FLUORIDE ACTION NETWORK
FAN Bulletin 1094: Paul Connett's visit to Ohio
October 20, 2009
Last week, I gave presentations outlining the arguments against fluoridation in Athens and Yellow Springs, Ohio. Both cities are fluoridated and councilors in each are reconsidering the practice. The organizers had hoped for debates in both venues. We got a kind of debate in Yellow Springs, but failed to get one in Athens (see below). However, my presentation in Athens was videotaped and can be viewed (unedited) by going to http://athensoh.swagit.com/player.php?refid=10162009-18
ATHENS, Ohio. Denied a vote, now denied a debate.
The citizens of Athens have rejected fluoridation three times in referenda. Then, in 2002, the city council introduced fluoridation without getting approval from the citizens. A number of councilors elected since then have wondered about the wisdom of the practice. One in particular, Elahu Gosney, tried to organize a public debate on the issue when he learned I was prepared to present the arguments against fluoridation.
But efforts to get a debate with a state health official (Colleen Wulf) were met with the following rebuff. She wrote this to Elahu Gosney on September 29, 2009:
"debates like the one you are considering have the potential to confuse and divide a community about a proven public health measure…Debating the issue tends to give credence to spurious claims of harm. It provides opponents with a platform to spread misinformation."
But having refused to debate me this state official does not hesitate to provide one side of the argument from the safety of her office. She wrote:
"The use of fluorides is economical…
"Fluoridation is necessary...
"Fluoridation is good public policy: It benefits people of all ages and does not discriminate...
"Why do some people object to fluoridation? Fluoridation is the only public health measure that is put to a vote of the public. Because of this an entire subculture of opposition has been founded to resist its implementation. They distort the science and spread confusion and fear. In the 1950's it was a communist plot. In the 60's and 70's it caused cancer; in the 80's it caused AIDS/HIV; in the 90's it hurt the environment. Antifluoridationists have a history of using whatever the current concern of the day to justify their opposition. There is no legitimate controversy…
"We spoke briefly about a publication that opponents of fluoridation have misused in their efforts to alarm the public. In March 2006, the National Research Council (NRC) published "Fluoride in Drinking Water: A Scientific Review of EPA's Standard." This was a periodic assessment of drinking water guidelines as required under the Safe Drinking Water Act. It examined the MCL (Maximum Contaminant Level) Goal of 4.0 mg/L. The report addressed safety of high levels of fluoride found naturally in water-NOT community water fluoridation. See the following website for more information: http://www.cdc.gov/fluoridation/safety.htm#1
"The bottom line is, who do you trust? A fringe website or your physician? The American Cancer Society or the local health food store owner? The American Public Health Association, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the dental and medical research community or the Fluoride Action Network?
"The average person cannot begin to respond to all the claims of harm that some opponents make. It is admirable that Council is available to listen to concerns from its citizens, but in the final analysis, it makes more sense to base major health policy decisions on what the experts say. I think if you take the time to research this issue, you will find proven experts agree that drinking water with fluoride at 1 part per million (1mg/L) an excellent measure that can prevent dental caries. All oral health experts will tell you that a combination of proper fluoride intake, good oral hygiene, use of topical fluorides and controlling dietary carbohydrate intake work together to maximize oral health. Fluoridation is simply the cornerstone of that effort since it is most economical and equitable."
When Elahu Gosney pursued this further he received another email from Colleen Wulf on October 9, 2009 (my emphasis in bold):
Hello Mr. Gosney.
Our reasoning for not participating in debates on fluoridation is simple. Debates give the illusion that a scientific controversy exists. All major dental and public health associations (the American Dental Association, the American Medical Association, the American Association of Pediatrics, the American Association of Pediatric Dentistry, the American Public Health Association, the Association of Public Health Dentistry to name a few) support the practice of fluoridation. Community water fluoridation has been recognized as one of the ten great public health achievements of the 20th century. Debates and public hearings give the vocal minority a forum to spread misinformation and fear.
Often opponents call for a debate so that 'the people can decide who is right.' However, after listening to unfounded claims of harm and implications that the water is "poisoned" by fluoride, the public is more confused than ever. Antifluoridationists steal undeserved credibility just by sharing the podium with dental public health officials who are there to defend fluoridation. It is a no-win situation.
If members of council have questions after Mr. Connett appears, please have them submit these questions to our office, to Ms. Jane McGinley of the American Dental Association or to the Division of Oral Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. I'm sure we can answer questions that arise with sound, scientific documentation. (our emphasis, PC)
Colleen A. Wulf, RDH, MPH
Preventive Services Coordinator
Bureau of Oral Health Services
Ohio Department of Health
When I read this I thought the two sentences highlighted above sounded familiar and sure enough when I checked they were exact quotes from Dr. Michael Easley's writings on this matter (see below). Dr. Easley's chief claim to fame is his ability to insult opponents of fluoridation and verbally intimidate other members of the dental community if they dare to utter a word in public against fluoridation. While we are surprised that Ms Wulf did not acknowledge their origin, we are not surprised she feels the same way as Easley because it appears that they have worked together on this issue for many years (see references 1 & 2 below).
Michael Easley, Community water fluoridation in America: the unprincipled opposition. 1999.
"Debates give the illusion that a scientific controversy exists when no credible people support the fluorophobics' view...
"Like parasites, opponents steal undeserved credibility just by sharing the stage with respected scientists who are there to defend fluoridation...
"Unfortunately, a most flagrant abuse of the public trust occasionally occurs when a physician or a dentist, for whatever personal reason, uses their professional standing in the community to argue against fluoridation, a clear violation of professional ethics, the principles of science and community standards of practice." (my emphasis, PC)
In lieu of a debate I gave a presentation in the city of Athens council chambers. About 20 people showed up and it was televised live. You can watch this presentation (unedited) by going to http://athensoh.swagit.com/player.php?refid=10162009-18
I was very pleased with this production because the crew were able to feed my power point slides directly into their recording system - thus we don't get the fuzzy images we sometimes get when videographers try to combine shots of the speaker and the slides.
The good news coming out of this meeting, as well as the email exchange between Elahu Gosney and Colleen Wulf, is that she has committed to give answers (or get answers from the ADA or the CDC) for any question that Elahu sends her.
YELLOW SPRINGS, Ohio. A kind of debate (October 15, 2009)
In Yellow Springs we did get a debate but don't hold your breath, it was a very tame affair. Each side was given 20 minutes to present their case. I spent most of the day getting my power point presentation down from an hour to 20 minutes. Not easy.
About 20 people showed up for the event.
Arguing on the other side was a County Health Commissioner and a local dentist. Neither was very well prepared and gave the usual mantra listing the agencies that endorse fluoridation. The dentist said she could tell the difference between the children she treated in unfluoridated Xenia and fluoridated Yellow Springs. As far as my presentation was concerned she said that I was "spreading fear tactics" and for every study I cited she said that she could "cite a study which found exactly the opposite." I asked her to list the studies done in fluoridated countries that have found opposite results to the 23 studies that have reported an association between moderate to high fluoride exposure and lowered IQ in children. She could not. Even if she had been on top of the literature (she clearly was not) she would have only been able to cite one small IQ study from New Zealand.
The health commissioner said that they kept a careful track of the health of the Yellow Springs community and said that after 40 years of fluoridation they saw no health problems. I responded that unless they did a formal study and had it peer-reviewed and published that such observations meant very little. This meeting was also televised but I am not sure when the video will become available.
My trip to Ohio was a lot of effort to reach about 40 people, but I suspect it has given an extra push to those concerned in both towns. Also the video of the first meeting may do us yeoman service.
On a personal note it was a very enjoyable experience. In Athens, I met up again with people I worked with over 20 years ago fighting a proposed incinerator there. In Yellow Springs, I met up with someone I had worked with in the successful effort to prevent a local cement company burning hazardous waste in their kiln - that was 18 years ago! I was also delighted to meet up again with Debra and David Cattrow who drove over from nearby Springfield. In this town, they had led the successful campaign to keep fluoridation out of their city in a referendum held there a few years ago.
One of the privileges I have traveling around the world and the country, on both the waste and fluoridation issues, is that I meet, and work with, some of the best people in the world. They are not in this for money, for prestige, or for power - but rather for the common good.