Again, and again research shows community water fluoridation reduces tooth decay.
The research also shows fluoride is safe at the concentrations used for water fluoridation. Yet anti-fluoride campaigners continually misrepresent this research. Claims that community water fluoridation lowers the IQ of children are just plain wrong.
This unsupported claim is typical of misinformation promoted by anti-fluoride campaigners. Dr Paul Connett, who is touring New Zealand in an anti-fluoride campaign, asserts “the evidence that fluoride is neurotoxic and lowers IQ of children is very strong.” Yet all his evidence relates to areas of endemic fluorosis in countries like China, India and Mexico where very high natural levels of fluoride cause a range of health problems.
Recent research in New Zealand, Canada and Sweden is quite clear. Water fluoridation has no effect on IQ. Anti-fluoride campaigners who ignore this good quality research and concentrate on irrelevant (and often poor quality) research in areas of high natural fluoride are simply scaremongering.”
Connett attempts to raise ethical questions by defining water fluoridation as medication. But the correction of a mineral deficiency is not medication. Use of fluoridated water to correct a fluoride deficiency is like the use of iodized salt to correct iodine deficiency. That is something we are all used to and accept.
Anti-fluoride campaigners like Paul Connett often propose the dental health programmes in Scotland, Wales and Scandinavia as alternatives to water fluoridation. But this ignores the fact these programmes all use twice yearly fluoride varnish applications to the teeth of young children. It also ignores the fact that many of the educational, dentistry and fluoride varnish treatment elements of these programmes are already applied in New Zealand.
These educational and dentistry programmes are really a supplement to water fluoridation, and not an alternative. Fluoridation by itself is not a ‘silver bullet’ and health professionals recommend using a range of social programmes – including water fluoridation.
Paul Connett’s speaking tour is a last-ditch attempt by local anti-fluoride campaigners to prevent progress on the Fluoridation Bill in parliament. However, that legislation is simply about transferring decision making on fluoridation from local councils to District Health Boards. It is not about the science of fluoridation and this makes Paul Connett’s campaign misrepresenting the science irrelevant.
The Fluoridation Bill resulted from requests by local councils to transfer fluoridation decisions to central government because of the disruption caused by anti-fluoride activist groups whenever the issue was discussed. The bill will shortly face its second reading and we should expect significant changes because of recommendations made during the consultation period. These changes may calcify processes for consultation when fluoridation is considered in a community, the nature if funding by central government and procedures for considering new scientific findings on fluoridation.
Hopefully these procedures will avoid the disruption that local councils faced with this issue.
Dr Ken Perrott is the Science Advisor for Making Sense of Fluoride, Inc., an Australasian group of academics, scientists health specialists and students which works to counter misrepresentation about community water fluoridation.