Title: Opinion: Opposition to fluoridated water is baffling
Date: July 16, 2013
Author: Dr. Christopher Labos
1. a) Claim: “In the 1964 movie Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, Sterling Hayden explains to an increasingly nervous Peter Sellers that he launched a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union because the fluoridation of the water supply is a communist plot designed to sap Americans of their “precious bodily fluids.” Now, some 50 years later, a group of similarly minded individuals with equally preposterous notions may have derailed plans to finally bring fluoridation to Quebec on a large scale.”
1. b) Response: “Opponents are “conspiracy theorists.” This was true of one faction of the anti-ﬂuoridation movement in the 1950s, whose members believed that ﬂuoridation was a “communist plot,” as parodied in Stanley Kubrick’s famous movie Dr. Strangelove. However, even in those early days many reputable scientists were opposed to ﬂuoridation on scientiﬁc grounds and many more on the very rational grounds that it is unethical to deliver medicine through the public water supply, because it removes the individual’s right to informed consent to medical treatment. Today, there are still conspiracy theorists around, as there are in almost any ﬁeld, but most opponents are increasingly well informed” (Connett et al. 2010, p. 256).
2. a) Claim: “The Canadian Public Health Agency supports it, as does the Institut national de santé publique du Québec and the Canadian Dental Association.”
2. b) Response: “Endorsements do not represent scientific evidence. Many of those promoting fluoridation rely heavily on a list of endorsements. However, the U.S. PHS first endorsed fluoridation in 1950, before one single trial had been completed and before any significant health studies had been published (see chapters 9 and 10 in The Case Against Fluoride for the significance of this PHS endorsement for the future promotion of fluoridation). Many other endorsements swiftly followed with little evidence of any scientific rational for doing so. The continued use of these endorsements has more to do with political science than medical science” (50 Reasons, #46).
3. a) Claim: “Fluoride binds with apatite crystals in the dentine (the layer underneath the tooth’s enamel) and strengthens the entire structure of the tooth. Fluoride also makes teeth more resistant to cavity formation and also has some anti-bacterial properties.”
3. b) Response: Fluoride works topically, not systemically. According to Dr. Hardy Limeback, an expert in the field of tooth development and preventive dentistry, “Even if there were a systemic benefit from ingestion of fluoride, it would be miniscule and clinically irrelevant. The notion that systemic fluorides are needed in non-fluoridated areas is an outdated one that should be abandoned altogether” (Limeback 2000).
4. a) Claim: “Reports from the University of York, the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia and the Centers for Disease Control all support the cavity-fighting benefit derived from water fluoridation.”
4. b) Response: i) The York Review (2000): “The review did not show water fluoridation to be safe” (Sheldon 2001); “We were unable to discover any reliable good-quality evidence in the fluoridation literature world-wide” (CRD 2003); “The reviewers were surprised by the poor quality of the evidence and the uncertainty surrounding the beneficial and adverse effects of fluoridation” (Cheng et al. 2007). ii) The NHMRC Review (2007): “This report is being cited around the fluoridating world as the final word on the “safety and effectiveness” of water fluoridation. However, as far as addressing health concerns, a careful reading of this report indicates that at best, it is a work of professional incompetence or, at worst, an example of scientific fraud, in which scientific information is manipulated to support a preordained conclusion” (Connett 2008). iii) The CDC: “The CDC has only one division that deals with fluoridation. This is the Oral Health Division (OHD), which is largely staffed by people with dental credentials. They have few staff with expertise in medicine and no toxicologists and risk assessment specialists. In short, they have no one qualified to make the judgment they made. Moreover, there is no one at the CDC – independent of the OHD – overseeing the safety of the fluoridation program. The OHD has a huge conflict of interest in this matter. They avidly promote fluoridation. They give awards to communities and states based upon their adoption of the practice. They even send out their top personnel to state legislatures to support mandatory statewide fluoridation bills. To all intents and purposes the OHD is an adjunct of the ADA. Most members of the public and the media know little of this background, so when the CDC makes pronouncements about the “safety and effectiveness” of fluoridation, journalists and officials take it at face value” (Connett 2009) [also see: video, TC 1:16:43].
5. a) Claim: “Brantford, Ont. became the first Canadian city to fluoridate its water supply in 1945 and thereafter saw a 60-per-cent reduction in rates of tooth decay. What’s more, kindergarten students in Quebec have 40 per cent more dental caries than their counterparts in Ontario, where most communities fluoridate their water (75.9 per cent, versus just 6.4 per cent in Quebec).”
5. b) Response: Firstly, the studies that launched fluoridation were methodologically flawed (to learn more see: 50 Reasons, #18). Secondly, “Even a 20 percent reduction in tooth decay is a ﬁgure rarely found in more recent studies. Moreover, we have to remember that percentages can give a very misleading picture. For example, if an average of two decayed tooth surfaces are found in a non-ﬂuoridated group and one decayed surface in a ﬂuoridated group, that would amount to an impressive 50 percent reduction. But when we consider the total of 128 surfaces on a complete set of teeth, the picture—which amounts to an absolute saving in tooth decay of a mere 0.8 percent—does not look so impressive” (Connett et al. 2010, p. 251).
6. a) Claim: “The petition states that water-fluoridation programs are “a waste of public funds (99 per cent of fluoridated water ends up in the environment via the sewers).” This statement stymies me, because all water goes back into the environment via the sewers. Frankly, where else would it go?”
6. b) Response: “Environmental Concerns: Silicofluorides: unrefined industrial waste. 91% of Americans ingesting artificially fluoridated water are consuming silicofluorides. This is a class of fluoridation chemicals that includes hydrofluosilicic acid and its salt form, sodium fluorosilicate. These chemicals are collected from the pollution scrubbers of the phosphate fertilizer industry. The scrubber liquors contain contaminants such as arsenic, lead, cadmium, mercury, and radioactive particles, are legally regulated as toxic waste, and are prohibited from direct dispersal into the environment. Upon being sold (unrefined) to municipalities as fluoridating agents, these same substances are then considered a “product”, allowing them to be dispensed through fluoridated municipal water systems to the very same ecosystems to which they could not be released directly. Sodium fluoride, used in the remaining municipalities, is also an industrial waste product that contains hazardous contaminants. Scarcity of environmental impact studies: This is of deep concern to us. Studies that do exist indicate damage to salmon and to plant ecosystems. It is significant that Canada’s water quality guideline to protect freshwater life is 0.12 ppm (parts per million). 99.97% of fluoridated water is released directly into the environment at around 1ppm. This water is NOT used for drinking or cooking” (NTEU Statement of Concern 2003).
7. a) Claim: “And as for it being a waste of money, studies from the CDC suggest that for every dollar invested in water-fluoridation programs, $38 is saved from the prevention of dental caries and periodontal disease.”
7. b) Response: “This statement is taken from another report written by members of the Oral Health Division of the CDC… Grifﬁn et al. inﬂated the beneﬁts of ﬂuoridation and ignored the costs of any side effects, including the one effect no one can deny, dental ﬂuorosis. Cosmetic veneer treatment for ﬂuorosis costs upward of $1,000 per tooth. The CDC authors also allowed a loss of earnings of $18 an hour for time off work to get a dental ﬁlling. Not all people lose pay when they get dental treatment, and certainly children don’t” (Connett et al. 2010, pp. 249-250).
8. a) Claim: “Dental care is expensive and constitutes the second-largest disease expenditure after cardiovascular disease.”
8. b) Response: Click here.
9. a) Claim: “Rather than being a waste of money, fluoridation is an extremely cost-efficient public-health program.”
9. b) Response: For a critique of the ‘evidence’ for ‘effectiveness’, see video TC 0:46:13.
10. a) Claim: “The petition also states that the government is “unable to provide the toxicological tests required to prove its safety.” I have read this statement several times and I am still not sure what it means. There are no “tests” for fluoride safety.”
10. b) Response: Geez!! Answer… Peer-reviewed PRIMARY health studies [learn more]! We also recommend this interview for further discussion and this database for additional research. There are many unresolved health questions surrounding fluoride/fluoridation, which require further study. Moreover, “no health agency in fluoridated countries is monitoring fluoride exposure or side effects” (50 Reasons, #9), thus an adequate margin of safety has not been scientifically established. Repeating the mantra, “safe and effective” does not cut it. According to risk assessment expert Dr. Kathleen Thiessen, “water fluoridation at 0.7 mg/L is not adequate to protect against known or anticipated adverse effects and does not allow an adequate margin of safety to protect young children, people with high water consumption, people with kidney disease (resulting in reduced excretion of fluoride), and other potentially sensitive population subgroups” (Thiessen 2011, p. 5). In 2006, the National Research Council called for better biomonitoring protocols to assess potential health effects amongst the population (NRC 2006, pp. 87–88).
11. a) Claim: “As I said previously, fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral.”
11. b) Response: “Natural does not necessarily mean good. Arsenic, like ﬂuoride, leaches naturally from rocks into groundwater, but no one suggests topping that up. Besides, there is nothing “natural” about the ﬂuoridating chemicals, as they are obtained largely from the wet scrubbers of the phosphate fertilizer industry. The chemicals used in most ﬂuoridation programs are either hexaﬂuorosilicic acid or its sodium salt, and those silicon ﬂuorides do not occur in nature” (Connett et al. 2010, p. 246).
12. a) Claim: “A 1993 report from the National Research Council could find no credible link between fluoride and any neurological or autoimmune diseases.”
12. b) Response: The author is either totally ignorant, or totally devious. Is he really unaware of the 2006 National Research Council Report, or did he deliberately leave it out? Either way, readers have been misled, as the 2006 report was far more extensive and balanced (and obviously, more up-to-date) than the 1993 report, and most importantly, the 2006 report identified extensive gaps in knowledge regarding potential health effects of fluoride.
13. a) Claim: “Despite the rather striking appearance, [dental] fluorosis is mainly an esthetic concern.”
13. b) Response: “Dental Fluorosis caused by water fluoridation is irreversible, disfiguring, psychologically damaging and costly to repair. In essence, it is medical assault on children” (Limeback 2012); “The risk of dental ﬂuorosis increases as ﬂuoride concentration of water exceeds 0.3 parts per million” (Awofeso 2012, p. 6). “Consider the finding that exposure to fluoride in water and in toothpaste leads to dental fluorosis. Left as a matter of a “human health effect” it is too easy for officials to miss the point and describe the effect as a “cosmetic” or “aesthetic”. Pursued at the biochemical level, however, it raises a different level of concern. From animal studies it has been demonstrated that dental fluorosis is caused by fluoride inhibiting enzymes in the growing tooth cell responsible for laying down the enamel (DenBesten, 1999). The last stage in this process involves enzymes called proteases, which chew up the protein remaining between the mineral prisms, which form the enamel. If this protein is not completely removed, it leads to small opaque patches on the enamel. It is well known from biochemical studies that fluoride inhibits enzymes in test tubes, which is the reason why a number of Nobel Prize winners (e.g Dr. James Sumner, the world’s leading enzyme chemist in his time) are among those who have expressed their reservations about fluoridating water. Dental fluorosis is thus an indication that fluoride even at 1 ppm in water can inhibit enzymes in the body. In a way, it is extremely lucky that fluoride inhibits these particular enzymes because the effect is visible. Thus we have a visible warning signal that something is happening. The key question then becomes (or should become): What other enzymes is fluoride inhibiting in the body that we can’t see?… it is misleading to describe dental fluorosis as a “cosmetic” or “aesthetic” effect. These are not scientific terms but public relations terms. The simple scientific truth of the matter is that when dental fluorosis has occurred it means that fluoride has impacted the body systemically. The fluoride has moved from the water through the stomach membranes into the plasma, circulated the body and arrived inside the tooth. In the growing tooth cells it has reached a concentration such that it has inhibited the enzymes involved in laying down the enamel. Pam DenBeston’s (1999) work indicates that the enzymes involved are the ones which remove the last bit of protein from between the mineral prisms. Thus, instead of laying down a nice smooth enamel, the enamel has little patches in it… Now that it is recognized that dental fluorosis is occurring with increasing frequency and severity, we have to ask what other enzymes are being inhibited in the body. What enzymes are affected in the bones, in the other calcifying tissues and in the other soft tissues?” (Connett 2000, 2.8, 3.3.2-3.3.4; also see: Sedgwick County Commission presentation 2012, video TC 0:17:56). In a nutshell, “it is illogical to assume that tooth enamel is the only tissue affected by low daily doses of fluoride ingestion” (Limeback 2000).
14. a) Claim: “Concerns about skeletal fluorosis, bone fractures and cancers like osteosarcoma are unfounded and unsupported by the literature and by more than 60 years of experience that many communities have had with fluoridation programs.”
14. b) Response: “The [York] review team was surprised that in spite of the large number of studies carried out over several decades there is a dearth of reliable evidence with which to inform policy. Until high quality studies are undertaken providing more definite evidence, there will continue to be legitimate scientific controversy over the likely effects and costs of water fluoridation” (Sheldon 2001); “In the case of fluoridation, people should be aware of the limitations of evidence about its potential harms and that it would be almost impossible to detect small but important risks (especially for chronic conditions) after introducing fluoridation” (Cheng et al. 2007); “When proponents are asked to produce just one study (a primary study, not a governmental review) that has convinced them that ﬂuoridation is safe, they are seldom able to do so. Apparently, they have taken such assurances from others at face value, without reading the literature for themselves. The fact is, it is almost impossible to prove conclusively that a substance has no ill effects. A careful and properly controlled study may show that, under the conditions and limitations of the investigation, no harm is apparent. A hundred such studies may permit a considerable degree of conﬁdence—but in the case of ﬂuoridation, very few studies have even been attempted. As ﬂuoride accumulates progressively in the skeleton and probably the pineal gland,studies need to extend over a lifetime. In chapter 22, we listed the many health concerns that simply have not been investigated in ﬂuoridated countries. Meanwhile, ﬂuoride at moderate to high doses can cause serious health problems, leaving little or no margin of safety for people drinking ﬂuoridated water (see chapter 20)” (Connett et al. 2010, p. 251); “What is now clear is that, if proposed today, fluoridation of drinking water to prevent tooth decay would stand virtually no chance of being adopted, given the current status of scientific knowledge” (Howard 2010, p. 173).
15. a) Claim: “Despite the health benefits and the lack of any serious drawbacks.”
15. b) Response: “As I intensively studied the literature and performed my own research, the evidence clearly demonstrated that fluoridation is more harmful than beneficial” (Limeback 2013); “Caries rates have declined in all developed countries, fluoridated or not… Well-known adverse health effects from fluoride exposure include dental fluorosis, skeletal fluorosis, and increased risk of bone fracture. Additional adverse effects include carcinogenicity, genotoxicity, reduced thyroid function, other endocrine effects, neurotoxicity, hypersensitivity, and increased blood lead levels in children. Dental fluorosis is associated with increased risks of thyroid disease, lowered IQ, and bone fracture. “Safe” levels of fluoride exposure are well below the levels experienced with fluoridation, especially for formula-fed infants and people with high water consumption or kidney disease. Minority and low-income populations may have increased risks of adverse effects” (Thiessen 2013).
16. a) Claim: “Regardless, as the campaign to preserve our “precious bodily fluids” continues, like Peter Sellers in Dr. Strangelove, I remain baffled by the entire process.”
16. b) Response: Well, you asked for it, dude —> CLICK HERE.
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