The history of fluoride in Queensland: “65% less tooth decay”.

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Queensland has a very contentious history when it comes to fluoridation with misleading and deceptive tactics rife. Of the state’s 77 councils, 29 are on record as having formally voted to reject mandatory water fluoridation, leaving only 21 councils adding artificial fluoridation chemicals to their water, despite an impressive claim of “65% less tooth decay” in a fluoridated area. These days the misinformation continues.
"In Townsville, water supplies have been fluoridated since 1964, resulting in 65% less tooth decay in children than those in Brisbane. Soon more Queenslanders will have the benefits of fluoride, which is proven to be safe and effective."
Queensland Health
Excerpt from a newspaper advertisement (2007)
  • Until the end of 2008, less than five per cent of the Queensland population was subjected to mandatory water fluoridation and yet Queensland had lower levels of child tooth decay than several other heavily fluoridated states and territories by the time children were 12 years old;
  • The Queensland Dental Association has waged various campaigns to have fluoridation forced on Queenslanders and will no doubt continue regardless of the accumulating evidence of fluoride’s harm;
  • In 2003, the Queensland Government’s official  Position Statement on Fluoridation, affirmed that without the express consent of a community, water fluoridation was unethical mass medication.
  • Queensland Health used very misleading if not deceptive advertising, claiming “65% less tooth decay in a fluoridated area” when this is in fact a relative percentage that equates to an absolute difference of a fraction of a tooth surface;
  • A Queensland premier ignored dental statistics showing that unfluoridated Queensland children had less tooth decay than heavily fluoridated states and territories of Tasmania, Victoria or the ACT and arrogantly pressed ahead to fluoridate every town in Queensland with more than 1,000 residents;
  • Today, 29 councils have formally voted to reject mandatory fluoridation. That leaves four councils with natural levels of fluoride, 23 councils with exemptions, are too small to warrant fluoridation dosing plants, or have not formally voted to confirm their unfluoridated status. The remaining 21 councils are adding artificial fluoridation chemicals to their drinking water; and some of them would not have if they were not connected to the Brisbane grid;
  • As far as fluoridation is concerned, the Queensland media have been remarkably unprofessional, regularly publishing highly-biased misinformation and erroneous statements. One day, however, this might change and they might demonstrate objective journalism instead of publishing what they believe the Queensland public want to read;
  • Many health professionals in Queensland and Australia are simply not aware of the deceptive and misleading tactics regularly used to promote fluoridation and the distinct lack of scientific evidence to support mandatory water fluoridation.
The black sheep

In stark contrast to most of the other heavily-fluoridated Australian states and territories, up until the end of 2008, less than five per cent of the Queensland population was subjected to mandatory water fluoridation. At that stage Townsville and Dalby were two of the few Queensland towns that were fluoridated. This may partly have been due to Queensland political leadership and the previous influence of Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen (National Party MP) from 1968 to 1987. But it was also due to a general awareness amongst Queensland sheep farmers and National Party MPs that sheep were experiencing long-term harm due to the high fluoride levels in the artesian water they were drinking.

Over the years the Queensland Dental Association had waged campaigns to have fluoridation forced on Queenslanders, but mandated fluoridation did not begin until after Labor Premier Peter Beattie’s mid-term retirement, which allowed Anna Bligh to become Queensland’s Premier.

Only 21 out of 77 Queensland councils add toxic fluoridation chemicals to their drinking water. How many of those councils don't actually want this but are tied into the Brisbane water grid?

Three months after becoming Premier, Bligh announced the government’s intention to mandate fluoridation the following year. This was construed as the one big decision that politicians make in their first hundred days of power. After her first year in office it was also the decision she was most proud of.

A series of events

Peter Beattie and Anna Bligh oversaw large-scale forced council amalgamations. With the aim of increasing efficiencies and coping better with extended drought and extremely low water supplies, they also instigated the state government to acquire many water suppliers and treatment plants from councils. This process created a massive water grid that connected together most of south-east Queensland’s water resources. It was cited as the “largest urban drought response in Australia.”

Ironically, In 2004, John-Paul Langbroek, a Queensland state Liberal Opposition MP, who was also a practising dentist on the Gold Coast, proposed a Private Members Bill attempting to mandate fluoridation, however his Bill failed. Although Liberal MPs supported the Bill, National and Labor MPs voted it down because they believed fluoridation overrode an individual’s personal choices. In fact the official Queensland Government’s Position Statement on Fluoridation in 2003, held until at least 2007, affirmed that without the express consent of a community, water fluoridation was unethical mass medication.

Relative vs absolute – that old chestnut!

On 5 December 2007, when announcing the decision to legislate mandatory fluoridation, Premier Bligh featured on prime-time TV news showing convincing charts of a study comparing tooth decay rates between fluoridated Townsville children and unfluoridated Brisbane children. The following day, newspapers across Queensland strategically carried Queensland Health advertisements claiming that Townsville had been fluoridated since 1964 and this had resulted in Townsville children having an impressive 65 per cent less tooth decay than Brisbane children. Of course there was no study citation in the advertisements and later it was revealed that Queensland Health was referring to a study1 published in 1996 led by John Spencer, a pro-fluoride academic dentist from the University of Adelaide. The study data was collected in 1990 and 1991, so it was at least 16 years old when Bligh announced her decision, claiming it was made on “overwhelming evidence”

We should mention that a few years earlier, around 2004-2005, the Australian Dental Association of Queensland (ADAQ) had also used this study, proclaiming on their web site that Townsville fluoridation had resulted in 65 per cent less tooth decay than Brisbane children. So Queensland Health had just copied the ADAQ claim.

The Queensland newspaper advertisment claiming that fluoridated Townsville children have "65% less tooth decay"!

 

An examination of this supposedly pivotal study reveals – like many other Australian pro-fluoride studies –that the much-flaunted rate of “65 per cent less tooth decay” is not exactly what it appears to be. Firstly it was only obtained from one data point rather than over a period of time, but more importantly, the 65 per cent was in fact a relative percentage.

Measuring differences in tooth decay can be a challenging process. The oldest technique is to measure the number of Decayed Missing or Filled Teeth (DMFT), but this basic method can be inaccurate. That’s why studies involving water fluoridation tend to use a more sensitive measure called Decayed Missing or Filled Surfaces (DMFS), which focuses on the number of affected tooth surfaces. By the age of seven most children have between 28 and 32 teeth and around 120 individual tooth surfaces. The use of relative and absolute measurements of tooth decay can also portray vastly different pictures.

In the Townsville-Brisbane study, the largest apparent difference occurred within the age-7 category, so of course that was chosen to promote fluoridation. The fluoridated Townsville group in this age category had a mean 0.09 decayed, missing or filled tooth surfaces (DMFS). In other words, they had an average of slightly less than 10 per cent of one tooth surface amongst 120 tooth surfaces. The unfluoridated Brisbane group in the age category had an average 0.26 DMFS, or slightly more than a quarter of one tooth surface amongst a total of 120 surfaces. In relative terms, an increase from an average 0.09 to 0.26 represents a 65 per cent increase. But this calculation is not only extremely misleading, it’s deceptive.

In absolute terms, the picture is very different. The difference in DMFS in this age category is actually 0.17 (0.26 – 0.09) of one tooth surface amongst 120 total surfaces. That equates to an absolute increase of 0.14 per cent, or much less than a quarter of one per cent. But which sounds better: “Fluoridation results in 65% less tooth decay”, or “Fluoridation results in a fraction of one per cent less tooth decay”?

In absolute terms, the difference is actually 0.17 of one tooth surface amongst 120 total surfaces. That equates to an increase of 0.14 per cent, or much less than a quarter of one per cent. But which sounds better: “Fluoridation results in 65% less tooth decay”, or “Fluoridation results in a fraction of one per cent less tooth decay”?

The difference in decay in permanent teeth between fluoridated and non-fluoridated children should normally increase as they age. But the reality with this much-acclaimed Townsville-Brisbane study was that it showed the average absolute difference of tooth decay in the permanent teeth of children aged 6 to 12 years who had been exposed to fluoridation for their whole lifetime was miniscule 0.23 tooth surfaces. Once again, this difference of less than one quarter of one tooth surface for the fluoridated children represents a 0.2 of one per cent overall increase.

When publishing the Townsville-Brisbane study in 1996, the authors acknowledged that studies of similar design in Western Australia and New South Wales found similar findings – that is only tiny, insignificant differences in tooth decay for a lifetime of fluoridation!

Another glaring omission from these studies and in fact from all pro-fluoride studies conducted during the last 70 years is a distinct lack of control for all major confounding factors. Socio-economic status, which generally reflects major confounders such as sugar and junk food consumption, overall dietary profile/nutrition and dental hygiene could easily have accounted for the small absolute differences measured in this study and any study.

Don’t let facts get in the way of an agenda

When the mandatory legislation Bill was being introduced to Queensland state parliament, members of Queenslanders Against Water Fluoridation Inc. met with Premier Anna Bligh. The representatives included two scientists (one holding a PhD) and a medical doctor. At this meeting Anna Bligh was shown a number of scientific articles and results from three recently-published Australian dental surveys clearly showing that unfluoridated Queensland children, by the time they were 12 years old, actually had less tooth decay than heavily fluoridated states and territories of Tasmania, Victoria or the ACT. These results echoed large-scale, population-based studies conducted world-wide clearly showing there is no difference in rates of tooth decay between fluoridated and unfluoridated countries, cities and regions. Concerns of various adverse health issues from fluoridation were also raised with the Premier.

Unfortunately Premier Bligh arrogantly ignored everything presented to her and progressively over five years pressed ahead with intentions to fluoridate every town in Queensland with more than 1,000 residents.

At this meeting Anna Bligh was shown a number of scientific articles and results from three recently-published Australian dental surveys clearly showing that unfluoridated Queensland children, by the time they were 12 years old, actually had less tooth decay than heavily fluoridated states and territories of Tasmania, Victoria or the ACT. 
Unfortunately Premier Bligh arrogantly ignored everything presented to her and progressively over five years pressed ahead with intentions to fluoridate every town in Queensland with more than 1,000 residents.

The Queensland government also seriously underestimated the cost of fluoridation stating that it would cost approximately $35 millionto fluoridate all of Queensland; however it actually cost $21.5 million just to fluoridate the 20 dosing plants in the south east region of Qld alone. Ridiculous amounts of money were spent fluoridating small, remote towns, especially where additional pipework had to be installed specifically to facilitate fluoridation. One prime example is the town of Hughenden, a small country town with barely 1,000 residents, which cost Queensland taxpayers nearly $1 million to fluoridate.

Queensland outperforms several heavily-fluoridated states
The National Oral Health Survey 2004 - 2006 showing largely unfluoridated Queensland outperforming four other heavily-fluoridated states in tooth decay rates.
National Oral Health Survey 2004 - 2006 showing average number of teeth with caries expreience.
Change is in the air

Under Premier Bligh, Queensland commenced a program of progressively fluoridating Queensland until early 2012 when Campbell Newman came to power. Fluoridation soon again became a hot topic of discussion in the media. But as usual, all the Murdoch media promoted fluoridation.

In March 2012, Jason Woodforth, a Liberal-National (LNP*) MP, was elected in the Queensland state election. With a strong interest in all health-related matters, Woodforth was intrigued by fluoridation and started intensely researching the issue. He soon came to realise that fluoridation was unethical mass medication, that it’s not effective in reducing tooth decay and that there are some serious health implications. He even held workshops for other MPs, advising them of the lack of effectiveness, safety and ethics of water fluoridation. Towards the end of 2012, Campbell Newman announced that mandated fluoridation was to be overturned. However, elected Councillors would now decide if towns and shires were to continue fluoridation, cease fluoridation or even commence fluoridation.  

As a result, fluoridation soon became a hot topic in several Queensland towns and cities. In January 2013, only a few months after mandatory fluoridation was overturned, Cairns Regional Councillors voted to end fluoridation in the towns they controlled. Their decision was primarily based on the fact that fluoridation without consent is unethical mass medication. Over the next four to five years an additional 28 Councils brought fluoridation to the voting table and decided either not to commence or to end fluoridation.

After the forced council amalgamations, some of the regional councils contained four or five towns. Some of the larger councils and Murdoch newspapers heavily promoted continuing or restarting fluoridation. Townsville and Dalby Councils, which had been long-term fluoridated, would not put the subject of fluoridation to a vote and consequently remain fluoridated.

Today, of the 77 councils in Queensland, 29 have formally voted to reject mandatory fluoridation. That leaves four councils with natural levels of fluoride, 23 councils with exemptions, are too small to warrant fluoridation dosing plants, or have not formally voted to confirm their unfluoridated status. The remaining 21 councils are adding artificial fluoridation chemicals to their drinking water.

Recent events

In late 2018, the Queensland division of the Australian Dental Association and the Australian Medical Association led a renewed drive to convince the State’s unfluoridated councils to revisit this controversial subject and consider forced fluoridation again. They contacted councils, used local newspapers and broadcasted familiar misinformation and a host of unsubstantiated anecdotal statements about the absence of fluoride causing rampant tooth decay to pressure councils to toe the line. The respective councils either ignored these efforts or responded “No, we are not considering this matter again”. Apart from appropriate doubts about the lack of safety, efficacy and ethics, some of these councils expressed concerns about the enormous capital costs involved in building and implementing fluoride dosing plants, plus the ongoing operating costs.

Further attempts to persuade non-fluoridating councils emerged again in early March 2019 with articles and an editorial published in the Courier Mail.  The poorly-researched, heavily-biased editorial stooped low, even referring to anyone opposing fluoridation as the “tin-foil hat brigade”. We take this belated opportunity to respond to the editorial’s somewhat arrogant, misinformed content (highlighted in green), as follows:

“Despite science proving overwhelmingly that this naturally occurring substance can improve the health of our teeth, the paranoid ramblings of conspiracy theorists have not abated.”

There is no reliable science to support adding fluoride to public drinking water supplies. The fluoridation chemicals used in Australia are a toxic waste by-product from the processing of phosphate fertiliser and in the case of Queensland they are imported from China where fluoride is banned.  We urge the author and others to read the following articles:

  1. The ineffectiveness of fluoridation outlines the lack of any reliable science supporting fluoridation and the clear message that fluoride is not effective;
  2. The fluoride story to find out more about the fraudulent history of fluoridation;
  3. The source of fluoride to find out what you’re really drinking, where this “naturally occurring substance” really comes from and the cost of fluoridation to us and the environment;
  4. Fluoride causes harm to read about the major harms of fluoride;
  5. The steady stream of science to find out how many scientific studies have been published recently.

“There are claims that fluoride is a tranquilizer in disguise and that the secret Illuminati society somehow financially benefit from the mass poisoning of people.”

Stating that fluoridation is a conspiracy theory is just as ridiculous as other conspiracy theories. Fluoride Free Australia: i) denies any conspiracy-type claims; ii) maintains that fluoridation is based on ignorance and obstinacy rather than conspiracies; and iii) only relies on science to show that low-level, long-term ingestion of artificial fluoridation chemicals is not safe, not effective and absolutely not ethical.

“Most governments have ignored this nonsense and have introduced fluoride into their water decades ago.”

Perhaps the Courier Mail’s Editor and journalists should have checked their facts first. The reality is that 95 per cent of the world’s population does not receive fluoridated water and 98 per cent of Europe have ceased, rejected or banned fluoridation because of the lack of safety, effectiveness and ethics involved. India, China and Japan do not fluoridate with India and China spending many millions of dollars removing natural fluoride due to the serious adverse health effects. There is also a global trend of de-fluoridation occurring, with major efforts world-wide to end mandatory water fluoridation. Please read our articles:

  1. 98% of Europe say NO to fluoride
  2. The global trend of de-fluoridation
  3. Major US lawsuit launched to have fluoride removed

“However, Queensland has always been something of an outlier when it comes to fluoride and for this we have been rightly mocked by southern states.” And “One of the Newman Government’s least acknowledged follies was to allow individual councils to opt out of adding fluoride to their water. In total, 19 council areas took up this option.”

These statements are so ridiculous they are hilarious. On the contrary, in terms of fluoridation, Queensland is the most advanced state in the country, with 29 (not 19) discerning councils formally rejecting mandatory water fluoridation based on their own evaluation including the substantial amount of scientific evidence against fluoridation (which the author is clearly not aware of) and the substantial costs involved. No doubt other councils would decide against fluoridation if they were not tied into the SE Queensland water grid. Also, any “mockery” received from southern states for a lack of state-wide mandatory fluoridation is based on pure ignorance, especially given that Queensland outperformed several states in dental decay rates prior to fluoridation and the steady stream of science showing that fluoride is harmful.

“The Queensland branch of the Australia Medical Association reckons the cost of introducing fluoride would be about $530,000. Given the lifetime health benefits, maybe it’s time the Government took on the tin-foil army.”

This statement is not only misleading it’s absurd. A Right to Information (RTI) submission to the Queensland Health Department in 2013 revealed an estimate that fluoride dosing plants would cost $730,356 per plant to construct and implement. However, in 2009 – 2010, 21 fluoride dosing plants were constructed in south-east Queensland at a total cost of $21.5 million or an average $1.075 million each. The ongoing running costs have been estimated by Queensland Health at a very conservative $50,000 per annum per plant. For more details see our article: The source of fluoride.

Finally, although this editorial does not rely on the reviews conducted by our National Health and Medical Research Council to support fluoridation, this reliance is a common last resort. So we also ask you to read these articles:

  1. Can the NHMRC be trusted?
  2. The bioaccumulation of fluoride
  3. A steady stream of science
  4. NHMRC DOUBLES fluoride levels for our young
  5. Dental fluorosis

On 8 May 2019, the Courier Mail also published an article titled; “Tooth or dare on fluoride: fluoride policy to take on hole state”. This highly-biased, hypocritical article featured the state’s Health Minster, Stephen Miles weighing into the argument and making inaccurate and unsubstantiated statements; “There is no coincidence that the councils in Queensland which do not have fluoridated water have corresponding high rates of dental decay, and with 28 per cent of the Queensland population not receiving the supported benefits of fluoridated water, the rates of dental decay, particularly in the children and the elderly, are set to increase,” said Miles.

Minister Miles, before making any further public statements about fluoridation, in addition to the articles listed above, we urge you first to read all of the Quotes from professionals on this web site, then to read the following health-related articles;

  1. Fluoride is a neurotoxin
  2. Fluoride and our young
  3. Fluoride damages the thyroid, and
  4. Fluoride and diabetes

We also believe all Federal and State politicians have a Duty of Care to be aware of the science showing that fluoride is not safe or effective. This includes recent science confirming the neurological damage fluoridation chemicals can cause to developing brain of a feotus and infant, the  steady stream of science showing other physiological damage and the consistently misleading and deceptive tactics used by our health agencies to defend and promote fluoride.

Conclusion

Unfortunately many health professionals in Queensland – and for that matter Australia – are simply not aware of the deceptive and misleading tactics regularly used to promote fluoridation and the distinct lack of scientific evidence to support mandatory water fluoridation. Nor are they aware of the substantial and steadily growing body of science showing that low-level, long-term ingestion of fluoridation chemicals is indeed harmful.

It is also unfortunate that Queensland’s south-east water grid built during drought times has created a significant stumbling block to ending fluoridation in south-east Queensland where the majority of the state’s population resides. However, with the ever-increasing number of studies showing that fluoride is a neurotoxin and that amongst other harms it damages the kidneys and the thyroid gland, eventually even elected politicians will come to realise that fluoridation doesn’t protect our teeth, that it’s detrimental to our health and that it’s a very unethical practice.

 (* LNP – the Queensland Liberals merged with the Qld Nationals in 2008)

Reference notes:

  1. Spencer (1996) “Caries experience among children in fluoridated Townsville and unfluoridated Brisbane” (Aust N Z J Public Health 1996;20;623-9). Slade GD1, Spencer AJ, Davies MJ, Stewart JF.