GENRE: Email letter
TO: Katherine Feeney – Urban Affairs Reporter and Blogger, Brisbane Times / Various media & Press
AUTHOR: Daniel Z
DATE SENT: Sat, Jan 5, 2013 at 12:37 AM
TITLE: Formal Inquiry – Re: ‘Fluoride to stay in Brisbane’s water supply’ by Katherine Feeney
STATUS: Awaiting response
UPDATES: Any updates should be posted in the comments section below
Cc: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, Paul Connett <email@example.com>, firstname.lastname@example.org, ASWLA Submissions <email@example.com>
Attn: Katherine Feeney, Urban Affairs Reporter and Blogger, Brisbane Times
Cc: Conal Hanna, Managing Editor, Brisbane Times
Cc: Australian Press Council
Cc: Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance
Cc: Joe Skeel, Executive Director, Society of Professional Journalists
Cc: Dr. Paul Connett, Professor Emeritus, Environmental Chemistry, St. Lawrence University
Cc: AFAM Research Division, afamildura.wordpress.com
Cc: Australian Safe Water Letter Archive
I am writing in response to your article, Fluoride to stay in Brisbane’s water supply (December 18, 2012). In the article you cite two pro-fluoridation sources: Lord Mayor Graham Quirk and Health Minister Lawrence Springborg. No counter-information or arguments to their personal claims are presented. Their views are simply “reported.” Thus, you have provided the public with a narrow perception of the issue, from two biased sources.
To remind you of your obligations as a Journalist, I submit the following:
– Test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error.
– Support the open exchange of views, even views they find repugnant.
– Give voice to the voiceless; official and unofficial sources of information can be equally valid.
– Be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable.
– Admit mistakes and correct them promptly.
– Report and interpret honestly, striving for accuracy, fairness and disclosure of all essential facts. Do not suppress relevant available facts, or give distorting emphasis. Do your utmost to give a fair opportunity for reply.
– Publications should take reasonable steps to ensure reports are accurate, fair and balanced.
In light of the ethical guidelines outlined above, I pose the following questions, which I trust you will attempt to answer in full:
1. Did you test the accuracy of the information that Graham Quirk claims he received from third parties, which led him to his decision to reject a plebiscite? Who were the medical experts he claims to have received counsel from? What are their qualifications and upon what scientific grounds do they base their claims for the efficacy and safety of fluoridation? Did you also attempt to contact these experts for verification and assess the quality of their evidence and arguments?
2. Did you seek out alternative sources for information and expert opinion? If so, what were the names, qualifications and views of those individuals (or organisations) and why did you elect to exclude their voices from your article? Were any of these individuals qualified in fields such as toxicology, biochemistry, fetal and infant toxico-pathology, pharmacology, neurotoxicology, environmental chemistry, or other relevant fields? And if so, why were their expert opinions not aired?
3. Did you make any attempt to hold those in power, who are making public health decisions on behalf of the entire community, accountable for their claims in favour of fluoridation? If so, what challenging questions did you ask and what information or expert opinion did you present to them, which required detailed response?
4. Obviously, you have only presented a very narrow spectrum of opinion on this matter, thus would you be prepared to admit that your article represents only single side of the fluoridation debate, from official sources? And if so, would you be willing to articulate the reasons why the ethical and scientific objections to fluoridation, readily available in the public domain, were not given air-time in your article?
5. Has your publication (i.e. the Brisbane Times) indicated that your article is anything less than “accurate, fair and balanced” and have you been in discussions with your Editor on this matter? Does your Editor endorse your article as such?
6. Did you pose any of the following questions (or similar questions) to either Graham Quirk or Lawrence Springborg, prior to writing your article?
1) How convincing is the evidence that Council has a dental crisis that would warrant this kind of intervention?
2) How convincing is the evidence that swallowing fluoride reduces dental decay?
3) Is swallowing fluoride the best way of protecting the tooth enamel? Are there more appropriate delivery systems?
4) Have other communities demonstrated alternative methods of fighting tooth decay, which do not involve forcing a practice on people who may not want it?
5) Are children in the community already exceeding the “optimal dose” of fluoride as hypothesized by early promoters of fluoridation?
6) If ingested fluoride is necessary to protect children’s teeth can the Council explain why it is that the level of fluoride is so low in mothers’ milk (0.004 ppm)? Did evolution screw up on the baby’s first meal and nutritional requirements?
7) What is the evidence that has convinced you, or the experts upon whom you rely, that this program can be applied without causing any damage to the health of your citizens, especially infants and young children, other than an increase in the incidence of dental fluorosis?
8) What is the evidence that has convinced you, or the experts upon whom you rely, that a bottle fed infant will suffer no damage to its growing tissues when exposed to fluids containing fluoride at levels 250 times higher than the level in mothers milk (1 ppm versus 0.004 ppm)?
9) What is the evidence that has convinced you, or the experts upon whom you rely, that fluoride can damage the growing tooth cells (by some systemic mechanism) without damaging any other tissue in the child’s developing body? How convincing is this evidence?
10) What is the evidence that has convinced you, or the experts upon whom you rely, that no one in your community is particularly sensitive or vulnerable to fluoride’s known toxic effects? How convincing is this evidence?
11) Do you dispute the fact that fluoride – given in a sufficient dose – can cause a whole range of health effects from the very mild to the very serious? Do you dispute the fact that this has been demonstrated in hundreds of studies from India, China and other countries and communities that are exposed to high levels of natural fluoride in their water?
12) Please present a discussion of what is meant by “Margin of safety” for a toxic substance or “therapeutic index” for a pharmaceutical substance.
13) In your view, and the view of the experts on whom you rely, is there an adequate margin of safety between the doses or levels reported to cause adverse effects in the National Research Council (NRC, 2006) report, “Fluoride in Drinking Water: A Scientific Review of EPA’s Standards,” and the doses that people are likely to receive drinking fluoridated water (together with fluoride from other sources like dental products, pesticides etc) sufficient to protect everyone in your community?
14) There have now been 36 studies from different countries that report an association between fluoride exposure and lowered IQ in children. What evidence has convinced you that all 36 studies can be safely ignored as suggested by fluoridation promoters in Queensland and elsewhere, and have they produced a written scientific analysis supporting this claim?
15) What peer-reviewed and PRIMARY published studies can you, or the experts on whom you rely, cite which have examined a possible relationship between fluoride exposure and lowered IQ in fluoridated communities and convinced you that this is not a problem?
16) What peer-reviewed and published PRIMARY studies can you, or the experts on whom you rely, cite which have examined a possible relationship between fluoride exposure and lowered thyroid function (including sub-clinical hypothyroidism) in fluoridated communities and convinced you that this is not a problem?
17) What peer-reviewed and published PRIMARY studies can you, or the experts on whom you rely, cite which have compared the levels of fluoride in the pineal glands of people living in fluoridated and non-fluoridated communities and convinced you that this is not a problem?
18) What peer-reviewed and published PRIMARY studies can you, or the experts on whom you rely, cite which have examined a possible relationship between a) fluoride exposure and melatonin levels and b) fluoride exposure and an earlier onset of puberty among children in fluoridated communities and convinced you that this is not a problem?
19) What peer-reviewed and published PRIMARY studies can you, or the experts on whom you rely, cite which have examined a possible relationship between fluoride exposure and bone fractures in children in fluoridated communities and convinced you that this is not a problem?
20) What peer-reviewed and published PRIMARY studies can you, or the experts on whom you rely, cite which have examined a possible relationship between fluoride exposure and arthritis in fluoridated communities and convinced you that this is not a problem?
21) What peer-reviewed and published PRIMARY studies can you, or the experts on whom you rely, cite which have convinced you that lifelong consumption of fluoridated water along with other sources of fluoride will not weaken the bones of the elderly and cause an increased rate of hip fractures, in fluoridated communities?
22) What peer-reviewed and published PRIMARY studies can you, or the experts on whom you rely, cite which have examined a possible relationship between fluoride exposure and osteosarcoma in fluoridated communities, and convinced you that this is not a problem?
23) What peer-reviewed and published PRIMARY studies can you, or the experts on whom you rely, cite which have used the severity of dental fluorosis as a biomarker for epidemiological studies on children in fluoridated communities?
24) What peer-reviewed and published PRIMARY studies can you, or the experts on whom you rely, cite which have surveyed the population in Australia or any other fluoridated country, in a comprehensive fashion for the level of fluoride in their bones as a function of age, fluoridation status and other variables?
25) What peer-reviewed and published PRIMARY studies can you, or the experts on whom you rely, cite which have surveyed the population in Australia or any other fluoridated country, in a comprehensive fashion for the level of fluoride in their urine, as a function of age, diet, fluoridation status and other variables?
26) Are you satisfied that over the 60 year history of fluoridation that sufficient effort has been made by the governments, which promote this practice, to investigate possible health effects (in tissues other than the teeth) in fluoridated communities?
27) If this program moves forward are any health studies planned for the local community?
28) If this program moves forward will any compensation be given to children who develop very mild, mild, moderate or severe dental fluorosis? Will they be provided with free treatment for these conditions if desired?
29) If this program moves forward and some citizens complain of reversible symptoms, which elsewhere have been identified as being caused by fluoride (i.e. they cease when the source of fluoride is removed), will any steps be taken to investigate the matter scientifically?
30) Do you believe that in the context of the current scientific uncertainties about fluoridation’s effectiveness and safety, and the availability of alternatives, that fluoridation is consistent with the Precautionary Principle?
31) Normally governments (including Councils!) only use their police power to enforce medication on people when they are dealing with a life threatening contagious disease. Do you believe that this is the situation that confronts Council with respect to current dental decay levels?
32) Bearing in mind your responses to all of the above, are you convinced that the evidence of benefit from this practice is so strong, and the evidence of harm so weak, that it merits the application of governmental (or Council) police power to force this practice on your citizens regardless of their views on the matter?
33) Could you summarize the evidence that has convinced you that there are no extra problems associated with using hexafluorosilicic acid (an industrial waste product) as a fluoridating chemical as opposed to pharmaceutical grade sodium fluoride?
34) If you are convinced that children’s teeth in Brisbane will benefit from ingesting fluoridated water please compare these two delivery systems: 1) adding contaminated hexafluorosilicic acid to the public water supply and 2) making fluoridated bottled water available in local supermarkets and chemists, and free for families of low income.
35) Are you prepared to do the whole community what an individual doctor is not allowed to do his or her individual patients: i.e. override the individual’s right to informed consent to medication?
36) How would you respond to the fact that the 2000 University of York Review could not identify a single Grade A study, or randomised clinical trial on fluoridation? And how does is this lack of quality explainable after decades of fluoridation?
37) How would you explain the following statement from NRC Report (2006) Panel Chair, Dr. John Doull? – “When we looked at the studies that have been done, we found that many of these questions are unsettled and we have much less information than we should, considering how long this [fluoridation] has been going on.”
If you did, what were their responses? And if you did not, why not? Please explain this in the context of the above codes of ethics for Journalists.
7. What are your personal views on water fluoridation and did they in any way influence your approach to this article? What independent journalistic research have you conducted on the fluoridation issue, and over what period of time?
8. Are you aware of the critiques of the 2007 NHMRC Review ( http://afamildura.wordpress.com/critiques-submissions/ ) and have you attempted to look into the criticisms of this report independently?
I look forward to your reply. Please note, since this is an issue of keen public and scientific interest, I claim the right to forward your email reply to appropriate third parties for feedback (unless you indicate otherwise).
Daniel Z, BA (Lit. & Comp.), MA (Writing)