independent

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Uncovering naked truth about flouride

Published 08/01/2014 | 05:36

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The Girl Against Flouride Aisling Fitzgibbon.

THERE'S a long tradition of women taking their clothes off for a good cause. A thousand years ago Lady Godiva rode naked through town on a horse so her husband would reduce taxes. More recently there was that world famous calendar made by the Women's Institute in Britain. They posed naked to raise money for cancer research.

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Today we have Kerry woman Aisling FitzGibbon using the same tactic to draw attention to her anti-fluoridation campaign. Her efforts haven't gone unnoticed.

Water fluoridation was the subject of a Private Members Bill in the Dáil. It didn't get anywhere, but some of our elected representatives spoke out against putting fluoride in our water.

It may have been dismissed by the Government, but getting that far must still count as a remarkable success for the cause. I'm reluctant to draw further attention to what I consider to be a non-issue but it does raise an interesting point: Who do we trust to guide us when we don't understand or don't want to understand something?

For thousands of years we trusted witch-doctors and priests to make sense of all the things that confused or scared us, be it death, disease, the weather or other tribes. We knew how to hunt, gather, make rudimentary tools and find shelter. We left the serious thinking and the other worldly knowledge to a chosen few. Things haven't changed a great deal since then. We still allow a chosen few to do the thinking for us. The only difference now is that we've much more choice regarding who we trust.

I'm not above this. I wish I was, but life's too busy and distracting for me to carefully investigate every single decision I'm faced with on a daily basis. Most of my decisions then, eventually become matters of habit or instinct. I'd get nothing done otherwise.

What about the less common decisions? Even they can become tiresome, but when they're about our health we do try to make some sort of sense of the overwhelming amount of information available.

What then do we do when faced by an earnest young woman with a compelling story, who's so convinced of her opinion that she has convinced many national politicians to join her cause?

How do we handle the occasional scientist and study which kinda looks like they might sort of justify a fear of fluoride? Who has the time to do the required reading? Who do we trust to do our thinking for us?

I trust that a scientist has two basic ways to claim something to be true. He or she must create an experiment that proves what they claim. Then they must publish the details of that experiment.

If other scientists can't replicate the results, then it's back to the drawing board. Or they can assemble a huge amount of statistics and then after refining all the data, according to strict and transparent rules, they may venture some verifiable conclusions. Thus far, no experiment nor any study has convinced me that the 0.7 parts per million of fluoride in our water is anything but a cost-effective boost to public health.

Kerryman

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