Category Archives: New Zealand

Elected officials must ignore activists and listen to own voters

Seel

Karen Williams Seel, a member of the county board of commissioners in Pinellas County, Fla.

A recent US blog article made some very pertinent points about the role of elected officials, such a local body councillors, on important social health issues like fluoridation.  These officials have a responsibilty to avoid pressure from misinfomred activists and must instead  listen to their constituents.

Karen Williams Seel, who wrote the article Fluoridation: Elected officials have a critical duty is a member of the county board of commissioners in Pinellas County, Fla., USA. Three years ago, the board voted 4-3 to stop fluoridating its water supply but reversed that decision in 2012 after voters defeated two incumbent commissioners who had voted against fluoridation. In both instances, Seel voted in favor of fluoridation.

She wrote:

“As Americans increasingly seek health information online, elected officials and other policymakers need to recognize that anti-fluoride activists have created a web-based panoply of false fears. For many fluoride critics, these online messages are the source of their concerns. This spring, for instance, a New York resident wrote a letter to his local newspaper, saying he “was surfing the Web and came across information on water fluoridation and the dangers that lie within this practice.”

And

“Public officials have a responsibility to listen to their constituents. We also have a duty to not allow false fear to drive public health decisions. We should direct our constituents to reputable websites like these sites. We shouldn’t let “guess what I read on the internet” be the reason that we abandon a proven, safe practice like water fluoridation.”

Rotorua District Councillors should take Seel’s points on board as they confront their own decisions about Rotorua’s fluoridation and how to consult citizens on it (see Council votes for referendum on fluoridation).

They should also beware of the”Tribunal” trap the Hamilton City Council fell into which effectively led to them being captured by politically and ideologically motivated anti-fluoridation activists, ignoring the information from scientific and health professionals, and ignoring the views of voters. A mistake which eventually led to pressure for another referendum and a reversal of the council’s faulty decision.

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The irony of some peer-review and citation complaints

peer_review

Anti-fluoridation propagandists and other promoters of pseudoscience have a sort of “love-hate” attitude towards science and the scientific literature.

On the one hand they love to cite scientific papers they claim support their message. Very often the citation is completely unwarranted, misrepresents the paper or even distorts the findings reported. Declan Waugh stands out as a repeat offender of such misrepresentation and distortion of the literature on the fluoride issue.

But, on the other hand they sort of recognise that they cannot rely on support from the scientific literature so will often denigrate the scientific process. Sort of having a bob each way.

A sordid affair

“Penelope Paisley” at Fluoride Free Hamilton NZ  is indulging in the latter by posting a link to a news report about exposure of a “peer review  and citation ring” at the Journal of Vibration and Control (JVC). This was reported at Retraction Watch in its article SAGE Publications busts “peer review and citation ring,” 60 papers retracted.

Besides retraction of the 60 papers this exposure led to the editor in chief of the journal resigning and a  professor in Taiwan who was responsible for the ring resigning from his employment.

A sordid affair which unfortunately does happen from time to time in the scientific community. We are, after all, human.

But it is ironic for local anti-fluoride propagandists to “point the finger” at this case. Periodically they promote “their own” peer-reviewed paper from a journal with a somewhat similar scandal. I wrote about this in Peer review, shonky journals and misrepresenting fluoride science.

The hypocrisy of the complaint

The paper is Peckham & Awofeso (2014), Water Fluoridation: A Critical Review of the Physiological Effects of Ingested Fluoride as a Public Health Intervention, The Scientific World Journal Volume 2014 (2014). It has been heavily promoted in the anti-fluoride social media –  “natural” health web sites, blogs, Facebook pages and Twitter.

However, The Scientific World Journal was described as a” bottom feeding” journal because of its approach to peer review and citation.  It relies on author fees, and not subscriptions, and is therefore open to the charge that it provides an easy way for unscrupulous authors to buy space for their articles. It was banned from lists of impact ratings because it allowed the unethical practice of self-citation.

So there is one irony in anti-fluoride propagandists’ exposure of  a shoddy incident in science publishing – they happy to use it to attack the scientific publishing process in general while on the other hand giving support to a similar shoddy case because it supports their word-view.

But there is another irony. “Penelope” is the on-line name used by Lynn Jordan – the  Fluoride Free NZ Committee member for Wellington. She also practices as a  cranio-sacral therapist in Wellington. Cranial-sacral therapy is an alternative or “natural” therapy which Edzard Ernst  described as more or less bogus (see Up the garden path: craniosacral therapy). I imagine that “Penelope” consults very few peer-reviewed scientific journals as part of her job. More likely she relies on “natural” health and pseudoscientific publications and on-line sites.

The irony here is that the “natural” health and pseudoscience publication industry will never have a scandal involving peer review and citation. Peer review and responsible citation is completely outside the ethos that guides them.

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Ken Ring pontificates on climate change

Another of Ken Ring’s “self help” books – Pawmistry: How to Read Your Cat’s Paws

Ken Ring runs a business predicting the weather. Apparently in that sort of business, and with the clients he has, conflict with evidence-based science and scientists is good for business. So,  it isn’t not surprising to find him trolling the internet debating issues from weather and climate change to earthquakes.

But his contribution to a recent debate on the NZ Skeptics Facebook page is a shocker. Here is his simple experiment proving that carbon dioxide does not influence climate and anthropogenic climate change is a fraud:

  • Ken Ring “Christopher, no, CO2 does not affect temperature at all. A bottle of Coke won’t warm a room, but a warmer room will increase the pressure of CO2 in the bottle. 

And just to dig the hole even deeper he adds:

  • Ken Ring “Ok William, just shake the bottle of Coke in a cold room and then open it. See if it warms the room. Then shake one in a warm room and open it. Note the difference. James, there is hardly any CO2 in the atmosphere. Roughly 99% of all the CO2 in the world is in the ocean or in the ground. Tiny fact you may have overlooked.”
Not the sort of thing that should inspire confidence of his scientific skills amongst prospective customers. But then again, with some people this sort of thing goes down well.

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June ’14 – NZ blogs sitemeter ranking

blogranks

There are now over 300 blogs on the list, although I am weeding out those which are no longer active or have removed public access to sitemeters. (Let me know if I weed out yours by mistake, or get your stats wrong).

Every month I get queries from people wanting their own blog included. I encourage and am happy to respond to queries but have prepared a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) people can check out. Have a look at NZ Blog Rankings FAQ. This is particularly helpful to those wondering how to set up sitemeters.

Please note, the system is automatic and relies on blogs having sitemeters which allow public access to the stats.

Here are the rankings of New Zealand blogs with publicly available statistics for June 2014. Ranking is by visit numbers. I have listed the blogs in the table below, together with monthly visits and page view numbers.

Meanwhile I am still keen to hear of any other blogs with publicly available sitemeter or visitor stats that I have missed. Contact me if you know of any or wish help adding publicly available stats to your bog.

You can see data for previous months at Blog Ranks

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Find out how to get Subscription & email updates

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Toxicity is in the dose or concentration of fluoride

FKANI came across a new organisation, the Fluoride Knowledge & Action Network, the other day. I first thought this is another one of those fluoride free activist groups and it is probably part of Paul Connett’s Worldwide Alliance to End Fluoridation. Digging a little deeper I was pleased to see it did not belong to this alliance, which is really just the anti-fluoride equivalent of the Comintern or the Fourth international.

In fact the Fluoride Knowledge & Action Network is an Indian organisation and describes itself as “a network of passionate people interested in finding solutions and improving awareness for the Fluorosis problem in Rural communities by working on safer water & better nutrition.”

So it’s not another one of these political activist anti-fluoride groups we have become so used to here. It is actually concerned with a real problem caused by excessive fluoride in water and diets which can cause severe dental fluorosis and skeletal fluorosis. These are real problems in parts of India, China,  Africa and the Middle East. They are not a problem in New Zealand and are not caused by fluoride at the optimum concentrations used in water fluoridation.

So, I wish the Fluoride Knowledge and Action Network well in their future activity. They are dealing with an important problem in their area and hopefully won’t get diverted by Connett’s organisation. I think that is a possibility because the fluoride free groups, and the “scientific” journal Fluoride they love to quote, does try to make capital out of these real problems by arguing that they are also a problem with fluoridation in countries like New Zealand. They aren’t.

Most of us understand the concept of “too much of a good thing.” This is also true with diet and with essential and beneficial micro-nutrients and micro-elements.  So it is not surprising to realise that, like selenium, fluoride can also be toxic at high concentrations but beneficial at lower concentrations.

Misrepresenting toxicity of fluoride

Trouble is, political activists opposing fluoridation often resort to using high dose, or high concentration, situations to argue against fluoridation. Here are a few example I came across today while browsing social media.

Remember – the optimum concentration for fluoridation of community water supplies is 0.7 ppm F.

Here’s a couple  of papers promoted by Carol Kopf, the Media Director of Paul Connett’s Fluoride Action Network. She uses the Twitter account @nyscof – the New York Coalition Opposed to Fluoridation, Inc.

  1. Zhou, Y., Qiu, Y., He, J., Chen, X., Ding, Y., Wang, Y., & Liu, X. (2013). The toxicity mechanism of sodium fluoride on fertility in female rats. Food and Chemical Toxicology : An International Journal Published for the British Industrial Biological Research Association, 62, 566–72.

    These workers reported harmful effects of sodium fluoride on rats supplied with drinking water containing 100 and 200 ppm F.

  2. Simon, M. J. K., Beil, F. T., Rüther, W., Busse, B., Koehne, T., Steiner, M., … Oheim, R. (2014). High fluoride and low calcium levels in drinking water is associated with low bone mass, reduced bone quality and fragility fractures in sheep. Osteoporosis International : A Journal Established as Result of Cooperation between the European Foundation for Osteoporosis and the National Osteoporosis Foundation of the USA, 25(7), 1891–903.

    The paper reported negative effects on sheep in the Kalahari Desert, Namibia, which were drinking water containing about 10 ppm F.

Fluoride Free Hamilton often quotes “natural” or alternative health sources. Here they link to the article Fluorides: The neurotoxins in water and toothpaste. Trouble is they raise the bogey of high fluoride concentrations (in India) and link it to  flawed work claiming fluoride is a neurotoxin:

“Here in India at least 20 states, including Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Mahatrashtra and Punjab are victims of elevated fluoride levels.”Fluorides are known to cause brain toxicity and neurological symptoms in humans,” said Philippe Grandjean, adjunct professor of environmental health at HSPH”

See Repeating bad science on fluoride for my comments on Grandjean’s paper.

Fluoride Free NZ is just as bad (well they are the same organisation and people). Fluoride Free Hamilton via Declan Waugh was recently fear-mongering about fluoride claiming it could be causing depression. They posed the question:

Have you noticed how many people who kill themselves are on anti-depressants? Prozac for one, has fluoride compounds in it. I wonder if there is any connection?

And cited to this paper:

O’Hara, P. J., Fraser, A. J., & James, M. P. (1982). Superphosphate poisoning of sheep: the role of fluoride. New Zealand Veterinary Journal, 30(12), 199–201. doi:10.1080/00480169.1982.34940

Simply reading the abstract shows this paper is not relevant to fluoridation. It says, in part, “A lethal dose of NaF caused severe depression, salivation, hyperpnoea, blindness, ataxia and incoordination. Death ensued three to 52 hours after dosing.” This paper described research into superphosphate poisoning of animals forced to graze freshly topdressed short pastures.

I have a picture of a poor sheep which has been poisoned and is lethargically sitting around waiting to die. But evidence for human depression! Come off it.

There is a lesson here of course. Be very wary of anti-fluoridation activists citing scientific papers as evidence for fluoridation being toxic. In most cases they will be using the evidence obtained from studies using much higher concentrations than used in community water fluoridation.

Concentration does make a difference – don’t be fooled.

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Councils and scientists targeted by anti-fluoride activists

Are ducks somehow connected to the anti-fluoridation  movement? Sure – they do have unsinkable rubber ducks in common. But I am thinking of how media coverage of anti-fluoridation activity and the opening of the duck shooting season peaks annually about May.

The seasonal airing of the fluoridation issue is directly connected to council timetables. Councils consider and decide on their draft annual plans about that time. And of course anti-fluoridation activists take advantage of this to make large numbers of submissions and to dominate council hearings on the plans. That’s not to say these activists are inactive the rest of the year. There are submissions to prepare, supporters to mobilise and the never-ending promotion of their unsinkable rubber ducks – misinformation about fluoride.

Anti-fluoride activists have become council “groupies.” They are familiar with council planning and conscious of any opportunity to present their case. Aware that numbers can impress councillors they help supporters with submission templates (templates A, B, C, D, were used in Hamilton) and submission guides. In contrast the ordinary citizen is rarely conscious of what is going on in their council. For example, the first most Hamiltonians heard of the “Fluoride Tribunal” organised by the Hamilton City Council last year was a news report of the council vote to stop fluoridation!

fluoride-groupies

A group of anti-fluoride council groupies after harassing the Wellington Regional Council this year. Credit: Fluoride Free Wellington

To continue reading this article see GUEST BLOG: Ken Perrott – Anti-fluoride activists target councils – and scientists at The Daily Blog.

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Connett’s hypocrisy on fluoride & IQ

Lapdog-Media-Catchphrase2

The “natural” health media – a guaranteed outlet for anti-fluoride misinformation. Credit: Survival Joe’s

In my exchange with Paul Connett (see Fluoride debate: Final article – Ken PerrottI called him out over the tactics he used to rubbish the science supporting fluoridation:

“Paul’s book, The Case Against Fluoride, provides clear examples of a formula he uses to cast doubt on existing science, build up a library of claimed negative effects of fluoride in the human body and to suggest the scientific community conspires to suppress research findings and prevent important research from going ahead. It’s the sort of stuff ideologically driven opponents of fluoridation lap up enthusiastically. These tactics are not new – we have seen it all before with the creationists and the climate change deniers.”

I described his well-worn 3-step formula:

1: Advance a claim with no real evidence:

A): Establish a logical possibility.

B): Use poor research evidence.

2: Collect together any sources which can be interpreted to support the speculation

3: Use the lack of reputable sources for his claims as evidence of a conspiracy not to do the research.

I should have added another step

4: Launch a media campaign against honest research conflicting with your bias.

Because this is how Connett is currently reacting to recently published New Zealand research on the fluoride – IQ issue. I am referring to the paper by Broadbent et al (2014) (see Fluoridating water does not lower IQ – New Zealand research).

Pretending to call for good research

Connett often makes claims based on poor quality research or speculation, acknowledges the evidence is poor and his claims speculative, but asserts his speculations warrant new  research. In his book he often followed  a poorly supported claim (there are many of these in the book) with something like - “These speculations need to be investigated.”     

Connett’s promotion of the myth that fluoride effects children’s IQ is a typical example. On page 156 of his book he writes:

“there are about twenty studies (albeit with questioned methodologies in some cases) suggesting potential damage to the brains of young children.”

And

“We do not claim that these IQ studies add up to conclusive evidence that water fluoridation impairs cognitive development. . . . . it is wise to sit up and pay attention. The health authorities and governments of fluoridating countries show little sign of doing that.”

See what he has done?

  • Used a number of poor reports to “suggest” “potential damage to the brains of young children.”
  • Acknowledged the poor quality (of at least “some”) of the reports. (see my articles Quality and selection counts in fluoride research and Repeating bad science on fluoride for a discussion on their quality).
  • Acknowledged this does not amount to anything like “conclusive evidence” for the claim he is making.
  • But – we should “sit up and pay attention” – get stuck in and check out his speculative claims. And then he whines that because his claims are not taken seriously there must be some sort of conspiracy causing ” health authorities and governments of fluoridating countries” to look the other way.

 

But of course he will do nothing to initiate further work himself and he doesn’t really want anyone else to do it either. He prefers to stick with his speculative bias and works hard to spread this myth.

Researchers do not “look the other way”

It’s not as of researcher have ignored the publications Connett relies on. They have been mentioned in reviews – even in New Zealand (see for example the National Fluoridation Service review 2013). While these reviews do not think the quality of Connett’s citations are convincing some of them have kept the question open suggesting further work. In my exchange with Connett I similarly wrote:

“Think about it, if there really was this effect from salt, milk or water fluoridation wouldn’t we be aware of it by now? After all, many countries do collect the sort of data about their populations, especially children, which would show any effect.

Maybe publication of the Choi et al (2012) meta-review will encourage more specialists to extract this data in their own countries and publish analyses.”

We collect this sort of data in New Zealand. It has been analysed and and this analysis reported in the paper Connett attacks. This shows no effect of fluoridation on the IQ of children. Further, this study is of higher quality than the ones Connett relies on because  the data was sufficiently extensive to allow consideration of confounding effects (eg. breastfeeding, education, income level, etc.).

Connett’s reaction

Having acknowledged the poor quality of the citations he used, and considering Connett’s expressed concern for possible effects on children’s IQ, we might have expected him to welcome publication of a high quality study. But no – it seems to have put him into a spin. He clearly wishes it would go away as it doesn’t  support his political message.

As the leader of a political activist organisation his immediate reaction is to send out a press release (Study Claiming Fluoride Does Not Lower IQ is Flawed) in the name of the Fluoride Action Network (FAN) to condemn the paper. He claims the paper “is scientifically flawed and reveals blatant examiner bias.”

Well, that’s clearly a case of the pot calling the kettle black – considering his own bias (he is after all head of a world-wide activist organisation campaigning against fluoride) and his support for (and use of) scientifically flawed reports.

Of course if Connett is at all genuine in his specific criticism of the NZ paper he should do the normal thing in science – submit a letter to the journal outlining his criticisms. He knows that – after all he has done it before. He has only 3 scientific publications related to fluoride and  2 were letters to the editor critiquing published papers.

I urge him (and his local followers who are also campaigning to discredit the NZ research) to take this simple step – present their claims and criticism in the scientific journal. After all, one doesn’t progress science by press release and social network campaigns.

But Connett is using political techniques in his attempt to counter a significant contribution to the scientific research on possible dangers of fluoridation. These techniques are hardly new and are used extensively by Connett (FAN) and its subsidiary (Fluoride Action Network of NZ/Fluoride Free NZ – FANNZ/FFNZ) in New Zealand. The pattern seems to be:

  1. Issue a press release with headings, quotes and claims that can be picked up by others.
  2. Ensure your activist organisation promotes the press release via letters to the editor and by social networks like blogs, Facebook and Twitter.
  3. Tame organisations and publications concentrating on alternative health and medicine will be sure to reproduce the press release as an article – they might even send you some cash for this.
  4. Heavily promote these articles via letters to the editor and by social networks like blogs, Facebook and Twitter.
  5. With luck a main stream media publication may reproduce the press release, if only in part.
  6. Heavily promote any such article via letters to the editor and by social networks like blogs, Facebook and Twitter.
  7. Include these derogatory claims in submissions to local body councils.
  8. Go back to step 1.

As most of this promotion takes place on the internet such activity inevitably pushes the story up near the top of Google searches. Headlines like “Study Claiming Fluoride Does Not Lower IQ is Flawed” (the one used in this press release) become very visible to searchers who can be very uncritical in their searches. And of course the news headlines announcing the NZ research (“No Fluoride IQ Effects” and Water Fluoridation Does not Lower IQ“) are way down the google list because it doesn’t  get promoted in this cynical way.

All this parallels a similar promotion started 2 years ago and still circulating in letters to the editor and social networks like blogs, Facebook and Twitter. We are hounded by messages like “Havard Study confirms Fluoride reduces Children’s IQ,” “Fluoride officially classified as a neurotoxin by world’s most prestigious medical journal,” etc.

A political activist agenda

Connett exposes his unscientific political agenda in his attacks on the New Zealand research. he has suddenly found the ability to critically analyse published research – an ability all scientists should have. But he showed a complete lack of this ability with his judgements on his claimed “substantial body of evidence showing fluoride’s potential to harm the developing brain at relatively low exposure levels.”

But a real scientific critique only has value when presented in the proper place – in this case The American Journal of Public Health which published the New Zealand research. By restricting his critique to press releases, “alternative” and “natural” health publications and social media like Facebook and Twitter Connett once again shows his agenda is political activism and not scientific honesty.

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May ’14 – NZ blogs sitemeter ranking

blogging-cat-meme

Image Credit: Riding the Sociological Roller Coaster

There are now over 300 blogs on the list, although I am weeding out those which are no longer active or have removed public access to sitemeters. (Let me know if I weed out yours by mistake, or get your stats wrong).

Every month I get queries from people wanting their own blog included. I encourage and am happy to respond to queries but have prepared a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) people can check out. Have a look at NZ Blog Rankings FAQ. This is particularly helpful to those wondering how to set up sitemeters.

Please note, the system is automatic and relies on blogs having sitemeters which allow public access to the stats.

Here are the rankings of New Zealand blogs with publicly available statistics for May 2014. Ranking is by visit numbers. I have listed the blogs in the table below, together with monthly visits and page view numbers.

Meanwhile I am still keen to hear of any other blogs with publicly available sitemeter or visitor stats that I have missed. Contact me if you know of any or wish help adding publicly available stats to your bog.

You can see data for previous months at Blog Ranks

Subscribe to NZ Blog Rankings

Subscribe to NZ blog rankings by Email

Find out how to get Subscription & email updates

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Confirmation blindness on the fluoride-IQ issue

Confirmation bias is a human problem – especially in organisations with a political or ideological agenda. Not surprising then to find it rampant among those opposing fluoridation.

It sticks out like the proverbial when opponents of community water fluoridation claim the practice causes a decline in child IQ. That debate is raging at the moment because a recent New Zealand paper (Broadbent et al 2014) showed no effect of fluoridation on IQ. Anti-fluoridationists are doing their best to discredit the study because they hang their argument on a meta review (Choi et al 2012) which they think shows that fluoride in drinking water reduces child IQ.

I will leave analysis of the arguments being used against Broadbent et al’s paper for another article. Here I just want to comment on some of the data revealed by Choi et al’s review. In Quality and selection counts in fluoride research I criticised the poor quality of the articles used in the review. However, one stood out as practically the only exception in that it did consider some confounding factors. This is Xiang et al (2003).

So I am not surprised Paul Connett falls back on this specific paper when he defends those generally poor studies. He said recently:

“In fact, several of the studies did control for these factors.  A good example is Xiang’s work, which has controlled for lead, iodine, arsenic, urban/rural, fluoride from all sources, parent’s education, and socio-economic status (SES).”

Mind you he covers up the fact that Xiang’s work considered fluoride concentrations in drinking water higher than that used in community water fluoridation. Connett’s confirmation bias in action I guess.

Still, Xiang et al 2003 did report reduced IQ for children drinking well-water with higher F concentrations – their data is summarised in the figure below.

IQ-1This may not be relevant to community water fluoridation but neither is it proof that somehow fluoride can directly affect IQ at higher concentrations. The authors did consider (to a limited extent) confounders such as child age, family income, parental education, urinary iodine and (in a later paper) blood lead and found no influence levels. But they seem to have just ignored a very obvious confounding factor – the influence of a physical defect (in this case bad teeth resulting from severe dental fluorosis) on learning.

Dental fluorosis and IQ

The same group extended their study (just 2 villages were involved) to dental and skeletal fluorosis – big problems in this region of China. Here is the data for “defect dental fluorosis” DDF, which is “severe” dental fluorosis and some “moderate” dental fluorosis form the more commonly reported Dean’s classification of dental fluorosis. This is for the same children as the IQ study but reported separately (Xiang et al 2004).

DDF-1

The blood serum levels correlate (R2=0.74) with fluoride in drinking water so the two graphs are consistent with the idea that IQ correlates with defect dental fluorosis. (This can be checked in a later paper – Xiang et al (2011) -which compares serum fluoride concentration with limited data for IQ)

Incidentally, these authors also looked at adult skeletal fluorosis in the same two villages and reported its occurrence (mainly the Grade II mild form) in the high fluoride village (Xiang et al 2005).

These results aren’t surprising – drinking water appears to be the main dietary source of fluoride in these villages so we should expect  severe dental fluorosis to correlate with fluoride concentration in the drinking water.

The blindness of preconception

The authors did not find a relationship of IQ with parental education, family income or serum lead levels which are known factors influencing IQ they did find it with fluoride where no clear direct mechanism is known. I suspect, though, if the authors had bothered considering a model where a physical defect like dental and skeletal fluorosis could lead to decreasing IQ they would have found a relationship. I say this because minor physical anomalies are known to be associated with learning difficulties and emotional illness in children (see Hilsheimer & Kurko 1979). It seems entirely reasonable that a physical anomaly like severe dental fluorosis could lead to learning difficulties in children which could be seen as lower IQ values.

A pity the authors just didn’t think to check for such a relationship – because they had the data. They had a preconceived model of fluoride in drinking water somehow influencing IQ directly.

Even worse, the literature has now become so contaminated with the “fluoride causing IQ decline” story it is extremely difficult to find data where research have directly considered the influence of dental and skeletal fluorosis on IQ and learning difficulties.

Oh well – this whole story is not relevant to New Zealand or the issue of community water fluoridation. We just don’t get severe dental fluorosis here and fluoridation has only been connected to the very mildest forms of dental fluorosis. However, the propaganda against community water fluoridation and the extreme claims made about the evils of fluoride have diverted attention away from what I think is a very important issue. The problems with learning faced by children with physical anomalies – or even just social anomalies common with socially and financially disadvantaged families.

Does water fluoridation improve children’s IQ?

If the real lesson of the Xiang et al’s papers is that a physical anomaly like severe dental fluorsis causes learning difficulties it turns the whole story around. The work is being used inappropriately (because of the high fluoride concentrations) as “evidence” against community water fluoridation. But it may instead actually be used to support community water fluoridation.

After all, tooth decay is very debilitating for children. It is a physical anomaly which definitely causes a lot of physical pain. But it also causes a lot of psychological pain. It is probably an important negative factor in children’s learning and behavioural problems.

I am sure community water fluoridation can make a positive contribution to dental health of our children. But, if this is reflected in reduced learning difficulties, it might also have a positive influence on their IQ.

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There is research and there is “research”

research

I saw this image on Facebook yesterday and it really resonated with me. I had just been to the Hamilton City Council hearings on their draft annual plan. The anti-fluoride brigade dominated the session.

Many of their submitters proudly declared they had “researched” the subject and found fluoride is really nasty. They were eager to present their “research” findings to the council.

I have long been concerned that many people have cheapened the word “research” by the way they use it. Reading ideologically motivated web sites and magazines is not real research – yet it seems to drive the anti-fluoride community and provide a hubris that they are somehow doing “research.”

By the way, I presented a submission for the making Sense of Fluoride group. Download the linked pdf file if you want to read it.

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