Anti-fluoride advert ruled 'socially irresponsible'

The ad appeared on posters around Dunedin and in the Dominion Post.
The ad appeared on posters around Dunedin and in the Dominion Post. Photo credit: Reddit/9bpabz

Multiple complaints about an advert claiming fluoridated water lowered children's IQ have been upheld, in part.

The newspaper advertisement was paid for by advocacy group Fluoride Free NZ, and read: "Fluoride is a Neurotoxin that Reduces Children's IQ," and showed a picture of child with a glass of water. The ad appeared in the Dominion Post on September 3, and also on posters around Dunedin in August.

Seven complaints were filed, claiming it was "scaremongering and misleading", there's no evidence it has an effect on IQ at the levels found in the water supply and it "could result in a significant cost to public health if readers are unduly frightened by this hyperbolic claim".

Fluoride Free NZ claimed it had a "social responsibility to advise the general public that fluoride has been found to be a neurotoxin", and was trying to advertise a presentation by "world experts on fluoride".

The Advertising Standards Authority board said the advertisement wouldn't mislead people because "the advertiser did provide a level of substantiation for the claims made, and, in the context of an advocacy advertisement, this was deemed sufficient".

But it did say the ad "did unjustifiably play on fear because the combined effect of the photo of the child drinking a glass of water, along with the text, 'Fluoride is a Neurotoxin that reduces Children's IQ' created the impression that this is a likely outcome from drinking fluoridated water in New Zealand".

"This implication is not adequately supported by the substantiation provided by the advertiser and the resulting effect was socially irresponsible."

A 2014 report commissioned by the then-Prime Minister's Chief Science Advisor Sir Peter Gluckman and the Royal Society of New Zealand found fluoridation of water at the established levels in New Zealand had broad benefits for dental health.

It concluded there were no adverse effects on health as a result of fluoridating public water supplies.