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An informative comment on the situation in Ireland

1 Mar

chemStats show immediate world-wide interest in water fluoridation (left) and Chris Price has commented:

“In Ireland, water supplied by local government is required by law to be fluoridated.

“However, water supplied by local community “group schemes”, or from private wells, is nearly always non-fluoridated.

“As a result, less urbanised regions of Ireland have a patchwork of fluoridated and non-fluoridated water supplies serving communities in close proximity”.

We hear about communities developing their own renewable energy schemes, taking over village shops, libraries and pubs  and this is news of another welcome initiative.

A search revealed the existence of the National Federation of Group Water Schemes, the representative and negotiating organisation for community-owned rural water services in Ireland.







Rising antibiotic resistance in E.coli on UK supermarket meat

9 Sep

tracy-and-pigLast December this site reported that Tracy Worcester is drawing attention to the subject of antibiotic resistance, which is growing – developing not in humans, but in bacteria that can then infect humans. Surgical and cancer chemotherapy patients rely on antibiotics to protect them from potentially life-threatening illnesses and declining efficacy could turn routine procedures into life-threatening ones.

The Organic Research Centre now reports that a new study carried out by scientists at Cambridge University, looked at 189 UK-origin pig and poultry meat samples from the seven largest supermarkets in the UK (ASDA, Aldi, Coop, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose). It tested for the presence of E. coli which are resistant to the key antibiotics for treating E. coli urinary-tract and blood-poisoning infections in people. The highly resistant ESBL E. coli was found on meat from all of the supermarkets.


The research found rising levels of resistance in chicken meat, with 24% of samples testing positive for ESBL E. coli, a type of E. coli resistant to the ‘critically important’ modern cephalosporin antibiotics. This is four times higher than was found during a similar study in 2015, in which just 6% of chicken tested positive for ESBL E. coli. Modern cephalosporins are widely used for treating life-threatening E.coli blood poisoning in humans.

51% of the E. coli from pork and poultry samples were resistant to the antibiotic trimethoprim, which is used to treat over half of lower urinary-tract infections. In addition, 19% of the E. coli were resistant to gentamicin, a very important human antibiotic used to treat more serious upper urinary-tract infections.

The findings provide further evidence that the overuse of antibiotics used to mass medicate livestock on British farms is likely to be undermining the treatment of E. coli urinary-tract and blood-poisoning infections in humans. Some of the antibiotics tested are used in far greater quantities in livestock farming than in human medicine.

Dr Mark Holmes, from Cambridge University, who led the study said: “I’m concerned that insufficient resources are being put into the surveillance of antibiotic resistance in farm animals and retail meat. We don’t know if these levels are rising or falling in the absence of an effective monitoring system. These results highlight the need for improvements in antibiotic stewardship in veterinary medicine. While some progress has been made we must not be complacent as it may take many years before we see significant reductions in the numbers of antibiotic-resistant bacteria found in farms.”

E-coli is by far the most common cause of urinary-tract infections and of dangerous blood poisoning, and can also cause meningitis. These infections must be treated with antibiotics. Dr Ron Daniels BEM, CEO of the UK Sepsis Trust said: “This study highlights a worrying trend towards rising resistance in E.coli on UK retail meat. E.coli in people is the greatest cause of deaths from sepsis, and poor antimicrobial stewardship in intensive farming is undoubtedly contributing to this trend. It’s of paramount importance that we act decisively to reduce this immediate threat to human life.”

Two recommendations:

 Other proposals:

Tracy points out that we have the choice to buy meat with the high welfare labels RSPCA Assured, Outdoor Bred, Free Range or Organic – eat less meat as Anna advocates – or go meat-free. See the World Health Organisation on the health issues here.

Buy organic/local?

Organic farming is perceived as providing a better quality of life for farmed animals and an earlier article reports that a new financial report on organic farming in England and Wales for 2014/15, undertaken by the Organic Research Centre for the Welsh Government, shows organic farm profits increasing, with organic dairy farming outperforming conventional dairy farming in England and Wales. In particular, the organic dairy industry is now generating higher profits than conventional farms despite producing lower yields.

Animal welfare has been a key motivator to consumers who are increasingly choosing organic products with quality assurance standards, because they want to know the origins of their food, and are willing to pay more for products which are ‘friendly’ to wildlife and the environment.


Professor Nic Lampkin from the Organic Research Centre in Newbury, was one of the co-authors of the report and the Cambridge study was commissioned by the Alliance to Save our Antibiotics, of which the Organic Research Centre is a member.




Why aren’t people in London and the South receiving compulsory medication?

6 Jun

The Nuffield Council on Bioethics, funded jointly by the  Wellcome Trust and the Medical Research Council, advises policy makers and stimulates debate in bioethics.

nuffield fluoridation logoIts 21 page chapter on the fluoridation of water has drawn on expert assessments, in particular the fifteen year old York review, the most recent major review in this area. It points out that water fluoridation is an example of an intervention that directly affects whole populations, noting that the case of fluoridation raises issues about ‘the nature and strength of evidence required in arguments about the acceptability of an intervention, and about ways in which evidence is, and should be, communicated’.

BFS, BDA & NAEDH: overstated potential benefits, understated potential harms

Soon after the York Review’s publication in 2000, its authors drew attention to their view that the report had been “widely misinterpreted” and sought to correct the record, expressing concern over statements by groups including the British Fluoridation Society, British Dental Association and the National Alliance for Equity in Dental Health which “mislead the public about the review’s findings”. The reported problems included overstating the potential benefits of fluoridation, understating the potential harms, and the inaccurate claim that the review concluded water fluoridation to be “safe”.

A rose by any other name? BFS: fluoride is not a waste product – it is a industrial byproduct or a co-product

nuffield fluoridation coverThe Nuffield report points out that in its ‘Technical Aspects of Fluoridation’, the British Fluoridation Society, confirms that the source of fluoride used in the UK: hexafluorosilicic acid or its sodium salt, disodium hexafluorosilicate, are chemicals are produced from co-products of the manufacture of phosphate fertilisers:

“The chemicals are important co-products of the manufacture of phosphate fertilisers.  Part of the manufacturing process involves `capturing’ gases using product recovery units.  These units are technically similar to pollution scrubbers.  However the important difference is that, in the process of the manufacture of fluoride chemicals, the end result is a valuable and useful resource, not a waste product.”

Reducing inequalities: quality of evidence, low

The York Review of 2000 found that “The research evidence is of insufficient quality to allow confident statements about … whether there is an impact on social inequalities”. It concluded that “[although] the available evidence… appears to suggest a benefit in reducing the differences in the severity of tooth decay, … the quality of evidence is low and based on a small number of studies”. For now, we note that based on the best available evidence it is not straightforward to conclude that water fluoridation reduces dental health inequalities as measured by outcomes. Of the 30 studies assessed, twelve had not detected a statistically significant difference between the populations receiving fluoridated and non-fluoridated water . . .

‘Inconclusive’ association with bone problems, cancers, Alzheimer’s disease, malformations and mental retardation

Alarms voiced in reports in the Mail (Dec. 2015) and the Telegraph (Feb 2015, thyroid problems) were not echoed by the York review study group which concluded that on the basis of the best available evidence no clear association could be established between either bone problems or cancers and fluoridation and studies on other health risks, including Alzheimer’s disease, malformations and mental retardation, were inconclusive.

bedford council fluoridation hearing

The Nuffield Report concludes that the most appropriate way of deciding whether fluoride should be added to water supplies is to rely on democratic decision-making procedures (above Bedford’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee which unanimously recommended (April 2016) that fluoride should NOT be added to Bedford’s water, following a protracted two-year debate).

Conclusion: there should be comprehensive, well-funded and designed research into the impact of fluoridation of the public water supply on human health

Authors of the York Review, McDonagh M, Whiting P, Bradley M et al. (2000) in A Systematic Review of Public Water Fluoridation (York: NHS Centre for Reviews and Dissemination) declare that:

fluoride UK map“Given the level of interest surrounding the issue of public water fluoridation, it is surprising to find that little high quality research has been undertaken”. This is particularly surprising as fluoridation has been implemented as an intervention in some areas of the country, and has been considered as a policy option in others, over several decades”.

The Nuffield Council Report adds (7.42):

“We noted that the evidence base for fluoridation is not strong, and that as such ongoing monitoring and further research, particularly on risks, are recommended. Policy makers and the public need to have access to clear and accurate information, and uncertainties and the strength or weakness of the evidence should be explicitly recognised. Therefore, the UK health departments should monitor the effects of water fluoridation, including the incidence and severity of fluorosis and other possible harms.

“Water fluoridation policy should be objectively reviewed by the UK health departments on a regular basis in light of the findings of ongoing monitoring and further research studies. Furthermore, the conclusions and their basis should routinely be published”.



Water fluoridation: Bedford councillors accept the Precautionary Principle

16 May

In April, Bedford’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee unanimously recommended that fluoride should NOT be added to Bedford’s water.

This followed a protracted two-year debate. Bedford Council will now have to consult Bedfordshire County Council and the Secretary of State will eventually be involved in their decision. The issue could then go out to consultation and the public will be asked to respond within 3 months.

bedford cllrs fluoridationA video made by Fluoride Free Bedford includes footage of the council reflecting on this important decision.

Councillor Anthony Forth (below) issued the following statement:

bedford cllr quoted“I would like to propose that following the review process, this committee recommends a termination of the existing water fluoridation scheme, subject to the necessary consultations that are outlined on pages 26 to 28.

“I think that the evidence in favour of water fluoridation does seem extremely dated… On the other hand, a number of the pieces of evidence of dis-benefits are not as scientifically rigorous as we might like.

I think that as a group we’re happy to accept the Precautionary Principle that there isn’t strong evidence for re-introducing fluoride, so therefore we should not go ahead.”

Professor K.K. Cheng (professor of epidemiology, University of Birmingham) and his colleagues Iain Chalmers, editor, and Trevor A Sheldon,  professor and pro-vice chancellor. co-authored Adding fluoride to water supplies: US National Library of Medicine: National Institutes of Health

They reflected, in similar vein, that public and professional bodies need to balance benefits and risks, individual rights, and social values in an even handed manner. Those opposing fluoridation often claim that it does not reduce caries and sometimes overstate the evidence on harm. On the other hand, the Department of Health’s objectivity is questionable—it funded the British Fluoridation Society and, along with many other supporters of fluoridation, it used the York review’s findings selectively to give an overoptimistic assessment of the evidence in favour of fluoridation: Wilson PM, Sheldon TA. Muddy waters: evidence-based policy making, uncertainty and the “York review” on water fluoridation. Evidence Policy 2006: 2:321-31.

In response to the Medical Research Council recommendations, the department commissioned research on the bioavailability of fluoride from naturally and artificially fluoridated drinking water. The study had only 20 participants and was too small to give reliable results. Despite this it formed the basis of a series of claims by government for the safety of fluoridation.

The Cheng study ends: “Against this backdrop of one sided handling of the evidence, the public distrust in the information it receives is understandable. We hope this article helps provide professionals and the public with a framework for engaging constructively in public consultations”.





Westminster Hall Adjournment Debate on organophosphate sheepdip poisoning

3 Jun
There is to be a Westminster Hall Adjournment debate on OP/sheep dip health problems next Wednesday 10th June from 4 – 4.30pm.
It is being proposed by MP Jessica Morden [Newport East] on behalf of her constituent Stephen Forward (who was on Radio Wales last week here at 4:45).
For readers new to the subject a paragraph from the BBC website is added:
Sheep dip poisoning – leading organophosphate poisoning campaigners have welcomed recent calls for a “hillsborough style” inquiry into whether farmers were misled over the use of the dangerous chemical. There’s cross party support from MPs for a parliamentary debate for full disclosure of the facts. Twice yearly sheep dipping was compulsory back in the 1970s, eighties and nineties to prevent sheep scab but finally stopped being mandatory in 1992. But farmers across the UK were left with debilitating health problems that they put down to sheep dipping.
Notice sent by Tom (01942 671020)

Fluoridated water

26 Apr

fluoride UK mapFollowing a recent blog on Birmingham’s fluoridated water supply, a thoughtful reader said she could not understand why hip fractures would increase when fluoride was accumulated, adding to bone mass. An online search followed.

The most relevant findings (10th page, Google search!) follow this summary of points made in the blog: Birmingham – together with only 10% of the UK’s population – accepted the expense of adding fluoride to its water supplies in 1964. Scientific research gives cause for concern on several counts:

  • Thyroid malfunction
  • Childhood cognitive impairment
  • Effect of fluoride accumulation on bone structure over many years
  • The effects of cumulative fluoride intake

Background info

“Fluoride has been used in the past and is possibly one of the oldest drugs available for managing osteoporosis. It would actually produce dramatic effects in changing the radio-graphic appearance of bones by making them appear much denser.The actual bone mass seemed to increase but it did not promote any mineralization (depositing of calcium) resulting in poor bone quality and hence chances of fractures are high,” says Gurinder Bedi, Senior Consultant, Department of Orthopedics, Fortis Hospital.

Vivek Logani, Chief of Joint Replacement Surgery at Paras Hospital in Gurgaon, agrees to the side effects of fluoride intake, “It is widely recognized that fluoride therapy for osteoporosis adds mass to bones but produces inferior bones. Numerous studies show that fluoride may cause not only increased skeletal fragility (more non-vertebral fractures such as hips) but also osteomalacia (deficiency of bone mineralization).” Infants, elderly, people with deficiencies of calcium, magnesium and vitamin C and those with cardiovascular and kidney problems are more susceptible to the toxic effects of fluoride and its compounds. According to experts, lower body pain, prolonged pain, body stiffness and inability to walk are some of the symptoms of bones being affected by high fluoride concentration.

Due to this counterproductive action of fluoride on the strength and elasticity of the bone, the Food and Drug Administration of United States has rejected the use of fluoride for treatment of osteoporosis,” Logani added.

– Joel M. Kauffman, Ph.D. Acknowledgements: Potential conflicts of interest , is Professor of Chemistry Emeritus at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, 600 S. 43rd St., Philadelphia, PA, 19104-4495; Water Fluoridation: a Review of Recent Research and Actions: Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons Volume 10 Number 2 Summer 2005 –

Page 42:

Cancer rates in the ten largest fluoridated cities in the United States and in the ten largest nonfluoridated cities were found to be the same before fluoridation began. After 20 years, the ten fluoridated cities had 10% more cancer deaths than the nonfluoridated cities. The cancers were found in the tongue, mouth, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, colon, rectum, pancreas, larynx, bronchi, and lungs. Hip fractures in two cities in Utah were compared: fluoridated Brigham City and nonfluoridated Cedar City. In the fluoridated (1 ppm) city, the hip fracture rate was twice as high as in the nonfluoridated city, in women around age 75. Men aged 80-85 also had twice the hip fracture rate in fluoridated Brigham City.

The insidious nature of fluoride toxicity is that it does not cause bone density loss as found in osteoporosis by bone scans, but causes an increase in bone density with no clinical benefit. Fluoride makes both bones and teeth more brittle. Early reports of supposed benefits of fluoridation to bone were quoted without citing later corrections or retractions. Dr. A. K. Susheela of the India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi found that fluoride severely disrupts formation of bone matrix, inhibiting the hardening of bones. She found that about 20 countries in the world have serious health problems due to excess fluoride. Her work showed that high levels of fluoride in drinking water were associated with birth defects, stillbirths, and early infant mortality . . .

Water fluoridated to 1ppm fluoride is not safe in the general population. How much of the toxicity results from the arsenic and heavy metal contamination in the newer fluoridating agents is not yet known. Additionally, certain populations such as patients with diabetes or renal impairment are at increased risk, especially if they drink more than average amounts of water. A study comparing 25 young adults with fluorosis against 25 matched controls showed very significant impairment of glucose tolerance in those with fluorosis, which, however, was reversible when water with low fluoride levels was given . . . –

A pharmaceuticals market of 800,000 – and growing

24 Mar

“Drug companies got out of antibiotics as their attention switched to much more lucrative daily medicines for chronic diseases”

jeremy huntIn March, at the World Health Organisation’s first Ministerial Conference on Global Action Against Dementia in Geneva, Jeremy Hunt, the UK’s health secretary, announced plans to boost early-stage research into Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia in order to find an effective treatment. Just three new drugs for the condition have reached market in the past 15 years and these only alleviate symptoms.

The WHO conference was supported by the Department of Health of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Both days were webcast.

Ongoing lifelong drug treatment is very profitable – not so pre-emption

The $100m venture capital fund will be backed by the UK government and several of the world’s biggest pharmaceuticals companies, amongst them US investment bank JPMorgan, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Eli Lilly and Biogen.

Drug companies had lost billions of dollars in many failed trials and Patrick Vallance, president of research and development at GlaxoSmithKline, said the venture fund was a good way to spread risk and share expertise.

He added that there are rewarding economic incentives for research. “Nobody doubts that if you find an effective medicine for dementia it will be very profitable.”

True – and discovering and addressing the causes would remove this market opportunity.

Today’s broadcast theme:

Infectious bacteria are becoming resistant to the drugs that used to kill them. The last new class of antibiotics was discovered in the 1980s. There is little in the development pipelines of the world’s pharmaceutical industry. Drug companies got out of antibiotics as their attention switched to much more lucrative daily medicines for chronic diseases. Public funding on antibiotic research has also withered.