Anatomy of a propaganda press release: Fluoride and IQ (UPDATED)

Reuters reprints a press release from a scare group misrepresenting research about fluoride.
Harvard Study Finds Fluoride Lowers IQ – Published in Federal Gov’t Journal

Harvard University researchers’ review of fluoride/brain studies concludes “our results support the possibility of adverse effects of fluoride exposures on children’s neurodevelopment.” It was published online July 20 in Environmental Health Perspectives, a US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences’ journal, reports the NYS Coalition Opposed to Fluoridation, Inc. (NYSCOF)

“The children in high fluoride areas had significantly lower IQ than those who lived in low fluoride areas,” write Choi et al.

Further, the EPA says fluoride is a chemical “with substantial evidence of developmental neurotoxicity.”

Fluoride (fluosilicic acid) is added to US water supplies at approximately 1 part per million attempting to reduce tooth decay.

“It’s senseless to keep subjecting our children to this ongoing fluoridation experiment to satisfy the political agenda of special-interest groups,” says attorney Paul Beeber, NYSCOF President.  “Even if fluoridation reduced cavities, is tooth health more important than brain health? It’s time to put politics aside and stop artificial fluoridation everywhere,” says Beeber.

Tip: r/skeptic

When we find an utter piece of crap evidence, we must call it out for what it is – an deceptive, biased piece of garbage that you should NOT believe.

Here’s why. Let me run down the red flags:

This is a press release by an advocacy group. I do not approve of the practice of newspapers running PRs without context or commentary. This is not journalism but the public finds it very difficult to tell the difference. Reuters (and others) are irresponsible to do this.

The advocacy group, NYS Coalition Opposed to Fluoridation, Inc. (NYSCOF), is opposed to fluoride supplements in water. They have cherry picked out of this Harvard report only what they wanted and misrepresented it. While there is a chance that their conclusion, fluoride=bad, may be true, this roundabout, manufactured way of showing your point is disingenuous.

The research was a review of existing studies, it is not a new study.

The studies were from “high fluoride level” areas, not areas that have supplemented fluoride. High Fl can occur naturally. (So can arsenic and other contaminants.) Not all well water is safe, even if it’s “natural”.

The fluoride limits listed are WAY above those recommended to prevent tooth decay in the U.S. We already know too much fluoride is bad. No one is advocating excessive fluoride, just the optimum amount.

The press release misrepresents the EPA statement. They also list other possible carcinogens we know and love that, in excessive levels, are harmful. Nothing new here but it’s sneaky.

The studies in this meta-analysis (combining data from several studies) may not have adequately accounting for other potentially harmful pollutants in the water that could cause lowered IQ.

The original studies were correlation studies, not causational. They did not show that high fluoride caused low IQ. Yet, that is exactly the picture this NYSCOF group hopes you will take away.

Here is the original research they are basing it on. Yes, they include the link, hoping you don’t go read it and understand the spin they put on it.

Developmental Fluoride Neurotoxicity: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

We performed a systematic review and meta-analysis of published studies to investigate the effects of increased fluoride exposure and delayed neurobehavioral development.

The results support the possibility of an adverse effect of high fluoride exposure on children’s neurodevelopment. Future research should include detailed individual-level information on prenatal exposure, neurobehavioral performance, and covariates for adjustment.

UPDATE: (1-Aug-2012) This post has solicited some anti-fluoride proponents who violate the comment policy with long ranty posts include allegations taken out of context and even including some conspiracy theories. I have not been allowing comments by two particular posters because this is not a debate forum. If you wish to add more on this topic, keep it concise, include the best sources, not a long rambling list of links no one will click on, and state your case with established knowledge, not speculation. The point of the above article linked was two-fold. One, it was about fluoride but, two, it was about the poor media coverage that allowed a press release to be seen as important news especially in light of the misrepresentation of a scientific study. Once again, this is not a free-for-all forum to debate fluoridation with NON-rational methods.

The same topic has been covered at Science Based medicine by Steve Novella: Antifluoridation Bad Science. It expands on the issues we brought up above. I suggest you check it out. And remember, I moderate comments. So, in order to get yours through, I suggest you be moderate as well. Thanks for participating in this discussion, everyone.

  19 comments for “Anatomy of a propaganda press release: Fluoride and IQ (UPDATED)

  1. G
    July 26, 2012 at 3:12 PM

    What is really sneaky is dentists not informing dental patients of the risk of dental fluorosis when using, drinking, or bathing in fluoride. Dental fluorosis is mottled, pitted, and brittle teeth. It is dental damage that benefits the dental industry.

    Then dentists lead you to believe that fluoride levels in the body can be scientifically determined by counting cavities when in reality it must be determined through lab work. (i.e. analysis of hair, nails, blood, urine, bone, or teeth). The USA now faces an epidemic of dental fluorosis (aka dental damage) in adolescents living in the USA. Dental fluorosis is also a sign of chronic fluoride poisoning.

    So much for letting the fox guard the hen house, huh?

    Read, “Fluoride in Drinking Water: A Scientific Review of EPA Standards” that contains the 2006 National Research Council’s (NRC) report on water fluoridation.

    You can read the the entire 500 page book free online.

    Fluoride damage isn’t limited to the brain or the teeth.

  2. Geoff
    July 27, 2012 at 3:26 AM

    Probably because it’s not likely that one will get naything but mild dental fluorosis when “using, drinking, or bathing” with optimally fluoridated water.

    But dentist should advise, and parents should know, that children should be trained to rinse carefully after brushing and warned to avoid swallowing toothpaste and mouth rinses.

  3. G
    July 27, 2012 at 10:55 AM

    Bucket medication is unscientific as you cannot control the dose in an infant versus a 250 lb man. It is absorbed through the skin when bathing, showering, or swimming in fluoridated water. The skin isn’t a raincoat. It is the largest organ of the body. Fluoride is absorbed through the skin like nicotine from a nicotine patch (even from clothes washed with fluoridated water). Fluoride doesn’t evaporate and it can’t be cooked out of foods or beverages. Its in most all processed foods, fresh produce (from pesticide residue), beverages, beer, soft drinks, tea, flour, Teflon cookware, air pollution, pharmaceuticals (Prozac), etc. Now calculate your daily dose. Municipal water districts should not be allowed to practice medicine without a license as they fail to monitor the fluoride levels in babies, children, adults, diabetics, kidney patients, the elderly, etc. It simply cannot be measured by counting cavities. That is extremely unscientific and negligent.

  4. G
    July 27, 2012 at 11:17 AM

    Fluoride isn’t even considered a nutrient. In 1979 the FDA required the deletion of all government references previously classifying fluoride as “essential or probably essential”, (Federal Register, March 16, 1979, page 16006).

  5. July 27, 2012 at 11:23 AM

    These are valid points. I understand the positives of fluoride-added water. But, it’s clear that it is NOT going to go over well with the public. Science can inform policy decisions but it can’t be the sole arbiter. If there is public outcry and aversion, other options have to be considered. No solution is perfect.

    That said, I would not ever advocate against fluoride in the obscene ways that have occurred in the past decades. That method is not helpful. It’s great for misinforming people, that’s about all.

  6. G
    July 27, 2012 at 11:31 AM

    H. Trendley Dean, DDS, (“father of fluoridation”), the original promoter of water fluoridation as an effective tool in fighting dental decay, admitted over 60 years ago under oath, that his evidence purporting to prove the fluoridation hypothesis was NOT valid.

    (H. Trendley Dean: Proceedings, City of Oroville vs. Public Utilities Commission of the State of California, Oroville, California, Oroville, California, October 20-21, 1955.)… also… (See 4-1: “Fluoridation Benefits – Statistical Illusion.” Testimony of Konstantin K. Paluev, Research and Development Engineer, Mar. 6, 1957).

    Trendley Dean admitted under oath on a witness stand that his early data gave ZERO evidence that increasing fluoride concentration in the water supply reduced tooth decay.

    Due to fluoride-induced hypothyroidism, fluoride delays the eruption of children’s teeth, giving the statistical illusion in prevents caries when in fact it only delays them. Fluoride is a halogen that displaces iodine from the iodine receptors of the thyroid gland and body which causes sub-clinical and clinical hypothyroidism.

    To paraphrase H. Trendley Dean’s findings, “As children’s teeth disintegrate, they may have fewer cavities”.

    Fluoride also calcifies the pineal gland of the brain. This gland regulates sleep (by way of melatonin), the onset of puberty in females, helps to combat free radicals (i.e. cancer) in the body, etc. See Studies by Dr. Jennifer Luke.

  7. G
    July 27, 2012 at 11:51 AM

    Studies done by Brown, Bishop and Rowan in the early 1980s showed that an average of 64 percent of the total dose of waterborne contaminants (including fluoride) are absorbed through the skin.

    A study by British researchers at the Health and Safety Laboratory in Sheffield published in the February 19, 2000 issue of Human Experimental Toxicology suggests that toxicants such as fluorides can be stored in the skin and released over a period of time.

    The failure to account for inhalation and dermal exposures to fluorides is the most significant flaw in fluoride research. It invalidates all dosage conclusions based solely on ingestion.
    6 days ago

    According to the Physican’s Desk Reference, the mucosal lining inside the mouth has an absorption efficiency of over ninety percent. Because of this, fluoride and other carcinogens can get into your blood, your brain, and your cells in no time at all. Children are being overexposed to fluoride simply from using toothpaste with fluoride. You don’t even have to drink it in water to ingest it.

    In 1997, the EPA concluded that a person can absorb more contaminants (including fluoride) from bathing and showering than from drinking polluted water.

  8. G
    July 27, 2012 at 12:15 PM

    See why the EPA Headquarters Union of Scientists also oppose water fluoridation:

    No one can claim that children in the USA are not being overexposed to fluoride when the fact is no one is monitoring the levels of fluoride in babies, children, adults, the elderly, the sick, etc. It is not being monitored in human beings by doctors, dentists, or the municipal water districts. (Counting cavities doesn’t count as science, or monitoring).

    Fluoride bio-accumulates in the body much like lead and arsenic. Less than 20% can be excreted by babies and children. Less than 50% can be excreted by adults (who have normally functioning kidneys).

  9. H
    July 27, 2012 at 4:12 PM

    TLDR… x6!

  10. G
    July 27, 2012 at 4:39 PM

    If people feel the need to add fluoride to their diet, let them buy a tube of toothpaste for a dollar at the dollar store. People don’t realize what they are getting through their tap water is not pharmaceutical grade, nor is it naturally occurring “Calcium Fluoride”. Fluoride is attracted to calcium. Calcium is a fluoride antagonist that is used as an antidote for fluoride overdose or fluoride poisoning. What is added to tap water is nothing more than pollution from the phosphate fertilizer industry, minus the semi-protective benefits of calcium. This makes it more toxic than naturally occurring calcium fluoride. This pollution contains other contaminants such as lead, arsenic, cadmium, etc. In fact, the LD50 (what it takes to kill 50% of the population) for this fluoride contaminant is more toxic than lead and only slightly less toxic than arsenic. And the phosphate fertilizer industries sell this at a 20,000% mark-up. It also saves them from having to pay to humanely dispose of it at a great cost. Have you heard the phrase, “the solution to pollution is dilution”?

    It all revolves around profit, not poor children’s teeth.

    Read the book, “The Fluoride Deception” by Christopher Bryson.

  11. July 27, 2012 at 5:34 PM

    Eh. I’m not buying this. There is no conspiracy for money. Any argument that goes here raises WAY too many red flags. And “toxic”, that word is WAY overused.

  12. G
    July 27, 2012 at 5:41 PM

    Drinking sunscreen to prevent a sunburn would also be “toxic” or rather “be unhealthy” to those with a normal stomach and body. Let’s use the word “unhealthy” then, okay?

    And let’s keep in mind that money is never a motive for anything.

  13. G
    July 30, 2012 at 12:58 AM

    There is a warning on toothpaste that if a child under the age of six years old swallows more than a pea-sized amount of toothpaste to contact “poison control”. This contains the same amount of fluoride you will find in one glass of artificially fluoridated tap water. Adding fluoride to the public’s tap water hasn’t even been approved by the FDA.

  14. Geoff
    July 30, 2012 at 11:06 AM

    Someone has been drinking too much koolaid. Unlike sunscreen and nicotine, fluoride is all around us and we have been exposed to it as a matter of course since our ancestors were nothing more than self-replicating DNA. Fluoride is in water all over Earth in concentrations that can in some cases dwarf normal fluoridation levels (especially in southern and central Asia).

    The long and the short of it is that the benefits of improved enamel protection are greater than the increased risk of dental fluorosis (which is mainly cosmetic). The risk of extreme dental and skeletal fluorosis does not materially affect this balance.

  15. David
    July 31, 2012 at 10:56 AM

    I am a skeptic, and I happen to work for a newswire service. I won’t comment on fluoride’s merits (or lack thereof), but I do have to take issue with this:

    “I do not approve of the practice of newspapers running PRs without context or commentary. This is not journalism but the public finds it very difficult to tell the difference. Reuters (and others) are irresponsible to do this.”

    Unfair. For starters, press releases do not purport to be journalism. It is up to journalists to see a press release, decide whether or not it is credible, and then write a story or ignore it. Reuters is a news release aggregator; a middle-man if you will, between various distribution services, and media outlets who might check it.

    In other words, as a paid service, Reuters (and going further back in the chain, PR Newswire) do not have the kind of public obligation to the truth that you assign them. As I said, I am an avowed skeptic, but if a wacky conspiracy group wanted to pay me to issue a press release stating that they think Bigfoot is responsible for 9/11, I wouldn’t have a problem with it – because journalists can (and should) ignore it wholesale.

  16. Tom
    August 2, 2012 at 7:03 PM

    I am a fluoride-generation baby and have perfect teeth. My partner who is significantly older and spent a youth without protection spends thousands of dollars a year on dental procedures. I think it’s pretty clear to me.

  17. August 2, 2012 at 8:54 PM

    Well, anecdotes…

    Don’t really count. But that is the argument.

  18. RandyRandy
    March 10, 2014 at 5:13 PM

    Are there any studies which show a strong correlation of beliefs in conspiracy theories to lower IQs?
    Do anti-fluoriders, anti-vaxxers, GMO panickers, Fukushima freakers et al also suffer reduced IQs due to self-induced suppression of critical thinking skills? I would suspect this is a widespread phenomena, as willful ignorance, pseudoscience and paranoia increasingly seem to be the norm. Worth investigating.

  19. lljames
    March 14, 2014 at 7:08 AM

    The point of your blog was that the study was bogus and you explained why. Anyone who distracts themselves with rants in the comment section is missing the point. I can either defend the study by correcting the reader with cited sources on the study itself or admit that its bogus.

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