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Byron Shire
July 23, 2024

Professor, not Mungo, wrong on fluoride

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John W Travis in his letter to the Echo re fluoridation (December 30) writes that we should look at the facts. OK let’s look at the evidence he cites in his letters.

First he says that fluoridation is plot by industry to dispose of its toxic waste products at public expense. Wrong. Fluoride is made from hydrogen fluoride and fluorosilicic acid which are not waste products but valuable chemicals, produced to high purity by fractional distillation and have many uses. Over one million tons of these chemicals are produced a year.

Secondly he says no controlled studies exist and selectively quotes the NSW Dept of Health to wrongly suggest that there is no evidence for the efficacy of fluoride. The full quote is: ‘Although there are no randomised controlled trials of fluoridation of the water supply, there have been other well-designed studies as detailed and summarised in the NHMRC’s A Systematic Review of the Efficacy and Safety of Fluoridation (pdf). The NHMRC review is also on the web.

He requires controlled trials and ignores well designed studies but what evidence does he use to support his position? It’s the Harvard meta-analysis – but he misrepresents this too. This paper reviewed 26 studies in China and one study in Iran (none was a controlled trial) and using the results of these studies reported that children in high-fluoride areas had significantly lower IQ scores than those who lived in low-fluoride areas. Travis reported this as ‘fluoride exposure at only modestly raised levels significantly decreases the IQ of the children’. Did he read the paper?

Also if he has read the Harvard study he should know that it is based on a lot of poor science. It noted that each of the 27 studies ‘had deficiencies, in some cases rather serious ones’. I have looked at a lot of these studies and am surprised that an Australian academic would unquestionably accept them. Even one anti-fluoride website admitted that ‘many of the fluoride/IQ studies have used relatively simple designs and have failed to adequately control for all of the factors that can impact a child’s intelligence (e.g., parental education, socioeconomic status, lead and arsenic exposure)’. The authors of the Harvard paper only say their results support the possibility of adverse effects and that more research is required.

Professor Travis ignores the fact that for more than 60 years hundreds of millions of people have been drinking fluoridated water with no adverse effects on IQ and instead offers 27 obscure papers of questionable scientific rigour and misrepresents their results. He also misrepresents the source of fluoride and its benefits to dental health. I hope this is not the type of science he is teaching at RMIT.

Rob Watson, Myocum

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  1. “Fluoride is made from hydrogen fluoride and fluorosilicic acid which are not waste products but valuable chemicals, produced to high purity by fractional distillation and have many uses.” Where are you getting this nonsense from? Fluoride is the ionic form of the chemical element fluorine. It isn’t made from anything, it exists in nature. The fluoride compounds which are used for forced-fluoridation are industrial grade fluorosilicic acid (which also goes by other names such as hydrofluorosilicic acid and hexafluorosilicic acid), industrial grade sodium fluorosilicate, and industrial grade sodium fluoride. They are toxic industrial waste products, and are not “produced to high purity”.

    The claim of well-designed studies providing evidence for efficacy is also nonsense. The studies which are used to market forced-fluoridation amount to no more than selective instances of correlation, and come nowhere near establishing a causal link. The NHMRC review which is referred to is a sick joke, which anyone can see by comparing it to the 2006 US National Research Council report Fluoride in Drinking Water: A Scientific Review of EPA’s Standards.

    The 2012 Harvard University systematic review and meta-analysis which is referred to is more credible than the evidence for efficacy, and is not the only evidence for the neurotoxicity of fluoride at doses to which people subjected to forced-fluoridation are routinely exposed. For example, there are human studies which find decreasing IQ with increasing individual fluoride exposure in children. To my knowledge, the only study into efficacy which measures individual exposure is the Iowa study, which did not find any benefit.

    The statement that “for more than 60 years hundreds of millions of people have been drinking fluoridated water with no adverse effects on IQ” is sheer conjecture, not a fact. If you are going to take someone to task, it may be a good idea to get your facts straight, Rob.

  2. Some of Rob Watson’s comments on fluoridation are fanciful daydreams but his personal comments on Prof Travis are bordering on defamation.
    Firstly Rob says that the fluoride used in water fluoridation is produced by fractional distillation produced to high quality. What absolute rubbish ! Much of the Hydrofluorosilicic acid used in Australia comes directly from the wet scrubbers of Incitec Pivot superphosphate fertiliser plant in Geelong . They certainly don’t produce pure quality chemical from the fluoride pollution gases produced as waste from super-phosphate manufacturing , they just re-circulate the water in the pollution wet -scrubbers until the concentration of Hydrofluorosilicic acid is approximately 25 % . The resulting soup is then sent directly from Incitec Pivot to water treatment plants. Most of the Sodium Fluoride and Sodium Silicofluoride is imported from China – a great way for China to get rid of waste fluoride seeing China doesn’t fluoridate water.
    Rob Watson is partly correct , there are randomised controlled studies for fluoride, but as NSW Health admits these are for topical fluorides such as toothpaste, varnish and sealants , there are none at all for water fluoridation. NSW Health have been asked to provide their Health Impact Statements and Risk Assessments for fluoridation , NSW Health have never provided, they just referred to the 2007 NHMRC Review as if that was proof of safety.
    The NHMRC 2007 Review was almost a copycat of the 2000 York University Review commissioned by the UK govt. In 2001 Prof Sheldon Chair of the York Review made clear that the York Review did not show that fluoridation was safe , the quality of the research available was mostly poor and that much more research needed to be done. He also noted that there was little evidence to show that water fluoridation has reduced social inequalities in dental health. Prof Sheldon’s 2001 letter can be read here.
    The 2007 NHMRC Review has many failings, a serous one is that they did not even include the 2006 National Research Council Review Fluoride in Drinking Water implying that it was only about water with 4 mg per litre fluoride when the NRC Review also investigated and had concerns at much lower fluoride concentrations as well, including levels found in artificially fluoridated water. A second failing of the 2007 NHMRC review was highly emphasising a letter to the Editor from Pro – fluoride Colgate Professor Chester Douglas over an actual a peer reviewed published scientific paper written by E. Bassin et al. linking Osteosarcoma to fluoridated water. A third failing of the 2007 NHMRC Review was not investigating the cumulative effects of fluoride on people with kidney impairment, even though to do so was a requirement of the Tender to do the review.
    The Harvard University Fluoride is a Meta-analysis and Systematic review – it not an article written by Choice ! There is no such thing as a perfect study , however when you do a Meta-analysis it helps show the big picture . The Harvard review certainly should sound warning bells considering that many of the studies has fluoride concentrations of only 2 , 3 or 4 times that put into Australian drinking water. There is certainly no safety factor of 10 here, especially when you consider the varying amounts of water drunk by individuals and the varying sensitivity of individuals. Harvard says more research needs to be done on this issue – so let’s hope that the NHMRC actually looks at this issue in the near future. Hopefully the NHMRC Ethics Committee might even look at the ethics of fluoridation as they have never done that either.
    So people have been drinking fluoridated water for 60 years – that makes it safe does it? It took doctors 75 years to find that Phenacetin in Bex headache powders caused Kidney Disease. Possibly smoking and asbestos is safe too because people have been using these products for hundreds of years and you don’t see people dropping dead in the street. Fluoridation science is tobacco science, it is asbestos science . Most of the world don’t fluoridated their drinking water and many European countries acknowledge that it is mass medication and express concerns about safety – Statements from European countries can be read here. http://fluoridealert.org/content/europe-statements/
    Water Fluoridation is a sheep dip Public Health Policy that tramples the rights of individuals to informed consent to treatment. It is time to end this archaic USA practice from the 1950s.
    Merilyn Haines on behalf Queenslanders For Safe Water, Air and Food Inc ( Contact details may be published Mob 0418 777 112 [email protected] )


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