Fluoride nutters bite off too much

17:00, Jun 07 2013

There be a lot of things wrong with Wellington, out of control parking enforcement, a dithering council, an inconsistent rugby team and a poorly managed stadium, but at least the weather is good and the water is fluoridated.

But that could change if the flat-earth conspiracy theorist nutters who somehow convinced Hamilton's council to cease fluoridating that city's water supply succeed in their stated aim of removing this low-cost efficacious health treatment from the capital next.

Before those of you who think man never landed on the Moon, the Twin Towers was a US Government conspiracy and Dan Brown books are fact, not fiction, start throwing your screeds of "research" and irrelevant studies at me let's get some facts straight.

Fluoride, in the minute quantities it is added to half the municipal water supplies in this country, poses no identifiable health risk to anyone. There are no studies to support any claim that fluoridated water poses any danger. There are numerous studies suggesting significant health benefits in reduction of tooth decay among young people as a result of fluoridation. There is, among recognised and reputable health practitioners and public health bodies here and overseas, no controversy over its benefits.

Every scientist or health professional I've talked to on this issue gives me the same basic facts I've outlined above.

If I wanted I guess I could hit the internet and troll round for hours finding a variety of "studies" and claims and revelations about fluoride. I could convince myself that all the health professionals and administrators who have been carefully monitoring fluoridation for decades are part of a massive conspiracy to hide "the truth" about fluoride. I'd have to try really hard but I might even be able to come up with a reason for such a conspiracy to explain how and, more importantly, why "mainstream science" is perpetrating such an evil upon an unsuspecting public. But I, like most New Zealanders, prefer to live in the real world here on planet Earth.


There are some interesting critiques of the anti-fluoridation movement on the web which analyse this strange cult in a political, psychological and historical context. One of the best is a paper written by Jason Armfield of the Australian Research Centre for Population Oral Health, School of Dentistry at the University of Adelaide.

It looks at the issues which, alas, will soon be visited on this city if the anti-fluoridation nutters have their way. " ... the implementation of water fluoridation is still regularly interrupted by a relatively small group of individuals who use misinformation and rhetoric to induce doubts in the minds of the public and government officials.

"It is important that public health officials are aware of these tactics so that they can better counter their negative effect."

It goes on to list the tactics, including fear-mongering, selective use of scientific data, half-truths, innuendo, denial, and conspiracy theories.

Events in Hamilton suggest gullible politicians are not immune to such tactics. Even Associate Health Minister Tariana Turia was silly enough to tell me there were two sides to the fluoride issue, in direct contravention of her own ministry's published policy.

As the anti-fluoride madness grows, it does represent a real threat. As Hamilton has found, it is now impacting on health policies which have hitherto had a positive effect. If the intellectual decay that the movement represents is allowed to spread further, individuals and taxpayers will ending up paying the price.

Central government could solve this problem by taking control and mandating fluoridation nationwide given that many councils lack the expertise to make rational decisions.

Somehow I doubt it will but I can promise the nutters they won't take the fluoride out of my water without a fight.

The Dominion Post