Video produced by Calgarians for Kid’s Health which is campaigning for the return of Community water fluoridation to Calgary, Canada. Dr Ghali’s presentation to recent Calgary City Council hearings on fluoridation has been promoted by anti-fluoridation activists.
In my recent article Scientific integrity requires critical investigation – not blind acceptance I expressed some concerns with arguments presented by Dr Ghali in his presentation to the Calgary City Council. The video accompanying the article is one that the Fluoride Action Network and Fluoride Free NZ are using in their campaign against community water fluoridation. A campaign which currently concentrates on misrepresentation of recent fluoride-IQ studies – and resorts to blatant scaremonger.
I offered Dr Ghali a right of reply to my article and he has sent me the following. As it arrived in an email form I have edited it slightly but not changed any of the arguments.
I appreciate your indicating in your email below that you sensed that the recent video posted by the Fluoride Action Network might be presenting just a portion of my comments, without the context of my full presentation (and the presentation of key public health colleagues) at the recent City of Calgary committee meeting on community water fluoridation. That is indeed the case, and I would greatly appreciate your taking a look at the entire presentation if you have time to do so. Also, the presentation should be viewed in relation to the full O’Brien Institute report on CWF (that I attach for your convenience).
The link to the full special council meeting is below. Our O’Brien Institute presentations begin at approximately 17 minutes into the 9 hour meeting, and our main presentations last for 55 minutes followed by some Q&A. We then reappear as a panel (that includes AHS public health leaders) at about 6h40m into the video.
At a high level, we tried in our presentations to shed some light on the controversy, and to show how advocacy positions have focused on attacking both the evidence on benefits of fluoride (e.g., the multi-pronged attacks on Lindsay McLaren’s study on CWF), and the more recent evidence on potential negative cognitive effects in developing brains.
I must say that this journey into the fluoride issue has been quite eye opening, as it exposes the challenge of making sense out of a complicated controversy (– which is, interestingly, the name of your organization…[in my email I had included my position as a scientific advisor for Making Sense of Fluoride]). You will see in the opening part of my presentation to the City of Calgary that there is an interesting and extensive body of literature on the challenge of integrating science and advocacy (and balancing science vs. advocacy). The matter of CWF is a particularly challenging one in that regard, as the strong attacks on, for example, the CWF cessation studies (including Lindsay McLaren’s), are rooted in positional anti-fluoride advocacy, just as the unusually vigourous attacks on the fluoride cognition studies are seemingly rooted in the challenging findings of those studies (– both MIREC and ELEMENT are, after all, both NIH-funded prospective cohort studies unlike any of the prior cognition studies, that despite some limitations are clearly also more notable studies than the cognition studies that preceded them).
The O’Brien Institute was tasked with providing Calgary City Council with a non-positional description of the existing studies and evidence. The new cognition studies (led, interestingly, by two Canadian public health research teams) and the ensuing NTP draft report from the US are now such that it would have been absurd for us to pretend that the new studies do not even exist or that they are fatally flawed with irrelevant results.
Do watch the entirety of the City of Calgary CWF committee meeting, and let me know if you would like to have a chat some time. And thank you again for your email.
I am still concerned about the way Dr Ghali presents this issue but he also raises an important point about advocacy which needs discussion. So I will be responding to this post with a blog article ion a few days.