Quick Answers to Typical Anti-fluoridation Arguments

I know I repeat myself a lot in my articles on water fluoridation. I do so because the anti-fluoridation activists have proven themselves unable or at the least unwilling to look into references that may seriously challenge their position. Ultimately, they have also shown the same resistance towards completely reading an article or even watching a video of a mere few minutes in length, however I have found it more defensible to at least include everything.

From now on, I’ll instead link to arguments I’ve added to a new page (“Anti-Fluoridation Arguments” above). I hope to develop it further so that it is a good reference point to challenge the typical unsubstantiated anti-fluoride nonsense that proliferates the Internet. This will allow me to cut word length down and hopefully force such activists to rely on better arguments (or admit that they have none). I’ve embedded anchors so that others can link to direct arguments also.


Fluoridation chemicals are…

 “…Industrial waste”

The most common fluoride chemical used is hexafluorosilicic acid, with the compound formula H2SiF6, which can be obtained from other industrial processes. One can hardly call it a waste product if it is of commercial value and so a more correct name would be a by-product (please read on prior to concluding that the commercial value is based on “spin”). Waste also is used because it people generally think of waste as dirty, however this is a refined chemical, not a loaf of bread or chunk of ham left out in the sun.

For instance, sodium chloride, or table salt, can be refined from the ocean, a dry salt lake or even urine. Regardless where one extracts it, it remains sodium chloride. The same is true of hexafluorosilicic acid.

“…Not pharmaceutical grade”

The level of refinement is also the difference between whether it is pharmaceutical grade or not. In the case of the fluoridation chemicals, they not as refined as that used in toothpaste, however they have undergone chemical analysis and the amount of impurities are known and listed on the label.

These impurities are in very low quantities and when the fluoridation chemicals are added to water, these impurities dilute to miniscule levels. For instance, many of the impurities will make up less than 10mg of 1kg of the formula. This is diluted down to 1 part per million, meaning that any impurities are diluted down to less than 10 parts per billion.

“…Unnatural” or “toxic”

Is everything natural good for us? Venom is natural. Arsenic and asbestos are equally natural and obtainable from the environment. I could go on.

On the other hand, vaccines and medicines, while resulting from biological science, are typically compounds not found in nature. These chemicals improve our lives immensely.

More importantly, when the fluoridation chemicals are added to the water, they break down to ionic fluoride and silica sand. Both are common, naturally occurring and in the concentrations used, the fluoride has been shown to reduce tooth decay beyond that seen in communities without that additional fluoride exposure. The World Health Organisation deem it safe, cheap and effective when supplied at ~1ppm.

Hexafluorosilicic acid can be thought of as the compound packaged for transit which breaks down quickly and entirely to natural, non-toxic chemicals in water.

“The fluoridation chemicals come from China”

So what? Check the tag on any item of clothing you’re currently wearing or turn over most of your household items to find the majority will state “Made in China”.

Incidentally, that “Made in China” is a receipt from China for a parcel of smog that hangs over any one of their large industrial cities today. The Chinese smog and rising carbon footprint is as much the result of commercial activity on the other side of the world as it is internally.

More to the point; all fluoride compounds are tested prior to use in Australia. From SA sources, I have been able to find details of the Dept of Health guidelines and safety practices which rely upon NATA accredited laboratory analytical testing of the compounds.

This argument relies on xenophobia and racism over reason and evidence.

“Fluoridation leads to 25% of children developing fluorosis, which will affect their appearance and self-esteem.”

This value is often quoted by members of the Queenslanders for Safe Water, Air and food Inc. and is based upon the 2007 NSW Dental Health Survey. The report itself states that “[m]ore than 97% of 8 to 12 year old children do not display any discernible signs of fluorosis” and thus the additional 22% of the quoted value comes from the table on page 29 by adding up all cases where the Thylstrup and Felerskov index (TF) was >0.

It is questionable how this could be deemed as detrimental to a child’s mental health when the bulk of these cases are mild at best.

Moreover, if one cares to read the actual report, one finds that in non-fluoridated areas, the prevalence of fluorosis with a TF >0 is 16.8%. If this can be considered the “background” levels of fluorosis we are left with only an additional 8% of children developing fluorosis of any level due to fluoridated water.

That the report states an agreement between assessors of about 82% (page 7), one should be even more cautious with their confidence in such small difference between groups with such a comparatively large margin of error.

“Fluoridation of drinking water leads to increased rates of osteosarcoma.”

This is based entirely upon a study by Bassin et al (2006). Within the paper itself, the authors stress a number of potential confounders and biases. They admit the study to be an exploratory analysis and urge for future work to either confirm or refute the findings of the study.

The confidence expressed within the study in no way mirrors that of the anti-fluoridation advocates when they hold up the study as evidence. With the paper now in press for 7yrs, one would have expected anti-fluoride advocates to have other studies that support the claim of Bassin et al (2006)  to wave around as evidence of a relationship between fluoridation and osteosarcoma. The silence here speaks volumes.

While it is likely that such a basic analysis to have many confounders, one can look at the rates of osteosarcoma across Australia prior to Queensland adding fluoride to most of the community drinking water to see if there is any hint of relationship worth pursuing. I did this and found that Queensland had the highest average rates of osteosarcoma (0.35%) shared with South Australia (SA had the highest rate for one gender, of 0.5% in males).

“I  have (or; someone that I know has) experienced symptoms from exposure to fluoridated water”

This is known as anecdotal evidence. Typically the individual states that they (or someone that they know) experienced some symptoms when they were exposed to fluoride and where able to test this but eliminating fluoride exposure to “prove” the case.

Merilyn Haines, President of the Queenslanders for Safe Water, Food and Air inc. provides anecdotal evidence to support her claims regarding fluoridation of drinking water with the case of her sister moving to Townsville. Her claim hinges on a complete disregard for potential confounders that could arise from the 800 km move to a different city and the fact that her sister had clearly been exposed to fluoride over her entire life through toothpaste and foods without experiencing symptoms.

Anecdotal evidence is the crux of the claims for many positions, such as anti-vaccination, whereby the MMR vaccine is supposed to cause autism, anti-wind farm, whereby exposure to wind farms has supposedly caused everything from irritability and low libido, to herpes, cataracts and accelerated aging!

With fluoridated drinking water, Lamberg et al (1997) looked at the symptoms people stated they experienced due to exposure while they were exposed to fluoridated water and after fluoridation stopped (with the subjects unaware of this). The rates of symptoms did not significantly change until after the expected end of fluoridation, not with the actual event itself, leading the researchers to conclude that the supposed symptoms were psychologically based and not related to actual exposure to fluoridated water.

Anecdotal evidence for this reason is not sufficient and when others rely on it as evidence, the alarm bells should ring.

Each of these comes down to irrelevance and/or pure fantasy, designed to provoke fear over rational reasoning.

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