Fluoridation safe, effective - report
A comprehensive new report on the safety and efficacy of community water fluoridation aims to put to rest concerns and misinformation over the public health intervention.
The addition of fluoride to community drinking water to improve dental health has been taking place in New Zealand since 1954 and currentlymore than half the populationreceives fluoridated water. However, community water fluoridation (CWF) has been a high profile issue in recent years with several councils removing fluoride from public water supplies in the face of intense lobbying from anti-fluoridation groups. At the core of opposition to CWF is concern over the potential health effects of fluoride.
The new report, released today, was jointly commissioned by the Royal Society of New Zealand and the Prime Minister's Chief Science Advisor. It draws on an extensive review of the scientific evidence to conclude that the levels of fluoridation used in New Zealand are safe and effective in reducing tooth decay.
"The process for the review was rigorous," said President of the Royal Society of New Zealand Sir David Skegg. "It included an extensive evaluation of the scientific literature by a panel of five experts, as well as one lay observer with local body experience. The resulting report was reviewed by three international experts and by the Director of the National Poisons Centre."
The final report, titled Health Effects of Community Water Fluoridation: a review of the Scientific Evidence, concluded that CWF was effective in reducing tooth decay (particularly in populations with poor levels of oral health) and posed no significant health risks at the levels currently used in New Zealand.
"The public can be reassured on the basis of robust scientific data, that the implementation of this public health measure poses no risk of adverse health effects," said Prime Minister's Chief Science Advisor, Sir Peter Gluckman. "It is worth noting that dental health remains a major issue for much of the New Zealand population, particularly in communities of low socioeconomic status."
The report deliberately avoided addressing any broader philosophical or ethical issues around CFW, choosing only to focus on the health and efficacy considerations. The authors of the report suggested that a similar review be undertaken every 10 years to ensure that that ongoing research can be used to inform policy decisions.
Visit Health Effects of Water Fluoridation for full report, executive summary and a list of contributors.
On the science radar this week...
Ear tickling boosts heart health, passport officers can't spot the difference, it's good to feel bad at work, how to create flower power tyres, and fifty shades of... harm?
Dirty Politics and smeared scientists
Investigative journalist Nicky Hager's new book Dirty Politics appears set to colour the whole tone of the current election campaign.
It has also allegedly given us a window into the tactics of bloggers, lobbyists and political strategists intent on discrediting scientists who present evidence that conflicts with their political and commercial interests.
The movie Thank You for Smoking gets several mentions in Dirty Politics. It follows the exploits of Washington D.C. big tobacco lobbyist Nick Naylor and his efforts to use pseudoscience and spin to defend the tobacco industry. Nick meets regularly for lunch with a collection of lobbyist colleagues who represent the alcohol, fast food, firearms, oil drilling and hazardous waste industries. They call themselves the MOD Squad - the merchants of death.
Dirty Politics, based largely on emails and chat transcripts hacked from the Gmail and Facebook accounts of Cameron Slater, founder of the Whaleoil blog, reveals that we have our own MOD Squad, who are accused of coordinating attacks on scientists and public health researchers and of funnelling money from big business to the bloggers willing to uncritically push the corporate line. Among those allegedly targeted in campaigns launched via Whale Oil include University of Otago alcohol researcher and alcohol reform advocate Professor Doug Sellman.
Responding this week to the leaked emails outlined in the book, Professor Sellman said:
"I'm not surprised about this new evidence because this is exactly the sort of secret industry tactics we were warned about from the outset of the Alcohol Action law reform campaign five years ago".
Other experts dismissed as "troughers" in Whale Oil posts include the University of Auckland's Dr Boyd Swinbum and Otago's Dr Janet Hoek. Under Section 162 of the Education Act (1989), the academics above accept a role of "critic and conscience of society", a role their input into discussion of public health issues in New Zealand would seem to fulfil. That role has also, Dirty Politics reveals, made them targets of smear campaigns from those threatened by the evidence they present.
The SMC's Peter Griffin explores the revelations further in a post on Sciblogs.
Quoted: Science Media Centre
''If a fissure eruption occurs beyond the icecap, it could be very impressive - perhaps a 100 metre high fire-fountain along a 1 km fissure, feeding lava flows.
"I am looking forward to seeing video if this happens.''
Prof. David Rothery, UK vulcanologist, commenting on Icelandic volcano Bardabunga
A week of science about to kick off
Next week is going to be science-central in Auckland - literally thousands of scientists will be in town for a number of major conferences, many of which are accompanied by public events.
The SMC will even host our Science Media Centre colleagues from around the world who will be meeting in Auckland for the first time ever, a proud moment for the SMC team.
The Royal Society of New Zealand has a detailed breakdown of the events that will be running next week.
Here are a few of the highlights...
• The 31st triennial General Assembly of the International Council for Science (ICSU). Established in 1931 and based in Paris, ICSU represents more than 121 national science academies and 31 scientific unions. 25th August - 3rd September
• The 6th biennial Open Science Conference of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR). With more than 1500 attendees, it is by far the largest international gathering of Antarctic scientists.
• The annual general meeting of the Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs (COMNAP). Symposium Auckland 25 August, AGM Christchurch 27 - 29 August
• The 4th biennial United States - New Zealand Joint Committee Meeting on Science and Technology Cooperation (JCM), a joint dialogue on areas such as natural hazards and resilience, climate change, and oceans. 25th -26th August
• The Science and Diplomacy Symposium, focusing on how scientists can input into foreign affairs. 27th August
• Inaugural Science Advice to Governments conference involving the world's most eminent Science Advisors. The conference will focus on the practice of providing policy-relevant science advice to governments. 28th - 29th August
• The 2nd APEC Chief Science Advisors and equivalents meeting, a forum for informal discussion on the science and policy interface amongst science advisors to the highest level of government within APEC economies. 30th August
The Chief Scientists gather
Sir Peter Gluckman will be bringing together scientific advisors from all over the world for a two-day summit that I'll be present at and live blogging from. Check out the line up of guest speakers - it will be a high-powered event and highly relevant to some of the big science-related issues we are grappling with in New Zealand at the moment.
Negotiating science communication minefields
Also head along to listen to myself, Dr Susannah Elliot and Fiona Fox, the founders of the NZ, Australian and UK Science Media Centres respectively, talk about some of the big science-related controversies we've worked on over the last decade.
It is a public event organised by PRINZ, the Public Relations Institute. There's a cover charge, but there will be booze and nibbles...
Policy news and developments
Shark finning to be banned from 1 October - A total ban on the finning of all shark species within New Zealand waters will take effect from 1 October this year, which will close a loophole not covered by previous banning of live shark finning.
Preparing New Zealand for Ebola - As a precaution, public health officers are being given additional powers to hold aeroplanes and ships at the border if there are concerns that a person on board may be infected with the Ebola virus.
Kiwis keen on seafood - The Ministry for Primary Industries has released the results of a survey asking New Zealanders what they think about the aquaculture industry.
Cyborg moths 'dance' to disco lights
New From the SMC
Icelandic volcano: New Zealand and UK experts comment on whether the Bárðarbunga volcano will erupt and what might happen if it does.
Superbug control measures questioned: The jury is still out on the effectiveness of meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) superbug control policies in hospitals.
Antibiotics and heart
deaths: One of the most commonly prescribed
antibiotics, clarithromycin, is linked with an increased
risk of heart deaths, suggests a new study published in the
In the news:
Tuatara's distant relative also survived asteroid: New fossils from South America overturn the current thinking that the tuatara was the only species of its kind to survive a catastrophic asteroid impact millions of years ago.
Kiwis help tackle Aussie pests: New Zealand-designed software created to predict and tackle mouse outbreaks is being trialled in Australia.
Antarctic science: Ahead of next week's Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research biennial meeting in Auckland, the New Zealand Herald's Jamie Morton highlights eight Kiwi research projects currently under way in the deep south.
From the SMC Network
From the UK
Expert reaction to the news that the two US Ebola patients have been discharged from hospital
Expert reaction to the supply of experimental Ebola drugs
Some of the highlights from this week's Sciblogs posts:
The humility of being second to Australia in cancer mortality - Tony Blakely and Diana Sarfati respond to research showing New Zealand has more cancer deaths than Australia.
Public Health Expert
Crowd funding, Trade Me and Network Externalities - What role will crowd funded equity play in New Zealand, and why is TradeMe unique, asks William Taylor.
Engineering, lego and line followers - Marcus Wilson looks at how using lego can inspire innovation in students.
Anti-fluoride activists unhappy about scientific research - Ken Perrott discusses Fluoride Free NZ's response to Sir Peter Gluckman's fluoridation review.
Policy our lives depend on: Health research in election 2014- John Pickering gathers the health research policies for the political parties contending the current general election.
Some of the research papers making headlines this week.
Kiwi bees reveal the whole
story: Over the last decade the invasive varroa
mite - and the bee-harming viruses it carries - has marched
the length of the country. Now, careful examination of hives
at different stages of infestation - from the frontline of
Dunedin to the varroa stronghold of Hamilton - has revealed
the complex interplay of viruses that cause the real damage
Fijian fish turn their noses up at 'ghetto' reefs: Young fish and corals in the South Pacific are repulsed by the stink of damaged reefs and will keep looking elsewhere rather than settle, suggests new Fiji-based research. The study shows that both animals can smell chemical signals from and avoid particular types of seaweed, while being attracted to areas with live, healthy coral - suggesting that rehabilitating damaged reefs will be more challenging than expected.
Life below ice: Scientists have found a surprisingly vibrant and diverse microscopic community living in the dark and cold depths of Lake Whillans, locked away beneath the permanently-frozen West Antarctic Ice Sheet. The researchers say that their findings mean it might be possible to find similar communities living in equally harsh extraterrestrial environments, such as on Mars.
Exercise boosts brain connections in kids: A new study looking at exercise and brain structure in 9- and 10-year-olds has found that those who do more aerobic exercise have more fibrous and compact white matter - suggesting that the nerves connect faster and more efficiently, improving attention and memory.
Frontiers in Human Neuroscience
Cell-like technology mimics
underwater camouflagers:Inspired by the incredible
colour-changing skin of octopuses, US researchers have
developed an adaptive, flexible camouflage surface. The
device is based on malleable panels that use light sensors
and temperature-sensitive dyes to mimic their surroundings.
Although the technology is just at prototype stage, the
authors say that it can be easily adapted for applications
in military and commercial
Upcoming sci-tech events
For these and other upcoming events, and more details about them, visit the SMC's Events Calendar.
• Queenstown Research Week - 23 to 29 August, Queenstown. Biosciences- and medical-themed meetings and networking socials.
• World Science Week New Zealand - 25 August to 3 September, Auckland. Over 2,000 leading scientists, researchers and government science advisors gather for an interrelated series of international science summits.
• Why Men Cook But Don't Wash Up - 27 August, Wellington. Dr Ian Yeoman looks at why modern men aren't afraid to cook up a storm in the kitchen, but don't wash up.