Anti-fluoridation propaganda now relies on only four studies. 3: Riddell et al (2019)

Connett promotes Riddell et al (2019) as one of the only four studies one needs to read about fluoridation. But he misunderstands and misrepresents the findings of this study. Image credit: Fluoride Action Network – with my addition.

For earlier articles in this series see:

Part 1: Anti-fluoridation propaganda now relies on only four studies. 1: Bashash et al (2018).

Part 2: Anti-fluoridation propaganda now relies on only four studies. 2: Green et al (2019).

Paul Connett, director of the Fluoride Action Network (FAN), now claims “You only have to read four studies…” to come to the conclusion that community water fluoridation (CWF) is bad for your health. As I said in the first article in this series that is simply bad science. One should not ignore all the other relevant studies – and anyway, these four studies do not say what Connett claims.

In this article, I discuss the third study Connett recommends. It’s citation is:

Riddell, J. K., Malin, A., Flora, D., McCague, H., & Till, C. (2019). Association of water fluoride and urinary fluoride concentrations with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Canadian Youth. Submitted to Environment International, 133(May), 105190.

Riddell et al (2019)

Connett switches his attention from IQ to ADHD saying:

 “The third came in 2019 and found a staggering 284% increase in the prevalence of ADHD among children in fluoridated communities in Canada compared to non-fluoridated ones.”

This is just so wrong – Connett has misinterpreted the findings in this paper and completely covered up the fact that the results were dependent on age. He may well be “staggered” but he has made a bad mistake.

The results reported in Riddell et al (2019) are a mixed bag and somewhat confused – see Table 4. They could not find any significant effect of urinary F (UF) on the diagnosis of ADHD – a result that disappointed them as they understood UF to be the most reliable measure of fluoride exposure. They did find a significant effect of CWF status on ADHD diagnosis (increase odds of diagnosis) but only for older children. There was also a significant effect for water-F.

Table 4: Results of logical regression of ADHD diagnosis against measures of fluoride exposure obtained by Riddell et al (2019). Red tringel indicates significant effect.

But Connett confused himself when attempting to interpret Riddell’s results for the effect of CWF – probably because he did not understand the difference between linear and logical regressions. Riddell et al (2019) did not use data for ADHD prevalence (as Connett implied) so could not produce a relationship of prevalence to CWF. Their data was binary – ADHD diagnosis vs no ADHD diagnosis – and they determined the chance of an ADHD diagnosis in fluoridated compared with unfluoridated areas. Here is how they describe that result:

“Specifically, at the 75th percentile of age (14 years old), the predicted odds of an ADHD diagnosis was 2.8 times greater among youth in a fluoridated region compared with youth in a non-fluoridated region (aOR=2.84, 95% CI: 1.40, 5.76, p < .01), whereas among youth at the 25th percentile of age (9 years old), the predicted odds of an ADHD diagnosis was similar across CWF status (aOR=0.91, 95% CI: 0.41, 1.99, p=.81; Table 4).”

So there was no “staggering 284% increase in the prevalence of ADHD among children in fluoridated communities .  .” Just that the chance, or predicted odds, of an ADHD diagnosis was 2.84 times greater for 14-year-old youth in fluoridated areas (but the same for 9-year-olds). The odds ratio of 2.84 is still relatively small (see Rules of thumb on magnitudes of effect sizes). And Connett ignored the fact this result was age-specific.

They also report results for the hyperactivity/inattention subscale score from the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ h/i). Again, no significant effect of UF but significant effects of CWF and water-F for older children. I won’t comment on this further because the data reported in the paper is confused – probably because of a mistake in the paper’s Table 4. I have emailed Julia Riddell about this problem but not yet had a reply.

Connett’s claim of a “284% increase in the prevalence of ADHD” due to fluoridation is simply wrong and demonstrated he did not understand the statistical analysis used in this paper. 

Tomorrow I will discuss the fourth study Connett now relies on – Till et al (2020) – see Anti-fluoridation propaganda now relies on only four studies. 4: Till et al (2020).

See also:

Similar articles

Leave a Reply: please be polite to other commenters & no ad hominems.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s