IN A recent interview, Westminster Health Secretary Sajid Javid prefaced his remarks with the phrase, “I’m not a medic but ….” before going on to make yet another emphatic pronouncement on public health.

Why, when politicians are elevated to a cabinet role, are we expected to laugh off the fact that they have no relevant background experience in their designated portfolio?

Civil servants and advisors should make up for their lack of qualification for the post, but ministers with a knowledge deficit in their appointed field are easily manipulated.

They adopt the most simplistic proposition laid on their plates and become reliant on a cabal of advisors who do not represent the breadth of discussion and research on a given subject, because they push the agenda of political and industry lobby groups.

Who knows whether Javid is lazy, thick, or merely diligently following instructions? But in the arena of public health, his strings are surely being tugged by battle-hardened hawks who see a window to resurrect old campaigns that they already lost.

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Such is the case with Javid’s plan to impose blanket water fluoridation throughout the UK, a measure approved by the Chief Medical Officers of Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales.

I had thought water fluoridation was a lost cause. This proposition has been quashed in Scotland previously.

The desire to heap this industrial chemical into our drinking water stemmed from a 1950s school of scientific thought that it was an unproblematic measure that would improve the teeth of poor children.

But independent scientists have shown that it isn’t. That’s why fluoridating tap water is permitted in just 24 countries around the globe, and only 2% of tap water drunk in Europe is treated with the chemical.

What’s at stake here?

Naturally-occurring fluoride in water is made up of the minerals fluorspar, fluorapatite and cryolite, but the fluoride that Javid wants to flow from our taps is a chemical waste, most commonly fluorosilicic acid.

This substance, a by-product of phosphate fertiliser manufacture, is highly corrosive and so classified as a hazardous waste.

The Fluoride Action Network, which seeks to broaden public awareness about the toxicity of fluoride and the health impacts of fluoride exposure, says that there are no available studies on the safety of this toxin in water.

Yet in his report setting out his rational for off-loading this substance in our water, England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty dismisses all risks in a couple of paragraphs.

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He admits that there are adverse associations between much higher levels of natural fluoride in drinking water and the prevalence of dental mottling, (fluorosis) and notes studies which suggest an association with hip fracture, Down’s syndrome, kidney stones, bladder and bone cancer, before asserting that “there is no significant association between water fluoridation and these conditions.”

Whitty’s blithe dismissal of risk has enraged toxicologists.

“The way the CMOs have treated the health effects posed by fluoridation is a gross dereliction of their duty to protect the health of the British people”, says toxicologist Professor Vyvyan Howard, of the UK Freedom From Fluoride Alliance.

Whitty’s laid-back assessment of risk relies on a solitary review, carried out in 2000, that mainly examined weak studies from the 1940s and 1950s, since superseded by higher quality ones.

Now a substantial body of human and animal studies indicate that fluoride is a neurotoxin and an endocrine disrupter.

Currently in the US, where most tap water has the chemical added, the Environmental Protection Agency is being sued by Food and Water Watch and others in US Federal court to prohibit the deliberate addition of fluoride chemicals to the public drinking water because of the threat they pose to the developing brain.

What bothers Professor Howard and other toxicologists in the UK is that Whitty and his chief medical officer colleagues have ignored high-quality US government-funded studies published since 2017 that have found effects on the developing foetus and infant at the very same fluoride water levels Whitty is proposing.

Such effects include lowered IQ (between 5 and 9 IQ points reported) and increased ADHD symptoms.

“These findings make complete nonsense of the CMOs claim that health effects only occur at much higher levels,” says Professor Howard.

A further major study in 2019, funded by the US National Institutes of Health linked a doubling of symptoms indicative of sleep apnea in adolescents to levels of fluoride in drinking water.

The same study reported that exposure to fluoridated water led to a reduction in kidney and liver function among adolescents.

The crazy thing is that it’s questionable whether fluoridation even does what it says on the tin, that is, prevent tooth decay.

In 2015, when Cochrane, a global scientific collaboration that gathers the best evidence from research evaluated 155 studies on the effects of water fluoridation on the prevention of caries, it concluded that there was “insufficient evidence that [fluoride] water treatment programmes resulted in a change of incidence or distribution in caries across socioeconomic classes."

You wonder if Whitty and his devolved colleagues have even read these studies.

I’ll bet Javid hasn’t a clue either. He’s been handed a happy-ever-after-for-your-health script and has dutifully sneaked this controversial fluoridation measure into the Health and Care bill.

I don’t know about you but although I could install a reverse osmosis filter to remove fluoride if Javid, Whitty et al get away with it, I don’t see why I should have to fork out to safeguard my health from a hazardous chemical I don’t need and don’t want.

There are many bright lawyers who would see an opportunity here. When Catherine McColl applied for an interdict to restrain Strathclyde Regional Council from fluoridating the water supplies, the Court of Session hearings ran for 201 days from 1980-1982 making it one of the longest and costliest cases in Scottish legal history.

Here’s another cause célebre crowd-funder in the making, to which I’d be delighted to contribute.

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