York review advisory chairman rebukes profluoride lobby.

April 23, 2001

England's Department of Health requested the National Health Centre for Reviews and Dissemination to conduct a systematic review of the safety and effectiveness of water fluoridation. The review was published in October, 2000. The review is referred to as the York review because it was done at the University of York. Dr. Trevor Sheldon was the chairman of the advisory group for the review. He is at the Department of Health Studies, University of York. Dr. Sheldon commented, "We were surprised that, in spite of the large number of studies carried out over several decades, there is a dearth of reliable evidence with which to inform policy."

The profluoride lobby, backed by the British Dental Association (BDA) and the British Medical Association (BMA) saw the review as chance to prove once and for all that fluoridation should be a part of national health policy. The questions were whether fluoridation is effective, whether it is safe and whether it helps poor people. Over 3,000 scientific studies on fluoridation have been published. Only 214 papers were deemed appropriate or good enough to be included in the review. The York reviewers used the Cochrane Process. This elite scientific review process is explained on the Cochrane Collaboration website.

The York review was a kind of science court for evidence-based medicine. The verdict of the York review was that they could not come to a definite conclusion about whether fluoridation was safe and effective because the research that was offered as evidence was poorly done. The only positive conclusion was that better research is needed.

There has been a plethora of critiques of the York review. These range from complaints about the methodology to accusations of outright fraud. A list of websites for the York review has been added to the links directory.

The profluoridation forces proclaimed that the York review found in favor of fluoridation. The BDA declared, "The review confirms that water fluoridation is safe and effective." The BMA declared, "There is no evidence of any adverse risk to human health. Fluoridation is the most effective way to reduce dental inequalities."

Dr. Sheldon wrote in a letter to Members of Parliament, "It is particularly worrying that statements that mislead the public . . . have been made by the British Dental Association [and] the British Medical Association."

An article in the London Financial Times concluded that, "The BDA and BMA had taken their case to an appeal court of their peers, but when it was thrown out for lack of evidence they responded by issuing press releases claiming victory."

source in part: Jerome Burne, "Fluoridation findings set teeth gnashing," London Financial Times, January 27, 2001.