Here’s one to go with Let’s rely on anecdotes instead!
Something I picked up on Facebook
Here’s one to go with Let’s rely on anecdotes instead!
Something I picked up on Facebook
Declan Waugh seems a bit of a late developer. He has only just got around to finding those papers that anti-fluoride propagandists like to cite as evidence that oral health does not decline when community water fluoridation is stopped. Of course, he cherry-picks the appropriate papers and is then careful not to give the full evidence.
But he has whipped up a Letter to the Editor promoting his new “discovery” – and encourages his fans to use the same information for their own letters to the editor.
Here’s Waugh’s claim in his letter to the editor (which he encourages his fan’s to duplicate).
In recent decades in four seperate countries notably Finland, the Netherlands, Germany and Cuba dental health professionals warned of the grave dangers to public health from discontinuation of water fluoridation. Yet ironically peer reviewed published scientific research demonstrated that dental health significantly improved among children when fluoridation of water ended. Scientific evidence proved in every case that the views and opinions of profluoridationalists among dental health professionals were misguided and errorneous. So why are we still listening to them?
- Seppa L, Karkkainen S, Hausen H. Caries frequency in permanent teeth before and after discontinuation of water fluoridation in Kuopio, Finland. Commuity Dent Oral Epidemiol 1998;26:256 – 262.
- Seppa L, Karkkainen S, Hausen H. Caries trends 1992 – 1998 in two low-fluoride Finnish towns formerly with and without fluoridation. Caries Res 2000;346:462 – 468.
- Künzel W, Fischer T. Caries prevalence after cessation of water fluoridation in La Salud, Cuba. Caries Res. 2000 Jan-Feb;341:20-5.
- Künzel W, Fischer T, Lorenz R, Brühmann S. Decline of caries prevalence after the cessation of water fluoridation in the former East Germany. Community Dent Oral Epidemiol. 2000 Oct;285:382-9.
- Kalsbeek H, Kwant GW, Groeneveld A, Dirks OB, van Eck AA, Theuns HM. Caries experience of 15-year-old children in The Netherlands after discontinuation of water fluoridation. Caries Res. 1993;273:201-5
I refered to this little myth in my article What happens when fluoridation is stopped? and will briefly repeat the information these propagandists always omit here.
L. Seppä, S. Kärkkäinen, and H. Hausen, “Caries Trends 1992–1998 in Two Low-Fluoride Finnish Towns Formerly with and without Fluoridation.” Caries Research 34, no. 6 (2000): 462–68. The abstract for this paper concluded:
“The fact that no increase in caries was found in Kuopio despite discontinuation of water fluoridation and decrease in preventive procedures suggests that not all of these measures were necessary for each child.”
The authors commented further on this research in Seppa et al (2002). They found their “longitudinal approach did not reveal a lower caries occurrence in the fluoridated than in the low-fluoride reference community.” But commented:
“The main reason for the modest effect of water fluoridation in Finnish circumstances is probably the widespread use of other measures for caries prevention. The children have been exposed to such intense efforts to increase tooth resistance that the effect of water fluoridation does not show up any more. The results must not be extrapolated to countries with less intensive preventive dental care.”
W. Künzel and T. Fischer, “Caries Prevalence after Cessation of Water Fluoridation in La Salud, Cuba. Caries Research 34, no. 1 (2000): 20–25. Again this study found no increase in caries after stopping fluoridation but the authors suggested why:
“A possible explanation for this unexpected finding and for the good oral health status of the children in La Salud is the effect of the school mouthrinsing programme, which has involved fortnightly mouthrinses with 0.2% NaF solutions (i.e. 15 times/year) since 1990.”
W. Künzel, T. Fischer, R. Lorenz, and S. Brühmann, “Decline of caries prevalence after the cessation of water fluoridation in the former East Germany Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology 28, no. 5 (2000): 382–89. These authors found no increase of caries in two German cities after fluoridation of water was stopped. But again the authors suggest why:
“The causes for the changed caries trend were seen on the one hand in improvements in attitudes towards oral health behaviour and, on the other hand, to the broader availability and application of preventive measures (F-salt, F-toothpastes, fissure sealants etc.).”
Kalsbeek, H., Kwant, G. W., Groeneveld, A., Dirks, B., van Eck, A. A. M. J., & Theuns, H. M. (1993). “Caries Experience of 15-Year-Old Children in The Netherlands after Discontinuation of Water Fluoridation.“ Caries Research, 27(3), 201–205. Tooth decay continued to decline after discontinutation of fluoridation in both the areas previously not fluoridated and fluoridated. But the authors say:
“The question as to whether water fluoridation would have had an additional effect if it had been continued (presuming the application of existing preventive measures) cannot be answered, as there are no remaining communities with fluoridated water in The Netherlands.”
Tooth decay is complex because it involves several factors. Improvements in public health, especially dental health availability, and alternative fluoridation options have produced a general improvement irrespective of the availability of community water fluoridation (CWF). However, where comparisons are made between fluoridated and unfluoridated areas in the absence of other differences the benefits are seen.
Of course there are other studies which Declan Waugh and his anti-fluoride mates will refuse to cite because they do not support their claims. In Fluoride debate: Ken Perrott’s closing response to Paul Connett? I discussed a paper which did show an increase in tooth decay – Attwood and Blinkhorn (1991), “Dental health in schoolchildren 5 years after water fluoridation ceased in South-west Scotland.” They measured dmft and DMFT – decayed, missing and filled teeth in primary and permanent teeth respectively.
The figures below illustrate the data from this paper which compared changes in oral health of two Scottish towns in both 1980 and 1988. One town, Annan, had never had fluoridated water while the other, Stranraer, had it until 1983. This enabled the effects of both cessation of fluoridation and the generally observed improvement in oral health due to other factors to be compared and considered. The graphics show the results for 5 year old and 10 year old children.
Decayed missing and filled deciduous teeth for 5 year olds. Stranraer fluoridated until 1983. Annan not fluoridated.
Decayed missing and filled teeth for 10 year olds. Stranraer fluoridated until 1983. Annan not fluoridated.
The plots indicate aspects of the complexity of these sort of studies. Because 2 neighbouring towns were compared it was possible to measure the decline in oral health after discontinuation of fluoridation against a background of the general improvement in oral health, even in a non-fluoridated situation.
The moral here is don’t accept at face value the claims made by anti-fluoridation propagandists – even if they, like Declan Waugh, carry a self-endorsement of “scientist and fluoride researcher.”
A new study finds cognitive function defects, like IQ, in children are not significantly related to fluoride in drinking water. But they are associated with medium and severe dental fluorosis.
This interests me for two reasons:
The new report is:
Choi, A. L., Zhang, Y., Sun, G., Bellinger, D., Wang, K., Yang, X. J., … Grandjean, P. (2014). Association of lifetime exposure to fluoride and cognitive functions in Chinese children: A pilot study. Neurotoxicology and Teratology.
Firstly – this is only a pilot study and has several acknowledged weaknesses – the small number of children studied (51) being the most obvious. However, this is what was found:
“Sixty percent of the subjects examined had moderate or severe fluorosis. These children were exposed to elevated fluoride concentrations in drinking water. Children with normal or questionable Dean Index were all from households with a water fluoride concentration of 1 mg/L and had urinary fluoride excretion levels below 1 mg/L.”
The children were placed in 3 groups according to their degree of dental fluorosis:
The high proportion of children with moderate/sever dental fluorosis indicates the study involved an area of endemic fluorosis.
And the results of neuropsychological tests:
“Results of multiple regression models show that moderate and severe fluorosis was significantly associated with lower total and backward digit span scores when compared to the reference combined categories of normal and questionable fluorosis (Table 4). Although the associations between fluoride in urine and in drinking water with digit span were not significant, they were in the anticipated direction. Motor coordination and dexterity were not significantly associated with fluoride in drinking water and fluorosis although higher levels were associated with poorer scores as well. Other outcomes did not reveal any association with the fluoride exposure.”
The authors used a number of neuropsychological tests. The digit span test results suggest a “deficit in working memory” for the children with moderate and severe dental fluorosis. None of the other tests used show any signficant relationship with indices for fluoride exposure.
So, this pilot study did not show any association of neuropsychological tests with fluoride concentration in drinking water but it did find an association with medium and severe dental fluorosis. This is consistent with my speculation in Confirmation blindness on the fluoride-IQ issue that “a physical defect like dental and skeletal fluorosis could lead to decreasing IQ.”
I argued that:
“minor physical anomalies are known to be associated with learning difficulties and emotional illness in children (seeHilsheimer & 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.”
There are many problems with the studies anti-fluoride activists promote relating IQ to fluoride in drinking water. But it could be that any real effect seen with the higher fluoride concentrations could simply be explained by effects of the physical anomaly of medium and severe dental fluorosis common at these higher concentrations.
Unfortunately the authors of this study still do not consider this possibility. I guess it could be that someone with a hammer only sees nails, and chemical toxicologists are only capable of considering brain damage caused by toxic chemicals. The effects of physical anomalies on learning difficulties are probably quite outside their training and experience.
Their confirmation bias and mental blockage on this meant they were considering dental fluorosis as just another indicator of dietary fluoride intake. However, even that assumption has its problems because genetic differences are also known to be involved in dental fluorosis.
I think this must be why they ended with a conclusion that could well be quite unfounded:
“This pilot study in a community with stable lifetime fluoride exposures supports the notion that fluoride in drinking water may produce developmental neurotoxicity”
Fluorosis is endemic in many parts of China and the high prevalence of medium/severe dental fluorosis (60%) among the children in the Choi et al (2014) pilot study shows their situation is not at all similar to that in areas of New Zealand and USA using community water fluoridation (CWF).
The figures below give some context.
Here are examples of the different degrees of dental fluorosis.
The graph below shows the situation reported for New Zealand in the 2009 New Zealand Oral health Survey (see Our Oral Health). No severe and only 2% moderate dental fluorosis reported.
This figure (taken from Fluorosis Facts: A Guide for Health Professionals) shows the amount of moderate and severe dental fluorosis in the US is also very small.
Perhaps we can now contrast the situation here, in areas where CWF is common, with the situation in China in areas with endemic fluorosis where these studies were undertaken. The figure below is a slide from a presentation by Xiang (2014) to Paul Connett’s recent anti-fluoride “get-together” (Xiang 2014). This is not the very mild dental fluorosis attributed to CWF.
(Anti-fluoride people also often single out the study of Xiang, et al (2003). Effect of fluoride in drinking water on children’s intelligence. Fluoride, 36(2), 84–94, because unlike the others it is more detailed. Xiang’s team has studied areas where fluorosis is endemic.)
Anti-fluoride activists often promote the meta-review of Choi et al (2012) in their arguments against CWF. However, there are many problems with these studies including the fact reported IQ effects were associated with much higher drinking water fluoride concentrations than occurs with CWF.
The new study of Choi et al (2014) did not confirm any association of neuropsychiatric measurements with drinking water fluoride concentration. However, it did show association of negative neuropsychological effects with medium/severe dental fluorosis.
This is consistent with the physical anomaly of severe dental fluorosis being the real cause of IQ effects and not any direct chemical toxic effect.
Image credit: Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.
This satirical piece from The Shovel highlights an unfortunate way many politicians (mainly US and Australian) and internet propagandists approach scientific matters – relying on anecdotes and not evidence. It is also true of many blog commenters.
Australia’s scientific research programs will be cut back and replaced by a recent experience the guy down the shops had, it was revealed today. A government spokesperson said it was a move to a more common-sense approach to research and development. “Roger, who I bumped into just the other day, told a pretty pertinent story about how he’d seen first hand just how powerful anecdotes can be,” the spokesperson said. “I think it would be unwise and, frankly, disrespectful, to dismiss his opinion out of hand”.The spokesperson said the Coalition wanted to avoid the dangerous precedent set by previous Governments whereby science was left to professionals and experts. “Scientists have a right to an opinion too. But let’s not forget the various other equally valid views and opinions in the community”.
Last week we saw several local victories for science over pseudoscience. And the US mid-term elections also gave electoral victories supporting community water fluoridation in 5 out of 6 communities where it was voted on.*
Peter Griffin from New Zealand’s Science Media Centre reported on the New Zealand victories in his post Experts shine in fight against junk science.
“It was a week when climate change denial, a “miracle” ebola cure and homeopathy grabbed headlines.
But by and large it was also a week where the media laid out the evidence and featured expert commentary putting the science behind the claims in perspective.”
So, the media seemed to be “on-side” this time and scientific experts were fronting up to counter the pseudoscience.
“The pending arrival in New Zealand of Genesis II Church of Health and Healing leader James Humble to push his Miracle Mineral Solution (MMS) was front page news. Medsafe warned that the treatment acts like an industrial bleach and could cause serious harm to those who took it. Australia’s Nine News reported that four Victorians had been hospitalised after taking the MMS treatment.
Natural remedies expert Dr Shaun Holt and University of Auckland microbiologist Dr. Siouxsie Wiles made numerous media appearances to explain the pseudoscience Humble has been spreading about MMS, including that it can cure Ebola, HIV and malaria.The Herald reported today that an Auckland man who attempted to attend one of the “non-religious” Church’s seminars in the Hauraki Plains, was removed when it emerged he had not paid the US$500 registration fee, a hint perhaps at the real reason behind Humble’s Australasian tour.”
NZ Herald’s front page piece on MMS
The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change renewed the media interest in climate change.
“False balance in climate coverage
However TVNZ undermined its own climate change coverage by featuring noted climate sceptic and energy sector consultant Bryan Leyland on the Breakfast show, including presenting a graph featuring data supplied by Leyland himself.
By the end of the day the item had been pulled from TVNZ’s website after the broadcaster received numerous complaints from the public, scientists, as well as journalists.”
Then there was the response to the Green Party’s natural products spokesman Steffan Browning’s folly in signing a petition calling for homeopathic treatments to be used in the fight against Ebola. This lead to his demotion within the party and removal of his spokesman role.
“The embarrassing endorsement attracted attention in the UK and the condemnation of Browning’s own caucus.
Writing on Sciblogs, Dr Grant Jacobs applauded Browning’s demotion, but pointed out that he retained other science-related shadow portfolios.
“I’m aware of a number of people who have said they didn’t vote for the Greens because of Steffan Browning’s stance on genetic engineering and others who have said that while they voted for the Greens they don’t approve of Browning’s approach to GMOs and GE.”
Peter Griffin finishes by thanking “all the scientists who stepped up to make sense of the dubious claims journalists and the public were faced with this week.”
I think this also shows what can be achieved when good science journalism is actively promoted by groups like the Science Media Centre, and when scientists and other experts participate in the social communication media and make themselves available to journalists.
*Support for community water fluoridation in these 5 communities was pretty overwhelming:
Boyne City, Michigan – 68% support for fluoridation: http://goo.gl/BUQVev
Bronson, Michigan – 63% support for fluoridation: http://goo.gl/KogVkP
Kalama, Washington – 73% support for fluoridation: http://goo.gl/wP6xAY
Saline County, Kansas – 67% support for fluoridation: http://goo.gl/Q2IGWL
Healdsburg, California – 68% support for fluoridation: http://goo.gl/KsOCgn
These victories were probably because fluoridation supporters, families and dentists organised public campaigns. See Group wants fluoride vote to keep its teeth.
Declan Waugh is an anti-fluoride propagandist who specialises in naively distorting scientific and medical information to “prove” community water fluoridation (CWF) is dangerous. A common tactic of his is to select, really cherry-pick, medical data to show the mortality or disease prevalence is greater in the Republic of Ireland – and other countries with CWF, than the rest of the world.
Similarly, he often cherry-picks data to “prove” a sudden increase in disease or deaths in Ireland after the introduction of CWF in the late 1960s. He has recently pulled this trick with Irish data for vascular diseases. It’s a simple (and naive) recipe. He has found data in a report and selected parts of it to fit his message – ignoring everything else and specifically discussion of the trends in the data by the specialists.
So he has produced this graph:
You can see the point he is trying to drive home – but lets look at all the data in that table Waugh used from the cited “50 years of Heart Disease in Ireland“:
Perhaps we should consider the death rate – deaths/100,000 to correct for changes in total population
Another factor is changes of coding and diagnostic criteria used for reporting causes of death and details of vascular disease. The report lists a number of changes occurring in the periods 1958-1967, 1968 – 1978 and 1979 – 1999. It also refers to “the lack of specification of diagnoses during the early years covered by this review.” What this means is that some of the changes, especially the apparently sudden changes, may represent nothing more than changes in diagnostic criteria.
Waugh also simplifies the date that fluoridation commenced in Ireland – claiming 1965. The Irish “Forum on fluoridation 2002“ reported that CWF started in Dublin in 1974, in Cork in 1965 and over the next 5 years in other areas. This suggests another reason to be careful about interpreting sudden changes in data during 1964 – 1970 as due solely to introduction of CWF.
So things are nowhere as simple as Declan Waugh presents it. Of course they never are. The intelligent reader should read the report and not just rely on cherry-picked data and motivated rationalisation resulting from confirmation bias.
The report itself states that Ireland does have a high mortality rate from cardiovascular disease, particularly compared with Europe. The report says:
“One way or another, the data from the 1950’s and 1960’s point to an ongoing epidemic of heart disease in Ireland for at least half a century. This is evidenced by the fact that in 1950, 31% of all deaths were due to vascular diseases.”
“The low rates of IHD mortality in the 1950’s and 1960’s is almost certainly a reflection of difficulties encountered in accurately diagnosing cardiac conditions at that time. Thus, many IHD deaths may have been coded to the ‘catch all’ category of ‘Other Myocardial Degeneration’ (ICD 422).”
And the decline in death rates since 1985:
“is the consequence of a multifaceted approach to the problem. Specifically it has been suggested that a proportion of the decline, ranging from 25% to 50%, may be due to primary prevention. A proportion of the decline (40% to 50%) may be related to early intervention and treatment of acute cardiovascular events and a proportion is due to secondary prevention among those with established disease (13-16). Data from the WHO MONICA project in 37 countries further suggested that a proportion of the decline in mortality may be related to economic
Another complicating factor has been “changes in the demographic structure of the population.”
So there you go. One can understand these fluctuations in death rate from cardiovascular disease using the normal factors related to changes in diagnosis, diet and health care, and treatment of cardiovascular events. No need to drag in the “universal demon” of fluoride.
This is only one example of the sort of tricks Declan Waugh uses in his reports. He pretends to be a “scientist and fluoride researcher” and this, together with extensive scientific citation and dogmatic claims does fool some people. It fooled the Hamilton City Council in their consideration of CWF last year (see When politicians and bureaucrats decide the science).
He is dishonest – but his tactics are difficult to counter. It takes far less effort to present a naively “sciency” looking lie than to reasearch and communicate the facts. As they say, a lie can get half way around the world before truth can get its boots on.
And that’s what Declan Waugh relies on. That is why he does not allow peer review of any of his reports. That is why he will not engage in an exchange with critics of his reports.
He knows he has critics. Just the other day on his Facebook page he moaned:
“There are some sick people out there in twitter land who joke about the graphics I produce. . . .they will present any possible excuse to try and discredit the association while point blankly refusing to even consider the biological mechanisms by which fluoride contributes to disease.”
Well, Declan, it is part of the scientific ethos to engage with your critics. Respond to their criticisms – show where and why you think they are wrong – or acknowledge your mistakes. You refuse to do that because you “point blankly” refuse to “even consider” the discussion and evidence of the experts who write the papers and reports you cherry pick from.
Here’s a photo of the earth you don’t often see. Nor is the view of the moon familiar.
The Chinese test vehicle Change’5 took this photo as it swung around the moon before returning to earth. So we see the unfamiliar far side of the moon, with the earth in the distance.
“For just a fleeting moment I could have been convinced someone had added a photo of the planet Mercury here; the Moon’s obverse half is so strikingly different than the near side. The lack of dark maria (except for Mare Moscoviense to the upper left) makes the Moon look like every bit the alien world that it really is.”
Emily Lakdawalla displays this and some other photos taken by Change’5 in a recent blog article Chang’e 5 T1 rounds the lunar farside, returns lovely photo of Earth and the Moon together.
After an 8-day mission Change-5 landed safely in Siziwang Banner of China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.
China is only the third nation to demonstrate lunar return technology following the former Soviet Union and the United States. The Soviet Union conducted the last lunar return mission in the 1970s.
Image Credit: A Pretty Healthy Life
PLEASE NOTE: Sitemeter is still playing up but far fewer blogs are effected. I have done a manual work around but it was still impossible to get the stats for a the blogs that I list below. Maybe more bloggers will shift to StatCounter or other counter. No stats could be found for these blogs:
|Works in progress|
|Social Media and the 2014 General Election|
|Science Behind the Curtain|
|Looking in the square|
|Save our schools NZ|
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 October 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 Continue reading
I think we have all become used to headlines like this - Earth Just Had Its Hottest September On Record. It’s all ho-hum to us. We just don’t notice any more – we don’t bother reading the articles.
This is the point made by Chris Mooney in his Washington Post article Climate records are breaking so often now, we’ve stopped paying attention.
But perhaps we should stop and notice something. How often do these headlines refer to “the coldest month on record?” Surely if this was just random variation, as the climate change deniers like to tell us, we should be seeing such headlines half the time. But we don’t. Doesn’t that tell us something?
We have random variation alright – but random variation on top of an increasing temperature trend. That is what we should worry about.
As Chris Mooney says:
“last September was the hottest of them all, out of 135 Septembers going back to 1880.The same was true for August 2014. And June of 2014. And May of 2014. What that means is that for each of these months, the combined average global land and ocean surface temperature has never been higher, at least since we started recording these temperatures back in the presidency of Rutherford B. Hayes.”
“for 355 months now (up through September), “every month on this planet has been warmer than the 20th century average,” according to Jessica Blunden, a scientist at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center. ThePost’s own Philip Bump, then writing at Grist, pointed out numbers like these back in November 2012, when the streak was only 332 consecutive months–but since then, every month has just added to the total. And now, we’re just shy of 30 years of unbroken warmer-than-average months. The last month that actually was not warmer than the 20th century average, according to Blunden, was February of 1985. (It was merely average, she says.)”
On top of this:
“2014 appears reasonably likely to wind up the hottest year on record, in NOAA’s accounting. In fact, to tie that record, the remainder of the year merely has to be average for the 21st century.
In climate science circles, there’s already much discussion of the likelihood of 2014 setting a new record. Climate researchers are particularly struck by the fact that prior record years, like 1998 (now the 3rd warmest overall, according to NOAA) have often been El Nino years, which are hotter than average. But so far an official El Nino has not yet been proclaimed.
Thus, a new global average temperature record in 2014 would be all the more extraordinary. So will it happen? “As we watch daily temperature results come in, it’s becoming ever more likely,” says John Abraham, a climate scientist at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota who studies ocean warming and climate change. Abraham emphasizes, though, that there are several other global agencies besides NOAA (including our own NASA) that also track temperatures and they don’t always perfectly agree on the ranking of record years.”
I guess the climate change deniers will be yelling the news to the rooftops if one or more global agencies do not find 2014 to be another record year. Anything to cover up the underlying trend.
The US is a strange country. It has some great comedians (and some great scientists) but it also has some lousy politicians.
It’s a real mystery to me how the US House Committee on Science, Space and Technology can have so many idiots on board.
Jon Stewart would have made a great science teacher.