WATCHDOG 'HEALTHCHECK' AND THE 'FLAGRANT FLUORIDE FIT-UP'
In the February,
2001 edition of the BBC's Watchdog
Healthcheck programme, the issue of fluoridated milk was
The programme was filmed at the
Eastman Dental Clinic in London and drew complaints about it's bias, and
failure, to genuinely represent the concerns of the anti-fluoridation movement.
||Dr Tony Lees (pictured left), a fully qualified dentist
with his own business,
was initially invited to the Eastman Dental Clinic. But his participation
was abruptly ended. He was going to warn the viewing public that sodium
fluoride, used in the fluoridated milk featured on the programme, was a
poisonous substance. It was alleged by the BBC that the item on
fluoridated milk was only going to be a short one and that "... time
constraints only allowed for one interview ...". By allowing only one
interview, the BBC were perceived to be prejudiced in favour of the
promoters of fluoridated milk.
A number of issues can be raised
about the offending programme and they are as follows;-
programme interviewer was (Dr) David Bull. At no time during the programme
was any reference made to the fact that David Bull was a doctor. Even when
the credits appeared at the end of the programme, David Bull's title was
still absent. As a consequence, anyone viewing the programme would not have
been aware that David Bull was a qualified doctor. In fact, the impression
given was that David Bull was no more than a presenter with no academic
qualifications. This in turn would have misled the viewer into thinking that
David Bull was not sufficiently qualified to address the issue of the dangers
of consuming fluoride.
was not made clear that the university at which Dr Clare Ketley practices is
the home of the British Fluoridation Society (BFS). The BFS is a
Government-sponsored propaganda machine which promotes fluoridation.
Dr Clare Ketley made a number
of claims which will be considered to be inaccurate and misleading. The
following conversation was held between David Bull (DB)and Clare Ketley
"Are you concerned about
side-effects such as fluorosis?"
can cause a side-effect which discolours the teeth, the surface of the
teeth. It is usually very mild and appears as just as white flecks which
actually can't be seen very clearly. But it's a cosmetic problem really;
it doesn't affect the general health at all; it's certainly not a public
health issue; unlike tooth decay which is a very real public health
problem." And on the subject of freedom of choice (whether a child
receives fluoridated milk) ...... "Parents have the ultimate
|A very young
and fresh-faced (Dr) David Bull. A casual laid-back appearance. He has
the look of someone who is more suited to presenting the BBC's Blue
Peter programme (sorry, David!).
Ketley. Based at the home of the BFS (University of Liverpool), she put
forward views which could have come straight out of the BFS' handbook on
Bull: "... and you'd be happy to drink this milk?" These children, used
as guinea-pigs for the programme makers, were asked what they thought
about the taste of fluoridated milk.
Points of dispute;-
Ketley: "Fluoride can cause
a side-effect which discolours the teeth, the surface of the teeth."
Ketley: "It is usually very
mild and appears as just as white flecks which actually can't be seen very
Response: It has already been
established that fluorosis will occur in 48% of an exposed (to water
fluoridation) population, and 12.5% (1 in 8) will have fluorosis of
"aesthetic concern" (Government-sponsored scientific review of
water fluoridation, final report, October 2001).
Ketley: "But it's a cosmetic
problem really ..."
Ketley: "it doesn't affect
the general health at all ..."
Ketley: "it's certainly not
a public health issue ..."
Ketley: "Parents have the
Response: Who exactly advises
parents on the safety and efficacy of fluoride. In all probability, parents
will not know of the dangers to which they expose their children in
experiments involving fluorides. Therefore, these parents will be playing
'Russian roulette' with their children's health.
Clare Ketley also made a boast about the effectiveness of
fluoride in milk (not fluoridated milk) stating that it is proven to
reduce tooth decay. The type of fluoride added to milk used in these experiments
is sodium fluoride. Sodium fluoride is a particularly poisonous
substance. Although the process of manufacture is not readily available, it is
assumed that sodium fluoride is added to milk for the purpose of 'capturing'
The theory here is that more calcium (as calcium fluoride) will
be absorbed into the body and yet there is a seeming paradox. Calcium will, to
some extent, 'neutralise' the sodium fluoride and result in it being excreted
from the body. If the reverse happens and fluoride is absorbed as calcium
fluoride, then it is likely the calcium component will help build stronger
teeth. Either way, Ketley's remark about the effectiveness of fluoride in
milk is somewhat curious.
Photomicrographs of the dramatic differences
caused in the stomach lining by exposure to fluoride are shown below, kindly
provided by Professor A.K.Susheela at the Fluoride Research and Rural
Development Foundation in New Delhi.
'healthy stomach'. The first
picture shows a normal healthy stomach - lining cells with a full carpet of
microvillae - the tiny projections that extend the surface of the cell and
determine the power of its functions. The lighter globules (shown by the
arrow) are mucus, present in normal amounts.
||A 45-year old man with ulcer-type stomach pain
but no ulcer. He was drinking water naturally fluoridated at 1.2 parts per
million, similar to North Essex or Hartlepool. The microvillae have been
severely damaged, reducing the mucus production. Health was restored two
weeks after avoiding fluoride water.
||The effect of
using a fluoride mouth-rinse at 900 parts per million. The
microvillae have been stripped right off, leaving the naked cells with
many deep fissures like cracked clay. There is no mucus, and small
bleeding points (not easily seen) had made her anaemic. She recovered
fully three weeks after she stopped using the mouth-rinse.
The BBC has a responsibility to
broadcast accurate information. The Watchdog Healthcheck programme
allowed the promoters of fluoridated milk to make scurrilous and undisputed
claims about the safety and efficacy of fluoride. The BBC should be reprimanded
for not allowing sufficient time to allow an opponent of fluoridation to address
the issues raised in the programme. As for David Bull, regardless of whatever
qualities he may possess, was not apparently suitably qualified to challenge
Clare Ketley's misleading remarks, and as a consequence, the general public
would have been misled about the practice of fluoridation.
The BBC should be more sensitive of and responsible towards
controversial issues inasmuch that programme items that contain potentially
misleading information can result in serious consequences.
Any issue that is so important as public health must be
allocated sufficient time for the topic in question to be properly investigated
and debated by interested or involved parties.
The BBC should re-examine it's format for Watchdog Healthcheck
and either extend the running time of the programme or concentrate exclusively
on one issue per programme. Until this happens, the quality of programmes such
as these will suffer and will only appeal to those members of the viewing public
with short attention spans.
THE BBC's RESPONSE:
British Broadcasting Corporation, Broadcasting
House, Portland Place, London, W1A IAA. Telephone 020 7580 4468. Fax 020 7765 5176.
Programme Complaints Unit
5 April 2001
Our Ref: [withheld]
Dear [name withheld]
Watchdog Healthcheck, BBC1, 19 February 2001
Thank you for your letter of 22 February. My team have now watched a tape of
this programme and discussed the points you raise with the Editor, Mark Killick.
I am sorry you thought the item on fluoridated milk was biased and one-sided.
I understand from Mark Killick that although Dr Lees was approached about
participating in the programme, in the event time constraints only allowed for
one interview and he was told that the presenter, Dr David Bull, would make it
clear that people had concerns about fluoridation.
Announcing that Barnsley, Doncaster and Sheffield were planning to give
fluoridated milk to some primary school children, David Bull said: "But
this move is controversial because critics say that too much fluoride can cause
dental fluorosis, which is a discoloration of the teeth ".
He introduced Dr Clare Ketley as a specialist children's dentist and a
supporter of fluoride, and it seemed to me that his questions to her made it
clear that there were differing views on the question of fluoridation, and that
not everyone would agree with the scheme. In addition to fluorosis, he raised
the questions of freedom of choice and parental responsibility. I think the
subject was tackled in a way which was suitable for a brief item in a programme
such as this. Viewers would have been left in no doubt that fluoridation was a
controversial issue, even though not all aspects of the controversy were
Consequently, I do not believe I have grounds for upholding your complaint. I
would nevertheless like to thank you for writing to me and for giving me an
opportunity to address your concerns. They have been drawn to the attention of
senior management in BBC Television.
Head of Programme Complaints