On Saturday, October 18, I attended the debate between UNBC’s Todd Whitcombe and Paul Connett, a peripatetic American billed as an expert on fluoride as applied to drinking water.
Both men hold PhDs in chemistry but they have diametrically opposed views on addition of this element to our water supply. Before the debate, Dr. Connett, who makes a crusade of opposing fluoride, gave a 90-minute lecture complete with PowerPoint graphics and quotations.
We were overwhelmed with statistics and the results of studies ostensibly proving beyond a doubt that fluoride causes a variety of defects in consumers. Dr. Connett’s book on the subject was for sale in the lobby and ‘No Fluoride’ buttons were freely dispensed to a crowd that was overwhelmingly on the ‘no’ side before the first word of the debate was spoken.
Dr. Whitcombe has a working knowledge of fluoride but does not put himself forward as an expert on its application to drinking water. However, he did a good job of making a positive case. He spoke of fallacies in studies by those who may not have considered all important variables. We did not know whether studies were ‘cherry-picked’ for those favourable to Dr. Connett’s case. Studies comparing communities are dubious as there are far too many factors to control. For instance, when intelligence quotients are compared between groups exposed to high levels of fluoride and those having little, many other variables come into play.
How was IQ measured and by whom? Did the high fluoride group have exposure to other elements like lead in their water?
Dr. Whitcombe told us that Dr. Connett had admitted, in published articles, that fluoride is effective in reducing tooth decay, but only in external applications such as in toothpaste and by dentists’ treatment and not through ingestion. This seems, to me, like trying to get my vitamin A by rubbing myself with carrots.
We have more serious problems to face as a society and I believe that the energy spent in trying to remove a valuable element from our water supply is receiving an inordinate amount of attention that would be better directed elsewhere.