This is the advice from the very top of the anti-fluoride movement – Paul Connett, director of the Fluoride Action Network (FAN). Don’t worry about reading up on all the scientific information “You only have to read four studies…”
Of course – that is bad science. To ignore all the other information and rely just on four studies. But it is also bad science as those specific studies were chosen by Paul Connett because he believes they confirm his bias that community water fluoridation (CWF) is bad for you (they don’t actually). He consistently ignores studies which contradict his bais. But it is also bad science because these studies are weak and their results contradictory. Connett is simply into confirmation bias. He uses misrepresentation and mistaken interpretation of these studies to support his claims.
Connett acknowledges problems with high fluoride studies
Connett admits in his Fluoride Action Network (FAN) Bulletin from March 24, 2020: “You only have to read four studies…” that “Many of the earlier studies were in places with elevated natural fluoride levels.” Yes – they are overwhelmingly from areas of endemic fluorosis, mainly in China, where health problems are very common and obvious. They have no relevance to community water fluoridation (CWF) – but this did not stop Connett, FAN and the whole anti-fluoride movement using them in their propaganda opposing a safe, effective and economic health policy known to reduce child tooth decay.
Then he goes on to claim:
“There is now very strong evidence that fluoride damages both the fetal and infant brain at the levels used in artificially fluoridated areas.”
“You only have to read four studies to realize that deliberately adding fluoride to drinking water unnecessarily endangers children’s brains.”
Let’s be scientific about it and have an objective and critical look at the specific studies Connett now relies on. I will discuss each of these four studies in separate articles. Here is my critique of the first one – Bashash et al (2017)
Bashash et al (2017)
The citation for this paper is:
Bashash, M., Thomas, D., Hu, H., Martinez-mier, E. A., Sanchez, B. N., Basu, N., … Hernández-avila, M. (2017). Prenatal Fluoride Exposure and Cognitive Outcomes in Children at 4 and 6 – 12 Years of Age in Mexico. Environmental Health Perspectives, 125(9).
“The first* came in Sept 2017 with a groundbreaking study from Mexico City. This study found a strong association between the amount of fluoride women were exposed to during pregnancy and lowered IQ in their offspring.”
Don’t take Connett’s word for this – read the paper and actually look at and consider the data.
Table 1 illustrates results from Bashash et al (2018) and from Thomas (2014) and Thomas et al (2013, 2014 & 2018): These all used the same or similar data from the ELEMENT database. The red triangles represent statistically significant relationships. All other relationships are not statistically significant.
Note: The coefficients were obtained from linear regression of full-scale child intelligence quotient (IQ), general cognitive index for the child (GCI) or mental development index of the child (MDI) against urinary fluoride for the child (UF) or prenatal urinary fluoride for the mother (MUF), adjusted in some cases using urine specific gravity (MUFsg) or urine creatinine concentrations (MUFcr). Bars represent the 95% confidence intervals of coefficients of the change of cognitive measure with an increase in fluoride measure. The red triangles represent statistically significant relationships. All other relationships are not statistically significant.
No relationship of child IQ with child urinary F:
Connett does not mention that there is no significant relationship of child IQ with fluoride exposure as measured by the child urinary F (UFsg) and he is also silent about the Thomas (2014) thesis which also showed no relationship of child MDI with child UF – although when Thomas (2014) separated data by sex she found a statistically significant positive relationship of IQ with UF for males.
Relationships with maternal prenatal urinary F – but very weak:
Yes, there are significant relationships of child IQ (6 – 12-year-olds) or child GCI (4-year-olds) with MUF – but contrary to Connett’s claim these relationships are far from “strong.” (Thomas did not find a significant relationship of MDI with MUF for children of ages 1 to 3 but reported – in a conference poster paper Thomas et al 2018 – a statistically significant relationship for MUF corrected using creatinine concentrations – see A conference paper on the maternal prenatal urinary fluoride/child IQ study has problems).
These figures from Bashash et al (2017) illustrate how scattered the data is:
While statistically significant the reported relationships are extremely weak – explaining only about 3.6% of the variance in IQ and 3.3% of the variance in GCI (see Maternal urinary fluoride/IQ study – an update). The large standard error of the regressions (9.8 for IQ and 12.9 for GCI) also indicate that the estimates of IQ change (-5.0) and GCI change (-6.3) for an increase of MUF of 1 mg/L have no predictive value (see Maternal urinary fluoride/IQ study – an update).
Connett is very wrong to claim that “This study found a strong association . . .” It simply didn’t.
Tomorrow I will discuss the second study Connett now relies on – Green et al (2019) – see Anti-fluoridation propaganda now relies on only four studies. 2: Green et al (2019).
- Fluoride, pregnancy and the IQ of offspring
- Maternal urinary fluoride/IQ study – an update
- A conference paper on the maternal prenatal urinary fluoride/child IQ study has problems
- A more convincing take on prenatal maternal dietary effects on child IQ
- What are the recent fluoride-IQ studies really saying about community water fluoridation?
- What do these mother-child studies really say about fluoridation?