Tag Archives: cardiovascular disease

Declan Waugh claims it’s “clear as day”

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:

Declan-lie

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“:

Looking at all the data

Irish-deaths

Perhaps we should consider the death rate – deaths/100,000 to correct for changes in total population

Ireland---heart

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.

A more rational understanding

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.”

Although:

“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
success (17).”

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.

Only one example

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.

IMG_0650

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.

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Fluoride and heart disease – another myth

Here is another anti-fluoride rubber duck which keeps surfacing – the myth that cardiovascular disease is “linked to” fluoride. This myth relies on misrepresentation of a study reported in Nuclear Medicine Communications 2 years ago.

The paper is Li et al (2012) Association of vascular fluoride uptake with vascular calcification and coronary artery disease. (download pdf). It shows that an injected fluoride isotope (18F) concentrates in existing calcified material in coronary arteries. The authors suggest detection of the injected 18F could provide a clinical method of identifying cardiovascular risk.

This is very clear from the conclusion reproduced in their abstract:

“CONCLUSION: sodium [¹⁸F]fluoride PET/CT might be useful in the evaluation of the atherosclerotic process in major arteries, including coronary arteries. An increased fluoride uptake in coronary arteries may be associated with an increased cardiovascular risk.”

The “fluoride uptake” refers to uptake of the radioactive isotope in the coronary arteries, 40 minutes after its injection – not dietary uptake of fluoride. The correlation observed is between arterial calcification and 18F uptake – not dietary fluoride.

Yet anti-fluoride activists are referring to the paper to claim that heart disease is linked to dietary fluoride intake, especially from fluoridated water. For example, Declan Waugh claimed:

“Current research has also identified the link between fluoride and atherosclerosis.370

And yes his reference 370 is Li etal (2012) (see When politicians and bureaucrats decide the science).

The local anti-fluoride activist organisation Fluoride Action Network of New Zealand (FANNZ) today repeated this misinformation on their Facebook page (see Los Angeles Healthcare System Study Links Fluoride With #1 Cause Of Death – Cardiovascular Disease):

“The results of this study therefore have vast implications for our collectively becoming aware of one main contributing factor to the ongoing scourge heart disease, namely municipal water fluoridation. “

They also make similar claims on their webpage – see Fluoridation and Heart Disease):

“Research published in January 2012(1) concluded that there was a direct correlation between the fluoride level in arteries, including coronary arteries, and artherosclerosis . . . . . this unquestionably proves that fluoride does accumulate in soft tissue – something fluoridation promoters deny emphatically, claiming it all goes to the bones or teeth, and never the soft tissues.”

I repeat – the correlation reported is between atherosclerosis and the injected 18F. Nothing to do with dietary F intake at all. This correlation results from the fact the injected fluoride has an affinity with calcium and is therefore attracted to clacifying material . As the authors say:

“Currently, sodium [18F]fluoride positron emission tomography (PET)/CT is the most sensitive imaging modality to detect active bone formation”

And:

“Calcification in atherosclerosis occurs through an active process that resembles bone formation”

Misrepresentation by motivated confirmation bias

So a clear misrepresentation of a scientific paper. Is this a mistake or is it intentional?

Clearly there is motivated confirmation bias going on. Understandably these activists will select anything to fit their case, even to the extent of making such whopping mistakes. Perhaps one can understand an individuial making such a mistake if they are simply glancing through titles, or abstracts, looking for “ammunition.”

But this is a mistake that keeps repeating. And it get’s included in their “authoritative” statements. For example Declan Waugh’s report is often used in submissions to councils and the Hamilton City Council admitted to being impressed by it. They describe it as one of the key pieces of information that lead them to their mistaken decision to stop fluoridation (see When politicians and bureaucrats decide the science). You can down load their own assessment of the information they considered important  –Scientific research supporting the stopping of fluoridation

On the one hand activist organisations like this should take more care with the material they prepare. When mistakes like this are pointed out they lose their credibility.

On the other had bodies like city councils should take more care in accepting information from submitters. They should be aware of the ever-present problem of confirmation bias which is inevitable with activist groups. They should not be impressed by something that looks “sciency” with large numbers of references.

Above all, they should always seek expert advice, rely on information from people who have the skills to undertstand the scientific literature and be aware of these sorts of mistakes.

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