Sunday, September 16, 2007

Crank chemistry at About.com

Normally, I criticize libertarianism, but there's a broad overlap between many crank movements and libertarianism. Anti-fluoridation movements are grotesquely crank, and have a widespread libertarian following because public health policy is a government (not market) activity.

About.com's Guide to Chemistry, Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D., unfortunately includes her opinion of fluoridation in the chemistry topic.

Why I Oppose Fluoridation of Public Drinking Water lists a standard set of pseudoscientific arguments, and links to a bunch more About.com articles by herself and Mary Shomon, the About.com Guide to Thyroid Disease.

A really clear howler is this statement: "Fluoride that we put in water today will still be in water tomorrow. Fluoride doesn't magically disappear from water once it has been added." Evidently, Helmenstein has never heard of the water cycle and evaporation. No, she explains how fluoride is a permanent contamininant. In her article "How to Remove Fluoride from Drinking Water", she doesn't mention the possibility of drinking rainwater or your own well water, and she makes distilled water sound scary: "keep in mind that 'distilled water' does not imply that a product is suitable for drinking water and other undesirable impurities may be present."

Perhaps in a health topic such as Thyroid Disease, there's room for pseudoscience. But in chemistry, there's little excuse. And even more inexcusable, is that neither author identifies their opinion as a minority opinion or links to counterarguments.

Interestingly, the one About.com article they link to that supports fluoride is Relationship Between Florinated Water And Cancer, in the Holistic Healing topic. It would be more accurately titled "No Relationship Between Florinated Water And Cancer": maybe that's why they listed it, by accident.

But a search of About.com with the keyword "fluoridation" doesn't find any other articles supporting fluoridation, or opposing the cranks against fluoridation.

8 comments:

nyscof said...

End Fluoridation, say 600+ Professionals

In a statement released August 9, 2007, over 600 dentists, physicians, scientists and environmentalists urge Congress to stop water fluoridation until Congressional hearings are conducted. They cite new scientific evidence that fluoridation, long promoted to fight tooth decay, is ineffective and has serious health risks. (http://www.fluorideaction.org/statement.august.2007.html)

Signers include a Nobel Prize winner, three members of the prestigious 2006 National Research Council (NRC) panel that reported on fluoride’s toxicology, two officers in the Union representing professionals at EPA headquarters, the President of the International Society of Doctors for the Environment, and hundreds of medical, dental, academic, scientific and environmental professionals, worldwide.

Signer Dr. Arvid Carlsson, winner of the 2000 Nobel Prize for Medicine, says, “Fluoridation is against all principles of modern pharmacology. It's really obsolete.”

Paul Connett, PhD, Executive Director of the Fluoride Action Network (FAN), announced that an Online Action Petition to Congress in support of the Professionals' Statement is available at FAN's web site, www.fluorideaction.org.

“The NRC report dramatically changed scientific understanding of fluoride's health risks," says Connett. "Government officials who continue to promote fluoridation must testify under oath as to why they are ignoring the powerful evidence of harm in the NRC report,” he added.

An Assistant NY State Attorney General calls the report “the most up-to-date expert authority on the health effects of fluoride exposure.”

The Professionals’ Statement also references:

-- The new American Dental Association policy recommending infant formula NOT be prepared with fluoridated water.
-- The CDC’s concession that the predominant benefit of fluoride is topical not systemic.
-- CDC data showing that dental fluorosis, caused by fluoride over-exposure, now impacts one third of American children.
-- Major research indicating little difference in decay rates between fluoridated and non-fluoridated communities.
-- A Harvard study indicating a possible link between fluoridation and bone cancer.
-- The silicofluoride chemicals used for fluoridation are contaminated industrial waste and have never been FDA- approved for human ingestion.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a DC watchdog, revealed that a Harvard professor concealed the fluoridation/bone cancer connection for three years. EWG President Ken Cook states, “It is time for the US to recognize that fluoridation has serious risks that far outweigh any minor benefits, and unlike many other environmental issues, it's as easy to end as turning off a valve at the water plant.”

Mike Huben said...

This Quackwatch article, Fluoridation: Don't Let the Poisonmongers Scare You! describes the tactics used above by nyscof, who has posted the same thing elsewhere.

Typical is the attempt to justify unscientific claims with a petition. Look at the credentials of the petitioners, and you find a catalog of pretty much every crank medical belief you can name, including accupuncture and chiropractic. Nor does a Nobel prize winner's opinion really mean much outside of his field: signal transduction in the nervous system is not quite the same as public health. Hstorically, it's been common for Nobel prizewinners to make appalling comments outside their field as William Shockley and Linus Pauling have.

I did a little research: The NRC report Fluoride in Drinking Water: A Scientific Review of EPA's Standards presents no evidence of harm at normal fluoridation levels of 1mg/L. Read it in the free PDF summary.

"The committee's conclusions regarding the potential for adverse effects from fluoride at 2 to 4 mg/L in drinking water do not address the lower exposures commonly experienced by most U.S. citizens."

Essentially, their conclusion is that there's no definitive research at the higher levels of fluoride in water excepting some cosmetic dental fluorosis.

Common sense says that if 190+ million Americans are being harmed by their fluoridated drinking water, even in minuscule percentages, we'd have noticed by now. The widespread use of much more strongly fluoridated toothpaste would make it even more obvious.

James M. Jensen II said...

Hey, I thought I'd share something I ran across:

http://www.mises.org/books/TRTS/

"The Illustrated Road to Serfdom"

From our good friends, the Austrians, it is nothing less than the libertarian equivalent of a Jack Chick tract. Wild-ass speculation in the name of ideological prejudices.

Propaganda any way you cut it.

curt said...

Off subject:


Thought you might have a comment on this debate between Naomi Klein and
the most famous living "libertarian republican" Alan Greenspan.

http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=07/09/24/1412226

nyscof said...

New York – October 11 2007 - Researchers reporting in the Oct 6 British Medical Journal (BMJ) indicate that fluoridation, touted as a safe cavity preventive, never was proven safe or effective and may be unethical. (1)

Cavity rates declined equally in fluoridated and non-fluoridated European countries over three decades. “This trend has occurred regardless of the concentration of fluoride in water or the use of fluoridated salt,” write Sir Iain Chalmers, editor of the James Lind Library, which was set up to help people understand the evidence base of medicine, KK Cheng, professor of epidemiology at Birmingham University, and Trevor Sheldon, professor and pro-vice-chancellor at York University.

In 1999, England’s Department of Health commissioned a systematic review on the effects of water fluoridation on dental health and to look for evidence of harm. (York Review). The reviewers were surprised that fluoridation was long endorsed and promoted with such certainty when 3200 world-wide papers failed to show any good quality evidence of benefit or safety. “Thus, evidence on the potential benefits and harms of adding fluoride to water is relatively poor,” the BMJ’s researchers write.

Sheldon, who was Chair of the York Review’s advisory committee, as well as co-author of the BMJ article, wrote in a different 2006 report that officials promoting fluoridation may have misrepresented the York Review findings to suit “prior beliefs and policy intent.” (2)

Discussing the ethics of informed consent, the BMJ researchers write, “This is especially important for water fluoridation, as an uncontrollable dose of fluoride would be given for up to a lifetime, regardless of the risk of caries, and many people would not benefit.” Further, they write “In the case of fluoridation, people should be aware of the limitations of evidence about its potential harms and that it would be almost impossible to detect small but important risks (especially for chronic conditions) after introducing fluoridation,” they write.

Many fluoridation supporters “used the York review’s findings selectively to give an overoptimistic assessment of the evidence in favor of fluoridation,” they write.

Similar problems exist in the U.S. as outlined in the summer 2005 Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons. “Artificial fluoridation of drinking water… probably does not reduce tooth decay…Proponents of fluoridation have censored most media, ignored intelligent discussion of fluoridation, slandered most opponents of fluoridation and overturned legal judgments against fluoridation in a manner that demonstrates their political power. Many published studies that had conclusions favoring fluoridation were later found unsupported by their raw data,” writes JM Kauffman, PhD. (3)

On October 2, 2007,Juneau Alaska voters rejected fluoridation, 61% to 39%, despite the American Dental Association’s $150,000 funded political campaign to return fluoride into Juneau’s water supply after the Juneau legislative body voted it out in November 2006.

Topanga, California residents are fighting to keep their water fluoride-free. (4) But their County Supervisor won’t even meet with them to hear their concerns (5) as of October 8, 2007.

Paul Connett, PhD, Executive Director of the Fluoride Action Network says “The BMJ article fails to mention the 2006 National Research Council fluoride review, the most comprehensive overview of the toxicology of fluoride ever written. The crucial message of the NRC’s report is that the highest scientific authority in the US has determined that low levels of fluoride in drinking water may have serious adverse health effects," says Connett. "Government officials who continue to promote fluoridation must testify under oath about why they are ignoring the powerful evidence of harm in the NRC report,” says Connett.

Paul Beeber, President and General Counsel, New York State Coalition Opposed to Fluoridation, says “This British Medical Journal article lends further credence to our efforts to end fluoridation and have Congressional hearings held in the US concerning the ongoing government goal to fluoridate more water supplies without individual consent and without any valid evidence of its safety or effectiveness.”

An online petition to end fluoridation and call for a Congressional hearing is here http://FluorideAction.Net

Fluoride chemicals are added to 2/3 of U.S. public water supplies which winds up in virtually 100% of the food supply. The Centers for Disease Control tells us that many US school children are over fluoridated, with up to 51% sporting dental fluorosis – white spotted, yellow, brown and/or pitted enamel. Yet cavities are rising in our most fluoridated generation – toddlers.

For example, a New York State TV station reported on October 8, 2007 that in Rochester, NY, fluoridated for decades, “40 percent of 162 toddlers [examined] were suffering from baby bottle tooth decay. Most averaged two cavities; some as many as 20…The cost to one community can be as much as $1 million annually to treat children with this oral disease, a tab picked up almost completely by Medicaid…reasons…Many pediatric dentists won’t care for patients as young as one or two and they often won’t accept Medicaid.” (6)

Dentists often pat themselves on the back while claiming they are the only profession willing to put themselves out of business by forcing fluoridation onto the American public. That's hardly the case as the New York Times reports it's a boom time for dentists; but not for teeth. "With dentists’ fees rising far faster than inflation and more than 100 million people lacking dental insurance, the percentage of Americans with untreated cavities began rising this decade, reversing a half-century trend of improvement in dental health," according to the NY Times (7)

"Dentists’ incomes have grown faster than that of the typical American and the incomes of medical doctors. Formerly poor relations to physicians, American dentists in general practice made an average salary of $185,000 in 2004, the most recent data available. That figure is similar to what non-specialist doctors make, but dentists work far fewer hours. Dental surgeons and orthodontists average more than $300,000 annually," reports the New York Times.
(7)

References:

(1) “Adding fluoride to water supplies,” British Medical Journal, KK Cheng, Iain Chalmers, Trevor A. Sheldon, October 6, 2007

(2) “Muddy waters: evidence-based policy making, uncertainty and the ‘York review’ on water fluoridation,” Journal Evidence & Policy, Paul Wilson and Trevor Sheldon Vol 2 No 3 2006 pages 321-31

(3) “Water Fluoridation: a Review of Recent Research and Actions,” by Joel M. Kauffman, PhD, Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, Volume 10 Number 2 Summer 2005

(4) Topanga Messenger Online, “ Citizens to Zev: Halt Fluoride OPEN LETTER TO SUPERVISOR YAROSLAVSKY,” October 7, 2007

http://www.topangamessenger.com/Articles.asp?SectionID=1&ArticleID=2715

(5) Topanga Messenger Online, “Zev to Citizens ‘No Comment’ Supervisor Approves $20 Million Grant for Fluoride,” by Lee Michaelson, October 7, 2007

http://www.topangamessenger.com/Articles.asp?SectionID=1&ArticleID=2716

(6) “Screening for ECC in baby teeth,” 10/8/2007, by Diana Palotas

http://news10now.com/content/health/healthy_living/?ArID=122323

(7) Boom Times for Dentists, but Not for Teeth , October 11, 2007
By Alex Berenson

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/11/business/11decay.html?ei=5040&en=e2f66b1ea1cb57e8&ex=1192680000&partner=MOREOVERNEWS&pagewanted=print



SOURCE: NYS Coalition Opposed to Fluoridation, Inc.

PO Box 263

Old Bethpage, NY 11804

http://www.orgsites.com/ny/nyscof
http://www.FluorideAction.Net

Past News Releases: http://tinyurl.com/6kqtu

Mike Huben said...

Once again we are treated to a cut-and-paste of propaganda by anti-fluoridationists.

The British Medical Journal article which is cited is discussed by the editor, in this editorial. She writes:

"Objective though they strive to be, my reading is that Cheng and colleagues come down against fluoridation because of uncertainty about its safety, questions of autonomy, and because there are other ways of preventing caries."

That is an astoundingly harsh judgement for such a journal, and essentially a warning against using it the way nyscof does.

nyscof said...

Sometimes the truth isn't pretty.
This is an uncut memo by the British researchers, themselves, who are tired of people using their reseasrch to indicate fluoridation is safe and effective when that's not what they found, at all.

What the 'York Review' on the fluoridation of drinking water really found

Originally released : 28 October 2003

A statement from the Centre for Reviews and Dissemination (CRD).

In 1999, the Department of Health commissioned CRD to conduct a systematic review into the efficacy and safety of the fluoridation of drinking water. The review specifically looked at the effects on dental caries/decay, social inequalities and any harmful effects. The review was published on the CRD Fluoridation Review website and in the BMJ in October 2000.

We are concerned about the continuing misinterpretations of the evidence and think it is important that decision makers are aware of what the review really found. As such, we urge interested parties to read the review conclusions in full at http://www.york.ac.uk/inst/crd/pdf/summary.pdf.

We were unable to discover any reliable good-quality evidence in the fluoridation literature world-wide.

What evidence we found suggested that water fluoridation was likely to have a beneficial effect, but that the range could be anywhere from a substantial benefit to a slight disbenefit to children's teeth.

This beneficial effect comes at the expense of an increase in the prevalence of fluorosis (mottled teeth). The quality of this evidence was poor.

An association with water fluoride and other adverse effects such as cancer, bone fracture and Down's syndrome was not found. However, we felt that not enough was known because the quality of the evidence was poor.

The evidence about reducing inequalities in dental health was of poor quality, contradictory and unreliable.

Since the report was published in October 2000 there has been no other scientifically defensible review that would alter the findings of the York review. As emphasised in the report, only high-quality studies can fill in the gaps in knowledge about these and other aspects of fluoridation. Recourse to other evidence of a similar or lower level than that included in the York review, no matter how copious, cannot do this.

The full report is available via the CRD Fluoridation Review web site (http://www.york.ac.uk/inst/crd/fluorid.htm). For more information, please contact Paul Wilson (01904 321073).


http://www.york.ac.uk/inst/crd/fluoridnew.htm

Mike Huben said...

More cut-and-paste, though this time with a misleading preface. The statement quoted painstakingly doesn't say which side is misrepresenting the report, yet nyscof declares it's the other side. That's dishonest.

If you read the summary, they grade research into A, B, and C levels based on how well the possibility of researcher bias is excluded.

The evidence for beneficial effects is level B, which is a medium (not unacceptable) level. And that evidence shows a likely substantial effect.

The evidence for fluorosis is level C, which is a low level.

The evidence for other effects was poor (level C.)