Chewing over the facts about fluoride and our dental health

From: Professor Trevor Sheldon, Department of Health Studies, Innnovation Centre, York Science Park, University Road, York.

IN my capacity as chair of the Advisory Group for the systematic review on the effects of water fluoridation recently conducted, I am concerned that the results of the review have been widely misrepresented (Yorkshire Post, July 22).

The review was exceptional in this field in that it was conducted by an independent group to the highest international scientific standards, and a summary has been published in the British Medical Journal.

It is particularly worrying then that statements which mislead the public about the review's findings have been made in press releases and briefings by the British Dental Association, the British Medical Association, the National Alliance for Equity in Dental Health and the British Fluoridation Society. I should like to correct some of these errors.

1. While there is evidence that water fluoridation is effective at reducing caries, the quality of the studies was generally moderate and the size of the estimated benefit, only of the order of 15 per cent, is far from "massive".

2. The review found water fluoridation to be significantly associated with high levels of dental fluorosis, which was not characterised as, "just a cosmetic issue".

3. The review did not show water fluoridation to be safe. The quality of the research was too poor to establish with confidence whether or not there are potentially important adverse effects in addition to the high levels of fluorosis. The report recommended that more research was needed.

4. There was little evidence to show that water fluoridation has reduced social inequalities in dental health.

5. The review could come to no conclusion as to the cost-effectiveness of water fluoridation or whether there are different effects between natural or artificial fluoridation.

6. Probably because of the rigour with which this review was conducted, these findings are more cautious and less conclusive than in most previous reviews.

7. The review team was surprised that in spite of the large number of studies

carried out over several decades, there is a dearth of reliable evidence with which to inform policy.

Until high-quality studies are undertaken providing more definite evidence, there will continue to be legitimate scientific controversy over the likely effects and costs of water fluoridation.

From: Elizabeth A McDonagh, Melton Brand, Doncaster.

TOOTH decay "league tables" have no scientific validity because they ignore confounding factors such as the level of calcium in the water supply. America continues to have high levels of tooth decay among its poor in spite of up to 60 years of fluoridation.

Dr Hardy Limeback, Professor of Preventive Dentistry at Toronto University, has said: "The evidence that fluoridation is more harmful than beneficial is now overwhelming and policy-makers introducing fluoridation who fail to thoroughly review recent data before doing so will risk litigation."

On February 2, 2005, Sheffield City Council resolved to re-affirm its opposition to fluoridation (57 for the motion, 14 against, three abstentions.) On February 23 of the same year, Leeds City Council voted on a motion including the words "...that public mass-medication through the nation's water taps is unethical and a gross infringement of individual civil liberties…" (58 for, 23 against, seven abstentions).

I hope, in the event of any public consultation on fluoridation, that there is full and fair debate of the issue.

From Peter Green, Barmby Road, Pocklington.

I WRITE in response to the front page article about the fluoridation of water (Yorkshire Post, July 22).

Why should the whole of the population have to be subjected to the addition of fluoride to the region's water, because a minority are too idle to brush their teeth?

The stuff is a poison, which has also been blamed for causing problems for osteoporosis sufferers.

A losing streak for real cricket fans

From: Paul Abraham, Lincroft Crescent, Bramley, Leeds.

AFTER attending the Yorkshire v Leicestershire one-day match at Scarborough (Yorkshire Post, July 24), I am left pondering which has been the worst display – the Yorkshire batting or the Scarborough stewards?

Yet again, my day was spoilt by people whose sole interest is their vast consumption of alcohol. Last year we had idiots dressed as suicide bombers, or taking a short cut across the pitch to the bar while play was going on.

At this game, we had a streaker and three idiots holding play up.

Can someone explain to me why if a '"streaker" invades a sporting event, it is just "high spirits", but if I ran through Leeds city centre naked, I would be charged with indecent exposure?

As long as these people spend money (over the bar), the YCCC committee seem to turn a blind eye. This 43 year-old Yorkshire member has had enough of the Scarborough experience.

Law and yet more orders from Labour

From: RC Curry, Adel Grange Close, Leeds.

WE have a fine burst of words from the new Home Secretary, who surely should be rebalancing the law in favour of justice. Political tinkering has caused the problem in the first place. Little is new.

Is the wonderful new Parental Compensation Order, much heralded with a frightening 5,000 limit, for parents who fail to control their young, especially those under 10 years of age, going to do any more than the existing Parental Bind Over, Parenting Order, Child Safety Order, Child Curfew, or even the ultimate Care Order?

Bearing in mind the speed with which it has been arranged, it is just as likely that even more chaos will ensue, and that the prevention of youth crime will not be any further forward.

What is not needed is proliferation of new orders with impracticable financial penalties, as few parents have the means to pay them, so they join the queue of defaulters. To the many on benefits, it is an occupational hazard which the state pays for.

What are needed are common-sense, funds and encouragement. With adequate resources and more trained staff, the existing orders, some of which were specifically designed to deal with parents whose children under 10 were in danger of getting into court trouble as they got older, could sort out most problems.

Mystery of God's gender

From: Frank R McManus, Longfield Road, Todmorden.

Tony Flanagan would have reason to object to the casting of Philippa Grainger as God if the York Mystery Plays were merely for "those seeking an authentic glimpse of pre-Reformation England" (Yorkshire Post, July 14).

Surely they are, however, not simply a revival of lost Christian practice, but are also Christian testimony for our 21st century, in which it is generally accepted that the Sacred Mystery is above sex.

Does not Isaiah 66.13 liken God's comfort to a mother's; and did not Jesus liken his care to that of a hen for her chicks?

Tennyson used a special personal pronoun for God, namely "That", in both In Memoriam and Locksley Hall Sixty Years After. The second of these poems has, near its end, the line "Forward, till you see the highest Human Nature is divine". Who dare doubt that this applies equally to men and women?

Turbulent priest

From: Lance Green, Haisborough Avenue, Newport.

I AM not in the habit of criticising church leaders, but the nonsense emanating from Richard Chartres, Bishop of London, is so cretinous that he deserves to be hauled over the coals.

Religious elders should give a moral lead but, before venturing into subjects beyond their training, they have a profound duty to make sure of their facts.

The Bishop has asserted that it is sinful to fly to a holiday destination or drive a large car. Well, Bishop Chartres, I can assure you that, before availing yourself of your privileged access to the media and public, you should be aware that human-generated climate change is not supported by any rigorous scientific evidence and is thus the new religion.

In reaching for the limelight ahead of justice and truth, you are not only a vainglorious twit, you are a heretic.

M62 coach station plan

From: Robert Beaumont, Minskip, near Boroughbridge.

IN his letter, Coun Geoffrey Wainwright wrote in support of the idea of a park-and-ride scheme by the M62 at Drighlington (Yorkshire Post, July 18). He argued that it would provide tremendous benefits for the residents of Halifax and Calderdale, among others, who travel to Leeds daily.

In his letter, Coun Wainwright asked whether there was provision for an express coach interchange/station in the plans, which would help the many coaches that use the M62.

On behalf of the developers, Waystone, I am pleased to say there is. Indeed our plans also include a secure parking area by the coach station. As Coun Wainwright points out, the benefits of such a coach station would be self-evident and immense.

In the wake of the news that funding for Yorkshire's struggling transport system is to be cut by the Government, leaving spending per head in the region among the worst in the country, the need for private initiatives such as the Drighlington park-and-ride becomes ever more pressing.

Fair deal for Palestine is only way to bring peace

From: Geoffrey F Bryant, Queen Street, Barton-on-Humber.

TWO lines in Sheena Hastings's analysis of the latest Middle East crisis (Yorkshire Post, July 19) should be held up in front of any politician or organisation trying to find a solution – "An (I would say The) issue at the heart of all this is the Israeli-Palestinian dispute..."

For something over 50 years, the Palestinians have not had a fair deal and it is not surprising that they, and their supporters, seek in their various, often violent, ways to, as they see it, heal this festering sore.

One can well imagine the response of Yorkshiremen and women if boatloads of armed illegal immigrants sailed up the Humber waving a piece of ancient deity-inspired paper which they insisted legitimised the take-over of the East Riding, and the creation of an independent state.

The response of the Palestinians and their allies to a similar situation does not surprise me.

They might well ask why shouldn't Iran have an atomic bomb when Israel has one? Why shouldn't arms and cash be supplied to Hamas and Hezbollah when the US pours arms and cash into Israel? Why should the Palestinians accept a state other than that whose boundaries were outlined in UNSC Resolution 242 of November 1967? Why should everyone sit back while Israel surrounds itself with a wall built partly on internationally-agreed Palestinian territory?

Will any Israeli government ever find itself able to accept and deliver a peace which would necessarily remove its settlers from the West Bank and East Jerusalem? Why is the result of an Israeli general election OK, but that of the Palestinians unacceptable? When will the Americans (and some of their allies) realise that the one-sided policies adopted by their present, and many past, governments mean that they have become a big part of the whole problem?

Cross-border attacks, all-out wars and subsequent short-term, sticking-plaster negotiations have been tried for some 50 years but show no signs of ending Sheena Hastings's "dispute".

Meanwhile, the Americans seem to have decided that Israel can have another week to wreck poor old Lebanon. Whose turn next, one asks? Until all Palestinians (and their many supporters) feel that they are getting a truly fair deal, I fear the Middle East will blunder from crisis to crisis, each more explosive and an increasing danger to the world as a whole.

Alas, I am afraid that I can see that without a most dramatic turn-around this "dispute" will blight the lives of many more innocent people in the Middle East and even my own English grandchildren.


Priorities in the real world

From Eric and Anita Bamford, Kenwood Road, Sheffield.

WITH all respect to Catterick councillor Tony Pelton's views on Iraq and Afghanistan (Yorkshire Post, July 18), his belief that our troops are there to create democracies and wipe out the drug trade suggests that he, like many others, is living in a US/UK-generated dream world.

A friend of mine has been robbed of her farm in Zimbabwe by Robert Mugabe. Writing from Harare, she says: "Every day we pray that oil will be discovered under our feet."

If it was, America and Britain would be in like a shot.

Live and let dye

From: Jonathan Arnott, Ravenscroft Close, Sheffield.

IT is said that the main responsibility of a bureaucrat is to find ways to justify his/her existence. The European Union is to ban 22 substances from being used in hair dyes on the grounds of "consumer safety".

None of the substances are actually used in hair dye.

But perhaps we should be grateful for small mercies – the EU ban on the import of lead solder, in force since July 1, will damage the environment (the silicon-based alternative is worse for the environment), increase the cost of new computers by roughly 30 and cause computers to break down more often (silicon-based solder is less reliable).