Declan Waugh is a self-proclaimed “scientist and fluoride researcher” who seems to spend all his time misrepresenting and distorting scientific literature and health data to promote his anti-fluoride cause. Waugh has an avid following, among fellow anti-fluoride activists and propagandists. The sad thing is that he “reports” do manage to fool some gullible people. The Hamilton City Council staff listed one of his reports at the top of the “list of scientific information” they relied on when they stopped fluoridation last year (see When politicians and bureaucrats decide the science). And the “Physicians and Scientists for Global responsibility, NZ” also relied heavily on this report in their anti-fluoridation submission to councils.
But Declan Waugh’s latest “scientific” gem is a real whopper. He has extracted data from a 1997 Finnish paper to produce “evidence” fluoridation causes all a sorts of ailments. In the process he surely can’t have missed the fact the authors found the same level of expressed symptoms from people who were drinking unfluoridated water but believed it was fluoridated. That is, the symptoms seem to have a psychological cause, the belief threat drinking water was fluoridated, and not a physical cause – fluoride in the water.
The paper is Lamberg, M., Hausen, H., & Vartiainen, T. (1997). Symptoms experienced during periods of actual and supposed water fluoridation. Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology, 25(4), 291–5. Or see the full text.
Here is the image Waugh is promoting, and which is being repeated by anti-fluoride propagandist. For example fluoride Girl tweeted this:
@FluorideGirl: In Finland they Removed #fluoride in the tap water…Look at the reductions in diseases in just 3 months or 12 weeks! http://t.co/Lofb16ucnC
And this links to Waugh’s Facebook image:
Seriously? Waugh’s bar graph will be interpreted by many as evidence 72% or more of people drinking fluoridated water report “nausea and vomiting” which disappear when fluoridation is stopped!
Trouble is, that image is extremely dishonest and intentionally so. Waugh could not have extracted that data from the paper without seeing and understanding the data alongside it for people who were not drinking fluoridated water but believed they were. He has made 3 outrageous distortions to produce his data:
- He has ignored that actual data (in the same table) for % reduction of reported symptoms for both the group that had originally drunk fluoridated water, and the group who had originally drunk unfluoridated water in the mistaken belief it was fluoridated.
- He took his data from the information for all respondents, combining both groups in the final survey but ignored the column for people drinking unfluoridated water but believing it was fluoridated.
- He then took a “percentage of a percentage” so that, for example, although the percentage of respondents reported “Nausea and vomiting” when drinking fluoridated water was 3.8% (and 2.3% for the group who wrongly assumed they were drinking fluoridated water) had dropped to 1.1% when knowingly drinking unfluoridated water (a decline of 2.7% which was not statistically significant) his calculation produced a decline of 72%!
What a whopper!
An honest depiction of the data would have included both sets as below:
Very different to his figure.
Lamberg et al (1997) concluded:
“Since the occurrence and mean number of symptoms were fairly similar during actual and supposed fluoridation, the results do not support the theory that the symptoms considered in this study are caused by the physical effect of fluoridated water. On the other hand, the significant reduction in the number of symptoms only after the respondents had become aware of the discontinuation of fluoridation reveals that fluoridation may have psychological effects which present as perceived symptoms.”
The authors did toss a small glimmer of hope the hypochondriacs who claim fluoride sensitivity is real. The differences in reported decline in incidence of ailments between the fluoridated and supposed fluoridated groups are statistically insignificant for almost all the tested ailments. The exception was for “skin rashes” and the authors say:
“However, the significant decrease in the number of other skin rashes leaves room for speculation, seeming to favor the view that a small segment of the population may have some kind of intolerance to fluoride. This group of people should be studied further.”
The again, it is not uncommon to get a false positive when considering a large number of ailments in the same study.
“Tasting fluoride” in water
Nearly 10% of the respondent in the Finnish study claimed they could taste the fluoride in fluoridated water – which is known to be impossible for humans.
“However, the respondents made this claim equally often during actual and supposed fluoridation. As expected, the percentage reporting this “fluoride taste” dropped to nearly zero during known discontinuation of fluoridation in March. The psychological aspect is further confirmed by the fact that the illusory tasters seemed to be predisposed to perceived symptoms, as were also those who regarded fluoridation as a bad practice in general.”
No wonder the authors concluded:
“it seems likely that the prevalence of the symptoms
considered in the current study is connected with the psychological rather than with the physical effects of being exposed to fluoridated water.”