On 22 March 2013, The Girl Against Fluoride (Aisling Fitzgibbon) debated Joe Mullen, a member of the Irish Expert Body On Fluorides and Health on “The Last Word” on Today FM. Here is the response to Joke Mullen I posted on the TGAF Facebook page shortly after the debate, with broken links removed.
1. Joe Mullen said “Well the Harvard study as Aisling says there was on naturally occurring supplies in China, at very very much higher levels that are found in the water in Ireland… levels that are kind of close to about 10 times the concentration than we have it here in Ireland”. Joe was dishonest. Philippe Grandjean was one of the authors of that study. He is Adjunct Professor of Environmental Health at Harvard School of Public Health, and Professor and Head of Research, Environmental Medicine, at University of Southern Denmark. On his Chemical Brain Drain website, he writes in relation to the study that “On average, the children with higher fluoride exposure showed poorer intelligence test performance. The high exposures generally exceeded the concentrations normally occurring in fluoridated drinking water, but only 4 of 27 studies reached an excess of 10-fold, and clear differences were found also at much lower exposures.” He concludes “Chemical brain drain should not be disregarded. The average IQ deficit in children exposed to increased levels of fluoride in drinking water was found to correspond to about 7 points – a sizable difference. To which extent this risk applies to fluoridation in Wichita or Portland or elsewhere is uncertain, but definitely deserves concern.”
Paul Connett is a retired professor of environmental chemistry and toxicology at St Lawrence University. He wrote the following in relation to the question of fluoride concentration in drinking water. The “important review” he refers to is the 2006 US National Research Council report, and “they” are the authors of the Australian 2007 NHMRC report.
“Such a dismissal of this important review – which took the panel 3.5 years to write – is unbelievable. The reason they give betrays a very poor understanding of toxicology.
First, for most toxic substances regulatory bodies are forced to use high dose animal experiments to extrapolate to concerns about low doses for humans. In the case of fluoride we have the luxury of being able to use dozens of relatively low dose human studies from India and China to inform our judgments.
Second, unless the study involves a very large number of subjects, when extrapolating to a “safe” level for a whole population, it is necessary to apply a safety factor (a margin of safety) to take into account the very large range of sensitivity to any toxic substance we can expect in a human population (intra-species variation). The factor usually chosen for this purpose is 10. Thus to dismiss findings of health effects reported in studies involving a small number of subjects consuming water between 2 and 4 ppm as irrelevant to a whole population consuming water at 1 ppm, is ridiculous.”
2. Joe Mullen said “they show lower IQ scores in the areas that were very deficient in fluoride” in relation to the Harvard study on reduced IQ which Aisling mentioned. That is sheer fabrication. There is nothing in the study which said anything about so-called deficiency in fluoride being linked to lower IQ scores. There is no such thing as fluoride deficiency anyhow, because fluoride is not an essential nutrient. Apparently Joe Mullen thinks the Irish people are so ignorant and stupid that he can say anything and be believed.
3. Joe Mullen said “there was no control actually for things like arsenic in the ground water or the presence of iodine or other things that are known to impact on this”. It’s true that the studies on which the Harvard systematic review and meta-analysis was based had deficiencies, but Joe’s statement was nevertheless either ignorant or deliberately misleading. It says in the Harvard study “Drinking-water may contain other neurotoxicants, such as arsenic, but exclusion of studies including arsenic and iodine as co-exposures in a sensitivity analysis resulted in a lower estimate, although the difference was not significant” and “Large tracts of China have superficial fluoride-rich minerals with little, if any, likelihood of contamination by other neurotoxicants that would be associated with fluoride concentrations in drinking water. From the geographical distribution of the studies, it seems unlikely that fluoride-attributed neurotoxicity could be due to other water contaminants.”
4. Joe Mullen said “there was another case study, an interesting one, in the United States where this lady developed a problem caused by fluoride where she was drinking from a pitcher of tea where she was using 150 teabags. Now 150 teabags to create this brew for herself, and she was drinking 150-200 teabags every day, but the problem there that she was overdosing with tea, not water.” He appears to be referring to a recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine, but he has his facts wrong again. It was 100 to 150 teabags every day, not 150 to 200. The woman seems to have been from Detroit, which has fluoridated water at a nominal level of 1 ppm fluoride. To say that the problem was exclusively the fluoride from the tea leaves is simplistic. All absorbed fluoride contributes to fluorosis, whether it comes from tea, water, or any of several other sources. Water fluoridation therefore increases the risk of fluorosis, and if the fluorosis would have occurred without fluoridation, makes it worse than it would otherwise have been. If there weren’t so much lying about the health effects of fluoride in fluoridating countries, there might be more awareness of the risks of excessive fluoride exposure, and the sources of fluoride.
5. Joe Mullen said “I have met Paul Connett and I have met a lot of these people and it is quite clear to me that their objection to fluoridation is primarily a political one, primarily to do with the idea that you mentioned before about ethical concerns”. Firstly, fluoridation is an inherently political issue, because in the end it’s politicians who decide whether or not to fluoridate water supplies, or whether or not to give the people a vote on the issue, and because it affects whole communities. Secondly, any sane person who understands the issue will have ethical concerns, and a large part of the reason for that is that poisoning people is unethical. It’s impossible to make a clear distinction between health concerns and ethical concerns. Finally, Paul Connett is a retired professor of environmental chemistry and toxicology, so of course he is interested in the adverse health effects of fluoridation, and anyone who goes to his Fluoride Action Network website can see that for themselves. Many other toxicologists and other scientists are also concerned about the adverse health effects, which they have made very clear.
6. Referring to an antifluoridation petition signed by professionals, Joe Mullen said “the thing about the 4000 I presume you are getting that from Paul Connett’s website, but when you look at the 4000 people people that have signed up to that the vast majority of them are not scientists at all they are lawyers, they are alternative health practitioners inside out, the lawyers…” In fact, only 98 out of 4293 signers were lawyers as of November 16, 2012. That’s less than 2.5%. It seems that Joe was trying to mislead people again.
7. Joe Mullen said “one of the great, the great concepts if you like, behind this idea of fluoridation is that it’s an egalitarian nature and it is that everybody would receive this and everybody would benefit regardless of their ability to pay or their ability to travel to appointments”. That’s actually one of the disgraceful things about fluoridation. Poor people are less able to afford the means of removing fluoride from water, which are expensive. They are also more likely to be nutritionally deficient, which makes them more vulnerable to fluoride toxicity. And they are more likely to bottle feed their babies, which is not a safe practice using fluoridated water.
8. Joe Mullen said “fluoridation in comparison to most of the health interventions that we have is far more thoroughly investigated amongst the other issues”. The gold standard in medical research is randomised controlled trials, and no such trial has ever shown that fluoridation is anything but dangerous and useless. Anyone who reads the 2006 US National Research Council report, or the 2000 York review, can see that the claim that fluoridation has been thoroughly investigated is simply a lie.
9. Joe Mullen said “you cannot actually prove that anything is safe”. If he can’t prove that fluoridation is safe, why is it being forced onto millions of people?
10. Joe Mullen said “Now, I suppose my expertise in this is that I am a public health dentist and I am a practising dentist I have seen the benefits of this. I have worked in the United Kingdom, I have worked along the border, I have worked with colleagues in the North and on this side of the border and the differences in areas where there is fluoridation is really quite dramatic in terms of better dental health”. So we are supposed to believe that fluoridation is not useless based on Joe’s anecdotal evidence. Nevermind the fact that according to data on the WHO website, the average DMFT (decayed, missing, or filled teeth) for 12-year-olds in the UK is 0.7, whereas it’s 1.1 for the fluoridated areas of Ireland. The UK is only about 10% fluoridated. Denmark, which has never been fluoridated, is also at 0.7. When communities have discontinued fluoridation, rates of dental cavities have fallen, not risen. We are supposed to believe that if some comparison shows that a fluoridated area has a lower rate of cavities than an unfluoridated area, fluoridation must be the cause. At the same time, the much greater differences in early-onset dementia, SIDS, and other adverse health effects linked to fluoride between the Republic of Ireland and unfluoridated Northern Ireland can’t possibly have anything to do with fluoridation. The hypocrisy is stunning.