To Journalists Reporting on Fluoride in Queensland (reprint)

To Journalists Reporting on Fluoride in Qld.

Tim over at New Anthropocene has been doing some great work on the anti-fluoride movement in Australia. Over the past few weeks he has done some great posts – I’m a big fan of Tim’s writing.

A summary of what he has done can be seen via To Journalists Reporting on Fluoride in Qld.

While not climate change specific, it is obvious anti-science movements share similar characteristics.

Time’s work on this issue is recommended weekend reading.


40 thoughts on “To Journalists Reporting on Fluoride in Queensland (reprint)

  1. john byatt says:

    QLD sunshine coast,

    anti fluoride, highest levels of non vaccination, climate change deniers

    some comments,

    • Moth says:

      Cheers John! That is almost too good to be true! I’ll have to push the boat further knowing that. It’s amazing how far one can run the second they choose to ignore the rigour of scientific methodology and accept whatever fits how they wish they world to be.. Some might suggest their world of hidden enemies is at least an interesting one!

      • john byatt says:

        The american holy roller fundamentalist TV shows from many years ago always asked for donations. The reason that many of them set up schools on the sunshine coast first after moving to Australia eg AOG and COC was because that was where most of the donations were coming from.

        much like living in an area where every second person you meet is jo nova

  2. Eric Worrall says:

    I support New York’s forcible treatment of TB patients (especially carriers of drug resistant strains), as the consequences of allowing TB to acquire total resistance to modern medicine on a large scale are too terrible to contemplate (a few cases have already been reported).

    For the record I think the fluoride treatment in water is beneficial. As a child my parents gave me fluoride tablets to supplement the treated water, and my teeth are very healthy for my age – and as far as I know I have suffered no adverse consequences (unless you count my tendency to climate “denial” 😉 ).

    But is improved dental health really worth depriving people of the choice of what medical treatments are administered to their children? Because if you can justify this for fluoride treatment, where do you draw the line? Do you send a squad of police officers to someone’s house, to hold back the parents back while a doctor forcibly administers a vaccine to their children? Or is mass medical treatment only OK if you do it sneakily, by putting it in the drinking water? Would it be OK if the vaccine was added to the water, rather than being forcibly administered?

    Society generally gives parents the right to choose what medical interventions their child receives, because it recognises that parents, have ultimate responsibility for the welfare of their children. The fluoridation of drinking water is a disturbing departure from this principle, and a move which I believe should reasonably be rejected.

    • Fluoridation works. Public water works. Public sewage works. I’m not in favour of state ownership of everything. I don’t believe the state is either good or evil. I don’t believe private ownership is good or evil. Both are just tools. But fluoridation works.

      • Eric Worrall says:

        The fact something works is not a justification for forcing it on people.

        Modern society works, and materially a lot of aboriginals are a lot better now than when they were hunter gatherers, but a lot of Aboriginals would probably rather the white man had never colonised Australia.

        If you trample people’s rights to self determination as a matter of course, just because something works, sooner or later you’ll get it wrong – and in the case of something as sensitive as children’s health, you won’t need a lawyer.

      • I’m a pragmatist. If it works it works. Fluoridation works.

      • Eric Worrall says:

        Thats a rather simplistic philosophy. Performance enhancing drugs work, should their use be encouraged?

        I also believe fluoridation works, but after all the fluoride I received, I still have tooth cavities. Better than my mum, who lost all her teeth by my age, but the benefits are IMO simply not enough to upset people by trampling on their right to choose.

        Anyone who wants fluoridation in an unfluoridated area can simply buy the pills.

      • In matters of public health, if it works, it works. The benefits outweigh the risks and costs.

        There is no parallel with sport. There’s no race for who has the healthiest untreated teeth.

      • Eric Worrall says:

        You’re missing my point. I agree the medical benefits of fluoridation outweigh the medical risks and costs, I’ve already said that.

        What I disagree with is the suggestion the benefits justify casually trampling the rights of parents to control what medical interventions are performed on their children. I personally think parents who refuse fluoridation are wrong – but I also respect that it is their choice to make.

        If you justify removing people’s choices for reasons so trivial, where do you draw the line? Do you ban cats, because their hair is an irritant and might increase cases of asthma and hay fever? Do you send a police squad to the houses of parents who refuse to have their children vaccinated, to restrain the parents by force while injections are administered without their consent?

        Important questions which go to the heart of the relationship between parents, children and society.

        • Watching the Deniers says:

          Hi Eric, I think the debate we are having highlights the tension between the individual’s rights (which I’m not questioning) and “the common good”. This is a debate worth having. It cuts across so many different issues: from vaccination, compulsory voting, the military draft etc. Where do you draw the line? A good question.

          Would you say the same thing for the compulsory use of seat belts? Laws and punitive fines are in place to enforce individual behaviors: where such laws are introduced there is a noticeable difference to the number and seriousness of injury. It infringes the individuals rights, but the outcome is positive.

          I will ask you to clarify – do you believe the problems that result from a lack of fluoridation (increased incidents in tooth cavities etc.) are trivial?

          The costs to society and individuals are substantial: “The goal of water fluoridation is to prevent tooth decay by adjusting the concentration of fluoride in public water supplies.[2] Tooth decay (dental caries) is one of the most prevalent chronic diseases worldwide.[19] Although it is rarely life-threatening, tooth decay can cause pain and impair eating, speaking, facial appearance, and acceptance into society,[25] and it greatly affects the quality of life of children, particularly those of low socioeconomic status…”


          Having grown up in what you’d term an area of “low socioeconomic status” I can speak with a little authority on how prevalent and serious it is. For the economically disadvantaged – the poor if you will – it can act as a barrier; treatment is hard to come by and expensive; having poor teeth is often one of the many barriers the economically disadvantaged have to struggle with in pursuit of better paying careers, educational opportunities and social mobility.

          Let us also consider the cost to the public health system, as waiting lists for dental services are long – people often wait years. During that time they suffer personal embarrassment and pain and discomfort.

          Do you ban cats because some people have allergies? No – that is a non sequitur. The analogy does not work I think.

          Do you send in the police to forcibly vaccinate children? No one is arguing for such draconian measures: there are other means to compel behavior such as fines. It is also difficult to get children into child care facilities if they are not vaccinated.

          The reason? The owners of these centers have to balance the rights of the individual parent against that of the common good. Un-vaccinated children pose a risk to other children, as the spread of harmful – if not deadly – disease is very, very real. Is it good policy to allow several children to die from a disease whose spread could be easily prevented by vaccination because one parent refused on ideological/personal grounds? Where vaccination rates drop off, child hood mortality increases. The evidence is very clear – except to the anti-vax crowd.

          You cannot have complete control by the state, just as you cannot have unlimited freedom for the individual. There is no clear demarcation line – it is a process of messy negotiation and compromise. Most public health policies are based upon utilitarian ethics: they are premised on the idea maximizing the well being and happiness of the majority (however like everything there is a debate:

          However, this is exactly the kind of debate/discussion worth having.

          What is interesting is how values underpin the discussion on all sides of the debate.

    • Dr No says:

      Society does have the right to intervene in these issues when the consequences of allowing freedom of choice affects both the health and the costs to society as a whole. After all, who picks up the bill for all those people when their teeth fall out.
      t makes economic sense in this sense, since there are no real downsides – other than a perceived loss of freedom of choice. A civilised (i.e. educated) society knows how to draw the line in these situations.

      Ditto a carbon tax (only the uneducated, unvaccinated, non-fluoridated, gun-carrying, tobacco chewing types could possibly object !!)

      • Eric Worrall says:

        If the issue is picking up the health cost when children’s teeth fall out, then frame it in those terms – tell people they have the right to choose, but if they reject advice, and refuse fluoridated water, they will forever after have to pay more for dental healthcare, to redress the consequences of their choice.

        As for a carbon tax, if Australia goes it alone, why would any industrialist in their right mind choose to pay more tax? Any effort to make Australia something more than a country which digs stuff up and ships it will be undermined by the fact we’ve just made it more expensive to do anything else.

    • Watching the Deniers says:

      Eric, these are all good questions – worth debating. The ethics of “mass medical treatment” is a good discussion: the rights of individuals vs the “greater good” is a discussion I’m happy to debate. And I think we can do so in a respectful manner. Vaccination and fluoridation are perhaps the two most salient examples of this. But there are other examples, if you care to follow the following analogy.

      Sewage systems are a form of disease prevention – think of the major epidemics that devastated urban populations right up to the middle of the 19th century. Their implementation was a government lead response. Sewage is a preventative measure (i.e like compulsory vaccination) that tax payers are forced to fund regardless of their views on the causes of disease. But no-one seriously questions the utility and value of sewage networks, because it is universally accepted that they prevent disease by removing harmful waste by-products.

      I see attempts to mitigate CO2 and other GHG in the same light: like faeces, GHGs are harmful by-products that in large concentrations have a negative impact on the environment and populations.

      Were once we used to dump bodily wastes into the rivers and streets, not fully comprehending the connection between these “natural” bodily and disease, we now understand the negative impact of large volumes of CO2 in the atmosphere. Rather than disease outbreaks, GHG is a waste product causing changes to the atmosphere. I mean faeces helps plants grow – just like CO2 right?. But too much of a good thing can have negative effects 😉

      Now, believe it or not there was opposition to building the sewage system, as this quote from The Economist proves:

      Suffering and evil are nature’s admonitions””they cannot be got rid of; and the impatient attempts of benevolence to banish them from the world by legislation, before benevolence has learned their object and their end, have always been more productive of evil than good.


      Private water companies opposed its development, arguing that it would not be effective and add burdensome taxes. Sound familiar?

      The construction of the London sewage system was one of the marvels of 19th century technology and engineering:

      Its history is actually pretty amazing.

      • Eric Worrall says:

        I suggest there is a qualitative difference between a system which is entirely external, which carries nasty smelling excrement away, which would be removed anyway, in a more efficient manner, and administering medical interventions to your children without your consent.

        And I’ve already stated that in extreme cases, such as the example I gave of New York’s approach to containing their drug resistant TB epidemic, I can see that the greater good trumps the rights of the individual.

        So the question is really whether fluoridation qualifies as a case which trumps a parent’s right to choose what is best for their children, what medical interventions their children receive. My suggestion is the answer has to be no – there are no dire consequences to not receiving fluoride, no hideous contagion which might be spread to innocent third parties (such as a better sewage system might prevent), just a likelihood of higher dental bills in future life. I have already suggested a fair way this consequence could be addressed.

        As for CO2, the main reason for our disagreement on this is our disagreement about the consequences of adding CO2 to our atmosphere. If I thought adding CO2 to the atmosphere would lead to dangerous global warming, then I would support your position – hideous consequences such as the impending collapse of the biosphere justify almost any intervention.

        But acting to reduce emissions also has consequences, many of them highly damaging. And the example I regularly provide of Eugenics shows how awful the “cure” can be, for a problem which is now known to have been imaginary, but which once had the fervent support of most of the world’s leading academics. Eugenics is also an example (one of several I can think of) in which noble cause corruption reduced scientific objectivity to a hysterical outburst of irrationality which led to the deaths of millions, and which engulfed august institutions which should have had the tradition and rigour to know better. Something I believe has happened today, in the alarmist scientific community.

        If this difference of opinion was easy to resolve, it would have been resolved long since.

        But interestingly, resolution of who is right might not be necessary. There are solutions which would keep both of us happy, which don’t require a resolution of who is right – such as decarbonisation of the economy through expansion of nuclear power, something you have already said you support. You would certainly have my support and encouragement if you expanded on this theme.

  3. john byatt says:

    believe it or not, people do complain about chlorination,, we could do the same there, only have chlorination of the water supply for those who want it,

    • Eric Worrall says:

      The chlorination issue is much easier to resolve – when Mount Crosby water treatment plant stopped working after the recent floods, a number of people in Brisbane area had a taste of water without modern treatment. There was some urgency about getting the system restored.

      I don’t like to actually drink chlorinated water, regardless of how beneficial the process is in keeping the water safe – thats why we have a water cooler with a filter.

      Did I mention I once had a cup of Adelaide tap water? There’s an old saying that 2 places in the world where ships won’t take on water are Adelaide and Azerbaijan. If you’ve ever tasted the tap water in Adelaide you’ll understand why.

    • john byatt says:

      anyone how wants chlorination in an unchlorinated area can simply buy the chlorine .

  4. john byatt says:

    How is this for a total lack of understanding

    The NCTCSP again displaying their ignorance

    this is their graph for all is well with the Arctic, wonder if any of the resident deniers can see what the graph is telling us?

  5. john byatt says:

    Did someone just post a good reason for desalination of Adelaides’ water supply,

    disconnect as usual

    • Eric Worrall says:

      Ouch, you got me – I think the locals in Adelaide would welcome desalination, or some form of more aggressive water purification, providing the electricity to run the energy hungry desalination plants was cheap enough not to add to much to costs ;-).

  6. Eric Worrall says:

    More deadly global warming hitting America…

    Hmm – dangerous cold and blizzards in Russia and China, massive snowstorms in America and Europe, record cold in the far North. Dangerous CO2 emissions are really having an impact.

  7. Eh? I think you’ve lost the plot – and me.

    Do you really believe the effects are uniform across the globe? Really? Oh dearie, dearie dear.

    Warmer air will hold more moisture. We have more severe storms – be it rain or be it snow. Worse, in general, where it’s wet it’ll be wetter and where it’s dry it’ll be drier. That’s been the consensus position for some time. And it’s been happening for some time. 30 years ago the UK had a severe storm every 100 days. Now it’s every 70 days.

    If you read the article, they go further. For the northeast US there’ll initially be more snowstorms and then fewer snowstorms.

    You’re not even wrong. Thank you for playing today anyway.

    • Eric Worrall says:

      Perhaps Viner should have predicted “Grandchildren will not know what snow looks like”? But thats not what he said. If he had said “for the next few decades it will get snowier, then the snow will disappear”, we wouldn’t be having this conversation – or rather, you would be citing Viner’s prediction as evidence for climate change.

      Ever wonder what happened to Professor Viner after his daft prediction that children would not know what snow was? Considering children born the year he made his prediction have had a whole series of very snowy years to enjoy?

      Apparently after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, he is now principal consultant at a high flying environmental business consultancy.

      Just goes to show – being incompetent and wrong does not disqualify you from success, as long as you are an alarmist.

  8. john byatt says:

    Wondered how old iceagenow was handling the snowstorms

    came across this as evidence for a coming ice age age ” Medvezhly glacier advancing ten foot a day”

    er no it is slipping ten feet a day .


    The quasi-periodic oscillations between normal and fast motion exhibited by surge-type glaciers provide the best observational opportunity to determine limiting conditions that allow fast motion. The measurements from Variegated Glacier prove that its surge motion is caused by rapid sliding induced by high water pressure. This arises from a major restructuring of the basal hydraulic system, which impedes water discharge prior to and during surge. Although the evolving glacier geometry and stress distribution play a principal enabling role, the seasonal timing of two distinct surge pulses, each initiated in winter and terminated in summer, indicates a major influence from variable external water inputs. This influence is not considered in existing surge models and should promote caution in the use of data from temperate and subpolar surge-type glaciers to deduce surge potential in polar ice masses. The spatial spreading of surge motion from a zone of local initiation occurs by stress redistribution, which may spread the surging zone rapidly upglacier or downglacier inside a region of active ice, and by mass redistribution with compressional thickening at the surge front, which enables down-glacier propagation into less active ice. The data from other surge-type glaciers, including the extensive data from Medvezhiy Glacier, are not inconsistent with the above processes but are inadequate to establish whether completely different mechanisms operate in some surges. The way by which water accumulates and produces fast sliding is not established in detail for any surge-type glacier and may be different on different glaciers depending, for example, on the presence or absence of unconsolidated debris between the ice and rock.

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