Saturday, March 30, 2013

The disturbing silence from Upstream Public Health

Lately, I have realized that Portland public-health policy makers are shockingly ignorant about children's unique vulnerabilities to toxic chemicals.

Mel Rader, coordinator of the water fluoridation coalition in Portland has failed to give a satisfactory explanation why he and Upstream Public Health (where he is co-director) are ignoring the accumulating indications that fluoride in the drinking water impairs brain development in children.

Even more disturbing is that Damien Fair, who is chairing the board at Upstream Public health, has not appeared to take the indications seriously.  Damien is a cognitive neuroscientist at OHSU and is listing cognitive brain development as one of his research interests.

According to records from a meeting at the Portland City Council, Damien completely dismissed the Harvard Review, for example by questioning the use of IQ as a measurement method.

Such a treatment is simply not serious, and Damien is ignoring a whole body of research that made us understand the neurotoxic effects of lead paint and leaded gasoline.  Given that Damien is talking about problems within his area of expertise, he should know better.

I am waiting for Damien Fair to publicly give a serious explanation how it comes that water fluoridation does not violate the precautionary approach* that is needed to protect our children's brain development.  Damien needs to address the concerns that senior author of the Harvard Review Philippe Grandjean voiced:
At the same time, many millions of people receive drinking water with fluoride concentrations that are clearly toxic. Benefits and risks, and their dependence on dose and individual susceptibility, need to be carefully evaluated, also in regard to alternative interventions, when relevant.
Chemical brain drain should not be disregarded. The average IQ deficit in children exposed to increased levels of fluoride in drinking water was found to correspond to about 7 points – a sizable difference. To which extent this risk applies to fluoridation in Wichita or Portland or elsewhere is uncertain, but definitely deserves concern.
Is Upstream Public Health in a complete state of denial?  As long as Damien Fair is silent about this issue, I can only assume that something is seriously wrong with Upstream Public Health.

*Here is the precautionary approach explained by Grandjean and Landrigan:
Prevention of neurodevelopmental disorders of chemical origin will need new approaches to control chemical exposures. The vulnerability of the human nervous system and its special susceptibility during early development suggest that protection of the developing brain should be a paramount goal of public health protection. The high level of proof needed for chemical control legislation has resulted in a slow pace of interventions to prevent exposures to lead and other recognised hazards. Instead, exposure limits for chemicals should be set at values that recognise the unique sensitivity of pregnant women and young children, and they should aim at protecting brain development. This precautionary approach, which is now beginning to be used in the EU, would mean that early indications of a potential for a serious toxic effect, such as developmental neurotoxicity, should lead to strict regulation, which could later be relaxed, should subsequent documentation show less harm than anticipated.  As physicians, we should use prudence when counselling our patients, especially pregnant mothers, about avoidance of exposures to chemicals of unknown and untested neurotoxic potential.

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