Fluoridation, Arsenic and the Rates of Cancer in Australia

In reality, I must thank Dan Germouse for his bombastic comments on my article, How Not to Argue in Favour of Environments: Water Fluoridation in Portland. He both demonstrated how not to argue against fluoridation and provided me with yet another argument rebuttal to add to my new anti-fluoridation rebuttal page. This argument:

The fluoridation chemicals used include arsenic which increases the rate to cancer.

Dan based his entire anti-fluoridation argument upon this point, which he cut-and-pasted from an article, Hirzy et al (2013). The article itself isn’t against fluoridation (although Dan has the feeling that the authors are in fact against water fluoridation), but only on the most cost effective fluoridation method, as the title itself states; Comparison of hydrofluorosilicic acid and pharmaceutical sodium fluoride as fluoridating agents—A cost–benefit analysis.

Not getting off to a good start, Dan.

Dan quoted the following;

“The U.S. could save $1 billion to more than $5 billion/year by using USP NaF in place of HFSA while simultaneously mitigating the pain and suffering of citizens that result from use of the technical grade fluoridating agents. Other countries, such as Ireland, New Zealand, Canada and Australia that use technical grade fluoridating agents may realize similar benefits by making this change.”

This study looks into the cost of using the cheaper technical grade fluoridation compounds compared to the more costly pharmaceutical grade compounds, taking into account estimates of additional lung and bladder cancer rates expected from exposure to arsenic within the technical grade fluoridation chemicals. The authors believe the amount of arsenic within technical grade compounds to be “significant”.

What instantly stood out to me was the word “estimate”. The authors use estimates from previous laboratory studies on exposure to low concentrations of arsenic rather than real world evidence from populations exposed to technical grade fluoridation chemicals.

As Hirzy et al (2013) make the claim that there is additional “pain and suffering” resulting from the use of technical it seems funny that the authors would avoid using such data as it would certainly deem the use of technical grade fluoridation chemicals unethical.

Seeing as they didn’t, I will here.

fluorideexposureLess that 5% of Queensland (Qld) had access to fluoridated water as of 2003, while the majority of the population of other states had access and this did not change until around 2007 and beyond. Therefore, it is possible to use state level data, separated by gender on population and cause of death, both lung (C34) and bladder (C67) from the Australian census data, 2001, 2006, and, 2011, to explore the potential additional “pain and suffering” within the other states of Australia against Qld. I used the percentages to compensate for population variance.

For lung cancer, I found that Qld returned an average value of 0.047% for males (the national average was 0.045% for males over the study period) and 0.025% for females (the national average was 0.026% for females over the study period).

c34
Click to enlarge the image

For bladder cancer, I found that Qld returned an average value of 0.006% for males (the national average was 0.006% for males over the study period) and 0.003% for females (the national average was 0.002% for females over the study period).

Click image to enlarge
Click to enlarge the image

Qld persistently had rates around the national average and within the spread, regardless of the state level population exposure rates to technical grade fluoridation chemicals. Only in 2011 and in females were Qld values to the lower end of the spread – after fluoridation practices began to take place in many water supplies.

No additional “pain and suffering” – that is, additional rates of lung or bladder cancer – is evident within the Australian data due to fluoridation practices. This, I would argue, is why the authors used controlled laboratory data for estimates rather than real world population data.

We are not simply paper towels, we are evolved creatures with an ancestry riddled with exposure to pathogens, chemicals and radiation. How cells act alone is entirely different to the community of cells within our bodies which aim to preserve our existence. Vomiting is the most obvious example of a physical response to threats within out gut, however, we had a range of discrete systems and a wonderfully protective coating (skin) that work to remove and protect us from such things.

At the maximum, trace chemicals make up no more than 10 parts per billion in our fluoridated drinking water and, from looking at the real world data, even if arsenic is ever at that level – even if persistently – we have no evidence of increased rates of lung and bladder cancers due to fluoridation. The authors use of estimates seems an obvious method to avoid this reality and ultimately undermines their methodology.

If there is no signs of additional lung and bladder cancers due to technical grade fluoridation, well then there is no additional cost and thus, pharmaceutical grade is still more expensive.

Feel free to look at my values, compare them to the Australian Census data and to repeat the analysis if you wish.

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