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Anti-fluoridation crankery? How quaintly 1960s! I only wish it weren’t on ScienceBlogs

No, no, no, no, no!

I hate it when a fellow ScienceBlogger goes astray!

Fortunately, it’s been a long time indeed since I felt obligated to administer a dose of Insolence, Respectful or otherwise, to a fellow ScienceBlogger. It’s been even longer (as in, I think, never) that I’ve ever seen one whose resource I use regularly screw up so amazingly. I’m talking about Coby of A Few Things Ill-Considered, whose How To Talk To A Climate Skeptic (also found here) is a resource I turn to again and again and again when faced with denialist arguments about anthropogenic global warming. Indeed, I’ve been having periodic exchanges with a certain AGW denialist with whom I’ve tussled before, and How To Talk To A Climate Skeptic coupled with Skeptical Science have helped me enormously.

That’s why I take no pleasure in what I’m about to do, but two days ago Coby laid down a heapin’ helpin’ of anti-fluoridation fear mongering, chock full of dubious arguments (at best) that don’t belong on ScienceBlogs. Because Coby has been so good for so long in other areas, I’m willing to give him somewhat of a pass, but not so much that I will ignore or decline to rebut what he’s posted. Actually, it’s what his father, Dr. James S. Beck, who wrote the post and who has co-authored a book with well-known anti-fluoridation crank Paul Connett, the driving force behind the Fluoride Action Network entitled The Case Against Fluoride: How Hazardous Waste Ended Up in Our Drinking Water and the Bad Science and Powerful Politics That Keep It There, posted on Coby’s blog at Coby’s invitation, namely a post entitled The Case Against Fluoride.

Now, I understand that it’s Coby’s father and all, but he made quite the mistake in letting his father hijack his blog for a day. The hit to his reputation will be depressingly epic. Or maybe not. The right-wingers who don’t believe in anthropogenic global warming and would be most likely to be all over Coby for a misfire like this tend to be by and large, if not receptive, at least not overtly dismissive of the anti-government arguments used against water fluoridation; they may not take him on (much) for this. On the other hand, a lot of people who defend the science of AGW recognize dubious arguments when they see them.

Before I begin in earnest, let me just say that I really don’t have a dog in this hunt. I really don’t. (If you don’t believe me, search this blog for the term “fluoride” or “fluoridation.” You won’t find much at all, and most of it will be in comments.) Unlike the case with the the anti-vaccine movement and other pseudoscience and anti-science movements that I regularly write about here, I don’t have a strong feeling one way or the other about water fluoridation. I tend to go where the evidence leads me, and I realize that lately fluoridation has been questioned, given the widespread use of fluoride in toothpaste, which could potentially produce the same benefits, and increasing concerns about fluorosis. I get it. The issues surrounding the benefits and risks of water fluoridation are not straightforward. They never have been, actually. However, what I don’t get are the overheated simplistic arguments that come out of the anti-fluoridation movement. In fact, I had thought that the anti-fluoridation cranks disappeared decades ago; being anti-fluoridation is so…Cold War. It’s teh Communism, I tell ya! Just like Obama! Hmmmm. Come to think of it, maybe President Obama is the reason the fluoride cranks are coming out of the woodwork again. Certainly they came out of the woodwork in the comments of Coby’s post, and I expect the same thing to happen here. Perhaps we could have a contest: Which cranks are most persistent, tobacco/smoking denialists, AGW denialists, anti-vaccine loons, or anti-fluoridation activists?

Besides, Mandrake, have you ever seen Obama drink a glass of water?

And you do know, don’t you, the true purpose of introducing foreign substances into our precious bodily fluids:

But I digress. I ask your forgiveness because I love this particular movie and will use any excuse to quote it or use video from it. Just be glad I didn’t find an excuse to use the classic “Mein Fuhrer, I can walk!” scene or making some crack about how we “must not allow a mine shaft gap.”

Before I get into the post itself, let’s take a look at the main author of the book whose coauthor has sullied ScienceBlogs. Who is Dr. Paul Connett? I had, believe it or not, never heard of him before. Thankfully, the almighty Google is my friend, and it didn’t take much to find out a fair amount about him. First, take a look at his website, the Fluoride Action Network, for a minute. Coby’s father specifically mentioned this website as a source of more information; so I consider it fair game. Take a long look at the website. Peruse it. Feel anything familiar? I did. My pseudoscience Spider senses started tingling with a weaker version of the feeling I get when I read anti-science and pseudoscience blogs like Age of Autism–and with good reason too. One reason is right there on the front page in the form of 3,209 Medical, Scientific, and Environmental Professionals Sign Statement Calling for End to Fluoridation Worldwide

Oh no.

If there’s one very strong indicator of a crank, it’s the production of lists of scientists signing “statements” like the one above. For example, there’s the famous list of over 600 scientists against anthropogenic global climate change being circulated by James Inhofe (R-OK), which has been thoroughly debunked, the Perth Group signatories who reject HIV as the cause of AIDS, and the Discovery Institute’s list of scientists who dissent from Darwin or its list of physicians who reject “Darwinism.” If there’s one one major red flag indicating crankitude, it’s compiling lists like this. True, it’s not always a sign of crankitude, but when you examine the list and find out that most of the scientists actually don’t have any expertise in the field in question it’s a pretty good indication.

In the case of Connett’s list, we have:

  • 522 Nurses (RN, MSN, BSN, ARNP, APRN, LNC, RGON)
  • 458 DC’s (Doctor of Chiropractic, includes M Chiro)
  • 411 PhD’s – includes DSc (Doctor of Science); EdD (Doctor of Education); DrPH (Doctor of Public Health)
  • 356 MD’s (includes MBBS)
  • 291 Dentists (DDS, DMD, BDS)
  • 138 ND’s (Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine)
  • 77 Lawyers (JD, LLB, Avvocato)

Wait a minute. 458 chiropractors and 138 naturopaths? That means that at least 18.6% of the list is made up of CAM practitioners. Seriously. let me just put it this way. If you’re going to trumpet that you have all these “medical” and “scientific” professionals allegedly on your side, it sure doesn’t help your credibility to have so many quacks in the list mixed in with the real medical professionals. Make no mistake, naturopathy is a hodge-podge of quackery that includes homeopathy, reiki, traditional Chinese medicine and various detoxification woo, while many chiropractic practices are also highly dubious. In any case, naturopaths and chiropractors are hardly reliable health care professionals who can be counted on to evaluate science and epidemiology. Both CAM specialties tend to be anti-vaccine and anti-pharmaceutical to the core and can be reliably expected to be against fluoridation just on the basis of its not being “natural” or because it’s adding a chemical to water, regardless of what the evidence shows. Neither are lawyers. Come to think of it, neither are most nurses and doctors, either, and, I bet, most of the PhDs who signed.

In other words, it’s the classic appeal to authority. Dubious authority.

But what about Dr. Beck’s arguments, which are summaries of the arguments from the book he co-authored with Dr. Connett? His first argument is this:

Is fluoridation effective in reducing the incidence of dental caries (cavities)?

Fluoridation of public water supplies has been in effect somewhere in the world for seven decades now. Over that time the prevalence of dental caries has fallen in industrialized countries. This has been taken by many to indicate efficacy. But research has consistently shown that the decrease has occurred in countries without fluoridation to the same or greater degree as in those with fluoridation. Furthermore it is observed that in jurisdictions where fluoridation has been discontinued the incidence of caries has not risen. And studies comparing caries experience of cities fluoridated with cities not fluoridated have shown no difference, except where the nonfluoridated cities do better.

The answer to this first question is clearly no.

Well, that’s not what this systematic review says:

Fluoridation of drinking water remains the most effective and socially equitable means of achieving community-wide exposure to the caries prevention effects of fluoride. It is recommended (see also www.nhmrc.gov.au/news/media/rel07/_files/fluoride_flyer.pdf) that water be fluoridated in the target range of 0.6-1.1 mg/l, depending on the climate, to balance reduction of dental caries and occurrence of dental fluorosis, in particular with reference to care in hospital for those following stroke.

It was based on 77 studies. Multiple studies over several decades attest to the efficacy of water fluoridation in decreasing dental caries. Now, it may be possible that fluoridation of water is arguably no longer necessary in some communities because of the widespread use of fluoride toothpaste and other sources of fluoride, but to argue that fluoridation is not effective requires some very nice cherry picking of studies, as it’s not difficult to find a large number of studies supporting the efficacy of fluoridation There’s also the issue of better dental care. Dr. Beck seems to ignore the fact that better dental care is also associated with decreases in dental caries; it’s quite likely that better access to dentists and better self-dental care could have contributed to the decline in dental caries. Dr. Beck’s argument is as simplistic as he accuses fluoridation boosters’ arguments of being. Once again, an argument can be made that fluoridation may not be necessary anymore in some communities, but to argue that fluoridation is ineffective is just not supportable.

The next argument is that fluoridation is dangerous. It is true that one well known potential complication of fluoride therapy is fluorosis; no one argues that. The vast majority of fluorosis is so mild that it isn’t even noticeable. One can argue if the benefit in terms of reductions in dental caries is worth the risk of mild fluorosis at the concentrations usually used, but it seems like a reasonable trade-off to me in most cases.

More worrisome are the other risks Dr. Beck cites:

Aside from dental fluorosis, evidence uncovered over the last two decades has shown an association of fluoride in drinking water with lower IQ in children. There are over twenty published studies showing this association. In laboratory studies of animals and of aborted human fetuses an association with abnormalities of cells of the brain has been found. Also it has been shown that fluoridation is associated with high levels of lead, a known neurotoxin, in the blood of children.

It irritates the crap out of me that Dr. Beck doesn’t include citations in his post. I couldn’t look up the articles easily and see for myself. No doubt he wants people to buy his book, but, quite frankly, I’m not going to buy his book. If he wants to convince in the blogosphere, he really should include links to all the studies. Still, it wasn’t too hard to find the study claiming lower IQ, which appears to be this one. A quick perusal demonstrates–surprise! surprise!–that there’s much less to this study than meets the eye. First, the “high” fluoride group was exposed to pretty darned high levels (8.3 ± 1.9 mg/L, which is more than eight times the typical level in fluoridated water). Second, the error bars were large and highly overlapping. Third, the study has not been replicated. Let’s just put it this way: Convinced, I am not. A perusal of a few other studies didn’t look any better. Who knows? There might be a case to be made here; if there is, though, Dr. Beck didn’t really make it.

I’m also not at all impressed with this argument either:

The possible incidence of bone fracture with fluoridation has been studied with mixed results. One of the strongest studies is presented in a paper by Li et al. published in 2001 which shows a rising prevalence of hip fracture correlated with a rising intake of fluoride starting with concentrations comparable with those used in fluoridation in North America. And this is just one example that suggests that hip fracture is caused by fluoridated water.

The study to which Dr. Beck is referring is this one, Li et al, from 2001. I’ll show you what I mean. This is one of two “money graphs” from the paper showing the relationship between overall fracture risk and fluoride in water:

i-b88847ec4ca0656a66ff609279116c69-fig2.jpg

Notice that the low point of the graph is right around 1 ppm, which is right around where fluoride concentrations are in areas where water is fluoridated. Hmmmm. If you believe this graph represents causation rather than just correlation, you’d want to fluoridate your water to be right around 1 ppm in order to decrease the prevalence of fractures, wouldn’t you? After all, 1 ppm is the low point on the graph.

In all fairness, there is another graph that looks at hip fracture prevalence adjusted for age and BMI. It’s that graph that Dr. Beck appears to be zeroing in on, and it looks like this:

i-a1b30a3331a69b7036575d952d042213-nfig003.jpg

Note that in this graph only the very highest fluoride level is statistically significantly different than the 1 ppm level. In any case, this second graph is what we in the biz call a “subgroup analysis.” My guess is that the authors were either puzzled by or didn’t like the first graph because it didn’t show the expected association. So, as researchers are far too frequently wont to do, they probably started looking for subgroups in which they could find a statistically significant result that they did like. This is, unfortunately, how a lot of medical research “finds” statistically significant results, particularly in retrospective studies. Sometimes it’s dishonest when investigators do it; more often it’s more desperation for a way to salvage a negative study with some positive results. (This latter motivation is particularly true in negative clinical trials of a new treatment.) Unfortunately, subgroup analysis is highly dubious if the subgroups were not specified and incorporated into the design of the study from the very beginning. When they’re done post hoc, they are virtually always regarded with suspicion and their results as, at best, hypothesis-generating rather than hypothesis-confirming. Unfortunately, in the vast majority of studies, it’s very difficult to tell whether the subgroup analysis done was incorporated into the original design of the trial.

Then there’s the issue of the number of actual fractures that can be analyzed, which is very small. Indeed, the authors themselves estimate that a study of at least 400,000 people would be required to answer the question of whether there is a relationship between hip fractures and fluoridation levels in water. It would also require a different trial design, namely a cohort study. Finally, also note that this is an ecological study, and ecological studies are well known in epidemiology for producing false positives. I’ve even blogged about this, as has Epiwonk. The bottom line is that ecological studies frequently find effects that aren’t there or find larger effects than more rigorous studies later find to be supported.

Let’s just put it this way. Li et al is just not particularly convincing, and there are no others that I could find that show such a relationship. A quick perusal of other studies that I tried to find to back up Dr. Beck’s other claims–at least those that I could find without doing too many PubMed searches; by this point it was late last night and I was rapidly tiring of looking up Dr. Beck’s references–reveal nothing any more impressive than either of these studies. It’s possible that I’m wrong. It would have taken a lot more time to go through all these claims than I had last night. Maybe if I have the time and inclination tonight I’ll look up a few more.

In the meantime, I remain completely underwhelmed.

Finally, Dr. Beck argues that, because it is ineffective and risky, fluoridation is therefore unethical and, even if it did work, it would still be unethical:

Given the evidence that fluoridation is ineffective and that it is unsafe, the question of ethicality is easily answered in the negative. But even if it were effective, it would not be acceptable for the following reasons.

It is unethical to administer a substance or procedure to a person without the consent of that person, consent informed by a qualified professional who must answer questions from that person and who must inform the recipient of the reasons for the administration and of possible side effects. Such consent has never been sought from, much less given by, those whose tap water is fluoridated.

Well, yes, water fluoridation would be unethical if it were indeed ineffective and dangerous, but it is not. It would also cost a hell of a lot of money for no benefit. As for the argument that, even if fluoridation were effective, it would still violate informed consent, well, that’s actually a political and ethical argument about acceptable and desirable public health measures, not a scientific argument. It’s perfectly fine to make that argument, if that’s what you believe, but it never ceases to irritate me how, like “health freedom” supporters of alternative medicine, anti-fluoridation activists seem to feel compelled to make their resistance to policy sound like a scientific argument.

Of course, one wonders why Dr. Beck and his co-authors don’t appear to be similarly worked up by the fact that most municipal water systems use chlorine in the water supplies as a disinfectant. It’s in there, and most of us who live in urban areas drink it, and the chlorine left over is on the order of 0.5 ppm, which is on the order of the fluoride concentration. Why is it OK to chlorinate water to kill bacteria but not OK to fluoridate water to try to reduce the incidence of dental caries? Using the same arguments, why isn’t Dr. Beck arguing that putting chlorine in drinking water similarly violates the principle of informed consent?

Then there’s Connett himself. It doesn’t take much to see that he’s descending into crankery, if he’s not already there. For example, he’s shown up being interviewed by the odious promoter of quackery, Dr. Joe Mercola, who asserts that the real cause of dental caries is high fructose corn syrup. That’s not enough, though. Connett has also shown up on the web video interview show of the even more odious seller of quackery, Mike Adams. It gets even better, though. Connett has also been on the show of über-conspiracy theorist crank Alex Jones.

That’s not the worst of it, though. He’s been showing up around Autism One. Yes, that’s right. Paul Connett appears to be associating with anti-vaccine cranks. Indeed, apparently he’s worked with the even bigger crank Russell Blaylock.

Yes, yes, I know that just being interviewed by a crank does not necessarily mean Connett is a crank. After all, anyone can be taken in by a crank, and it’s probably impractical to vet every interviewer who asks to interview you, particularly when you have a book (and, more importantly, a message) to sell. However, there comes a point when the cranks interviewing you are so cranky that you really should be able to figure it out; Google is available to all. With Dr. Connett, there is a disturbing pattern; he’s covered nearly all the crank bases, even Whale.to, where he is praised, and Gary Null. Cranks appear drawn to his ideas, and he doesn’t send them away.

The bottom line is that I’m exceedingly disappointed in Coby for posting this tripe on ScienceBlogs, just as disappointed as I’m sure he’d be in me were I ever to do a post with Ian Plimer, Lord Monckton, Steve Milloy, or another AGW denialist expressing “skepticism” about the scientific consensus regarding global climate change. He’d give me a right nasty blog smackdown I bet, and I’d richly deserve it. I realize that we all have our blind spots, and, of course, this is Coby’s father who’s teamed up with someone who appears to be an utter crank to write a book. I can even understand how Coby might want to help his dad sell some books. But, damn, for someone who’s in the past done such a spectacular job deconstructing pseudoscientific and denialist arguments regarding global warming, Coby sure has gone down the rabbit hole of bad arguments regarding fluoridation. Worse, this is even in the case of a situation where, when trying to weigh the risks of fluorosis versus the benefit against dental caries, there actually is probably a case to be made that a one-size-fits-all approach to water fluoridation may not even be necessary anymore. However, such a case, if it is made, will be nuanced and complex, based on a realistic assessment of the benefits, risks, and costs. Dr. Beck’s argument was anything but that. After all, he did entitle his post The Case Against Fluoride, and there clearly was a reason for that, namely to argue more like a lawyer advocating for a client rather than a scientist soberly assessing the evidence.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

361 replies on “Anti-fluoridation crankery? How quaintly 1960s! I only wish it weren’t on ScienceBlogs”

As a 55 yr old, who has a mouth full of Mercury amalgam fillings, I have neices, nephews and workmates under 30 who can demonstrate by opening wide, the effectiveness of fluoridation of the water, HAVING NEVER HAD A SINGLE FILLING!!! Anecdotal, yes. The water in Melbourne was fluoridated in the 70’s and the decline in decay (fillings) dental caries, has been maintained. These kids don’t fear dentists, because most of them have never met one.
Get over yourselves.

Dude, what the fuck? Fluoride? Every time I come here you have some anal probe post up obsessing over some nonsense the rest of the sane world has passed over. Do I need to explain all the reasons why fluoride is harmful? Did you take a science course dumbass? Fluorine is harmful as hell. Try drinking even an ounce of fluoride, then tell me you feel OK. No; you won’t. Yeah, of course it will prevent cavities. It also prevents brain growth and health. Jesus, drink a gallon of bleach and you probably won’t have a cavity, but you might have some other issues, lol. You seriously believe all you’re years writing essays for comfortable professors means anything. Real life counts more than your stupid ass lab job. go outside right now and drink a gallon of sewer water, tell me that shit is healthy. If you won’t, you expose yourself as a hippocrite. Look around your body. There are shit chemicals all around us and your shill ass just sits here and acts fussy and condessending. D you realize your cover is practically blown? I can only imagine what your opulent ass looks like sitting at the keyboard with your cheetos. You probably also have Dasani water by you because you don’t have the balls to drink government subsidized tap water. That tells me all I need to know about you, ORAC. (B-ORAC). … Peace.

Dr. Strangelove? Really? The level of science at which this blog functions astonishes.

If there’s one very strong indicator of a crank, it’s the production of lists of scientists signing “statements” like the one above. If there’s one one major red flag indicating crankitude, it’s compiling lists like this.

Sounds like one of your fluoride defenders who had this to say:

It’s funny that over 90 professional health organizations around the world, such as the WHO, US FDA and Health Canada, promote the use of fluoridation for the safe prevention of dental cavities.

Wait a minute…138 naturopaths?

Naturopaths or public health functionaries. Oh whom do I believe?

As to efficacy

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11021861
OBJECTIVE: To review the safety and efficacy of fluoridation of drinking water.
RESULTS: 214 studies were included. The quality of studies was low to moderate.

Among persons aged 6-49, 16.0% had very mild fluorosis, 4.8% had mild fluorosis, 2.0% had moderate fluorosis, and less than 1% had severe fluorosis (Figure 1).
http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db53.htm

Assuming a birth cohort of 3-4 million and eliminating very mild fluorosis – because those with that condition don’t even know they have it – we have millions of Americans with irreversibly damaged teeth. A small sacrifice to the god of public health.

Also from the CDC

Adolescents aged 12-15 had the highest prevalence of dental fluorosis (40.6%)

—————-
I’m astonished at your cavalier attitude regarding the state’s damaging children’s teeth. Bring yourself back to reality and ask yourself how you’d like it it someone did this to one of your children

—————-

One wonders why Dr. Beck and his co-authors don’t appear to be similarly worked up by the fact that most municipal water systems use chlorine in the water supplies as a disinfectant.

Err, because the water is undrinkable without the chlorine.

Chlorination is the process of adding the element chlorine to water as a method of water purification to make it fit for human consumption as drinking water.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chlorination

—————

Dr. Joe Mercola, who asserts that the real cause of dental caries is high fructose corn syrup.

Sugar associated with carries? Outrageous!

In the last UK general election, my local Green Party candidate had an anti-fluoride statement in her election material. I was quite surprised that anti-fluoride-ism still has any currency, and I had been considering voting for her until I saw it.

Incidentally, isn’t it usually “flouride” in most of the crank material? lol

“Naturopaths or public health functionaries.”
No, Naturopaths are cranks. As are chiropractors.

“As to efficacy http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11021861
OBJECTIVE: To review the safety and efficacy of fluoridation of drinking water.
RESULTS: 214 studies were included. The quality of studies was low to moderate.”

I’ll cite the parts that you omitted:
“Water fluoridation was associated with an increased proportion of children without caries and a reduction in the number of teeth affected by caries.”
And:
“A dose-dependent increase in dental fluorosis was found. At a fluoride level of 1 ppm an estimated 12.5% (95% confidence interval 7.0% to 21.5%) of exposed people would have fluorosis that they would find aesthetically concerning.”

And the conclusion:
“The evidence of a beneficial reduction in caries should be considered together with the increased prevalence of dental fluorosis. There was no clear evidence of other potential adverse effects.”

In case you missed it, this is exactly what Orac wrote.

Drinking water isn’t fluoridated over here, but every single toothpaste contains fluoride, and I can’t see why fluoridating drinking water should be a problem (except, perhaps, a slight waste of money).

US drinking water has much, much, much bigger problems! Arsenic levels, for instance, are crazily high in many places. And half of the American drinking water I’ve tasted tastes horrible.

Sid [email protected]:

I left the comment about the number of professional health organizations on A Few Things Ill-Considered. It was intended to be a quick observation, not a compelling argument. Nonetheless, there is a difference between that observation and Orac’s comment about how cranks compile lists of professional dissenters. In both cases, the simple argument-from-authority angle is, indeed, a logical fallacy. However, public health organizations usually develop policy recommendations based on medical/scientific consensus, which is the outcome of the scientific process, whereas crank lists, as Orac notes, are usually comprised of people whose opinion or belief is outside of their area of expertise or study, with no deference to the scientific process. I meant by my comment that the scientific process has informed a medical consensus that fluoridation is a safe and effective public policy, not that the policy is simply supported by authorities. I guess that I should not have short-handed it.

Orac:

Thanks for the rebuttal post. When I read A Few Things Ill-Considered, I thought at first that the article was an April Fools Day type post or a catchy way to do a book review, but I was saddened to conclude that the article was serious.

You can’t fight here! It’s the war room!

On a serious note, thanks for posting the meta-analysis of fluoride’s efficacy (I hadn’t seen it before). It still surprises me how some people don’t quite grasp the importance of dosing, but rather that ALL TEH FLUORIDEZ ARE BAD. Though it didn’t take long for the trolls to come out from under the bridge, it’s logical, calm rebuttal like this which ultimately bears out in the end.

@Sid: See, cranks compile lists of professionals, which are typically small lists, given the number of professionals in the pertinent professions. Science-based people often compile lists of scientific organizations. This is very different (although still an argument from authority.)

BTW, I’m very dissapointed at Coby. I’ve frequented his blog from time to time for the AGW discussions.

At least they didn’t say fluoride causes autism!

@ Idiot at #2. Yes, fluorine is a powerfully electronegative element. This does not mean that in small concentrations it can’t do something useful (and no, not homeopathic concentrations, just to get that out of the way) Your point about sewage is a complete non sequitur, and I would hazard a guess that you have absolutely no scientific expertise, other than “I read something like this somewhere on the internet”. Had you actually read the post, you would have realized that orac posted plenty of links and cites that completely debunk your arguments. But, you were probably too busy chanting “natural, good! Fluoride, bad!” And yes, it’s an animal farm reference.

Ha! I see that everyone else has simply put Noddin down as an idiot crank (correctly) with no understanding of even basic science and passed right over him, but I’m bored so I may as well:

I’m not sure you’ve had much contact with the rest of the ‘sane world’, nor apparently with ‘science education’. Pure fluorine is not the same thing as flouridation at lower concentrations. The dangers of pure fluorine are indeed well known, the evidence suggests that flouridation of drinking water is safe and beneficial*

That’s the only thing in your entire post that comes anywhere close to making a relevant point, even if it’s a stupid point a child would know better than to write, so the rest can be safely ignored. Having said that, it’s best not to come in swinging, throwing out ad-homs and insults when you can’t even spell.
I’m sure Orac is terrified that people will find out he’s a ‘hippocrite’ (A hippogryph that criticises a lot)

*Not for the nutters out there who can’t understand evidence and risk, but there is a non-zero chance that evidence will acumulate and show that fluoridisation is not a good idea. As it is however, the evidence is not there, and scaremongering and crankery over hypotheticals is not warranted.

At least they didn’t say fluoride causes autism!

Yet.

If course, with Dr. Connett showing up on Autism One radio, you do realize that it probably isn’t long before he does say something like that, don’t you?

In any case, big surprise that Sid Offit is not just an anti-vaccine crank, but an anti-fluoridation crank as well. Crank magnetism in action.

Orac, it really pains me to see what an unfair approach you have taken in this post, it is a diservice to your readers. I don’t know what to say, especially after your kind words about my How to talk to a Sceptic guide. But what a crock of ad hominem, guilt by association, and irrationality!

Anyway, for any of your readers who want to think about it for themselves I will make a few specific points. A major thrust of Orac’s attack on this post is pure, unabashed ad hominem. “Paul Connett is a crank”. What did he say? Apparently it is uttterly irrelevant because he allowed himself to be interviewed by someone that we, at least, know to be a hard core conspiracy theorist crank. So I guess the argument is not even actually that Paul Connett himself is a crank, but he has been seen with a crank. Close enough for jazz and blogging!

We also have a more than healthy dose of argument by ridicule. You see, this crazy character in “Dr Stranglove” thought commies put fluoride in the water to control our minds, so …um…so what? So fluoridation is safe, I guess, or at least we don’t need to examine the science of the issue. Saves lots of time and effort, I like it!

What’s next on the logical fallacies list today…hmm. How about a nice strawman. The post being attacked mentions no list of people opposed to fluoridation. Orac does not know if the book mentions a list of people opposed to fluoridation (I don’t either). Yet we are treated to three paragraphs about a list of people opposed to fluoridation that appears on the advocacy site associated with the book and at least one of the authors. Apparently some chiropractors and naturopaths signed this list. Slam dunk! If a single chiropractor anywhere believes it, it must be wrong. We have 458 here, it will take 459 peer reviewed papers to make up for that one!

Next we are finally presented with something concrete, a review of 77 studies that apparently recommends fluoridation. But this is cherry picked because there have been many such reviews and they do not all agree. “The issues surrounding the benefits and risks of water fluoridation are not straightforward. They never have been.” said Orac. Why is his argument so straightforward then?

This I find baffling. According to Orac “There’s also the issue of better dental care. Dr. Beck seems to ignore the fact that better dental care is also associated with decreases in dental caries; it’s quite likely that better access to dentists and better self-dental care could have contributed to the decline in dental caries. Dr. Beck’s argument is as simplistic as he accuses fluoridation boosters’ arguments of being.” ?? Aside from the fact that the post being examined is a synopsis of a full length book, so how can Orac characterize what the whole argument is, I really don’t know what he means by this. The argument presented in the post on this aspect was:

Fluoridation of public water supplies has been in effect somewhere in the world for seven decades now. Over that time the prevalence of dental caries has fallen in industrialized countries. This has been taken by many to indicate efficacy. But research has consistently shown that the decrease has occurred in countries without fluoridation to the same or greater degree as in those with fluoridation. Furthermore it is observed that in jurisdictions where fluoridation has been discontinued the incidence of caries has not risen. And studies comparing caries experience of cities fluoridated with cities not fluoridated have shown no difference, except where the nonfluoridated cities do better.

If anything, the argument does imply other causes for the drop in dental caries, such as improved dental care, and not fluoridation, that is kind of the point.

The next point is about harmful effects. Orac includes this quote “evidence uncovered over the last two decades has shown an association of fluoride in drinking water with lower IQ in children. There are over twenty published studies showing this association.” and then, again I am baffled, he says this “it wasn’t too hard to find the study claiming lower IQ, which appears to be this one.” WTF? “There are over 20” What does he mean it “appears to be this one”. I will be more charitable to him than others have been to the post in question and not make an accusation of dishonesty here, but I will call foul. Orac expresses his frustration at not having the citations for the book, but actually they have been in the post as an update for over a day and they did appear in two places in the comments and I could have provided them if asked.

http://fluoridealert.org/caseagainstfluoride.refs.html

Next is more disappointment. The Li et al paper is mentioned again and the same presentation of that U shaped curve showing “optimum” fluoride levels at 1 ppm. But it was pointed out at least four times that Beck was referring to the portion of the paper about *hip* fractures, that graph is not about hip fractures. See here for a very substantive treatment of the Li et al paper, a comment that Orac should have been aware of. There was another from James Beck here also noting the distinction. Why does Orac put the U graph, irrelevant to the claims he is supposedly debunking, front and center? Yes, the next paragraph “to be fair” acknowledges that, but too late, he has already been unfair.

I thought I was done, but really the next bit needs addressing. On the ethics of this issue his answer is: “One wonders why Dr. Beck and his co-authors don’t appear to be similarly worked up by the fact that most municipal water systems use chlorine in the water supplies as a disinfectant” This would be a red herring, no? Yes it may or may not be another health issue to think about, but the ethical issues raised are those around administering medication, which is what fluoride is being treated as, this has nothing to do with chlorine for disinfection or tang powder for flavour. Can’t Orac even acknowledge the very straightforward and correct argument that is actually there?

Overall, I am a bit saddened by this post, I had hoped to read reason and supporting evidence. If anti-fluoridation is such an easy debunk, why all the flawed reasoning and logical fallacies? That is not a rhetorical question.

Yes, this cpncerns my Dad, which is why, unfamiliar as I am to this issue, I am starting from the assumption that the book is sincere and careful. But it does not mean I am impervious to sound counter arguments. So let’s hear one.

Orac, would you read the book if given to you? I would take your criticisms much more seriously if you did, assuming of course they would finally be substantive.

Wow, the post is just hours old and the idiots are already out in full force…

For example, here’s Noddin, #2…

Fluorine is harmful as hell. Try drinking even an ounce of fluoride, then tell me you feel OK.

Guess what brainiac, we’re talking about PPMs. Would you like to google that? It stands for parts per million, so to drink an ounce of flouride in your water supply, you’d need to drink gallons and gallons. You’d be dead from the quantity of water in your system before that. On and by the way, those PPMs? They’re generally out of your system before you get exposed again.

According to your imbecilic excuse for logic, because you can’t consume anything that would be harmful to you in quantities which you’re not supposed to consume it, it must be a horrifically harmful poison. But guess what? No asks you to overdose on flouride or drink bleach. In fact, there are warning labels that tell you not to do that! Are you aware of those? Have you actually read the warnings on your household cleaners and detergents? Or did you skip that part because it’s harder than just throwing a temper tantrum?

Tell me, when you have a headache, do you take two pills of Motrin or Aspirin, or do you swallow the whole bottle? Since you’re apparently alive enough to belch furious tripe here, I’m assuming it’s the former, and if you have enough reasoning capacity to do that, why the hell are you talking about gulping sewer water you idiot?

And here’s good, old, Sid “Forgot To Take My Rabies Shot” Offit…

Orac, too bad your here rather than at the beat-down I’m administering to you at…

Really Sid? You’re “administering a beatdown” to someone without the person present? Congratualtions, you’s just branded yourself both a braggard with an over-inflated ego, and a coward. Oh and your “beat down?” Yeah, not very impressive, just posturing, and repetitions of claims that have long been addressed. One of them managed to be somewhat valid though (the one about toothpaste negating the need for flouride in water), and was noted by Orac as something to consider in this very post.

Really, start paying attention and read the damn posts before you start spouting off as usual. Maybe you’ll even learn something, though with your track record, I doubt it.

Noddin:

You seriously believe all you’re years writing essays for comfortable professors means anything.

Sid Offit:

Orac, too bad your here rather than at the beat-down I’m administering to you at…

There, did you notice it? I now have compelling evidence that Noddin and Sid Offit are one and the same… Let’s face it, this evidence far outweighs their crazy ideas.

A major thrust of Orac’s attack on this post is pure, unabashed ad hominem. “Paul Connett is a crank”. What did he say? Apparently it is uttterly irrelevant because he allowed himself to be interviewed by someone that we, at least, know to be a hard core conspiracy theorist crank. So I guess the argument is not even actually that Paul Connett himself is a crank, but he has been seen with a crank. Close enough for jazz and blogging!

I don’t have time to address all your points, because I have to run off for clinic, but I find it telling that you only focus on Alex Jones. I’m afraid it was not just one crank, but many cranks, including Alex Jones, Joe Mercola, Mike Adams, and the woman (whose name escapes me) from Autism One Radio. I’m sorry, but when you associate with such people so regularly there’s usually a reason. Would you spare an anti-AGW crank or fail to mention it if he showed up on numerous conspiracy crank sites, like Prison Planet, for interviews? I highly doubt it. In any case, the major thrust is not “ad hominem.” It’s simply pointing out that this guy’s ideas are so cranky that the real cranks like him a lot.

As for the study, let’s just put it this way. Medical studies are what I know and what I do, and this fracture study does not provide particularly compelling evidence. Indeed, the second graph is what we in the biz call a “subgroup analysis.” My guess is that the authors didn’t like the first graph because it didn’t show an association, at least not one that they liked; so they started looking for subgroups in which they could find a statistically significant result that they did like. This is, unfortunately, how a lot of medical research “finds” statistically significant results, particularly in retrospective studies. (Damn. I should have put this paragraph in my post. Maybe I’ll update it.) Also note that this is an ecological study, and ecological studies are well known in epidemiology for producing false positives. I’ve even blogged about this.

Let’s just say that I’m just as disappointed in you for publishing such bad arguments as you are with me for doing what I normally do when I encounter bad arguments. I can live with that. More after clinic, perhaps, if I have time…

Why can loons never learn “the dose makes the poison”? TEK 2000 ASPRINS N TELL ME HOW U FEELZ!!!!one!ONE!eleventy-leven!!! LOL. Um, yes, 2 aspirin may help your aches and pains. 2000 will kill you. It’s only in your heads that anyone is claiming any medication is safe at any and all doses. It makes me suspect a small but significant percentage of the population (those who are conspiracy mongers, natch) takes daily lead supplements.

I would consider your equating fluoridation and chlorination of municipal water systems a false dichotomy. Chlorine is used as a disinfectant specifically to avert an acute health risk from pathogenic microorganisms. The effectiveness of chlorination (as well as the health risks, e.g., from disinfection byproducts) has been well established in the scientific literature. The same applies to the use of coagulants in water treatment. There is no looming public health disaster if water fluoridation were to be discontinued.

I would consider your equating fluoridation and chlorination of municipal water systems a false dichotomy. Chlorine is used as a disinfectant specifically to avert an acute health risk from pathogenic microorganisms. The effectiveness of chlorination (as well as the health risks, e.g., from disinfection byproducts) has been well established in the scientific literature. The same applies to the use of coagulants in water treatment. There is no looming public health disaster if water fluoridation were to be discontinued. In my opinion, the ethical issue is that a consumer is forced to use a nutrional supplement without regard to the daily intake from other sources. I guess the CDC has already recognized this dilemma, since they now recommend preparing infant formula from non-fluoridated water.

I have no dog in this fight either – my township doesn’t flouridate, my kids don’t have cavities and finally the kids in the next county that does flouridate don’t seem any dumber or have extra arms growing out of them.

But, I come to blog for well reasoned and researched posts on issues that I have no expertise in. And, let’s be honest, Orac is pretty funny 🙂

But, I kept reading this post looking for the smoking gun. I think that coby is right and you blew this one. If it was my father, I’d also defend him, but I came to the same conclusions that coby did (with one exception) that most of these arguments were ad-hominem and strawmen.

But, coby, I think you also missed a point. The monkey graph led the argument because the point was to discredit the overall quality of the study.

And finally – @noddin – dude, get a life. Just because you imagine orac with a bottle of Disani doesn’t mean he actually has one. And the same goes for the rest of your post – just because you imagine a bunch of stuff doesn’t mean it’s real. You are right about the real world actually meaning something, though: open your mouth and tell me how many fillings you have.

Coby, some of what Orac writes here may be guilt by association. However, familiarity with the world of medical crankery actually reveals that guilt by association can be a pretty powerful indicator of crankdom.

Indeed, this kind of thing often applies elsewhere. In an area you may be more familiar with, George Monbiot recently showed how global warming deniers are often people with pretty whacky views in other areas of science.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/georgemonbiot/2010/sep/21/climate-sceptics-evidence-gullible

I would consider your equating fluoridation and chlorination of municipal water systems a false dichotomy.

No it’s not, at least not in the context I was using it. Dr. Beck was arguing that fluoridation is a grave offense against medical ethics because it violates informed consent. Whatever the purpose of chlorination, the very same argument can be made against chlorinating drinking water. No one tells each and every user what the potential benefits and risks of chlorination are. Let me repeat his very own words:

It is unethical to administer a substance or procedure to a person without the consent of that person, consent informed by a qualified professional who must answer questions from that person and who must inform the recipient of the reasons for the administration and of possible side effects. Such consent has never been sought from, much less given by, those whose tap water is fluoridated.

Exactly the same thing can be said about putting chlorine in drinking water; yet Dr. Beck and friends appear not to be the least bit concerned on an ethical basis.

Actually, the “fluoride causes autism” cranks have been at it for quite awhile. Plenty of diatribes on this subject are available online – here’s one example (with a link to (surprise!) naturalnews.com).

I’m glad Orac has addressed anti-fluoridation rearing its crazy head on scienceblogs. I have to say though, that I’m puzzled by this Oracian statement:

“in the case of a situation where, when trying to weigh the risks of fluorosis versus the benefit against dental caries, there actually is probably a case to be made that a one-size-fits-all approach to water fluoridation may not even be necessary anymore.”

Is there a scientific consensus I’ve missed that argues against the need for fluoridation of municipal water supplies? Or that we need to remove fluoride from the water of communities where it naturally occurs at typical treatment levels or in excess of them (remember, this is how fluoridation got its start – the discovery that naturally fluoridated towns and cities had markedly lower levels of dental caries).
What does “a one size fits all approach” mean?

I see striking similarities between the antivax and antifluoridation movements. In both situations a proven, safe, highly valuable public health intervention that primarily benefits children is under persistent attack by groups that cherry-pick their “science”, compile lists of health profession-associated/sciency people who agree with them (heavily made up of those in quack professions or who are speaking outside their areas of expertise) and promote conspiracy theory garbage.

It’s clear that Orac just likes attention because he makes no sense whatsoever in his rambling post which I’m sure he hoped would incite much activity on his blog. It takes so little to make some people happy; but he shouldn’t be taken seriously.

Scientific American: Second Thoughts about Fluoride

“Some recent studies suggest that over-
consumption of fluoride can raise the risks of disorders affecting
teeth, bones, the brain and the thyroid gland,” reports Scientific
American editors (January 2008). “Scientific attitudes toward
fluoridation may be starting to shift,” writes author Dan Fagin.

Fagin, award-wining environmental reporter and Director of New York
University’s Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program,
writes, “There is no universally accepted optimal level for daily
intake of fluoride.” Some researchers even wonder whether the 1 mg/L
added into drinking water is too much, reports Fagin.

After 3 years of scrutinizing hundreds of studies, a National Research
Council (NRC) committee “concluded that fluoride can subtly alter
endocrine function, especially in the thyroid – the gland that
produces hormones regulating growth and metabolism,” reports Fagin.

Fagin quotes John Doull, professor emeritus of pharmacology and
toxicology at the University of Kansas Medical Center, who chaired the
NRC committee, “The thyroid changes do worry me.”

Fluoride in foods, beverages, medicines and dental products can result
in fluoride over-consumption, visible in young children as dental
fluorosis – white spotted, yellow, brown and/or pitted teeth. We can’t
normally see fluoride’s effects to the rest of the body.

Reports Fagin, “a series of epidemiological studies in China have
associated high fluoride exposures with lower IQ.”

“(E)pidemiological studies and tests on lab animals suggest that high
fluoride exposure increases the risk of bone fracture, especially in
vulnerable populations such as the elderly and diabetics,” writes
Fagin.

Fagin interviewed Steven Levy, director of the Iowa Fluoride Study
which tracked about 700 Iowa children for sixteen years. Nine-year-old
“Iowa children who lived in communities where the water was
fluoridated were 50 percent more likely to have mild fluorosis… than
[nine-year-old] children living in nonfluoridated areas of the state,”
writes Fagin. Levy will study fluoride’s effects on their bones.

“(G)enetic, environmental and even cultural factors appear to leave
some people much more susceptible to the effects of fluoride,” writes
Fagin

“What the [NRC] committee found is that we’ve gone with the status quo
regarding fluoride … for too long… and now we need to take a fresh
look,” Doull says, ” In the scientific community, people tend to think
that its settled… But when we looked at the studies that have been
done, we found that many of these questions are unsettled and we have
much less information than we should, considering how long this
[fluoridation] has been going on. I think that’s why fluoridation is
still being challenged so many years after it began, In the face of
ignorance, controversy is rampant.”

Is there anything sid won’t lie or otherwise demonstrate his dishonesty and ignorance over? If you seek the modern definition of cretin, look at him.

Try reading, and discussing, [b] all [/b] of the points of the articles you reference sid – you’ve been taking things out of context so long it’s become very easy to proof check.

So I guess the argument is not even actually that Paul Connett himself is a crank, but he has been seen with a crank. Close enough for jazz and blogging!

Coby, I know the book was co-written by your dad and all, but just because your dad is involved doesn’t mean you get to avoid reading the posts and rationalizing them away. If you actually read Orac’s description of Connett, you’d find that he is in fact a crank, and that he spends his time saying scientifically unproven things and promoting his crank theories on shows ran by other cranks. In fact, Orac specifically says that interviewing with a crank does not make you a crank, then justifies why Connett does fall into that category. Again, reading is good. It’s important.

You see, this crazy character in “Dr Stranglove” thought commies put fluoride in the water to control our minds, so …um…so what?

Ok, so no jokes allowed when making a blog post? Please do us a favor and remove the proverbial stick from its implied location. You and your dad are thin-skinned enough to take such terrible offense to a little humor?

The post being attacked mentions no list of people opposed to fluoridation.

And again, at least pretending to pay attention would’ve been nice. The post mentions the list because Orac was talking about Connett’s personal crusade, not the book itself.

Apparently some chiropractors and naturopaths signed this list. Slam dunk! If a single chiropractor anywhere believes it, it must be wrong.

No, but when you use them as an authority to uphold an idea that’s well known to be based more on an anti-Establishment mentality than actual science, you’re shooting blanks. That was the point.

Next we are finally presented with something concrete, a review of 77 studies that apparently recommends fluoridation. But this is cherry picked because there have been many such reviews and they do not all agree.

But most such studies tend to agree that flouridation is at least not making things any worse and is in fact effective at some level. Oh and by the way, you know that there are a lot of reviews about anthropogenic climate change studies that don’t all agree. Does that mean anthropogenic global warming is made up and we can just disregard the concept? Oh wait, your blog says not to do that and look at the direct evidence, not big reviews that may be done by who knows who! Gee, I wonder why that’s ok for climate change science but not flouridation?

again I am baffled, he says this “it wasn’t too hard to find the study claiming lower IQ, which appears to be this one.” WTF? “There are over 20”

I can find you more than twenty terrible studies on anything and then distort them by better fit my argument. Number of citations does not equal quality of citations. Again, you should know this.

The Li et al paper is mentioned again and the same presentation of that U shaped curve showing “optimum” fluoride levels at 1 ppm. But it was pointed out at least four times that Beck was referring to the portion of the paper about *hip* fractures, that graph is not about hip fractures.

Which is why the graph about hip fractures was then introduced and discussed when Orac was trying to explain the odd overal at 1 ppm. Read. The. Content. Please.

Yes it may or may not be another health issue to think about, but the ethical issues raised are those around administering medication, which is what fluoride is being treated as, this has nothing to do with chlorine for disinfection or tang powder for flavour.

But you’re consuming that chlorine. So when someone advertises a health benefit to adding something into the water, it’s a valid thing to discuss and when someone brings up that there’s more stuff being added into the water than just flouride, it’s a red herring? Chloride is certainly being used for your health here.

Overall, I am a bit saddened by this post, I had hoped to read reason and supporting evidence.

Funny. That’s what I was expecting form your blog too. Instead I got “my dad is so smart, he wrote a book about why flouride is really, really bad and is a giant conspiracy for companies to dump their toxic waste into our water, then make us drink it and think it’s good.”

If anti-fluoridation is such an easy debunk, why all the flawed reasoning and logical fallacies? That is not a rhetorical question.

Wow. Just wow. This is sad. So you seem to be unable to follow the post, call logical fallacies on arguments you haven’t read, then say that your favorite woo is hard to debunk, therefore it must be sound. Oh, here, I got one for you. If global warming is so easy to prove, why are there so many skeptics, and why all the passionate ads from environmentalist groups about AGW?

But it does not mean I am impervious to sound counter arguments. So let’s hear one.

Says the guy who ignored dozens and dozens of them and cherry-picked or dismissed his way out of every link he was given on the topic. You know, just like Harum Yahuna, aka Adnan Oktar, is willing to part with trillions of dollars if he’s shown one piece of evidence for evolution…

Oh, here, I got one for you. If global warming is so easy to prove, why are there so many skeptics, and why all the passionate ads from environmentalist groups about AGW?

Darn. I wish I had thought of that one…

Well, I don’t really have a dog in this fight either, but anyway…

I suppose you could argue that the consent argument applies to various other things, and you’d technically be correct. But what so often seems to get lost in these debates is the nuance of the nature and scale of the benefits delivered. One could argue that the absolutely massive benefit delivered by chlorination (and not achievable by any other means) is sufficient to justify the derogation of certain ethical principles, but that the benefits of fluoridation are not sufficiently great to justify the same, given that the same benefits can be derived by other means.

Questions of ethics are rarely as simple as we might like.

Once again Orac proving himself not to be a truth-teller interested in “science”, but instead a mouthpiece for the idiots in charge of dumping toxic chemicals into our water supplies. Add that to his defense of injecting newborns with mercury and well… It shows what a tool Orac continues to be….

@2

Yeah! And lets stop all those trees (and the oft-overlooked algae) from oxidizing our air! Oxygen is a potentially toxic chemical! Why is the government allowing this crap in the air?!? All you suckers and shills can keep on breathing, but I’m gonna hold my breath until you all look like fools!

Nyscof,

The thing about cut and paste arguments is that they’re probably not your best bet to counter an argument. If you knew the subject matter yourself, you could’ve written something other than a blithe dismissal followed by a Ctrl+V.

“Some recent studies suggest that over-consumption of fluoride can raise the risks of disorders affecting teeth, bones, the brain and the thyroid gland,” reports Scientific
American…”

Which is the same kind of science journalism that reports that a study that found a key acid or protein in tomatoes can help treat cancer means that you just need to eat lots of tomatoes to avoid cancer, and so on and so forth. Reports of studies are not the same thing as actual studies we can review. You have no idea how much dreck from arXiv I see being praised in the media as The Next General Relativity to End All Relativities.

“After 3 years of scrutinizing hundreds of studies, a National Research Council (NRC) committee ‘concluded that fluoride can subtly alter endocrine function, especially in the thyroid – the gland that produces hormones regulating growth and metabolism,’ reports Fagin.”

Oh God! Subtle changes in endocrine function! Get a worried toxicologist in here stat! Everybody, start losing your crap! Mysterious, unexplained subtle changes on which we’re given no elaboration?! Call the Army! Call the Navy! Get the Air Force! Declare war on flouride lest we all experience unknown subtle changes that “worry” a toxicologist randomly chosen to comment for the story!

“Fluoride in foods, beverages, medicines and dental products can result in fluoride over-consumption, visible in young children as dental fluorosis…”

Ok, that one’s actually a valid and reasonable point. We may be getting a little too much flouride exposure with so much flouridated toothpaste being used nowadays. But here’s the thing. Fluorosis isn’t that dangerous or that terribly bad. We may want to lower flouride concentrations to reflect the changes in our oral hygene regimens. But does this prove that flouride is dangerous and must be purged from our water? Absolutely no.

“Reports Fagin, ‘a series of epidemiological studies in China have associated high fluoride exposures with lower IQ.'”

Again, where are the studies? Also, you know, there’s a whole lot of industrial pollution in China and their flouride exposure levels could be well beyond what we mandate as safe here. Without a concrete study, this quote is a meaningless excercise in fear-mongering.

“Iowa children who lived in communities where the water was fluoridated were 50 percent more likely to have mild fluorosis… than [nine-year-old] children living in nonfluoridated areas of the state,”

Mild fluorosis that can be easily treatd in kids who get too much flouride from water and toothpaste? To the fainting couches and panic rooms everybody! The flouride menace must be stopped before it’s too late!

“I think that’s why fluoridation is still being challenged so many years after it began, In the face of
ignorance, controversy is rampant.”

It absolutely is. Hence the ominous quote in an overblown and porrly written newsbit, copied and pasted with no thought or critical analysis at all…

LOL! @ #33 and #34…

Thanks for proving the point. This blog is a hilarious joke. The minute someone comes out and has a different point of view (ie Coby, James Beck, Paul Connett, etc), it is met with instant criticism despite the fact that admittedly many of the “skeptics” haven’t read the book, haven’t researched the topic fully, etc. Sad state of affairs. There is no “science” here… What a misrepresentation of term.

@Orac. #30

Darn. I wish I had thought of that one…

Well, feel free to use it at no charge for the first five usages. Think of it as a gift from a fellow skeptic. =P

Figured I throw this fact out there but a lot of fluoridation programs entail removing flourine from the water supply. Its a naturally occuring mineral.

I am a former physician assistant and for 10 years I did pre-anesthesia assessments. Because patients receiving general anesthesia are going to be intubated, and those planned for sedation may require intubation, it was part of my job to assess every patient’s dentition. I know this is not scientific proof, but after a short time I could see a clear divide in the condition of the teeth of patients born in the US before or after about 1960, when fluoridation began to become widespread. I know the plural of anecdote is not data, but I saw this day after day, a dozen or more patients daily, for a full decade.

@36

I wasn’t responding to you but to the person at post #2 (hence the “@2” conveniently included at the top of the post), and my post was a concise rebuttal of his “IF YOU LIKE FLOURINE SO MUCH WHY DON’T YOU EAT ALL OF IT” argument. It says nothing of the totality of research on the subject, just the stupidity of that particular argument.

As for your “if you don’t read (book x) you can’t comment on (issue y)” argument, that’s a whole ‘nother kettle of stupid, but you don’t seem particularly worth much of a rebuttal. Just another whiney doofus.

Probably the saddest part is that Coby actually cited (in the comments) a website called Fluoridealert that actually has (among others) articles posted by known pseudoscience peddling fraudster Joseph Mercola. Basically, Coby’s standards of evidence are appallingly low.

Orac, I really like your blog, but I sense that you’re not too wild about those of us that lean right of center (as exhibited in this post). I’ve also seen attempts here to pin anti-vaccine lunacy as some right-wing manifestation. Again, anti-fluoridation lunacy is also a bi-partisan endeavor. In fact most of the anti-fluoridation folks that I have personally encountered are from the left-of-center Mothering.com “crunchy” mother crowd who would prefer to live in a yurt off the grid and breastfeed their kids until they’re 8 or 9.. and then switch them to raw milk. I don’t think there are a lot of Freepers in that group.

“… He’s been showing up around Autism One. Yes, that’s right. Paul Connett appears to be associating with anti-vaccine cranks…”

And speaking of anti-vaccine cranks, remember how a lot of the opposition to them is anti-polio, anti-measles, etc. and a small faction of the opposition to them is pro-autism (this faction I’d expect to turn antivaxer themselves if someone ever comes up with a vaccine for autism)? The other day I saw a member of that opposition promoting woo too:

http://cheetahchottah.blogspot.com/2010/11/loudmouthed-youtuber.html

“…It is a New Jersey mother with at least one severely autistic adult son. Now, I have no doubt that she is in tremendous need of help, and that could be why she acts the way she does…

“…[that same New Jersey mother] mentioned that her son still carried a stuffed bear and believed in Santa Claus, implying that it was a tragedy. Generally these are seen as child phases, and when people do not outgrow them, they are stigmatized. However, it is irrelevant to functional ability, and as a mother, she needs to be less judgmental. She could be fighting for the acceptance of harmless behaviors like these…”

So there you have it: how-dare-you-think-belief-in-antivaxers-reduces-one’s-credibility woo vs. how-dare-you-think-belief-in-Santa-Clause-reduces-one’s-credibility woo. o_O

@Gizmo

Orac has been pretty clear in the past that crankery (at least, anti-vaccine crankery) knows know political boundaries. He has stated that it is about as common on the left as on the right, whether it’s left-leaning crunchy granola types or right-leaning anti-government sorts. I didn’t see anything in his post pointing fingers at one side or the other here.

Well argued and rebutted, Greg Fish. I’ll have to start following your blog.

Dunc @ 31 “I suppose you could argue that the consent argument applies to various other things, and you’d technically be correct. But what so often seems to get lost in these debates is the nuance of the nature and scale of the benefits delivered. One could argue that the absolutely massive benefit delivered by chlorination (and not achievable by any other means) is sufficient to justify the derogation of certain ethical principles, but that the benefits of fluoridation are not sufficiently great to justify the same, given that the same benefits can be derived by other means.

Questions of ethics are rarely as simple as we might like.”

While one could make this argument, Dr. Beck is not doing so.

He is saying that it’s unethical regardless of the benefit.

That means being concerned about fluoride and not concerned (it seems) about chlorine is logically inconsistent. It’s this inconsistency that Orac was commenting on.

@Todd W.
I see Orac only commenting that the anti-flouridation lunacy will find fertile soil with “right-wingers” and those with anti-government leanings in this post as well as its roots in Bircher-types.

My other thoughts were more towards Orac’s post-election comment about his fear of “people like this” that will now be running the House of Representatives. Now perhaps I’m taking him out of context and Orac was just making a personal comment outside of the normal subject area of his blog, but I interpreted the comment as him lamenting the new page being turned in the presumed Congressional political wars surrounding science.

My first though wasn’t Dr. Strangelove, but this:

“And I say unto you, brothers and sisters of the Anti- Fluoride movement, we have this day struck such a blow for purity as will never call a retreat…. Out, I say, with the filthy foreign fluorides! We will sweep this fair land sweet and clean as a young boy’s tensed Hank. …I will now lead you in our theme song The Old Oaken Bucket.”

A well head is lighted by fluorescent lights that play over it in hideous juke-box colors. The Anti-Fluorides file past the well singing as each dips up a drink from the oaken bucket….
“The old oaken bucket, the gold oaken bucket

The glublthulunnubbeth…”

A. J. had tampered with the water, inserting a South American vine that turns the gums to mush.

— W. S. Burroughs, Naked Lunch

So do the fluoride cranks check their well water for fluoride? Or know that several municipalities in the western USA actually remove the naturally occurring fluoride in the public water supply, or know how its effect was discovered in Colorado?

Gizmo, if you consider Orac left leaning, than of course being interviewed for prisonplanet is not a problem, that must be a middle of the road website for you.

I looked over at the comment thread on AFTIC, Cody got Jen’s endorsement. Game, set and match.

Try drinking even an ounce of fluoride, then tell me you feel OK. No; you won’t.

On ounce? An OUNCE?!?

If you drink the reccomended 8 glasses of water a day, it will take you almost 43 years to consume an oz of flouride.

@ Dave : so I guess that means that some of us ( over age 43) *have* actually ingested an ounce of fluoride ( OMFG!!!!!) no wonder I consistently vote democratic!

I’m afraid I might have to buy the idea that lowered IQ is linked to flouride. There seem to be a huge number of people (in the US at least) unable to grasp even the simplest of arguments or or enjoy the least level of self-awareness. They are easily swayed by lies and often support causes not in their own self interest. I must now assume that flouride causes teabaggers.

So which part of consuming toxic waste appeals to people? What is it about these “pro-fluoride” people that drives them out of the woodwork to attack any criticism? They don’t even want to talk about it. Are they just concerned citizens that don’t like change? Are they jingoistic flag wavers defending the official story, as it has been sold/ingrained for so long? Will admitting they were lied to be so hard, so embarrassing? As they are obviously of parenting age or older – they have been telling children of the apparent safety of the water – all the while praying they don’t swallow the fluoride toothpaste – as it will kill them. Are they dentists or elected official? They too have been selling us on the idea of fluoridation for so long, all the while not informed of its effects on our bodies. Imagine the backlash from patients & citizens. Its like when doctors were selling cigarettes. Today we see though that smoke. What kind of person can see the absolutely no problem with adding toxic waste to drinking water?
(yes – toxic waste, as testified before Congress: http://www.fluoridealert.org/testimony.htm )
No need for a peer-reviewed double blind study to see the truth here.
Oh sure, there is a percentage of “fluoride” in it – (sodium fluoride or fluorosilicic acid) that is 85 times more toxic than the naturally occurring calcium fluoride found in some well water. Both of them contain fluoride, but they are totally different compounds. What loving parent would want deprive our children of this or cigarette smoke for that matter?
-v

viner, what offends me even more is the promotion – no, not just promotion, but subsidy – of another hazardous waste: acetic acid. When will we learn that Florida’s peddlers of death and their powerful pro-orange lobby are a threat to us all? Drink an ounce of acetic acid and tell me how you feel.

Just two quick points:

First, the anti-flouridation hysteria dates back to the McCarthy era, when flouridation was denounced in the screechiest possible tones as a commie plot and the first steps toward “socialized medicine.” It’s been a radical-right shrieking-point ever since then, and the reasons for the hysteria are psychiatric, not based on any actual science.

And second, if flouride is either ineffective or dangerous in our drinking water, wouldn’t it also be ineffective or dangerous in toothpaste? And if putting it in water violates informed consent, what about putting it in nearly every brand of toothpaste available in stores?

“Reports Fagin, ‘a series of epidemiological studies in China have associated high fluoride exposures with lower IQ.'”

China is one of the most polluted countries on Earth. Are they sure it’s the flouride causing the low IQs, or something else they’re breathing or drinking every damn day? And with all the flouridation going on in the US since the 1950s, why did they have to go to China to find low IQs?

“So which part of consuming toxic waste appeals to people?”
That something is the rest product of another production process, does not mean it is toxic. Furthermore, as has already been pointed out, the dose makes the poison and there is very little to no evidence that fluoride is poisonous at the levels in drinking water.

“Will admitting they were lied to be so hard, so embarrassing? As they are obviously of parenting age or older – they have been telling children of the apparent safety of the water – all the while praying they don’t swallow the fluoride toothpaste – as it will kill them.”
No it won’t.

So far for the parts of Viner’s scare mongering that deserves some kind of an answer.

“That something is the rest product of another production process, does not mean it is toxic.”

I think you’re confusing the anti-fluoride crowd with sane, critically thinking people. After all, a lot of them are in the same group of people who think things like vaccines cause autism, MSG is ‘poisonous’ (despite the fact that it dissociates into plain old sodium and glutamate ions in water or saliva), and that anything synthetic is pure evil (regardless of whether or not it is chemically identical to a natural source).

“And with all the flouridation going on in the US since the 1950s, why did they have to go to China to find low IQs?”

I thought the same thing myself.
My years of web browsing has convinced me that the US is the home of dumb. Plently of research material in some parts, I’d have thought.

I snickered at Viner, Anti Flo, and others. I bet they drink absolutely pure well water (which probably has natural fluoride in it) or, even better, go spend lots of money on bottled water.

And yeah, I remember hearing the stories about how the benefit of fluoride in the water was found: those who lived in areas with natural fluoride in the water had far fewer cavities than their neighbors.

I know there must be others here who are old enough to remember the days they came to the schools and painted fluoride on your teeth. My parents always refused it because our water was fluoridated and they didn’t see any reason to spend the money for this. Kids on the other side of town, where water wasn’t fluoridated, had it done and would complain all day at how foul the stuff tasted.

@cody – I would think you would know your good buddy Orac much better by now.

Orac’s 30 minutes of research on fluoride is going to trump anything a decade or more of research by your father or Connett has done. He IS that smart you know, pick a topic – Orac knows all.

Your father or Connett should put up a challenge to Orac to debate and discuss. That would pull the wizard out from behind his curtain, something we all know he would never do.

“So you think it’s alright to force people to drink toxic industrial waste then?”
“So which part of consuming toxic waste appeals to people?”

Even worse, that “toxic waste” is dissolved in…TOXIC WASTE! WATER!!!!!$! Yes, WATER itself is toxic!!*! Now some of you “smarty-pants” will argue that it’s the dose that’s important, but we know better. A POISON is a POISON!!^*!#!

Hope none of you are drinking that stuff. If you drink the recommended* 8 glasses of water per day, by the time you’re 70 you’ll have easily drunk a tanker truck full of the stuff. A chilling thought!!!

*a recommendation undoubtedly formulated by Big Water. Think about it. Why are the “medical gurus” suddenly so high on water? Hmmm?

So which part of consuming toxic waste appeals to people?

I use it occasionally as a muscle relaxant (when the NSAIDs aren’t helping). The effects on the brain (including lowered inhibition) also seem popular, but you might do better asking someone who doesn’t sometimes go months between drinks.

@Minnesota

You seem to think you’ve scored points chiding this blog’s author for his anonymity. You’re very wrong. The name of the man behind the blinking box of lights is a very badly kept secret. With your Google University education (that being a B.S. degree) it should be a snap for you to discover.

I use killfile for those few whose comments consistently subtract value from a thread. Noddin is one such, yet the familiar [kill] option does not appear under that comment. Does anyone here know why not?

(yes – toxic waste, as testified before Congress: http://www.fluoridealert.org/testimony.htm )

I briefly scanned that document and didn’t find the reference. Can you cite the specific quote?

Just the other day I found an EPA document that said Selenium is considered toxic in solid wastes, if it exceeds 1 ppm. (I was arguing the “200 times more toxic than toxic waste” gambit with anti-vaxers.) Fluoride in water occurs at just about 1 ppm, so I find it highly doubtful that the standard for fluoride toxicity would be the same as that of a heavy metal.

@fenton fomite – Thanks for the tip, yes I know all about Orac and Barrett. Ghostbusters – err, I mean Quackbusters. Very scientific and unbiased indeed, when I want information on fluoride I think of Orac… yeah that’s the ticket – looks like he also received his education on fluoride at Google U – unless I missed something in his experience about fluoride research.

Judging from the timing of his post, and self admission to having little time for this – maybe he did spend an hour on the topic. So who to trust, PhD with years researching referencing pages of studies or… ORAC yes of course!

It makes me suspect a small but significant percentage of the population (those who are conspiracy mongers, natch) takes daily lead supplements.

They should try *activated* lead supplements. It’ll cure what’s wrong with them!

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