Letter: Fluoride research

Last updated 12:38 25/06/2014

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OPINION: The Southern District Health Board is renewing its call to use fluoride in five towns in the Southland district.

Dr Tim Mackay is wanting to reassure that ''fluoridation is a safe and effective way to prevent tooth decay''. It would be wise for all councillors to make themselves aware of the research done by very wise and learned scientists and thus discover that Dr Mackay's statement is untrue and totally prejudiced.

Dental fluorosis - the white mottling on the teeth - has been mentioned as the only concern, but this is an unknown. The teeth are one with the bones and it is unknown what might be happening to them.

In fact, there is strong evidence that there is an effect, but as usual, the proponents of fluoridation say it is not conclusive or provable.

We have done so many similar things in our past - asbestos, food colourings, sugar substitutes, tanalising, 1080 - to name a few, that have later been shown to be detrimental to sensitive people, and often leading to ongoing health problems.

It is also a costly exercise to councils and, therefore, to ratepayers, to install these systems. Less money could be spent in supplying those people who want fluoridation with an alternative (tablets, toothpaste). Then those who have made other decisions could have their wishes respected.

How much research has Dr Mackay actually done, or has he simply accepted the views of those supporting the stance he has taken? This is a choice - do not take it away from the people of our province.

I recommend The Case Against Fluoride by Paul Connett, PhD, James Beck, MD PhD, H S Micklem. This is in the Invercargill Public Library

JUDITH HARVEY
Invercargill

Dental public health specialist Dr Tim Mackay replies: There is ongoing research and monitoring around the world looking at the effectiveness and safety of water fluoridation programmes.

New Zealand is fortunate to have the National Fluoride Information Service which has been established to monitor and assess this work and to provide technical advice on these issues. NFIS will offer robust and independent scientific and technical information around water fluoridation to district health boards (DHBs) and territorial local authorities (TLAs).

NFIS is led by Regional Public Health, it also includes the Hutt Valley DHB Community Dental Services, Environmental Science and Research, Centre for Public Health Research at Massey University and the National Poisons Centre.

A large body of robust scientific literature supports water fluoridation. The Prime Minister's chief science adviser, Sir Peter Gluckman, has commented on the science of water fluoridation in his article What Is Water.

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Water fluoridation is recommended by key public health agencies, as seen in the policy statements of the World Health Organisation, Centres for Disease Control, World Dental Federation and the NZ College of Public Health Medicine.

Claims by opponents of fluoridation that it leads to cancers, bone fractures and other serious conditions are not supported by evidence. Often ''evidence'' quoted by opponents has been derived from studies where the levels of naturally occurring fluoride levels are so high that fluoride levels need to be reduced, such as some parts of China and the United States.

Countries similar to New Zealand also support water fluoridation, including Australia, the United Kingdom, the US and Canada.

Water fluoridation is indeed a very safe and effective public health measure to improve the oral health of the community.

- The Southland Times

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