As the Bush administration is being exposed by many of the nation's top scientists for bending science to political ends, here is a concrete example from the UK: Science on the health effects of fluoride added to drinking water is being misquoted in an attempt to impose fluoridation on some areas in the UK. Accused are the British Dental Association, the British Medical Association, the National Alliance for Equity in Dental Health and the British Fluoridation Society. The accuser is none other than Prof. T.A. Sheldon of York University, the scientific body that undertook a thorough review of the scientific studies available on fluoridation and its effects.
Here is Sheldon's statement, publishedas part of a letter to the editor in the Lymington Times on 14 February 2004:
Sir, -- Despite Meridian TV undertaking two polls and finding that 90 % of over 10,000 people were against water fluoridation. Despite both Members of Parliament in the Forest voting against fluoridation. Despite New Forest District Council previous ruling that they did not want fluoridation. Despitee the Dorset council previously objecting to fluoridation. Despite the York review into fluoridation calling for furtheer high quality research into congenital defects and lower IQ, the New Forest Primary Care Trust are actively pursuing -- fluoridation. Dr. Coates presented a written report broadly in favour. He quoted the York review in a favourable light. Are the Primary Care panel aware of the letter from Professor Sheldon of York University (see below) on the way the British Dental Association and the British Fluoride Society and other illustrious bodies have interpreted his report?
No one in their right mind would promote fluoridation after reading his condemnation of the way pro fluoride bodies have twisted the York findings.
Secretary, Dorset and
New Forest Safe Water Society,
Old Lyndhurst Road
Professor Sheldon's letter
In my capacity of chair of the Advisory Group for the systematic review on the effects of water fluoridation recently conducted by the NHS Centre Reviews and Dissemination, the University of York, and its founding director, I am concerned that the results of the review have been widely misinterpreted. The review was exceptional in this field in that it was conducted by an independent group to the highest international scientific standards and a summary has been published in the British Medical Journal. It is particularly worrying then that the statements which mislead the public about the review's findings have been made in press releases and briefings by the British Dental Association, British Medical Association, the National Alliance for Equity in Dental Health and the British Fluoridation Society. I should like to correct some of these errors.
1. Whilst there is evidence that water fluoridation is effective at reducing caries, the quality of the studies was generally moderate and the size of the estimated benefit, only of the order of 15%, is far from "massive".
2. The review found water fluoridation to be significantly associated with high levels of dental fluorosis which was not characterised as "just a cosmetic issue".
3. The review did not show water fluoridation to be safe. The quality of the research was too poor to establish with confidence whether or not there are potentially important adverse effects in addition to the high levels of fluorosis. The report recommended that more research was needed.
4.There was little evidence to show that water fluoridation has reduced social inequalities in dental health.
5. The review could come to no conclusion as to the cost-effectiveness of water fluoridation or whether there are different efforts between natural or artificfial fluoridation.
6. Probably because of the rigour with which this review was conducted, these findings are more cautious and less conclusive than in most previous reviews.
7. The review team was surprised that in spite of the large number of studies carried out over several decades there is a dearth of reliable evidence with which to inform policy. Until high quality studies are undertaken providing more definite evidence, there will continue to be legitimate scientific controversy over the likely effects and costs of water fluoridation.
Professor T.A. Sheldon MSc, MSc, DSc, FMedSci
Department of Health Studies,
York Science Park,
See also related:
Website: Fluoride Action Network
Website: National Pure Water Association