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AP Hearings - Fluoride (Again!)

As you probably are already aware, the hearings process was high-jacked by the anti-fluoride brigade - even though they had more than enough opportunity to put their case to the Thames Community Board back on 25 January. The Board of course voted 5:2 in favour of retaining fluoride, with only Connors and Hoadley opposing.  

For some strange reason in cases like this, forces opposed to a particular action get multi-opportunities to argue the toss, and get issues re-litigated time after time - one of the downsides of the Community Board structure I am afraid, and the anti-fluoride people are well practised in the manner in which they mount their campaigns. It is a case of wearing everyone down with multiple and repetitive submissions that either bore or frighten in equal measure. 

On this occasion the entire process was stage-managed by one Dr Jane Beck - a refugee from the medical profession who spent some time outlining her qualifications at the outset of her presentation which in itself was highly professional, annotated, referenced and timed to perfection. She was permitted to talk for 30 minutes when everyone else was restricted to ten, apparently by persuading staff that she was speaking on behalf of other people and using their time. She was backed up with the usual rhetoric of Libby Boyd, and I believe that the two put the whole presentation of the Group together. The usual crew from Hamilton, Auckland, Welllington and other remote p[laces outside of this District fronted to back the campaign, and a few other Thames voices in the echelon made up the numbers.

Jane's determination to win this battle was evident from the start, and you have to admire the manner in which has gone about achieving this end. I don't intend to go about deconstructing her presentation - it was too detailed and technical for most present, including herself I suspect - it was almost entirely gleaned from stuff that we have become used to on the internet - Connett and Colquhoun were widely quoted and a range of medical impairments cited as proof of the danger of the substance. Interestingly, Jane quoted Dr John Colquhoun in the present tense when he actually died several years ago - she clearly has not caught up with the peer review of his work that rubbished his techniques and conclusions.

The one characteristic that flows through nearly all the quotes is that they are many years old, and out of date. Then there is the tendency to commence sentences with "Studies have shown ....." or "It has been shown....". No-one doubts the sincerity of the people who propound these objections, but close examination of their arguments shows consistent fallacy in their arguments best summed up by April Chang in her submission - "There is not a single case in the medical literature of an injury from a lifetime of drinking fluoridated water".

And David Fornusek's evidence on behalf of Thames dentists regarding the statistics of child oral surgery amounting to over 1,000 cases a year at Thames Hospital was very telling - almost 90% from outside the fluoridated area of Thames. Jane's world-wide literature searches hardly came near this mark. Her citing of the famous Harvard meta-analysis was was countered by April's quote from the same source referencing  "the possibility of adverse effects from high fluoride exposure on children's neuro development" - the studies were of course mainly based on Chinese research in areas of extreme high naturally occurring fluoride – a point that opponents fail to mention that the writers of the Harvard Study have been attempting to correct ever since.

What it showed was that you can read virtually whatever you like into research - we have to go with what we think is right for our children based on the emphatic empirical evidence available to us, and to date none of the emotionally charged evidence presented proves the contrary. Why on earth our Ministry of Health considers it acceptable to leave this debate and decision to councillors who are totally ill-equipped to make such decisions is beyond comprehension, other than that politicians regard the issue as providing the ultimate ‘dead cat bounce’ for their popularity.

Arising from the process adopted at this hearing, I am seeking answers for the following: (the relevant staff have failed to return calls today, and I am not surprised!)

1. Why was Dr Beck given 30 minutes to present her case (others - ten minutes)?

2. Why was she permitted extra 'slots' to sum up her case?

3. Why were members of the anti-brigade permitted to position their 'slots'

4. Why was the unprecedented action taken to postpone deliberations for a fortnight?

5. On what basis did Dr Beck indicate at the outset of her submission that the Community Board decision would be "reviewed" next week?

6. If this is the case will those who support fluoridation be permitted to re-submit?

7. David Hammond indicated during the meeting that decisions could be reviewed on the basis of "new and verified" information. If that is the case, just how does he intend to 'verify' that information?

8. And if this is the case, will the 'opposition' be permitted to present their 'new and verified' information?


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