Monday, November 25, 2013

Girl Against Fluoride - Vaccine Opposition, Homophobia and Homeopathy

In an earlier blog post I discussed how Aisling FitzGibbon, better known as the bikini clad Girl Against Fluoride, has been asked by a UK nutritionist bring legal challenge against the Irish state for fluoridating water. She's paid hundreds of Euro to receive a printed certificate that enables her to communicate with angels and redirect their rays into people and their pets. A further investment is moving her towards another printed certificate, this time in the unregulated and dubious field of nutrition. The course is ultimately run by Barbara Wren, a woman caught on camera by the BBC claiming to have cured cancer using urine and castor oil. If time allows, do give it a read. If not fret not - there's more than enough preposterous nonsense about the campaign for this post to stand on its own.

Some of you may be wondering why I care. I am, after all, relatively well paid and fluoridation is something that primarily benefits the disadvantaged. While I support the continued fluoridation of our water I feel the problem presented by FitzGibbon et al is a more fundamental one: Angel healers should not get equal time with scientists in matters of scientific debate. Politicians should not unquestioningly accept as accurate information given to them by people who endorse peddlers of fake cancer cures. A willingness to take one's clothes off should not give one the loudest voice in public debate.

Girl Against Fluoride is Also Against Vaccines

"My mum had measles and is alive and well. According to the Chinese childhood illnesses is the body’s way of releasing the inherited toxicity of the parents. I was not vaccinated , nor were the children from the Royal family in the UK." - Aisling FitzGibbon in The Journal

FitzGibbon says "Vaccines are so last year" while sharing an image spreading preposterous bullshit about vaccines causing polio, other diseases, death.
When asked why FitzGibbon focuses on
banning fluoridation but not banning  vaccines,
her worrying reply was "one step at a time"
I've had both testicles outside my body and have no resulting health issues. This does not make it a course of action I suggest you follow. That Martha Brassil (FitzGibbon's mother - we'll come back to her) survived this dangerous and sometimes deadly disease does not render it unimportant. 'The Chinese' vaccinate, and that Prince Charles in a royal woo merchant who favours homeopathy and talking to plants does not render his ideas more tenable.

Not far from where I grew up lies a school for the deaf blind. Many of their adult clients, profoundly deaf and without sight, find themselves there because of Rubella. The last major Rubella outbreak in the States resulted in 25,000 babies born with developmental delay, deafness, blindness, heart defects or some combination of the four. 1% of all births in New York were affected by congenital rubella syndrome. FitzGibbon would take us back to those days, and a more focused campaign against childhood vaccination may very well be next on her list.

"You can't, she suggests, be too careful about what you put into your body. Aisling didn't get the usual baby vaccinations but was given drops at Manchester's homeopathic [makey uppy pretend medicine, proven not to work -GS] hospital and was landed into houses where they had measles in the hope that she would catch them and build up her immunity naturally [or die -GS]. (Despite the public health campaign, Brassil insists that diseases such as measles were killers years ago because people were malnourished and had poor living conditions.)" Interview with FitzGerald's mother, Martha Brassil, Comments in [brackets] mine.
 It seems FitzGibbon's opposition to lifesaving medicine does not represent a break from prior generations. I would not normally raise the views of someone's parent in a blog post but it seems reasonable when we see that Brassil is Girl Against Fluoride's campaign's Creative Manager and Writer. Added to this we see that mother and daughter's names linked to a campaign supporting disgraced former doctor Andrew Wakefield, who falsified research to pretend there is a link between vaccination and autism. He was found to be dishonest, fraudulent, and to have subjected developmentally delayed children to unnecessary invasive procedures such as lumbar punctures and colonoscopies. You can find FitzGerald and Brassil's support for Wakefield indicated on You can read more of Brassil's odd ideas about vaccines, including an echoing of the 'Chinese' view of illness, on an archived copy of her old site.

"The man is not fulfilling his role of feeling like a powerful male in his own right..."
Slight historical inaccuracy - Spartans did not CGI their abs on.
Spartans. Liked having sex with each other. Predate the pill.

If Brassil and FitzGibbon did not have such access to and influence over Irish politicians their views would be seen as merely comical. But they have convinced many TDs and some Senators that they should be trusted as sources of information.

Take Brassil on homosexuality:

""The men, in order to be accepted, have to be like these little effeminate do-gooders and I think they're living a lie. They're disconnected from their own nature. Not to say that they've got to be these macho people, but they've gone from one extreme to the other. I wouldn't be attracted to these effeminate types.''

This reminds her of research suggesting a link between male homosexuality and the men's mothers' use of the contraceptive pill." Interview with FitzGerald's mother, Martha Brassil,

I struggle to decide which error is greatest or in need of most immediate correction. To fully address the manifest errors we must travel back to ancient Greece, and test Brassil's hypothesis that men first found men sexually attractive some time after the invention of the Pill in the 1960's. We find much evidence to the contrary. What I find most offensive about her blathering is the concept that only fancying the opposite gender is normal, and anything else is a disease or aberration. This is not true - humanity has a natural diversity of sexuality. Men who exclusively fancy women are in no way the one true and correct expression of masculinity.

A close second on the list is equivocating between gay and effeminate. Neither are negatives, but it just plain ain't true to say they're the same thing. If I meet her criteria for effeminate I greet with relief the news that she finds me unattractive. And if I don't meet her criteria, I'll try harder. You might be interested in a radio discussion I had with Brassil where she repeated this daft claim.

As I mentioned in my last post on the topic, FitzGibbon was inspired to start her crusade against fluoridation by Barbara Wren, who pretends to have cured cancer using a combination of urine and castor oil.

What are Brassil's thoughts on pursuing real medicine? We see from her page on that "[s]he wants health care to move away from allopathic conventional medicine to a natural form of healing that addresses nutritional deficiencies, underlying toxicity and emotional blockages." She holds the same angel healing certificate as her daughter. It's important to note that allopathic is a makey uppy word used by homeopaths when they're referring to real medicine. It's rather disconcerting to think that, should she have her way, broken legs would be treated by woo merchants seeking out emotional blockages. She doesn't even make a vague pretence of interest in working with real doctors, presumably favouring her certified ability to redirect healing angel rays for all ailments. We can learn more of her views on treating cancer from the Independent interview:

"What if Brassil was diagnosed with cancer herself?
She doesn't hesitate: ``I'd go this path. Definitely. I wouldn't even think.''
Completely rejecting, say,chemotherapy?
``I would go along my own path. At the end of the day I think it's unwise for people to say: `There's no way I'd do that.' But I couldn't see it myself because I feel I know my own body.''
And what if someone came to her wanting treatment?
``I would treat them. I couldn't say I'm treating the cancer because that's against the law as such, d'you know what I mean? I have treated people who I haven't met until after they've had the cancers and they've come to me and they've been on that drug Tamoxifen which can have a desperate effect on their lives. Once they're on that drug you can't actually treat them because it's so suppressive. So they have come off the Tamoxifen and they're fine. Perfect. Because a lot of cancer at the end of the day is diet.''"
How much influence do you feel these two should have in public health debates? How comfortable are you knowing that TDs lend them uncritical ears? Please let me know in the comments below.

[addendum: I've been asked which TDs and senators. I'll try and get a complete list later today, but for now, see David Norris, Brian Stanley and Thomas Pringle on their supporters' page. Also see Luke 'Ming' Flanagan participating in their protests - thankfully fully clothed.]

[Further addendum: Brassil and FitzGerald are now selling a fake cure for autism. Perhaps most bizarre is its recommendation to 'feed' vulnerable children by pumping bone broth with salt and sour cream into their rectum.]


Daniel Efosa Uyi said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
John Considine said...

wow just wow, the part that bothers me most isn't that this sort of nonsense is believed by some but that politicians whose decisions affect so many are lending an ear to this drivel. Seriously! Also how this sort of thing actually rates a debate against proven science is just flabbergasting.

droid said...

Thanks for the doing the digging here Geoff. What a sordid little coven they are.

skobywan kenobi said...

I'm Irish and I just want to say that people like this in no way represent me or my beliefs.

Ronan McManus said...

I saw from the cached version of Brassil's site that she laid the blame for SIDS and non-hodgkins lymphomas primarily at the door of vaccinations. She doesn't seem to have passed this knowledge on to her daughter, who believes these things are caused by the fluoride in the water instead.

lauren owens said...

But what about Declan Waugh's Irish study showing the adverse effects of fluoride which was used to ban water fluoridation in Israel a few months ago???? The international trend is to STOP fluoridation. that is a fact.

Ark said...

Declan Waugh thinks aliens built the pyramids ( ) and wifi is murdering us ( ).

If he managed to convince some Israeli politicians he was legit it would say more about their gullibility than the quality of his work. Creationists and anti-vaccinations have both gotten a lot of political play, especially in the US, but that doesn't make them right.

jmullee said...

I'm still waiting for the bit where a purportedly nonsensical claim (e.g. flouride is toxic even in tiny doses) is demonstrated to be false via statistical analysis of multiple logditudinal medical studies, rather than finding someone 'agin' it who also has some other odd beliefs.

For instance:
Gravity. "Don't believe in gravity, because a lunatic over there believes in gravity and aliens". Not.

Ark said...

@jmullee That's not really what this blog is about, but I posted three such meta-analyses in a comment on the previous post.

Lorraine Mac Rory said...

longitudinal studies that I have come across definitely suggest fluoride assists in preventing caries, particularly in deciduous teeth. long term Fluoride exposure also seems to cause skeletal/dental fluorosis depending on concentration in the water and ingestion of fluoride from other sources and particularly in people sensitive to fluoride. At the lowest concentration that can effect caries up to 2% of the population will have fluorosis (jury is out on how bad this is). Personally I'd prefer to ingest my fluoride as I choose and risk the cavities in my deciduous teeth! lol! It would also be far better if we added vitamin d to school milks (preventing rickets) or folic acid to bread (help prevent neural tube defects).

Ark said...

Fluoride can certainly cause skeletal fluorosis, but not at water-fluoridation levels. The only confirmed side-effect of water fluoridation is, as you mentioned, dental fluorosis.

I agree that in an ideal world everyone would be able to choose whether to have fluoridated or non-fluoridated water, but unfortunately there's only one water supply, and the best way to cheaply deliver a reasonably controlled concentration is to just add it at the source.

Lorraine Mac Rory said...

it only really seems to be of significant benefit to teeth if consumed pre-eruption and immediately post eruption. Has anyone studied its benefits in adults? Personally I'd prefer it was added to something children consume (school milks perhaps) allowing me and other adults to choose our fluoride source.

Geoff Shorts said...

Hi Lorraine, a favour: could you provide sources for those claims?

Lorraine Mac Rory said...

Sure. This isn't the article I originally came across but it mentions the greatest benefit is from pre-eruptive (combined with post-eruptive) fluoride. It isn't hard to come across that information in articles about the benefits of fluoride.

This is an article on the problems trying to find an optimum fluoride intake to help prevent cavities but not cause dental fluorosis (remembering that we ingest fluoride in everything we drink and eat that use fluoridated water, along with our toothpastes and mouthwash)

WHO reports possible risks of "adverse skeletal effects" with ingestion of more than 6mg a day and a clear risk at over 14mg a day - unlikely with just fluoridated water unless you're drinking a lot, swallowing your toothpaste and eating mainly soup......

also estimates fluorosis prevalence of up to 33% in areas with fluoridated water (read pg 5)

Problems of the public having increasing access to fluoride toothpastes and mouthwash

Problems of making up formula for babies using fluoridated water with concentrations seen in Irish water supplies.

Ark said...

I don't see anything objectionable there - dental fluorosis is a known (indeed the only known) negative effect of water fluoridation, though at water fluoridation levels it's rarely if ever more than a minor cosmetic issue, and as you mentioned skeletal fluorosis is more or less unheard of in the western world.

The data on pre-eruptive vs. post-eruptive fluoride exposure is fairly sparse, and even that article you linked is fairly equivocal about it.

I sympathise with you wanting the freedom to drink unfluoridated water if you want, but I still think the data doesn't justify that - removing it from the water supply could still have a fairly big adverse effect on people's dental health even if it was replaced by school milk fluoridation or something similar.

Is there a particular effect from fluoridation you're concerned about, or do you mainly dislike the fact that you don't really have a choice in consuming it?

Lorraine Mac Rory said...

It doesn't wildly bother me - I have far more serious things to worry about! I find it very strange however to hear people strongly advocating its addition to our water supply.

On the pre/post question there's actually a lot of evidence that fluoride's main benefit is topical - helping teeth remineralise. Fluorosis however only occurs through ingestion. If true then regular use of fluoridated rinse would have the same beneficial effects as drinking fluoridated water without the ingestion.

Here's a study that found that approximately 12% of people have fluorosis serious enough to be "aesthetically concerning" from drinking fluoridated water.

There doesn't seem to be a clear reason for anyone to ingest it. There seems to be a clear reason for babies (in particular)not to ingest it.
On the choice issue - would I object to the government forcing me to take vitamin c or zinc to reduce colds and prevent loss of earnings by my absence from work..... yes! The economy could probably save billions but I would find it very and unacceptably odd.

There are ongoing studies into whether fluoride might contribute to osteosarcoma in boys. Another area of study is looking at whether fluoride might be causative or preventative in Alzheimers (because of how it binds to aluminium). Here's a study on how high levels of fluoride can disrupt reproductive function in men (don't swallow your mouthwash)

Is anyone tracking how much fluoride we're ingesting from other sources and adjusting the water supply accordingly?

Fluoride is not inactive in the body. Is it entirely harmless? Should we be ingesting it? Do we even need to ingest it in order to benefit? As long as no-one is sure I'd rather use mouthwash thanks!

si do said...

Interesting post Geoff. I'm glad you resisted the temptation to refer to Martha Brassil, as a Brassil Nut.

Ark said...

Sorry for the delay! To answer your questions: Regular fluoride rinses would probably be just as good if not better than water fluoridation. Administration of them would be vastly more complex and expensive than water-fluoridation, though.

There is also the added problem that intermittent, high-concentration fluoride rinses have much more of a potential for harm - it is very hard to reach a harmful level of fluoride by drinking fluoridated water, but a fluoride rinse would be in the region of 1000+ppm fluoride. I'd be vastly more concerned about a child swallowing that than I would be about them drinking fluoridated water.

I see no problems with the study you presented about disruption of reproductive function, but note the extraordinarily high levels of fluoride ingestion in the high-exposure group. It is very difficult to drink more than about three litres of water a day, which for Irish water would mean an intake of 1.8-2.4mg of fluoride. Even if we're generous and assume that you swallow a decent amount of toothpaste and you drink some very fluoride-rich tea it's still very difficult to imagine anyone ingesting more than 5mg in a given day, and sustaining that intake over a long period would be very unlikely.

The exposure group in that study, on the other hand, were consuming up to an average 27mg per day, which is way way beyond what you could conceivably ingest in Ireland. I don't think that study really has any relevance to whether water fluoridation is safe.

Lorraine Mac Rory said...

Hi Ark. In the study it counts high exposure as 3-27mg per day. The fluoride can be ingested through any foods prepared in fluoridated water, soups, tea, coffee and any minerals/juices made up from concentrate with fluoridated water.

Boiling and food processing can concentrate the fluoride. It's not so hard to regularly reach 3mg a day - quite easy to go over if using high fluoride toothpastes and rinses.

The study assessed effects in men who experienced occupational exposure to fluoride i.e. as adults. Is there a reproductive effect in countries where men have been exposed to fluoride since birth?

There are no studies which "prove" fluoridating water is harmful. There are no studies which categorically prove it isn't. There are studies which prove high levels of exposure are harmful in many ways far more serious than an increase in dental caries.

Is it better to have an infant regularly ingesting small amounts of fluoride or an older child occasionally ingesting a larger amount? Should parents get to choose? Children in a typical household have access to fluoride toothpastes and rinses at the moment in addition to fluoridated water.

I'm not trying to demonise fluoride but there is a balance between the benefits of fluoride and the known side effects. As people start buying fluoridated toothpastes etc the balance tips towards excessive side effects and less benefit from fluoridating the water supply.

Then there are possible unknown side-effects from long term exposure. Does it effect testosterone (effects on growing boys and male fertility)? Does it have a link to Alzheimers (preventative or causative)? Does it have other effects we are not yet aware of?

Fluoride has known and possibly unknown negative effects. It is most definitely toxic at high doses. All the negative effects are from ingestion. Ingestion is not needed for the positive effects (which can also be had from not eating so much sugar :-) )

At some point - as possible side effects in the population start outweighing benefits - the argument that fluoridating water is a cheap and easy solution has to start losing its validity.

As I said in the beginning, it doesn't bother me too much. My daily consumption of caffeine and chocolate most likely have much worse health effects than fluoride in my water. I would however prefer not to drink fluoride. I would rather use fluoride in topical form.

I would rather our government spent a little more and put folic acid in bread (neural tube defects being a lot worse than caries in teeth).

If there was a holy grail of tooth care it would be eating less sugar and not fluoridating water.

Ciarán O'Brien said...

... how the hell are politicians supporting this lunacy? They're just a few corpses away from whatever it is you call pretending to be a doctor and letting people die because you fed them pixie dust instead of medicine.

And corpses won't take long to show up if they continue along this path.

Gerry Byrne said...

Found this little gem of GAF being interviewed on You Tube