This morning's Waikato Times features the attention-grabbing front-page headline: "Anti-fluoride campaigner tries to silence science". I guess the debate is really heating up when someone from one side tries to get the other side to shut up...
It would be appreciated if we could receive some confirmation from the chemistry department that it will remain publicly neutral on the matter.
To be fair to the anti-fluoride lobby, the letter to the Chemistry Department at the University of Waikato came from a single member of the local Hamilton group. Note to the organisers of Fluoride Free Hamilton - if you are not in support of this letter, it would be really nice to hear you say so. Publicly.
The letter reproduced by the Waikato Times includes the statement that
At Fluoride Free Hamilton we intend to limit the debate to the social science and public health aspects of fluoridation.
Now, I actually think that it would be good to have a reasoned, well-informed debate on social issues relating to fluoridation. Is 'mass medicalisation' the way to go, for example? If fluoride isn't delivered this way, then how do we deal with the social costs entailed in some members of society not accessing it? How much, as a society, are we responsible for our poorest members?
Unfortunately that's not really the way things have shaped up to date. Instead the HCC tribunal that made the original decision to stop fluoridation, the letters/opinion columns of our various local papers, & on-line discussions of media reports have been awash with dubious & frankly scaremongering claims about the ills of fluoridation. For example
that in drinking fluoridated water we're forced to drink acid - No, we're not. (Presumably those making this claim don't eat citrus fruit, or drink wine or a certain caffeinated fizzy beverage.)
that hydrofluorosilicic acid adds harmful levels of heavy metals to our water supply - No, it doesn't.
that fluoride is neurotoxic and lowers children's IQs - again, at concentrations found in municipal supplies, no, it doesn't. (Did they even read the original paper?)
that fluoride 'narcotises' salmon at levels well below those present in municipal supplies - No, it doesn't - the original paper says nothing about this.
and so on, and on, and on... I am moved to ask (again) - if the anti-fluoridation activists are so sure of their case, then why do they need to distort, cherrypick, and misquote science in order to support it? You're entitled to your own opinions, folks, but not your own versions of the facts.
We're also seeing a fair amount of false equivalence here, where the anti-fluoridation groups would argue that their 'science' is equivalent to the science put forward by (for example) the District Health Board & my chemistry colleagues. In fact there is no equivalence - how can there be, when those claims (above) are examined & found wanting?