Tri-City (Pasco / Richland / Kennewick, 2001)
What is the value of an opinion poll when it is more than likely to be influenced by news media propaganda? How can a poll respondent make a rational judgement if they have been subjected to outrageous and heavily biased propaganda from their favourite local newspaper?
Such an example is the given below. It involves the residents of Pasco, Kennewick and Richland. These three communities make up the so-called 'Tri-City' (Washington State) area.
The newspaper which is read by a seemingly significant proportion of the community is the Tri-City Herald ("Herald"). It is this newspaper which appears to have bent over backward to help facilitate, through the newspaper's column inches, the misleading, dishonest and sometimes fraudulent views of the pro-fluoridation lobby.
Of the three communities, Pasco is the first and only (so far) to be fluoridated. The first indication of a push to fluoridate the Tri-city area was reported in the Herald on 6th September 1998. Other indicators may exist prior to this time, but the Herald's archive only goes back to 1998.
The story is entitled: "Dentists push to have fluoride added to Tri-City drinking water", was strictly one-sided - and strongly supportive of water fluoridation. This was followed on the 17th October by another deliberate piece of propaganda - but this time the newspaper 'took a swipe' at the anti-fluoridationists. "Arguments against it are "heavily masked in myth and rumor", remarked Mark Kreidler, an optometrist and former Washington congressman.
More disturbingly, on October 27th, the Herald reported on a Pasco council meeting which listened to representations from the pro-fluoridation lobby. No mention was made of any input from the anti-fluoridation movement. However, a derisory comment was made by Pasco dentist Spence Jilek. He said that: "Opponents want you to think fluoridation causes all sorts of problems" ... "I think they believe that. But they're wrong."
Nothing more could be found on the Herald archive until June 11th, 1999. It was stated that the "Pasco City Council members voted unanimously in November to add fluoride to the water."
Only a small mention was given to the Safe Water Coalition ("SWC") and the "little opposition" to fluoridation. No mention was made of the evidence presented by the SWC. Consequently, the article was again contemptuous of the feelings of those who opposed the new scheme.
An interesting and revealing postscript was published on 30th April 2002. The Herald reported that Columbia Basin College had set up a new facility at it's Pasco campus. The most relevant paragraphs stated: "Students, supervised by licensed dental professionals, are offering services at costs estimated to be about one-third what is charged by dental offices. Those include dental exams, dental X-rays, cleanings, fluoride treatment and tooth sealants. Fillings also will be done." And ... "The new lab at the college cost $600,000 to build and equip. Grants included more than $20,000 raised by Tri-City area dentists, $164,000 from the Washington State Dental Foundation and $160,000 from the Higher Education Coordinating Board."
Obviously, water fluoridation in Pasco needs a helping hand, especially as there is no good evidence to show that fluoridation works. Other methods have to be employed to boost the dental health statistics for Pasco and it's surrounding area to cover up the potential failure of fluoridation.
Before discussing the Kennewick survey, it is necessary to consider the further efforts of the Herald to influence the people of the Tri-City area with more heavily biased propaganda.
On December 29th, 1999, the Herald continued it's assault on the anti-fluoridationists. The story entitled: "Tri-City dentists fight for fluoride" was again dismissive of the claims that fluoridation could be harmful and persisted in publishing the scientifically unproven, anecdotal and 'inflated' claims of the pro-fluoride lobby. The only reference to the opposition was a mention for Senator Dan Swecker and "... an anti-fluoridation group that calls itself Safe Water Coalition of Washington.". The Senator did get the last word in the article, but it was mostly concerned with the possible effects of fluoride on salmon.
On the 5th February, 2000, a small mention was given to Senate Bill SB6665. It merely discussed the outline of the Bill and the prospects of it's success. On the 16th April it was reported that the Bill did not manage a vote. Although a mention was given to the dangers of "overconsumption", the Herald reported that supporters of the Bill stated "...that opponents were quoting bad science."
On 30th April, another small mention was given to the failed Bill. The only unusual thing about this story is that it avoided any controversy and remained impartial.
On August 31st, the Herald got back into full swing. "Despite opposition, the city council heeded the advice of sound science." they stated. The remainder of the article was, as you have already guessed, supportive of fluoridation.
On the 25th May, 2001, a small hiccup disturbed the equilibrium. "Water fountains off-limits at West Richland elementary", was the headline in the Herald. However, the story of a "spike" in the fluoride level of drinking fountains at Wiley Elementary School in West Richland was played down.
When referring to the filtering system being installed at the school, Laurie Ghigleri (Oral Health Program coordinator for the Benton-Franklin Health District) said: "... the district feels the school doesn't need to take extraordinary measures."
"The 1.9 is higher than the optimal level, but I have not seen any research that it is detrimental to anyone," Ghigleri said. "If a child were drinking water with that amount of fluoridation from birth to adolescence, you may get a little staining of the teeth, but probably not.
June 22nd, 2201. The Herald gets 'nasty'. Not being content with publishing pro-fluoridation propaganda and demeaning the efforts of the anti-fluoridation movement, the Herald now publishes a vitriolic attack from one of its readers who said: "There are anti-fluoride groups with SWAT team-like tactics that descend on communities considering fluoride and spread all kinds of erroneous information."
Its now 11th October, 2001. The Herald's Annette Carey, the journalist who is mostly responsible for facilitating the distorted views of the pro-fluoridation lobby so far, serves up another offering in the Herald. It's the usual thing - a lot of unsubstantiated, fanciful and misleading science. Kennewick paediatric dentist Larry Loveridge and Pasco dentist Spence Jilek, who seem to0 prominent in Herald stories, are the main culprits. Loveridge pushes the boat out a little too far when he claims (according to Carey): "Contrary to what opponents claim, "fluoride is fluoride," and there is no difference chemically between fluoride that occurs naturally in water and that which would be added, he said."
The simple fact is that only two types of fluoride are used in fluoridation schemes. Sodium fluoride and now more commonly, silicofluorides (usually as hexafluorosilicic acid - amongst other names). When adding silicofluorides to water, there is a problem with 'disassociation'. Because hexafluorosilicic acid is also contaminated with arsenic, cyanide, mercury, etc., the chemical does not completely break down in water. Even the USEPA has this year asked for help to try and find out what happens to silicofluorides when they are added to water. Current thinking and available science shows that only about two-thirds of silicofluorides disassociate and become simple fluoride ions. The other third form potentially toxic compounds. There certainly appears to be no evidence that silicofluorides completely disassociate - not that this has stopped the dentists from quoting misleading assumptions.
More relevant to the purpose of this publication, is the first mention of an survey on water fluoridation. It is also pretty clear that the questions asked in the following survey were leading and divisive. The survey, done by the Washington Dental Service, claimed that about 78% of 250 Kennewick registered voters supported water fluoridation. But the main question they were asked was: "to adjust the natural level of fluoride in the city's water supply to reduce oral health disease". Add to this the mention of a grant to pay "start-up" costs and you have a tasty plum. If this were not enough, after being fed more propaganda, the percentage of those supporting fluoridation went up to 86%.
On the 27th November, 2001, the first survey to come to the attention of the author was a follow-up to the 11th October. This time around it was the 'Tri-Cities Health Care Task Force' which organized the survey. They reigned in the YMCA to help. It is a typical example of the pro-fluoride lobby running scared. The story was written by Annette Carey (who else) who admitted over the telephone that the Kennewick fluoridation survey was biased.
Ms Carey was also concerned that none of the names she gave as contacts be "upset", perhaps realising that the bias that existed in the poll was likely to cause anger and anxiety. This view was reinforced by the lobby's representative, Laurie Ghigleri, who reneged on an agreement to provide full details of the survey because of its shortcomings (see letter, below).
From: [obsolete website]
Subject: fluoride poll
Date: Tue, 11 Dec 2001
Dear Laurie Ghigleri
Re: the Kennewick fluoride opinion poll.
I have tried a couple of times to reach you concerning the above opinion poll. Perhaps you have been away from work for some reason and have not picked up my voicemail messages. If you have been away from work due to illness, then I hope you have recovered and are now feeling well.
I look forward to receiving full details (a copy of) of the opinion poll as previously specified (a list of all the questions asked in the poll, answers, etc.).
Please note that if you do not respond to this e-mail I shall assume you wish to default. Either way, I shall be making comments about the opinion poll on my web-site. This summary will include revealing comments made by Annette Cary.
[name withheld], webmaster, [obsolete website]
No reply was ever received! Regardless Ms Ghigleri's reluctance to be open, honest and forthcoming, a similar result to the earlier Kennewick survey was engineered. This was not entirely surprising since 43% of those who responded had already been convinced that giving fluoride supplements to their children was a good thing. But the most striking admission came in the article which clearly stated: "Many of the parent-teacher organizations that agreed to survey parents included a pamphlet from the local health department outlining the benefits of fluoride. While opponents' information was not included, many of the surveys were sent home about the time media were reporting on the city council presentation against fluoride."
Is it not inevitable that a large percentage supported after being bombarded with one-sided propaganda?
One last salvo.
Despite the efforts of the Herald and the fluoride lobby to win over the voters, a letter was published on the same day that Kennewick council was due to vote on the issue. The main thrust of this communication was to ask the Kennewick City Council members to decide who they should trust. The letter was dedicated to the pro-fluoridation lobby without any mention of any of the anti-fluoridation groups or their science.
Its now the evening of January 14th and Kennewick council defeated the proposal to fluoridated by 4-3. Quite unusually, two stories appeared in the Herald around this time which did not display the usual overwhelming bias.[14, 15] But such a display of relative impartiality was unlikely to last and the Herald returned to type on the 20th January. The only difference was that the Herald 'came clean' and confessed it's own staunch support for fluoridation. However, it did display it's dislike and obvious bias towards the anti-fluoridationists when it stated that: "It didn't help that a small but vocal group of opponents cast doubt on the safety of fluoride."
Further mention of the 'rigged' surveys was also given as justification for a public vote. Public votes are democratic but only when they are exposed to a balanced argument, not just the outrageous propaganda put forward by the Herald and the pro-fluoridation lobby.
Richland is the most recent community to be subject to the scrutiny of the pro-fluoridation lobby. Having witnessed the disgraceful way the Herald has treated the anti-fluoridationists, it does make at least one honest admission.
The Tri-City region suffers from too few dentists, or not enough dentists who will treat children from poor families who rely upon state medical vouchers. An April 3rd, 2002 Herald article  summed up the situation in the first paragraph: "The Richland City Council will consider fluoridating city water in the wake of deep cuts to public health programs."
The story adds:
"Because of state budget cuts, the health district has drawn up a 2003 budget that calls for cutting a third of its work force, ending several programs and closing its offices in Richland and Prosser. The annual $1.2 million in state money is used to match grants or pay overhead, such as utility costs, so cuts are expected to deepen in future budgets. Health officials expect the department to be offering less than half its current services in five years."
This adds a new dimension to the pressure to fluoridate - a self-imposed form of financial blackmail. Such a drastic cut to dental health services is also likely to effect voter opinion to some degree.
In addition to this bombshell, the aforementioned article relied upon the usual pro-fluoridation lobby's pseudoscience and deceptions. One brief mention was given to the "many" internet sites which criticise fluoridation and a local dentist, Craig Christian, who expressed concerns about the processes safety. However, Craig Christian's remark that the type of fluoride used commonly in fluoridation schemes IS tainted, was reported in the article as "...may be tainted."
Hot on the heels of this article followed a letter published in the Herald on the 9th April. The author followed the same path that had been beaten by other pro-fluoridation lobbyists. Mention was also made of Richland Councilman Larry Haler and Councilwoman Carol Moser, both members of the Benton Franklin District Health Board. Let us not forget that Laurie Ghigleri, who refused to supply full details of the biased Kennewick survey, is the Oral Health Program coordinator for the Benton-Franklin Health District.
The Richland survey.
This survey was conducted by the Richland City Council and asked questions on a range of issues. The most important parts of the survey revolve around two main issues. The first is the "Sources of Municipal Information" which asked which 'sources of information' the respondent relied upon.The Tri-City Herald came out on top with a 'frequent' readership of 74%. This was followed by television (49%) and radio (30.2%). Interestingly, "Utility bill inserts" came fourth with 28.4%. The salient point is that with 74%, or 91.2% if you include 'occasional' readers, the Herald influences a very large percentage of the population with it's pro-fluoridation propaganda. It is not surprising therefore to discover that the result of the water fluoridation question is considered to be unreliable (see Table 2).
Table 1. SOURCES OF MUNICIPAL INFORMATION: The following questions are about sources of information on current events and municipal topics. Please indicate on the response sheet how frequently your household makes use of the following for information on city policies, programs, and services.
Please mark your answer on the Survey Response Form
A Frequently | B Occasionally | C No Opinion / No Response | D Rarely | E Never
... and please indicate on the response sheet how well informed you believe members of your household are about each of the following:
A Well Informed | B Somewhat Informed | C No Opinion / No Response | D Poorly Informed | E Not At All Informed
Categories were coded 63 through 76. Abbreviations are:
63 - Her - Tri-City Herald
64 - TV - Television
65 - Rad - Radio
66 - Vil - The Villager (Community Newspaper)
67 - Lib - Library Info Center
68 - CME - Direct contact with municipal employees
69 - CCM - Direct contact with elected City Council members
70 - AtM - Attending Council / Municipal meetings
71 - Cab - Viewing Council meetings on cable TV
72 - TIS - City's telephone info system
73 - UBI - Utility Bill inserts
74 - RPS - City's Programs and services
75 - CoD - Council Decisions
76 - BEE - Basic Environmental Education
Note - all sources are City of Richmond.
Table 2. FLUORIDATION: An issue that Council will be considering over the next few months is whether or not to add fluoride to Richland's domestic water. It is assumed that grants would fund water system capital improvements; however, ongoing costs would be included within water rates.
|91||Should the city be concerned with fluoridation?||61.9||38.1|
|92||Do you believe community water should be fluoridated||59.7||40.3|
|93||If community water is fluoridated, do you believe it would be beneficial to you and the residents of your home?||56.0||44.0|
|94||Do you need more information before developing your opinion?||21.3||78.7|
|95||Do you get fluoride in any other form in your household (tablets, drops, etc.)?||38.2||61.8|
|96||if fluoride can be provided to City residents through alternative means separate from fluoridating the water system, should it be pursued?||45.1||54.9|
So what did the Herald make of all of this?
It must be noted that out of the 1,253 surveys mailed, only 401 were returned. The population of Pasco was (at 1990) 20,370. Essentially, we are talking about less than 2% of the population. If you exclude those under the age of 18, which usually constitutes about 1/4 of the average population, you still have a response of less than 3% of those over 18 years of age. 59.7% of the 401 who thought Richland should be fluoridated comes to about 239 people.
Taking into account those eligible to vote, it is estimated that about 1.5% of the population said they supported fluoridation. Those against fluoridation (est. 162) makes up 1%. We don't know what the other 97% think.
The Herald translated these figures into: "Nearly 60 percent of Richland residents think fluoride should be added to the city's water,"
This quote was followed by the usual collection of propagandist claims with just two short lines of text which mentioned vague comments from anti-fluoridationists.
In a nutshell, the surveys conducted in the Tri-City area are not worth the paper they are written on. The Herald has done everything in it's power to put over it's own views and has shown contempt for the mostly valid views of the anti-fluoridationists.
Many people are aware how volatile the fluoridation debate is but not that many will be aware of the sinister implications of the Herald's stance on the issue. The Herald has become by default the main arm of the 'thought police' so vividly portrayed in the film, 1984. In this film, populations are divided and fed the politicised science of the big brother establishment. This is very similar to what is happening in the Tri-City area with the pro-fluoridation dentists and doctors uniting with the Herald to transmit messages designed to mislead the public and to cast the anti-fluoridationists as the enemy of the people.
This is not democracy, this is totalitarianism. It is also downright evil.