Hypocrisy on tap: Michael Gannon, Australian Medical Association president

Science and evidence

It is part of the fluoridationist modus operandi to claim that forced-fluoridation has been scientifically proven to be safe and effective, a claim which comes straight from their parrotmasters at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Dental Association. Fluoridationists like to throw the words “science” and “evidence” around not because they have any understanding of those things, but because they think it sounds good. I started researching this issue in 2004, and have read much of the primary literature on both fluoride toxicity and supposed benefit, and also a bunch of systematic reviews and books on the subject. I have read what the most prominent fluoridationist organisations and individuals have to say on their websites, and have challenged many fluoridationists to cite a single good quality original research study which indicates that taking fluoride in water is anything but harmful and useless, including serial offenders such as the slott machine (Steven Slott, from North Carolina), Johnny’s Johnson (from Florida), and the Parrott (Ken Perrott, from Hamilton, New Zealand). None of them ever can cite a single good quality original research study which supports either of their claims, for the simple reason that no such study exists. (For a while I used the phrase “single good quality study” instead of “single good quality original research study”. Most fluoridationists simply ignore any request for evidence, but the responses I was getting were predominantly the citing of systematic reviews which I had read, and which the respondents showed no sign of having read. Even with the addition of the words “original research”, a large majority of the replies have been references to systematic reviews.) There is not even any moderate quality evidence that taking fluoride in water is anything but harmful and useless. The whole thing is simply a sham. I am in a good position to make that assessment, because apart from the literature I have read and my online skirmishes with fluoridationists, I already had two degrees in the physical sciences from one of Australia’s Group of Eight universities prior to 2004. To “prove” efficacy, fluoridationist “researchers” rely on studies which do not measure individual fluoride exposure, are not randomised, are not blinded, do not properly account for confounding factors, are highly prone to systematic error, and are typically funded by corporations such as Colgate-Palmolive. According to the GRADE (Schünemann 2013, 5.1.1) method of assessment because they are observational studies, as opposed to randomised trials, they start as low quality evidence. The studies all have additional serious limitations and no special strengths, and should therefore be downgraded to very low quality evidence, which is the lowest category there is. Their “safety studies” are no better. Anyone who is scientifically literate does not need to take my word for it, though, or that of the many other qualified people who agree with me. All they need to do is actually read the relevant studies to see how incredibly weak the so-called evidence for safety and efficacy actually is. Michael Gannon displays no sign of having read any of the relevant literature. If he has, he is either scientifically illiterate or deliberately dishonest.

Claims without evidence

On 17 August 2016, in an Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) interview, Gannon said “Well I’m glad you’ve mentioned fluoride in National Science Week. I think we should reflect on the benefits that science has brought to all our lives. There is fluoride in the water in the vast majority of places in Australia. A visit to my dentist last week again confirmed how fortunate those of us who grew up in Australia and drink tap water, how good it is for our teeth.” (AMA 2016) That was it. There was no attempt to present any actual evidence. It is not clear exactly how he thinks his visit to the dentist confirmed any health effects of taking fluoride in water. Maybe his dentist told him how wonderful forced-fluoridation is, in which case he is relying on an appeal to authority, which is a bogus argument. Maybe his dentist told him he doesn’t need any fillings, in which case he is relying on a subjective, imprecise form of measurement which most likely also has low accuracy, with a sample size of one and no way of taking into account confounding factors – in short, confusing correlation with causation. It’s just possible he read a dental journal article or two while sitting in the waiting room. If he did, he isn’t letting on, and apparently did not understand what he read.

It appears that Gannon’s public campaign in favour of spiking public water supplies with industrial fluoride pollution began on 20 February 2014. From the AMA (WA) website (AMAWA 2014):

West Australians should not fall for the misinformation being peddled by anti-fluoride groups in Western Australia, AMA (WA) Vice President Dr Michael Gannon said today.
The warning comes after it was announced that an anti-fluoride speaker [presumably Dr Paul Connett from the Fluoride Action Network] was visiting Perth and was attempting to gain media and public interest.
“These groups should not call themselves anti-flouride. They are really anti-health,” Dr Gannon said.
“We have noticed over the last few years the rise of small but extremely vocal anti-fluoride group [presumably Fluoride Free WA] in Western Australia, Dr Gannon said.
“They are using similar tactics that anti-vaccination lobbyists use, namely inciting fear and referencing discredited studies showing the supposed ‘dangers’ of water fluoridation.
“These people love conspiracy theories and they love misquoting research data.”
“It is regrettable that a number of State MPs were willing to meet with members of these peddlers of misinformation, and listen to their anti-health rhetoric.
“Fluoridation has been repeatedly shown to be one of the most practical methods of reducing cavities in children, Dr Gannon said.
“There is clear scientific evidence that fluoridated water is the most effective method of bridging the gap in oral health between different social classes.
“Prior to the introduction of fluoridated toothpaste and mouthwash, fluoridated water reduced the number of cavities in children by up to 60 per cent.
“It is completely safe, cost-effective and efficient. The fact that scientific data proving this is being ignored in favour of misinformation is disheartening.
“The last thing we want to see is this misinformation gaining traction here in WA,” Dr Gannon said.

When Gannon refers to “discredited studies”, what he means is that the studies which are referenced are inconvenient to fluoridationists, so many of them pretend they are meaningless or don’t exist at all. Fluoridationists routinely ignore the fact that many of the studies which indicate harm from forced-fluoridation are better quality studies than any of the studies which are supposed to demonstrate either a benefit or a lack of harm. They simply refuse to apply the same standards of evidence to studies which they think support their case as they do to studies which are inconvenient to them. The reference to “inciting fear” is also hypocritical, since their argument for forced-fluoridation is entirely dependent on inciting fear of supposed negative consequences from not spiking public water supplies with their “preventive” medicine. The reference to “conspiracy theories” is also standard fluoridationist fare. Fluoridationists have nothing intelligent to say, so they often resort to conspiracy nonsense, regardless of whether or not the people they are referring to have actually mentioned any conspiracy theories. I have been watching the Fluoride Free WA Facebook page (now called Fluoride Free WA Party) closely since late 2012, and did some unpaid online editing work on an earlier (than the current) version of their website, and the conspiracy theories jibe Gannon makes is fanciful. One thing Michael Gannon cannot be accused of is misquoting research data on this issue, because his approach is to completely ignore the research data. When he talks about “peddlers of misinformation” and “anti-health rhetoric”, he is describing himself and the rest of the professional fluoridationist psychopaths. He continues with a few marketing lines about the supposed merits of forced-fluoridation, but of course provides absolutely zero evidence to support his claims. The reference to “bridging the gap in oral health between different social classes” is not in line with the 2015 Cochrane review (Iheozor-Ejiofor et al), even though the authors of the review were clearly biased towards making pathetic excuses for the fluoridationist “researchers”. The claim of “up to 60%” reduction in cavities is a case of cherry picking the data and confusing correlation with causation. The claim for cost-effectiveness was always ridiculous, and has been thoroughly debunked (Ko and Thiessen 2015). The idea that delivering fluoridation chemicals via public water supplies for the purpose of preventing dental cavities is efficient is equally absurd. The vast majority of the fluoride pollution which is dumped into public water supplies is not ingested, but is instead used by industry, on gardens and lawns, in swimming pools, in toilets, in washing machines, for showers, etc, and the vast majority of what is ingested never touches the teeth, via either topical or systemic routes. You need phosphate rocks in your head to think that is efficient. Maybe he meant that it’s a cost-effective and efficient way for phosphate fertiliser companies such as Incitec Pivot and CSBP to dispose of their highly toxic fluoride waste. Gannon used the word “misinformation” three times in his little outburst, while spouting nothing but pure pap himself. And if Fluoride Free WA are “extremely vocal”, what is he? Many of Gannon’s frequent brain farts are amplified by the corporate/state media megaphone.

Later that year, Gannon was shooting his mouth off again, as quoted in this 6 December 2014 Daily Telegraph article (Harris and Duck). The Daily Telegraph is a tabloid newspaper owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation. It has a similar political agenda and intellectual level as Rupert’s Fox News and The Sun newspaper in the UK.

But Perth-based group has been dismissed by the Australian Medical Association as a “vocal hodge podge of conspiracy theorists”.
AMA West Australian President Dr Michael Gannon has slammed [Pete] Evans, saying: “Does he have nice teeth? If so he has fluoride to thank.
“It’s always disappointing when people use their celebrity in a way that is not useful to society.
“In cases like this, when people are simply wrong, we ask that they butt out of the debate.
“Water fluoridation is something that has the full backing of the Australian Dental Association and the AMA, it’s cheap, it’s proven to be beneficial, and data repeatedly proves that it is effective in reducing cavities in children.”

But Dr Gannon dismissed Evan’s argument about the decision by some countries to reverse their water fluoride programs, pointing to the poor level of dental health in Britain, which has been compared to that of Ancient Rome.
“Great Britain is a perfect example of a country that could benefit greatly from fluoridation,” he said.
“Pete Evans is a good chef but he doesn’t have the scientific background to comment on this.”

He trots out the conspiracy theory nonsense again, and the “fluoride is God for teeth” myth with his inane “fluoride to thank” comment. And yes, it is always disappointing when imbeciles like Michael Gannon use their celebrity in a way that is not useful to society. He is simply wrong, and should butt out of our water supplies, and butt out of our bodies because he does not have our consent. The Australian Dental Association (ADA) and AMA are lobby groups which exist to promote the financial and political interests of their members, not to benefit ordinary Australians, so their endorsements do not inspire the confidence of rational people. Gannon goes on again about data and proof, without making any attempt to provide any. He reveals his supreme stupidity yet again with his comment about Great Britain (11% of the population of which actually is subjected to forced-fluoridation), which actually has better dental health statistics than Australia and other countries with high rates of forced-fluoridation, as do some countries with no artificial fluoridation, such as Scotland and the Netherlands. He could have easily discovered these facts via the Fluoride Action Network or World Health Organization websites, or this website, if he were actually interested in facts. Apparently he “was Assistant Master of the Rotunda Hospital Dublin in 2004 – 2005 and then Senior Specialist Registrar in Urogynaecology at St Mary’s Hospital in London in 2006” (AMAWA 2013). Dublin is force-fluoridated, whereas London is not. Gannon does not appear to have learnt anything from his international experience, and even if dental health in Britain were as poor as he thinks, it would not prove that taking fluoride in water is beneficial. He is again confusing correlation with causation, indicating a lack of knowledge of basic statistics, and basic reasoning. He apparently thinks he has a scientific background, but is either scientifically illiterate or playing very, very dumb.

From Gannon’s AMA President account on Twitter (17 August 2016):
I am young enough to both have avoided school milk and have strong teeth thanks to Fluoride @philclark6 @666canberra

Again, this is standard fluoridationist fare. They don’t have any understanding of materials science, and think that making teeth stronger makes them more resistant to dental cavities. They don’t realise that the strength of a material is a physical property, while its reactivity with acid is a chemical property, and the two are independent of each other. It is the reaction of tooth enamel with acid which causes dental cavities. Fluoridationists also do not appear to understand that extra strength in a material is not necessarily a good thing, because it can come at the cost of increased brittleness. That is a basic fact with important implications for design (think engineering, not fashion).

Conflation

In addition to simply asserting falsehoods, Gannon likes to conflate forced-fluoridation with other issues as an alternative to actually presenting some evidence, which is another common fluoridationist manoeuvre. From Twitter:
30 June 2016
Folate in bread. Fluoride in water. Tobacco control. Seat belts. Public health controls prevent misery, save lives.

14 August 2016
Imagine world without antibiotics, #vaccination, X-ray, Fluoride, clean tap H2O. Average peg out 30yo in #Paleo period #NatSciWk #prevention

17 September 2016
Like #PaleoPete focus on eating whole foods #prevention. But pls no advice sunscreen, dairy, #Fluoride @theheraldsun

18 August 2016
Doc’s not afraid of better health literacy. Beware unvetted tripe anti- #vaccination #fluoride etc @westaustralian

October 17, 2016
Qld,NT #Fluoride basket cases. Don’t let local govt relax seat belt laws or let 12yo’s drink
AMA backs fluoridation The AMA and other health bodies have criticised the decision by many Queensland local councils to stop fluoridating their water supplies.Since the then Newman Government legislated in 2012 to allow…

4 October 2016
Do anti #Fluoride activists know Govt also quietly puts Folate in bread? Doubt any have ever told a mum her baby had SpinaBifida #prevention

October 4, 2016
Excellent piece by @PSyvret about anti #Fluoride dills using same tactics as anti #vaccination activists @AUS_Dental #science @couriermail

14 March 2017
Kids denied #vaccination, #Fluoride, VitK are innocents. Orgy of #confirmationbias must stop @janehansen2000 #auspol dailytelegraph.com.au/rendezview/byr…

So in Michael Gannon’s sick mind, dumping fluoride pollution into public water supplies is somehow equivalent to folate in bread, vitamin K, tobacco control, seat belts, antibiotics, vaccination, x-rays, clean tap water, whole foods, sunscreen, dairy, and preventing 12-year-olds from drinking alcohol. He appears to be unaware of the irony involved in some of the comparisons, and the silliness of all of them. Folate (Weißenborn et al 2017) and vitamin K (Fujii et al 2015) are essential nutrients, unlike fluoride, which is not a nutrient (Connett 2012) but is a highly toxic cumulative poison and developmental neurotoxicant, like lead, arsenic, and mercury, with no known safe dose. Even so, dumping folate or vitamin K into public water supplies for the purpose of preventing deficiencies would be a very dumb idea, for some of the same reasons that dumping fluoride into public water supplies is a very dumb idea, one of which is that it’s pharmacologically nonsensical because people are indiscriminately and relentlessly subjected to random and highly variable doses, with no provision for individual differences. Tobacco contains significant amounts of fluoride (Müller 2012; Going 1980), which is almost certainly partly responsible for the adverse health effects of smoking. Deliberately subjecting people to tobacco smoke against their will is socially unacceptable, and amongst sane members of society, deliberately subjecting people to fluoride pollution via tapwater is also socially unacceptable. Seat belts are outside people’s bodies, unlike ingested fluoride. It can also be argued that travelling in a vehicle is a privilege, not a right, whereas access to unmedicated, clean water and food is a right, not a privilege. Ciprofloxacin, a fluoroquinolone, is one of the nastiest antibiotics there is, and a major source of fluoride exposure for those who take it (Pradhan et al 1995). The idea of an “optimal” fluoride concentration in drinking water is laughable in general, a fact which is further highlighted by cases of major exposure from other sources, such as ciprofloxacin. Vaccination should involve informed consent and controlled doses, not coercion and random doses, as with other medications. Regardless, dental cavities are not a contagious disease, and even fluoridationists do not claim that people who take fluoride in water are immune from dental cavities. Forced-fluoridation is also imposed on people of all ages, not just children. An x-ray is a voluntary diagnostic tool, unlike forced-fluoridation, which is neither voluntary nor diagnostic. The irony involved in equating fluoride-polluted water with clean tap water as a public health achievement is self-evident. Whole foods generally have substantially lower fluoride concentrations than foods which are processed using fluoridated water (Farkas 1975; Warren and Levy 2003; Cressey et al 2010), so Gannon is advocating a relatively low fluoride option, whether or not he is aware of it. Many sunscreens contain enough salicylate or other neurotoxic chemicals to cause potentially life-threatening adverse reactions in people who are chemically sensitive, many of whom are unaware of their condition, so simply advocating the use of sunscreen without further comment is not very responsible. The Royal Prince Alfred Hospital Elimination Diet Handbook has a list of sunscreens which are relatively safe (Swain et al 2009, 113), and there are other means of sun protection. Fluoride is also neurotoxic, and many people are unusually sensitive to it, many of whom do not realise they are fluoride sensitive. Cow’s milk and other dairy products, like the milk from humans, have low fluoride concentrations, most likely as a result of evolution providing a mechanism to protect offspring from the developmental toxicity of fluoride. Alcoholic drinks such as beer which are made using fluoridated water, wine from grapes grown using fluoride-based pesticide, spirits mixed with drinks which are made using fluoridated water, and ice cubes made from fluoridated water all have similar or higher fluoride concentrations than fluoridated water, and fluoride is almost certainly partly responsible for the adverse health effects which drinking alcoholic beverages has been found to cause.