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May 9, 2011 | by  | in Features |
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Something in the Water

When you turn on the tap, are you aware of what’s coming out? Sure, it’s water, but is it really just two hydrogen atoms bound to a single oxygen atom? Salient writer Geraint Scott attended a public lecture exploring one side of the debate surrounding the addition of fluoride to New Zealand’s water supplies.

Recently, Professor Paul Connett delivered a number of public lectures about the presence of fluoride in our tap water and how it is adversely affecting us. Dr Connett is the director of the Fluoride Action Network (FAN) in New Zealand, and the Executive Director of its parent body, the American Environmental Health Studies Project (AEHSP).

In New Zealand, councils choose whether or not to fluoridate their water supply, meaning that a few have decided against it. However, the Wellington City Council fluoridates the region’s water, and Dr Connett is concerned that Wellington City Council has not clicked on to the dangers of fluoride.
So why do some researchers consider fluoride to be dangerous? Well, Dr Connett says, it has been proven to be an enzyme inhibitor. In particular, it attacks the bones, which can weaken them. It is also attracted to certain areas of the brain, restricting activity there. Although dentists and doctors have claimed for years that fluoride is essential for teeth, Dr Connett says this is false. Fluoride does not prevent tooth decay: studies have shown that the dental health of children who ingested fluoride is just as good as that of children who didn’t.

Dr Connett’s argument is built upon the statement that, much like arsenic, fluoride is toxic to our bodies and is not required for any of our bodily processes. When it does make its way, in tiny amounts, into our bloodstream, our body does what it can to dispense of it. In New Zealand, fluoridated water has 200 times the negligible amount of fluoride that’s found naturally in breast milk, which is designed to contain everything that a baby needs to survive and grow. If fluoride is essential for the healthy development of teeth, why are greater amounts of it not present in breast milk? Dr Connett argues that nature has excluded fluoride because it is unnecessary.

The source of the fluoride later added to our water supply is scary enough in itself, says Dr Connett. It is collected from massive wet scrubbers that are used as part of the creation of fertiliser. This particular form of fluoride does not occur naturally and is considered too toxic to dump, either on land or at sea. If it’s too toxic for land and sea, why are we being forced to drink it?

There’s no doctor insight into fluoridation policy, no agency established to monitor the side effects of fluoridation, and no controls on how much a person receives. A constant stream of fluoride is entering our water, and the more you drink, the more fluoride you’re ingesting. No other ‘medicine’ in the world is administered in such an indiscriminate manner, it’s bound to have adverse effects. Some people are unable to shower in fluoridated water because their skin is too sensitive to it.

While Dr Connett concedes that some studies have had pro-fluoridation results, he says they tend to involve very weak evidence, which is not subject to randomisation. For example, in many studies, researchers chose which cities would be compared—rather than randomly selecting two cities.
Conversely, there are numerous examples of comprehensive anti-fluoride research. For example, research from the Facultad de Medicina, Universidad Autónoma de San Luis Potosí, San Luis Potosí, México by D Rocha-Amador, M E Navarro, L Carrizales, R Morales and J Calderon indicates that fluoride is more effective than arsenic at drastically reducing IQ levels. Links to a wealth of studies can be found on FAN’s website, fannz.org.nz.

On the same website, Dr Connett lists seven basic objections to fluoridation. These are:
•“New science proves there is no benefit from swallowing fluoride
• Fluoridation creates more health problems than it is alleged to fix.
• Fluoridated water is particularly harmful to infants
• Most countries in the world do not fluoridate their water
• Fluoride impacts negatively on the environment
• Fluoride used in fluoridation is contaminated with heavy metals including lead
• Fluoridation is enforced medication without your consent.”

Whether or not one agrees with Dr Connett’s argument, it seems obvious that the fluoridation of Wellington’s water needs to be discussed more frequently and more openly. It’s likely that most ratepayers won’t be aware of the arguments either for or against, and for this reason, public lectures such as the ones given by Dr Connett are beneficial: by giving one answer he will at least encourage people to ask the question.

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