Tag Archives: NTP

Local anti-fluoride activists tell porkies yet again

FFNZ confuses lack of low fluoride studies on rats with human studies

Well, I suppose that’s not news. A bit surprising, though, because they are claiming the absence of research on fluoridation and IQ – which sort of conflicts with the previous attempts to actually condemn and misrepresent the actual research on fluoridation and IQ.

Fluoride Free NZ’s (FFNZ) face book page is claiming:

Would you be interested to know that no studies have been conducted on fluoridated water at 0.7ppm to determine whether there is IQ reduction? The National Toxicology Program are currently completing research to fill this gap. You would have thought that they would have done this in the 1950s before starting the fluoridation program wouldn’t you?

There have actually been three recent studies from three different countries which have specifically investigated the claim of an effect of fluoridation on IQ – and, unsurprisingly, all threes studies showed there was no effect.

Here are those studies:

New Zealand

Broadbent, J. M., Thomson, W. M., Ramrakha, S., Moffitt, T. E., Zeng, J., Foster Page, L. A., & Poulton, R. (2014). Community Water Fluoridation and Intelligence: Prospective Study in New Zealand. American Journal of Public Health, 105(1), 72–76.

In fact, anti-fluoride activists in the US, as well as New Zealand, have campaigned against this study. Their major criticism is that the study also included the effect of fluoride tablet use. They argue that this makes the unfluoridated control group useless because many participants will have consumed fluoride tablets. However, they ignore the fact that the statistical analysis corrected for this but still found no statistically significant difference in IQ of children and adults from fluoridated and unfluoridated areas.

Sweden

Other critics of the Broadbent et al. (2014) study have raised the issue of experimental power because of the numbers of people in the study. This could be a valid issue as it would determine the minimum effect size capable of being detected. Aggeborn & Öhman (2016) made that criticism of Broadbent et al., (2016) and all other fluoride-IQ studies. Their study is reported at:

Aggeborn L, Öhman M. (2016) The Effects of Fluoride in the Drinking Water. 2016.

Aggeborn & Öhman (2016) used much larger sample size than any of the other studies – over 81,000 observations compared with around 1000 or less for the commonly cited studies. It was also made on continually varying fluoride concentrations using the natural fluoride levels in Swedish drinking waters (the concentrations are similar to those in fluoridated communities), rather than the less effective approach of simply comparing two villages or fluoridated and unfluoridated regions. The confidence intervals were much smaller than those of other cited fluoride-IQ studies. This makes their conclusion that there was no effect of fluoride on cognitive measurements much more definitive. Incidentally, their study also indicated no effect of fluoride on the diagnosis of ADHD or muscular and skeleton diseases.

Canada

Another recent fluoridation-IQ study is that of Barbario (2016) made in Canada:

Barberio, AM. (2016). A Canadian Population-based Study of the Relationship between Fluoride Exposure and Indicators of Cognitive and Thyroid Functioning; Implications for Community Water Fluoridation. M. Sc. Thesis; Community Health Sciences, University of Calgary.

This study also had a large sample size – over 2,500 observations. This reported no statistically significant relationship of cognitive deficits to water fluoride.

Incidentally, Barberio (2016) also found there was no evidence of any relationship between fluoride exposure and thyroid functioning. That puts another pet claim of anti-fluoride campaigners to rest.

Animal studies

So much for NZFF’s claim that “no studies have been conducted on fluoridated water at 0.7ppm to determine whether there is IQ reduction.” But, just a minute, they are quoting the National Toxicology Program (NTP):

“No studies evaluated developmental exposure to fluoride at levels as low as 0.7 parts per million, the recommended level for community water fluoridation in the United States. Additional research is needed.”

But they omit the next sentence from the quote:

“NTP is conducting laboratory studies in rodents to fill data gaps identified in the systematic review of the animal studies.”

The NTP is discussing the research with animals, mainly rats, where effects of fluoride on the cognitive behaviour of the test animals have been reported but the fluoride concentrations are very high. And NTP’s assessment base on the review of the literature found only “a low to moderate level of evidence that the studies support adverse effects on learning and memory in animals exposed to fluoride in the diet or drinking water.” Hence the need for more research.

As part of the NTP’s research, which is currently underway, there are plans to extend studies to low fluoride concentrations more typical of that used in community water fluoridation.

The high concentrations used in animal studies is a major flaw in the anti-fluoride activist use of them to oppose community water fluoridation. For example, Mullinex et al (1995) (very commonly cited by anti-fluoride campaigners) fed test animals drinking water with up to 125 mg/L of fluoride (concentrations near 0.8 mg/L of fluoride are used in community water fluoridation).

While it is unlikely that the NTP research will find any significant effects of fluoride on the cognitive behaviour of rats at the low concentrations used in community water fluoridation the anti-fluoride campaigners have their fingers (and probably toes as well) crossed.

NTP will begin publishing the results of their new research next year (see Fluoride and IQ – another study coming up).

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Fluoride and IQ – another study coming up

Well, eventually.

It’s basically a systematic review of published scientific literature on fluoride-IQ effects in humans. It’s just at the planning stages and don’t expect anything for a few years – peer review and public consultation of the findings are not planned until 2018.

NTP

The review is planned by National Toxicology Program (NTP) which is part of the US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. It’s a special project developed in response to requests from the public (guess who?).

Some might question whether such a review will add anything – after all this question has been included in several reviews of possible health effects of community water fluoridation (eg NRC and NZ review), although it has just been one component of most of these reviews. An exception is the review by the Bazian Company

Bazian. (2009). Independent critical appraisal of selected studies reporting an association between fluoride in drinking water and IQ (Vol. 44).

This considered in detail the specific publications used by campaigners against CWF to argue there is a problem (the reviewers found there wasn’t).

But, on the positive side, this will most likely be one more review by a reputable body showing how poor the evidence used by anti-fluoride campaigners is. On the negative side the process and findings will be misrepresented again and again by anti-fluoride campaigners. That has already started – see the press release by Fluoride Free NZ –  Fluoride-Brain Studies Set to Expose Fluoridation Damage. Talk about counting chickens before they hatch!

Here is an extract from the Summary of the NTP proposal (Proposed NTP Evaluation on Fluoride Exposure and Potential for Developmental Neurobehavioral Effects):

“The National Toxicology Program (NTP) proposes to conduct an evaluation of the published literature to determine whether exposure to fluoride is associated with effects on neurodevelopment, specifically learning, memory, and cognition. This evaluation will use systematic review methods and include an examination of data from human (epidemiological), experimental animal, and mechanistic studies. Previous evaluations have found support for an association between fluoride exposure and impaired cognition; however, many of the studies included exposure to high levels of fluoride. Most of the human evidence was from fluoride-endemic regions having high background levels of fluoride, and the animal studies typically included exposure during development to relatively high concentrations of fluoride (>10 mg/L) in drinking water. Thus, the existing literature is limited in its ability to evaluate potential neurocognitive effects of fluoride in people associated with the current U.S. Public Health Service drinking water guidance (0.7 mg/L).” [My emphasis].

The proposal also says:

“A 2015 systematic analysis of the human literature conducted for the Republic of Ireland’s Department of Health (Sutton et al. 2015) concluded that there was no evidence of an association with lowered IQ in studies of community water fluoridation areas based primarily on an analysis of a prospective cohort study in New Zealand (Broadbent et al. 2015). For fluoride-endemic areas, there was a strong suggestion that high levels of naturally occurring fluoride in water (> 1.5 ppm) may be associated with negative health effects, including lowering of IQ. In general, these studies were considered of low quality because they did not fully account for other factors that could also cause a lowering of IQ e.g., nutritional status, socioeconomic status, iodine deficiency, other chemicals in the ground water (arsenic or lead). The conclusions of Sutton et al. (2015) are consistent with findings of a 2012 meta-analysis of 27 epidemiology studies that “supported the possibility of an adverse effect of “high” fluoride exposure on children’s neurodevelopment, specifically for lowered IQ; although the 2012 meta-analysis also identified study quality limitations, mostly related to reporting quality, that limited the strength of conclusions that could be reached (Choi et al. 2012).

The anti-fluoride spin

You wouldn’t think the anti-fluoride crowd would welcome such a careful analysis of the poor-quality articles they promote – but you can get some idea of how they will spin this study over the next few years from the comments in the above press release:

“Results could mean the end to fluoridation world-wide, and definitely should put a halt to any plans to start fluoridation in places not currently fluoridated.

Because it is now well established that fluoride affects the brain, the NTP plans to conduct new animal studies to determine the lowest dose at which this damage occurs. They also plan to do a systematic review of all the existing scientific literature. To date, there have been 314 studies that have investigated fluoride’s effects on the brain and nervous system. These include 181 animal studies, 112 human studies, and 21 cell studies.”

The confirmation bias and dogmatic agenda stick out like a sore thumb – don’t expect these people to accurately report this study’s findings.

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