Sexing-Up the Case for Fluoride

Sexing-Up the Case for Fluoride

Sexing-up the case for fluoride:

The dentists’ dodgy dossier

How MPs and the public have been misled in order to win support for an attack on human rights and medical ethics

Green Party press office briefing

7 September 2003

Contact Spencer Fitz-Gibbon

020 7561 0282


I1 MPs are about to vote on legislation that could open the floodgates to widespread fluoridation of the water supply – potentially of the whole country. And they have been misled by a systematic propaganda campaign by government and pro-fluoridation bodies including a sexed-up briefing sent to all MPs by the British Dental Association and its allies. The propaganda effort has included the following:

  1. The main pro-fluoridation bodies – the British Dental Association, the British Medical Association, the National Alliance for Equity in Dental Health and the British Fluoridation Society – have all issued misleading statements about the findings of the government’s review (according to the chair of the government’s review).
  1. Ministers have misled parliament about the findings of the government’s review on water fluoridation.
  1. Ministers have wilfully ignored the European Convention on Human Rights and Medicine, the European Charter of Fundamental Rights, the EU Pharmaceuticals Directive and the Poisons Act 1972 in arguing for mass-medication with an unregistered, unlicensed toxic waste product that was given a British Standard number without ever having been safety-tested for human consumption.
  1. Water companies and pro-fluoridation bodies have been spreading the misleading information that it is politicians or health authorities who have the right to medicate people, when human rights agreements explicitly recognise the individual’s right.
  1. Public bodies have suppressed important information that challenges their assertion that fluoridation is “safe and effective”.

I2 The Green Party asserts that the government’s scientific advisors and the pro-fluoridation bodies have behaved in a manner that is neither scientific nor professional in their misrepresentation of the issue. Indeed, the chair of the government’s own review of water fluoridation, Professor Trevor Sheldon MScDSc FMedSci, has accused the BDA and its allies of misleading the public about the issue. He has said: "It is particularly worrying … that 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". [ 1]

1. The dentists’dodgy dossier

1.1 A briefing has been sent to all MPs by the British Dental Association, British Medical Association, Faculty of Public HealthMedicine and the British Fluoridation Society. [ 2] This briefing is part of what the BDA has described as “a strong campaign, spearheaded by the British Dental Association, to win the hearts and minds of politicians and the public alike” [ 3]

1.2 The Green Party sees this briefing as a “dodgy dossier” because it is intentionally misleading. It has “sexed-up” the case for fluoridation by exaggerated claims intended to distract attention from conflicting medical and dental evidence and from the fact that the individual’s right to choose whether or not to be medicated is enshrined in legally-binding European Conventions.

2. Is fluoridation safe?

2.1 The dodgy dossier says: “All major reviews of the evidence, including the York and MRC reviews, found noevidence to support claims that it causes cancer, bone disease, kidney disease or birth defects.”The British Fluoridation Society says of the York Review's findings: “the report is unequivocal: water fluoridation is EFFECTIVE and SAFE. [4]But Professor Sheldon, chair of the York Review, has said: “The review did not show water fluoridation to be safe.”

2.2The British Dental Association has repeatedly said “Water fluoridation is safe.” [ 5] But the chair of the York Review, Professor Sheldon, in contradicting this, has explained: “The quality of theresearch was too poor to establish with confidence whether or not there arepotentially important adverse effects in addition to the high levels offluorosis."He added: “Until high quality studies are undertaken providingmore definite evidence, there will continue to be legitimate scientificcontroversy over the likely effects and costs of water fluoridation.[ 6] Yet the pro-fluoridation lobby continually states unequivocally that fluoridation is safe, as though this was an established and universally acknowledged fact instead of the subject of heated controversy. [7]

2.3The dodgy dossier describes dental fluorosis as “a cosmetic defect of the enamel ranging from mild speckling tomore noticeable marking.”And the British Fluoridation Society has said of the York Review’s findings: “The review recognises dental fluorosis as a cosmetic issue, not a health problem”. But the chair of the York Review has said: “The review found water fluoridation to be significantly associated withhigh levels of dental fluorosis which was not characterised as ‘just acosmetic issue’.”Dental fluorosis is, of course, the first symptom of fluoride poisoning.

3. The “evidence that fluoridated water is beneficial”

3.1 The dodgy dossier says: “The York review in 2000 confirmedthat fluoride helps to reduce tooth decay”. What it omits to say is that the York Review said fluoridation would only reduce tooth decay by 0.4 of a tooth per child on average, or that mass studies in other countries have found no appreciable difference between fluoridated and non-fluoridated areas. Indeed, when Basel-Stadt became the last Swiss canton to cease fluoridation in 2003 after 31 years, one of the reasons given was that fluoridation was ineffective.

3.2 New Labourhealth minister Yvette Cooper has told parliament: "The report of the [York] review will help ensure that local decisions are based on an authoritative, readily accessible summary of research into the safety and efficacy of water fluoridation."[8] She did not point out that this “evidence” included “little evidence” that fluoridation would reduce dental health inequalities, and that fluoridation would reduce tooth decay by less than half a tooth per child.The British Dental Association has said: “Water fluoridation is a simple measure that dramatically improves dental health by reducing tooth decay.” [ 9] This was clearly not the finding of the York Review.

3.3 The dodgy dossier calls fluoridation “the most effective public health measure” for reducing tooth decay. The Green Party calls this spin. Most European countries have managed to reduce levels of tooth decay in recent years, in almost all cases without fluoridation. [ 10] Dentists in America have reported that: “Current evidence strongly suggests that fluorides work primarily by topical means through direct action on the teeth and dental plaque. Thus ingestion of fluoride is not essential for caries prevention.” [ 11] The chair of the York Review has said that “The review could come to no conclusion as to the cost-effectiveness ofwater fluoridation”.

4. Dental health inequalities

4.1 The dodgy dossier says: “Water fluoridation is the most effective public health measure … for tackling oral health inequalities.” The British Fluoridation Society has said of the York Review: “Importantly, the review also confirms that water fluoridation reduces inequalities in dental health.”[12]But the chair of the government’s review of water fluoridation has said: “There was little evidence to show that water fluoridation has reducedsocial inequalities in dental health.”

5. A “naturally occurring mineral”–

or toxic waste added to drinking water

5.1 The dodgy dossier says “Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral which can protect teeth in a number of ways.” In fact the main fluoridation chemical is hexafluorosilic acid(H2SiF6). The chemical added to drinking water, far from being “naturally occurring”, is derived from the pollution scrubber liquor used to clean the factory chimneys of the phosphate fertiliser industry. [ 13 ]

5.2 An editorial in the pro-fluoridation British Dental Journalsaid of the York Review that “they found no difference between naturally and artificially fluoridated water." [ 14] But the chair of the York Review has said: “The review could come to no conclusion as to the cost-effectiveness ofwater fluoridation or whether there are different effects between natural orartificial fluoridation.”

6. Safety testing of fluoridation chemicals – or not

6.1 The dodgy dossier says “The chemicals used forwater fluoridation are specifically manufactured to very high quality standards, andmust meet Department of Environment purity specifications.” But these chemicals have never been safety-tested for human consumption. [ 15] And fluorosilicates are Part II poisons under the Poisons Act 1972. It is illegal to prescribe them. [ 16]Water fluoridation breaches the EU Pharmaceuticals Directive, which says that all medicinal substances must be registered as such, and must be subjected to full clinical testing for safety. Fluorosilicates have not been so registered nor tested for safety. [17]

7. Ignoring the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Charter of Fundamental Rights

7.1 The dodgy dossier says “Drinking fluoride-free water is not a basic human right but a question of individualpreference.” But the European Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine distinctly states that individuals have the right not to be medicated without their consent. [ 18]And the European Charter of Fundamental Rights says the same. [ 19]

7.2 The water industry has colluded with government in return for indemnity against any civil or criminal liability. The water companies have reinforced the erroneous view that it’s politicians or communities that have the right to decide who to medicate, rather than individuals themselves: “We just want it recognised that it’s a decision for health authorities to take after consultation with consumer bodies.” [20]

7.3 The BDA has also been spreading the propaganda that it’s up to “local communities” to decide who should be medicated. [ 21]

8. Conclusion

8.1 The pro-fluoridation bodies appear to have ignored conflicting evidence as though it simply didn’t exist; misrepresented the findings of the government’s review; and attempted to convince MPs and the public that decisions whether or not to medicate are rightly the province of majorities - when in fact legally-binding international human rights conventions recognise the right of the individual to decide.


1. Our emphasis. Letter of 3 January 2001. Source: . All subsequent quotes from Professor Sheldon are from the same source. The review in question was carried out by the NHS Centre for Reviews and Dissemination at York University and reported in October 2000.

2.Briefing for MPs on water fluoridation, .

3. See “Peers focus on fluoride”, BDA press release7 July 2003,


4. See .

5. See eg “BDA publishes league table of children's dental health”, BDA press releaseFriday 5 September 2003, .

6. Source: .

7. For examples of scientific concern about the health impacts of fluoridation see Truth Decay: Challenging New Labour’s propaganda on water fluoridationat

8. Hansard, 30 October 2000, Column: 243W. See

9. “Lords' fluoridation vote will give children better start in life, say dentists”, BDA press release10 July 2003, , our emphasis.

10. See Truth Decay: Challenging New Labour’s propaganda on water fluoridation, Green Party August 2003, ttp:// , Table 2.

11. Report, Warren and Levy in Dental Clinics of North America, April 2003.

12. See

13. The spin on the British Fluoridation Society website reads: “Apatite is the raw material used in the manufacture of phosphate fertilizers. Fluorine for the manufacture of fluorides for water fluoridation is recovered from this process. The manufacturing process of fluorosilicic acid for water fluoridation involves recovery of the product from a vapour phase, which ensures a high degree of purity.The product is therefore manufactured in tandem with the production of phosphoric acid, and can be described as a co-product. It would be equally valid to describe phosphate fertilizers as co-products of the manufacture of fluorosilicic acid, since each are valuable products.” See This seeks to disguise the fact that, were it not for water fluoridation, the H2SiF6 would need to be disposed of as a hazardous toxic waste. Calling it a “recovered product” is like calling the toxic residues from waste incineration a “recovered product”.

14. M Grace,“Facts on fluoridation”, British Dental Journal October 28 2000; 189: 405, .

15. The National Pure Water Association in the UK has repeatedly challenged the UK government to produce the safety testing data. The government has never been able to, because the tests have never been carried out. See .

16. See Water fluoridation contravenes UK law, EU directives and the European Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine, Green Party press office briefing July 2003,

17. Codified Pharmaceuticals Directive 2001/83/EEC. The intent to medicate renders any substance presented as having any beneficial effect on a medical condition a medicinal substance under Article 1 of this Directive, irrespective of its efficacy. Manufacturing these chemicals under BS EN 12174/5 does not authorise their use as medicinal substances.

18. Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Dignity of the Human being with regard to the Application of Biology and Medicine, Council of Europe, 1997, Article 5 - General rule: "An intervention in the health field may only be carried out after the person concerned has given free and informed consent to it.This person shall beforehand be given appropriate information as to the purpose and nature of the intervention as well as on its consequences and risks.The person concerned may freely withdraw consent at any time."

19. Under Article 35 of the Charter, the right to health care includes the right to refuse health care, for whatever reason. It establishes the individual's right to receive particular drugs or treatments - or to prevent them from having such treatment administered against their wishes.

20. Water industry sources to PA News: .

21. Dr John Renshaw, Chairman of the BDA's Executive Board: "By supporting this amendment to the Water Bill, MPs will be giving local communities the chance to choose fluoridated water and help safeguard the future of their children's dental health." “BDA publishes league table of children's dental health”, BDA press releaseFriday 5 September 2003, .In direct contradiction of the Europen Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine, the BDA chief has said: “Water fluoridation does not infringe civil liberties. Civil liberties are a question of weighing personal preferences, like opting to drink fluoride-free water, against the common good, like the decrease in tooth decay as a result of fluoridation” (ibid). He has also said that “Dentists have campaigned long and hard to give local communities the right to decide on water fluoridation” (“Lords' fluoridation vote will give children better start in life, say dentists”, BDA press release10 July 2003). Professor Liz Kay, scientific adviser to the BDA, has said:"The BDA strongly supports this amendment which puts the decision over whether or not to fluoridate water into the hands of local people rather than water companies” (“Peers focus on fluoride”, BDA press release7 July 2003, But local communities do not have that right.