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Another attempt appears to be under way to remove fluoridation from the Thames water supply. A public meeting was called recently apparently in order to promulgate information designed to create fear and loathing of the practice amongst people, many of whom may be unaware of the reasons why most water supplies in this country were originally fluoridated.

People who are behind this move may be well intentioned, and sincerely believe the information that they are presenting - most of which has been floating around the internet since Adam was a boy, but which has been repeatedly refuted by reputable science. The reason that it gains traction every few years is hard to fathom, but often appears linked to conspiratorial fear of mass poisoning by a malign government. See "The Fluoride Wars" by R. Allan Freeze and J.H. Lehr (2009) for a contemporary review of a wide range of literature on the subject.  Also HTTP:// - website of Prof. David Colquhoun of University College London for some excellent de-bunking of the anti-fluoride arguments.

Pro-fluoride advocates have been slow to defend the practice, often in the belief that somehow common sense will magically prevail. My experience has been to the contrary, having spent seven years while Chief Executive of a Darwin health board servicing Aboriginal communities, and endeavouring to combat extraordinary levels of child caries. The connexion between rotten infant teeth (Coke and white bread?), and the subsequent levels of adult renal and other related disease as high as anywhere in the world, was well established. Attempts to introduce fluorocylicic acid (exactly as used in Thames) into community water supplies that were entirely devoid of the element - even more so than New Zealand, were strongly opposed by the NT Health Department, mainly  on cost grounds. Paradoxically, the same Department supported fluoridation for the mainly white population of Darwin, while deploring the huge and increasing cost of dialysis treatment for hundreds of Aboriginal patients.

It is specious for anti campaigners to claim that this can all be overcome by encouraging the use of fluoride toothpaste, or tablets - a suggestion that denies socio-economic factors inherent in the failure of such simplistic solutions. Further, mass medication arguments look pretty thin when proponents are reminded of the age old mass medication inherent in the iodizing of salt. Never mind the the folic acid and bread argument.

Rate-payers are urged to follow the predicable emotionally charged anti-fluoride campaign closely and stand ready to defend fluoride in our water supply. I have no doubt that councillors will be targeted with a view to supporting a referendum on the matter - a thoroughly commendable idea just as long as the anti-fluoride campaigners are not permitted to spread their message to the exclusion of all else through apathy on the part of those in the pro-fluoride camp, who in the main say little.



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Reader Comments (4)

I found your Blog and acknowledge that you intend to be forthright and seek comment and debate.

I am against the flouridation of water supplies for reasons of "mass poisoning" and costs.
Childrens teeth are already showing signs of an overaccumulation of flouride by having white and light brown patches on them.
WEhy would you want to be a "watchdog" on public spending and still advocate putting a substance in a water supply of which less than 1% is drunk and the rest goes out through the dishwasher, washing machines, toilets, swimming pools sprinklers etc.
It is the compulsion element which irritates me, you get it whether you want it or not. It doesn't sound too good to me, Bill. Flouride can be obtained in tablet form or in toothpaste on a personal level if you want it. You will have some convincing to do in that department.

December 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMike

That is exactly what I was looking for - the debate needs to be had, and an open mind needed if that is possible.
I simply endeavored to relate my own experience in the Northern Territory, and point the problem associated with the toothpaste and tablet option - it just does not work in certain sections of the population. The poisoning argument does not stack up in my opinion on scientific grounds - particularly since the advent of the fluorocilicic acid method of treatment - it is totally safe, handled correctly of course. The literature claiming harm - you can see it listed in the website of the former pro, now anti-advocate - Mr John Colquhoun (an Auckland dentist who is the namesake, but no relation of the Professor Colquhoun who I referenced) that lists dozens of books on the subject - nearly all published 20 - 50 years ago. The NZ Dental Association has completely distanced itself from his claims and you would be hard put finding other dentists who support his views. Just follow the dates - his stuff is all "old hat".
Anyway, most people's minds are made up on the subject, and I don't expect to influence thinking - after all, I am a layman, just like those who have set themselves up "experts" on the anti side. The problem is that the "anti" side skilfully exploit every opportunity to get publicity for their views, and the "pro" side looks on, bemused in the main.

December 7, 2010 | Registered CommenterBill Barclay

Hi Bill,
This is one we will have to disagree on. There is evidence that may support topical treatment of teeth with fluoride toothpaste, but nothing to suggest that ingesting this toxin helps against cavities. The American Dental Ass is now warning against infants ingesting fluoridated drinking water.

December 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTony

I beg to differ - your evidence v. my evidence is about as useful as "she said - he said".
It is good to provide references if you are going to make statements about American Dental Assoc. warnings. That is certainly not a universal view amongst professional bodies, and I am more interested in any case in the view of the NZ Dental Association - it has not wavered, regardless of John Colquhoun's attacks over the last 10 years (or is it 20?).

December 11, 2010 | Registered CommenterBill Barclay

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