Science-Based Medicine » Antifluoridation Bad Science
*Mexikaresistance.com Note: Conspiracy kooks and Alex Jones fans can rant all they want. But it doesn't change the FACT that flouride works in a safe and effective manner. Education is the key to a healthy life!There is a movement in the US to oppose a public health measure that is backed by impressive evidence showing it is safe and effective, as well as highly cost effective. For as long as the government has supported this health measure, there have been those opposed to it, claiming (against the evidence) that it is unsafe, ineffective, and represents a violation of personal freedom and the right to refuse an unwanted medical intervention. I could be talking about vaccines and the anti-vaccine movement, but in this case I am talking about the fluoridation of public water supplies and the antiflluoridation movement.
This social debate (there isn’t much of a scientific debate) crops up in the news every now and then – mostly prompted by an antifluoridation activist or group making noise, or by a local referendum to block fluoridation in a community. Recently there has been a Harvard study making the rounds of social media, Developmental Fluoride Neurotoxicity: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. The actual findings of the study do not show that there is any risk to public water fluoridation (if anything, they show that it is safe), but the study was seized upon by antifluoridation activists and distorted for their propaganda purposes. Unfortunately, the internet is now fertile ground for the spreading of propaganda.
The NYS Coalition Opposed to Fluoridation put out a press release distorting the findings of the study. Their press release (“Harvard Study Finds Fluoride Lowers IQ – Published in Federal Gov’t Journal”) was then printed as a science news item by many online news outlets. Reprinting press releases, without any editorial filter, is a cheap and easy way to add news-like content to your website. The Sacremento Bee, for example, published the press release under their “News” tab. Near the top of the page, in small print, they did put a disclaimer (which is better than most sites):
This section contains unedited press releases distributed by PR Newswire. These releases reflect the views of the issuing entity and are not reviewed or edited by the Sacramento Bee staff. More information on PR Newswire can be found on their web site.
That’s better than nothing, but I wonder how many people reading the press release will notice and read the disclaimer. In my opinion, a news outlet should not reprint press releases sent out from advocacy organizations clearly intended to promote an agenda. They especially should not print them under the banner of “News.” The disclaimer is not adequate. The spreading of this “news item” around Facebook and other social media demonstrates this.
Before I get to the study itself, let me review the basic facts surrounding fluoridation of public water supplies. In the 1940s and 50s in the US there were major studies looking at the role of fluoride in the health of teeth. It as first noticed that too much fluoride, which occurs naturally in many water supplies, can cause a darkening and pitting of the teeth, now called fluorosis. However, smaller amounts of fluoride are necessary for tooth health and can help reduce tooth decay. Fluoride can help remineralize the enamel of teeth, to reduce or even reverse destruction by acid-producing bacteria.
The turning point in terms of evidence came with the publication of a study in 1950 – Dr. H. Trendley Dean, head of the Dental Hygiene Unit at the National Institute of Health published the results of a study in Grand Rapids Michigan in which fluoride was added to the drinking water of one community and not another. The study revealed a 50% decrease in dental cavities in the fluoridated community compared to the control. This and other evidence lead to the recommendation to adjust the fluoride levels of local water supplies to about 1 mg/L (or 1 part per million, ppm). Some communities have natural levels of fluoride in the water at higher levels, and these are often reduced. The decision on whether and how to adjust fluoride is made at the municipal and local governmental level – not the Federal level. Therefore, some communities add fluoride while others do not.
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