Therefore the dose that bottle feeding babies are receiving in fluoridated areas of New Zealand would exceed the dose the Chinese babies are receiving at this crucial time.
The only study carried out in New Zealand to look at fluoride and IQ was carried out by Otago dental lecturer Dr Jonathan Broadbent. He claimed there was no difference in IQ between the fluoridated and non-fluoridated children. However there were 891 children in the fluoridated area and only 99 children in non-fluoridated area. As Dr Broadbent has had to admit, 53 of the so-called non-fluoridated children were actually taking fluoride tablets. Consuming fluoridated tablets gives a child a dose similar to what a child would get from drinking fluoridated water. Therefore there were only 46 children in the whole study that were not being given extra fluoride. Dr Broadbent’s excuse for not including this figure in his published research was that he was looking at fluoridation rather than fluoride intake. So the most obvious confounding factor was excluded from the study’s results. If that is not poor science I don’t know what is.
David explores the argument: “Fluorosis occurs at epidemic levels in fluoridated water supplies”. However, he has once again got the argument against fluoridation only half right. The argument is that dental fluorosis is occurring at epidemic levels in countries that have fluoridation in both the fluoridated and non-fluoridated areas. In the US it is currently 40% of white children and up to 65% of African American children. In New Zealand, according to the studies that David cites, the rates of some form of dental fluorosis are 30% of children in fluoridated areas and 15% of children in non-fluoridated areas. This is a doubling of rates, or a 100% increase, not a 15% increase as David incorrectly states.
David discusses three different types of dental defects but only diffuse opacities (dental fluorosis) is connected to fluoride intake. So it is once again disingenuous for David to point out that there is no difference between fluoridated and non-fluoridated areas for the other types of dental defects. That is completely irrelevant, as no one would expect there to be any difference. It’s a bit like saying children in fluoridated areas have the same number of bicycles as children in non-fluoridated areas. What is the point?
He then goes on to claim that dental fluorosis does not matter as it does not make teeth look that bad. However, when people use that argument it shows they have not thought very deeply. Dental fluorosis is a physical sign of fluoride toxicity as it shows the development of the tooth enamel has been interfered with. Whether this does not look very bad to some college students in the US is irrelevant. A thin blue line on the gum (Burton’s Line) is an outward sign that a child has been over exposed to a heavy metal such as lead. No one would say “don’t worry about it, no one sees your gum”. Claiming that dental fluorosis is “only cosmetic” displays a lack of thought.
David points out there are sources of fluoride other than what is added to water. This is true and it now means children are getting a much higher dose than they were when fluoridation first started. As stated above, New Zealand studies show around 15% of children in non-fluoridated areas and 30% of children in fluoridated areas have some form of dental fluorosis, which is absolute proof they are being over exposed. The easiest and most obvious thing to do, therefore, is to stop adding fluoride to the drinking water. The next step would be to implement guidelines being promoted in Australia where the Dental Association is advising not to use fluoride toothpaste on children until they are 18 months old, and then to only use a smear of child strength until age six. Instead, in New Zealand, we have Plunket giving out adult strength toothpaste for parents to use on their six-month old babies. It’s hard to fathom how Plunket could be so uninformed.
As stated at the beginning David agrees that the argument that newborn babies can overdose on fluoride has “scientific merit and ethical issues”. I need to point out, however, that the concern is not specifically about newborn babies, it is bottle-fed babies. In fact, six-month old babies are likely to be the group with the highest exposure because of their weight to consumption ratio. In New Zealand over half of the babies are bottle fed by six months of age.
David then goes on to discuss infant formula, but that is another red herring. Infant formula contains very low levels of fluoride and the water itself will be providing the baby with an unacceptably high level. Parents also need to be aware that fluoride cannot be boiled out, and, in fact, boiling concentrates it. David also fails to mention that fluoridated water contains between 175 and 250 time more fluoride than breast milk. Most parents would be extremely uncomfortable giving their baby this high dose if they knew this.
Lastly, the libertarian argument. David comes to the strange conclusion that as an adult it is relatively easy to opt out of fluoridation. One – no it’s not and two- what about children who don’t want it? This has to be one of the weakest arguments presented. If an adult wants fluoride all they need to do is buy fluoride toothpaste. The MoH 2009 survey found that 93% of people brush their teeth at least once a day with fluoride toothpaste. Therefore, we can easily conclude that the vast majority of New Zealanders are already buying fluoride toothpaste and therefore there is no imposition on them at all if it is not in the drinking water. If they really feel they need to swallow fluoride (for goodness knows what reason, since it works on the outside of the tooth) they can just swallow some of their toothpaste. On the other hand, to avoid fluoridated water is nigh on impossible unless a person buys bottle water, or has a water tank at home or has an expensive fluoride-removing filter, and then never consumes any beverage or food product made using fluoridated water. That is highly unlikely, given that half of New Zealand reticulated supplies are fluoridated. And it is even harder to keep children away from it.
To conclude; not one argument for fluoridation has any merit. Fluoridation is ineffective, can cause serious harm and robs us of choice. Our new Health Minister, Jonathan Coleman, should take a leaf out of the Israeli Health Minister’s book, who this year made adding fluoride chemicals to drinking water illegal.
David’s argument’s can be found here http://www.whaleoil.co.nz/2014/11/guest-post-fluoridation/