Attention John Moloney,
Chairman Joint Committee on Health & Children 2002-2007,
Houses of the Oireachtas,
Dublin 2.July 5, 2005
Re : 50 Reasons to oppose fluoridation
It was on May 13th 2004 that I last addressed the committee on the matter of water fluoridation, the record showing my regret at still not having received the promised reply to the 50 Reasons that I submitted in person to the Fluoridation Forum in October 2000.
It has now come to my attention that an anonymous 18 page posting appeared on the Department of Health website on May 5th 2005 under the title of “A critical appraisal of, and commentary on, 50 Reasons to oppose fluoridation”.
I find it particularly revealing that the authors a) didn’t sign this document and b) didn’t exercise the basic courtesy of sending a copy of their response to me personally.
The anonymous authors manage to produce 18 pages without providing a single specific response to any of the 50 reasons, and this four and half years after answers were promised by the chairman of the Fluoridation Forum! Instead of specific answers to specific reasons we get a generalized attack on my methodology. Such criticisms may have some validity in certain instances but without the anonymous authors making the effort to apply their criticisms to specific studies this is neither scientific nor helpful to your committee. In science one is required to examine the data: they appear unwilling or incapable of doing so. In fact, their response completely subverts the intentions of my challenge and underlines the Forum’s complete failure to live up its commitments in this respect.
Their final sentence that “No conclusions can or should be drawn from this poor quality document” summarizes their intent: namely, to shift the focus from their lack of answers to a criticism of my questions! In so doing they have attempted to obscure their inability to provide a well documented and cogent response to these 50 reasons. They can answer their own questions but not mine!
Thus, the inescapable conclusion is: neither the Department of Health, nor the pro-fluoridation scientists who advise them, have answers to the 50 reasons that they can present in the normal manner of scientific discourse. Moreover, there is another very real reason to be concerned with this response and that is an apparent lack of familiarity with the scientific literature being cited. Had they had this familiarity there would not have been a four and half year delay in responding and when they did, there would have been no need for them to descend to such a generalized critique. Their clear preference appears to be to place a heavier reliance on the second hand and limited reviews of other bodies, rather than apply specific knowledge of the primary health literature itself. Such a shift attempts to win the argument with “authority” rather than with science. Such a reliance on second hand reviews on health issues was also apparent in the Forum report itself, as I detail below.
Furthermore, the disdain shown for the “50 Reasons” is in sharp contrast to the reception they received from members of the Fluoridation Forum present at the October 2000 and subsequent meetings, including the chairman. Evidence of this reaction is listed below as they were recorded in the Forum minutes, which were made available on the internet.
Nov 2000 Meeting:
The Forum agreed to address Dr Paul Connett’s “50 Questions”.
Dr Joe Mullen stated that “the Forum should address the ’50 Questions’ put by Dr Connett as several important issues are raised.” … Dr Mullen acknowledged … that he [Connett] provided the Forum with a useful template of 50 questions with which to answer the concerns of anti-fluoridationists.
.. Observations from other members:
“- some of the points raised by Dr Connett are very important.”
Sub-group to draft response to Dr Connett’s “50 Questions”:
Dr Crowley, Ms Gallagher, Dr Gavin, Professor Kelleher, Dr Johnson/Dr O‚Connor, Professor O’Mullane (Chairman of Sub-group), Dr Mullen, Professor O‚Brien.
Dr Owens and Professor O’Mullane to co-ordinate this – contact between members to be via email to ensure it is done as quickly as possible.
Jan 2001 Meeting:
Sub Group: Dr Connett’s “50 Reasons”
The Sub Group is to report back in March 2001 with draft responses to each of the 50 Reasons.
Feb 2001 Meeting:
Professor O’Mullane stated that the sub-group working on Dr Connett’s “50 Reasons” should have their report back by the meeting on 8 March 2001; the collection of all relevant articles has involved a lot of work.
Apr 2001 Meeting:
Work of Sub-Groups — Dr Connett’s “50 Reasons”
Professor O’Mullane explained that a lot of work has been done so far by this sub-group and a lot of the references quoted have been sourced; however, it has not been possible to get all references required so it may be necessary to contact Dr Connett for assistance in this regard. This group will have their draft responses ready for the meeting in June 2001. It was pointed out by Professor O’Brien that the text of the references should be provided alongside the draft responses.
May 2001 Meeting:
(k) The sub-group drafting responses to Dr Connett’s “50 Reasons” will meet shortly; while the group is making progress a significant amount of work is still required in order to address all of the Reasons comprehensively.
Dr Anderson commented:
– addressing Dr Connett’s “50 Reasons” is fundamentally important
Mr Moyles commented:
– it is important that Dr Connett’s “50 Reasons” be answered comprehensively
June 2001 Meeting:
Professor O’Mullane, as Chairman of the Sub-Group working on responding to Dr Connett’s “50 Reasons”, explained that this is an enormous and very detailed task and is taking a lot of time to compile; it is hoped that the response will be completed by the end of July 2001.
July 2001 Meeting:
Professor O’Mullane explained that the Sub-Group working on Dr Connett’s “50 Reasons” are working hard and hope to be able to circulate a draft response to the members of the Forum shortly.
3 Sept 2001 Meeting:
Dr Connett’s “50 Reasons”
Dr Owens will email the draft responses to the “50 Reasons” to the members shortly and it will be discussed at the next meeting of the Forum. A huge amount of work has gone into this task so far. ..
The Chairman thanked all of the sub-groups for their hard work and stressed that it is important that the views of a toxicologist be received as soon as possible. He also awaits the draft response to Dr Connett’s “50 Reasons” with interest.
Of course, we now know that the sub-committee never did publicly release a response to the 50 Reasons and published the Forum’s Report without a response to my challenge. And that failure has continued until May 5th 2005 when this anonymous critique appeared.
In paragraph 2 of this May 5 posting the anonymous authors state that the ’50 Reasons’ document, “does not address any clearly defined, well-formulated questions nor are there any stated objectives.”
This is a curious comment for the following reason. In October 2000, l was invited by the Minister of Health to fly to Ireland and present the scientific case of those opposed to fluoridation. Despite strong opposition from activists in Ireland I took the time out of my busy University teaching schedule to do this. This document contains my scientific concerns about fluoridation supported by numerous references to the scientific literature. I made it very clear – twice in fact – at the October 2000 Fluoridation Forum meeting, that I had made people in Ireland very upset by attending this Forum because they firmly believed that it was a set up. These citizens feared it was just going to be a rubber stamp for the government’s pro-fluoridation policy (the Forum report and its aftermath have both vindicated their fears). However, as I explained to the Fluoridation Forum at the time, “The way you can demonstrate to me and the Irish public that you are going to examine this issue objectively and comprehensively is to answer these 50 reasons in writing with scientific references.”
The Fluoridation Forum, accepted this challenge, but failed to deliver.
The former Health Minister Mr. Michael Martin on several occasions said that answers to the 50 reasons would be forthcoming, but for over 3 years since the publication of the Forum report he failed to deliver.
Now comes this pathetic excuse of a response from people who can’t even put their names to the document.
What is truly shocking is that even though Ireland has had mandatory fluoridation since 1963, there has not been one single health study conducted in Ireland on any tissue in the body other than the teeth. This is made even more inexcusable because Section 6 of the Fluoridation Act explicitly demanded such general health studies. Fluoridation has generated huge sums of money for the Irish dental research community, but no research into the wider public health effects has been undertaken in a scientific manner by the Irish scientific or medical communities.
The Fluoridation Forum did not come close to examining the key health issues. Out of 296 pages only 17 were devoted to health effects other than damage to tooth enamel and, of these, less than two pages (pages 122,123) were devoted to studies from the primary literature (the other 15 pages dealt with reviews of other reviews from other countries). In fact, the authors put more effort into illustrating what a pea sized piece of toothpaste looks like on a toothbrush, than they did examining the primary health literature!
The one effect the Forum examined was hip fractures in the elderly (they very briefly summarized three original papers, a small fraction of the many available) and even here the authors managed to avoid examining the study I analyzed in some depth during my October presentation to the Forum (Li et al., 2001). This important study since published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, indicated a doubling of hip fractures at 1.5 ppm and a tripling at 4.3 ppm of fluoride in water. Such results indicate that there is no margin of safety for this serious outcome at 1 ppm, the approximate level at which water is fluoridated in Ireland, when one considers that with fluoridation one cannot control the daily dose to the individual and exposure is going to take place for a whole lifetime. The Forum’s recommendation (not followed to date) of lowering fluoride levels doesn’t begin to address this lack of a margin of safety for such a serious outcome.
It should now be abundantly clear to your committee that there is no one in Ireland who can provide an objective analysis of the health issues pertaining to fluoridation and thus provide a cogent defense for Ireland’s fluoridation policy, either in public debate or in writing. In my view a policy that cannot be defended should not be continued.
With the news from the US (see the Irish Independent), that a Harvard PhD thesis has demonstrated a seven fold increase in osteosarcoma in young men (a rare bone cancer which is frequently fatal), when they are exposed to fluoridated water in their sixth-to eighth years (i.e. during their mid-childhood growth spurt), makes the issue even more crucial. After all how many teeth would you have to save, to justify one child dying from osteosarcoma? The fact that attempts have been made to cover up this critically important result, makes it even more telling (see www.ewg.org).
The vast majority of European countries don’t subject themselves to this kind of horrible dilemma and yet their teeth are just as good if not better than those few countries which do (see http://wwwfluoridealert.org/who-dmft.htm). With fluoride universally available in toothpaste, it is totally unnecessary, and I would say absurd, to put it in your drinking water.
Hopefully, your committee will have the courage and common sense to recommend bringing an immediate end to this sorry – and clearly indefensible – practice in Ireland.
Dr. Paul Connett,
Professor of Chemistry,
St. Lawrence University,
Canton, NY 13617.