Tim over at New Anthropocene has put together a list of the more common myths pushed by the anti-fluoridation movement.
Like me, Tim is a keen advocate for good science. If you don’t know his blog, check it out. He has been doing some remarkable work on the anti-fluoridation movement in Australia.
It is a terrific resource that needs to be shared more widely. It is stunning just how familiar all these arguments are.
From creationists, to climate sceptics and those that doubt the effectiveness of the MMR vaccine, there is a common thread linking them - the use of cherry picked facts, anecdotal evidence and confusion over basic science.
This one is my favorite as it is very familiar: Anecdotal evidence is UNSUBSTANTIATED evidence against fluoridated water
Typically the individual states that they (or someone who they know) experienced some symptoms when they were exposed to fluoride and were able to test this but eliminating fluoride exposure to “prove” the case.
Merilyn Haines, President of the Queenslanders for Safe Water, Food and Air inc. provides anecdotal evidence to support her claims regarding fluoridation of drinking water with the case of her sister moving to Townsville. Her claim hinges on a complete disregard for potential co-founders that could arise from the 800 km move to a different city and the fact that her sister had clearly been exposed to fluoride over her entire life through toothpaste and foods without experiencing symptoms.
Anecdotal evidence is the crux of the claims for many positions, such as anti-vaccination, whereby the MMR vaccine is supposed to cause autism, anti-wind farm, whereby exposure to wind farms has supposedly caused everything from irritability and low libido, to herpes, cataracts and accelerated aging!
With fluoridated drinking water, Lamberg et al (1997) looked at the symptoms people stated they experienced due to exposure while they were exposed to fluoridated water and after fluoridation stopped (with the subjects unaware of this). The rates of symptoms did not significantly change until after the expected end of fluoridation, not with the actual event itself, leading the researchers to conclude that the supposed symptoms were psychologically based and not related to actual exposure to fluoridated water.
Anecdotal evidence for this reason is not sufficient and when others rely on it as evidence, the alarm bells should ring.