Facts on Belgium Fluoride Ban

Sunday, August 4, 2002

PFPC Newsletter

Over the last week we have received many e-mails and phone-calls from parents all over the world, particularly European countries, with questions about the news reports of the fluoride supplements ban in Belgium.

Many of you could not believe that there is now finally a "developed country" with such a ban on fluoride supplements - something which of course should have happened long ago, and should be followed by all countries as soon as possible. However, there seems to be much confusion about the ban, the items included, and what was actually said.

The news of the ban was reported by HUMO, a weekly newsmagazine in Belgium which published an interview with Magda Aelvoet, the Minister of Public Health.

RESPONSE IN BELGIUM

The ban has created incredible response in Belgium. The item has been in the news daily.

Response by the dental profession has been loaded with animosity aimed at the Public Health Minister, as well as HUMO. One of Belgium's dental professors even compared the Health Minister to Milosevic!

The first letters by the dentists, together with a response by the authors, will be published Tuesday, August 6, in HUMO. Next week will bring more letters by dentists, this time with Vishal's official PFPC response to HUMO.

Meanwhile, in the US, a spokesperson of the American Dental Association on fluoridation matters, Dr. Michael Easley, distributed outright false information to the scientific commmunity and to public health dentists worldwide, claiming the HUMO news to be "inaccurate" and "grossly misleading" (1). He proceeded to distribute an e-mail from an Australian Public Health dentist which in turn pointed to a site by a Belgian dental association which had posted - apparently as "official statement" - false information and accredited this statement to the Public Health Ministry. As it turns out, the Ministry spokesperson, Tom Ruts, cannot recall that the Ministry EVER made this statement, and will investigate.

IS IT TRUE THAT HEALTH MINISTER AELVOET SAYS FLUORIDE PREVENTS TOOTH DECAY?

The Guardian (UK) reported that Aelvoet "conceded it (fluoride) was effective at preventing tooth decay" (2).

FACT: No such concession was ever made by the Health Minister, who actually is - and has been - on vacation. This has further been confirmed by the Ministry. As one can clearly see from the original HUMO article - which is now translated and posted on our website, along with the original scans - the exact opposite was stated by the Minister. LINK: http://64.177.90.157/pfpc/html/humo.html

(We have included the interview portion below for those of you without Internet access.)

IS IT TRUE THAT TOOTHPASTE IS EXCLUDED BECAUSE IT PREVENTS TOOTH DECAY?

The BBC quoted Ministry spokesman Ruts as stating that toothpaste was excluded from the ban because "it protects against tooth decay" (3). The same reports were made by the New Zealand Herald and many other international papers serviced by the Reuters News Agency (4).

FACT: NO such statements were ever made by Mr. Ruts, as was confirmed by the Ministry. The REAL reason why toothpaste was not included in the ban is because toothpaste is regulated under the cosmetics act by the EU - not food laws, as are the fluoride supplements. This is also clearly stated in the interview.

The fluoride supplement ban includes fluoride tablets, fluoride drops, and fluoride chewing gum. This prohibition is "only the first step", as was repeatedly stated by Mr. Ruts to the media. Many other actions are expected in the Ministry's efforts to curb fluoride intake.

While the Guardian stated correctly that a European commissioner believed that such a ban might run contrary to EU laws, Minister Aelvoet issued a reply from her vacation spot on Thursday, stating that the ban WILL remain, and that the European commission has to accept that, and will have to change the rules. It was carried by the Belgian national news, but not reported in the Guardian.

IS IT TRUE THAT THIS BAN HAS ONLY BEEN PROPOSED AND IS NOT YET LAW?

FACT: The ban is not just 'proposed' or being 'considered', as stated by the BBC, but is in fact law. It is by royal decree (has been signed by the King), and becomes valid as soon as the decision is published in the "Staatsblad" (somewhat comparable to the US Federal Register).

IS IT TRUE THAT THE BELGIAN MINISTER DID NOT CONSULT IN THIS MATTER AND ACTED SINGLE-HANDEDLY?

FACT: It is not the Minister who just came up with this "idea", but this action was advised by the Belgian High Committee of Health, as stated in the Interview.


It has been a very turbulent week. It has been most disturbing to witness the relentless attacks on the Belgian Health Ministry by dental professionals. International newspapers inserted statements which were never made by the spokespeople.

One is reminded of the same time last year (August 2001) when Rajasthan's Health & Family Welfare Minister Mr. Rajendra Choudhary published his book on fluoride poisoning, warning the people to stay away from fluoridated toothpaste, pan masala, and black tea. This event went virtually unreported anywhere else. In Rajasthan over 30,000 villages are now affected by fluoride poisoning. 8 million are suffering from crippling fluorosis.

We are extremely happy and grateful that finally a Public Health Ministry in a developed country has taken up the challenge to question fluoride benefits and seems firmly committed to address its toxicity. We thank Chris Vermeire and Peter Cremers in Belgium for their incredible efforts over the last few years.

Best wishes to all,

Andreas Schuld Head, Parents of Fluoride Poisoned Children (PFPC) Vancouver, BC, Canada


INTERVIEW FROM HUMO ARTICLE:

Although the ban on fluoride supplements is only a first step, it is however a brave decision, and Aelvoet can expect without doubt a lot of wind from the opposite direction in the next fews days, in and out of the country.

MAGDA AELVOET:

"Naturally in those sort of issues harmonizing within the European Union is desirable, but I cannot always wait until the European Union is this far. The Belgian High Committee of Health has advised me to prohibit fluoride supplements and I can do nothing else than be content with the scientific arguments with which this advice is backed up. We're going to tell our decision officially to the other European members in the hopes that they will follow us quickly. For years I have been worried about the signals from the scientific world which warned of fluoride use. I have never given fluoride to my own children."

HUMO:

"In the meantime, the majority of the Flemish people have swallowed fluoride on a daily basis, and on medical advice to boot. And there are few children who do not know the famous white tablets."

AELVOET:

"Once a habit is firmly entrenched and it has a so-called scientific basis, and industry has an associated concern, which in this issue is clearly the case, then it often takes a lot of time, a lot of arguments, and a lot of incentive to turn the tide. Earlier, the tobacco industry also had scientific arguments which made it appear that smoking wasn't harmful."

HUMO:

"To make children swallow fluoride, no matter what the source, is a medical mistake of great magnitude, as it is completely useless against caries."

AELVOET:

"That fluoride prevents cavities has, in the meantime, been contradicted, yes."

HUMO:

"You cannot blame the fluoride industry for not being creative: the market is swamped with fluoride gels, fluoride mouth rinses, fluoride whiteners, fluoride floss, and even fluoride toothpicks."

AELVOET:

(surprised) "What? Toothpicks with fluoride? Do they exist as well? Within the limited scope that Europe gives me, I want to end this kind of fluoride use. We will contact the other European members to broaden the base."

HUMO:

"Professor Dirk Vanden Berghe, microbiologist at the Antwerpe University UIA, has for decades been an opponent to fluoride. He asks: 'And what will the ministry do about fluoride toothpaste? Children often swallow 30 to 40 per cent of the paste or they get it through the saliva. In this way they often have an overdose of fluoride.' "

AELVOET:

"My administration will ask the manufacturers to make toothpaste fluoride-free. But we cannot force them into this. The problem is that toothpaste doesn't fall under food laws, but is regulated under the cosmetics act, which is regulated by Europe. There is a lot of work to do still."

HUMO:

"There is more. There exist all kinds of dental filling materials which consistently leach fluoride. These are used officially to fill cavities in children's teeth. One cannot estimate what a child like that absorbs of this poison from the saliva."

FRANS GOSSELINCKX (Cabinet Advisor, Pharmacist)

"The prohibition of the fluoride supplements is a sign of things to come. The model 'fluoride helps against tooth decay' is still in the head of nearly all the dentists. We have to start to break this model. They have now received the first signal from the Minister. Besides, we have only recently learned that these filling materials exist. I am sure that my colleagues in the other member states don't know this yet."

AELVOET:

"Then it is high time that we take this on as well. I will take it on at the European level. We have to turn the tide. It will take time but we are going to return fluoride to where it came from."

POISON FOR THE NERVOUS SYSTEM

HUMO:

"We cite again Professor Dirk Vanden Berghe: 'Now that we are this far that the fluoride supplements will go, the big responsibility is with doctors themselves. We have so many new chronic conditions which are consistently rising in numbers. There are enough studies which make a direct link with fluoride use. The dentists have to warn the parents of their patients that it is careless to use fluoride, no matter what the method. One child will have symptoms of fluoride poisoning early, while in others the bad effects will only show at a later age.' "

AELVOET:

"It is only logical that we will inform the medical community about the risks of fluoride."

HUMO:

"You have prohibited the use of fluoride supplements, but the pharmacists are allowed to sell them as long as their supply lasts. How do you explain that?"

AELVOET:

"The transition period is not meant to appease the pharmacists here. In my other responsibilities - environment and agriculture, we also work this way. For example, if we ban a pesticide then we always introduce a transition period to make the resistance not so big. When we issue a very innovative regulation, as now with fluoride, then the people need time to adapt themselves. At the moment everybody thinks that fluoride is not harmful. Fluoride is a slithering poison, it also slowly creeps into the brain."

GOSSELINCKX:

"As soon as the news appears and the prohibition becomes valid, then the Algemeine Farmaceutische Bond (Pharmaceutical Organization) will call us with the question: 'What is all this about?' It will be terrible, but in cases like this, the pharmacists themselves will often take the initiative to return the stock, out of fear that they will get stuck with it."

HUMO:

"Professor Vanden Berghe also warns of the new generation toothpastes which contain strontium. Also risk material, he says."

AELVOET:

"It's always the same. They want to sell things we can do without, just like we can do without a toothache (laughs)."

HUMO:

"Do you think this will be get straightened out in Europe?"

AELVOET:

"The European governments are now composed entirely differently than a few years ago. Let's be honest: if it is about what comes first, the health or the economy, then I am afraid we will no longer have a great majority. It will not be easy, but it doesn't mean that we can't start it."

GOSSELINCKX:

"We have to keep going until we are fluoride-free."

AELVOET:

"Precisely. And in that context I want to give HUMO a compliment: you have played an important role with the 'fluoride dossier' from a few years ago."

- Chris Vermeire and Peter Cremers

Posted with permission
Translation by Atma Kaur Fleerackers and Andreas Schuld
2002 HUMO, translation 2002 PFPC, HUMO


1) Message from Dr. Mike Easley, Friday, August 2, 2002 10:00:09 PM to Dental Public Health newsgroup (available from PFPC)

2) Guardian: Fluoride ban clashes with EU law

3) BBC: Ban proposed on fluoride supplements

4) New Zealand Herald:Belgium to ban fluoride tablets and chewing gum

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