Debunking the myths of the anti-Fluoridation movement: spread the word

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.


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61 thoughts on “Debunking the myths of the anti-Fluoridation movement: spread the word

  1. Wonderful article. It perfectly illustrates a problem that I think can be traced back to primary and secondary education, namely, the failure to introduce students to the idea of critical thinking using real-world examples along with the concept of and appreciation for the scientific method. Ideas that are not evidence-based are often faulty and can lead to dangerous outcomes. Medicine and health prevention should be primarily based on evidence, not on what feels good. The fluoridation issue is just one of many in the genre of Dr Google and the worried well presuming they know more than accredited experts in any particular field of study.

    • Eric Worrall says:

      You mean the scientific method which the CRU scientists and their mates pissed all over? Page after page of Climategate emails deals with nervous discussions of how to hide method and data, to frustrate efforts by skeptics to reproduce the work of leading alarmists.


      Steve’s going to find it very hard to ask you to send the code. Those that say on the CC board that you should send the code, have little idea what is involved. Most are on the social science side.

      I would not give them *anything*. I would not respond or even acknowledge receipt of their emails. There is no reason to give them any data, in my opinion, and I think we do so at our own peril!

      Dear Phil, Tas van Ommen has refered me to you for the version of his dataset that you used in Jones et al Holocene 1998 and I would appreicate a copy. I would also appreciate a copy of the Lenca series used in this study. Regards, Steve McIntyre

      • Debunker says:

        If that’s all you have Eric, you are pissing into the wind. Pathetic.

      • Eric Worrall says:

        Plenty more where that came from – I could do this all night.

        Here’s another favourite – Phil Jones and his famously disorganised record keeping.

        Climategate Email 1114607213.txt

        I got this email from McIntyre a few days ago. As far as I’m concerned he has the data – sent ages ago. I’ll tell him this, but that’s all – no code. If I can find it, it is likely to be hundreds of lines of uncommented FORTRAN! I recall the program did a lot more that just average the series. I know why he can’t replicate the results early on-it is because there was a variance correction for fewer series.

      • john byatt says:

        We think that is what you do eric

      • Eric Worrall says:

        Very funny. But I can’t help smelling a whiff of double standards.

        If Gleick had found emails like this when he stole from Heartland, you’d be shouting about denier efforts to impede science. Instead “persons unknown” had to forge a memo, to spice up the swag.

      • john byatt says:

        your getting off topic eric

        I know I know , you have no science papers so are left with this drivel.

        hang around until we get a post about such

      • john byatt says:

        eric honestly get your about page sorted, It does not look very professional at all

        at least put it through grammar/spell check.

      • Nine time loser at it again? Ah, memories of the scandal that might have been but never was.

      • Gleick confesses. Others mine stolen emails without a conscience – and then try and claim the moral high ground. It’s laughable.

      • Eric Worrall says:

        Others mine stolen emails without a conscience – and then try and claim the moral high ground. It’s laughable.

        There is no proof the Climategate emails were stolen – FOIA claims to be an insider. And unlike Gleick, FOIA didn’t include a forged document with her product.

        • uknowispeaksense says:

          aaahhh the infamous “forged document”. Sorry, that should be the infamous “genuine document so embarrassing for Heartland they will spuriously claim it is a forgery with no evidence whatsoever”.

      • Stolen. And you’re a morally bankrupt fraud.

      • And it wasn’t a forgery. Only demented Heartlanders say it, and I doubt any of them really believe it.

      • Eric Worrall says:

        Gleick admitted the memo to policy holders wasn’t part of the swag of documents he stole, he claims he received it anonymously in the post – that it was the memo which prompted him to try to obtain supporting evidence.

        At the beginning of 2012, I received an anonymous document in the mail describing what appeared to be details of the Heartland Institute’s climate program strategy. It contained information about their funders and the Institute’s apparent efforts to muddy public understanding about climate science and policy. I do not know the source of that original document but assumed it was sent to me because of my past exchanges with Heartland and because I was named in it. …

        People were mentioning Gleick’s name well before he confessed, because of the content of the forged memo – it mentioned him by name, and appears to contain his habitual grammar mistakes. I admit though that it is conceivable that someone set him up – its hard to imagine how even someone like Gleick could be so stupid.

        • uknowispeaksense says:

          “…and appears to contain his habitual grammar mistakes…”

          Why do you keep repeating debunked bullshit? It is shameful dishonesty on your part. You’re actually worse than a bullshit artist. At least they exercise some creativity. You’re just a mindless mouthpiece happy to gargle and dribble any bullshit thrown your way as long as it lines up with your idiotic ideology. How does it taste?

      • Eric Worrall says:

        Sorry, make that the climate strategy memo – haven’t finished my first coffee yet ;-).

  2. Eric Worrall says:

    I don’t think there is any evidence against fluoridation – my parents gave me fluoride pills, until the local water was fluoridated, to ensure I had healthy teeth, and it never did me no harm ;-).

    • john byatt says:

      No I will not say it, bite tongue, repeat, fluoride pills did not effect eric’s brain.

    • uknowispeaksense says:

      double negative

      • Eric Worrall says:

        Wow, it can read :-). My bad grammar aside though, what I’m saying is there is no credible evidence of harm from adding fluoride to water.

        Having said that, I’m not keen on the idea of the government dosing people against their will – there is no compelling reason to force people to endure fear about fluoride being added to their water, regardless of how ill founded those fears are.

  3. mgm75 says:

    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.

    You forgot the concept that “they” are out to get us. Conspiracy theory is usually the first thing they appeal to.

  4. john byatt says:

    Drum Roll, believe it or not

    the creationist president of the climate sceptics party, Leion Ashby was originally going to start the fluoride sceptics party

  5. john byatt says:

    14th local council in QLD to remove fluoride from water supply.

    • john byatt says:

      “The medical profession is saying that it’s best to have fluoride administered in this way, tablets are not as effective because you need to have contact with the teeth,” she said

  6. Eric Worrall says:

    Talking about debunked myths, there is a report that Meteo (the French equivalent of the UK MET office) is predicting a 70% chance of the coldest European Summer for 200 years – a new “year without a Summer”.

    • It’s as close as Eric’s ever come to posting meaningful science. I guess that’s worthy of a slow handclap.

      Whlie we’re debunking myths, guess how many metres Al Gore’s seaview house is above sea level.

    • 2012 and all that says:

      Wow, I guess we all ought to give it up then. Meanwhile, I had chocolate for every meal yesterday. I think I consumed about 4kg in all. I weighed myself this morning and I hadn’t put on any weight! Further, I passed a diabetes test. I guess that means I can eat 2kg of chocolate for every meal every single day and suffer no consequences for my health whatsoever…? Would that be about right Eric?

      • Eric Worrall says:

        I haven’t actually got that much of a sweet tooth, my weakness is casseroles – lots of meat, good variety of veg, just too much of everything…

      • john byatt says:

        There is no such thing as a sweet tooth, people who have more sugar in their coffee or dunk their sweet biscuits into their coffee have less sweet receptors and thus need a higher sugar content to be able to taste it at the same level as others

        how much sugar do you put in coffee

        what is your total sugar intake per day, from all sources

    • It will be interesting if this turns out to be due to melting the Arctic.

    • john byatt says:

      load of crap eric ,weak solar activity FFS

      • Eric Worrall says:

        John, even the MET office mentioned solar activity, according to the nest of deniers known as the BBC, when providing their “experimental” revision of climate forecasts, though they’re sticking to their line that the long term trend is unaffected.

        Its not rude to talk about solar activity anymore – the only question is how long until they have to make a grudging admission that solar activity was a major driver of 20th century warming.

      • john byatt says:

        The sun is heading for solar max at the moment eric.

        it has never been rude to talk about solar. you morons are the ones claiming that it is what has caused the warming over the last century.

        your link

        “However the paper concluded that, “in the absence of volcanic eruptions, global temperature is predicted to continue to rise, with each year from 2013 onwards having a 50 % chance of exceeding the current observed record”.

  7. john byatt says:

    I Knew that it was James Hansen, did not fit in with weatherboy’s propaganda apparently.

  8. john byatt says:

    You can follow the Atlantic jet stream forecasts here

  9. Dan Germouse says:

    The idea that anecdotal evidence is the crux of the argument against fluoridation is just more made up nonsense from the toxic waste pushers. There are many peer-reviewed scientific studies which call fluoridation into question. Any criticism of the science which shows that fluoridation is not safe would only make sense if there were better quality studies which showed that it is safe, but there aren’t any. The reality is that there are zero high-quality studies which demonstrate safety, and zero high-quality studies which demonstrate efficacy. Fluoridationists lied about the 2000 UK York review, as they do about everything relating to fluoridation, so a statement was made to set the record straight, which appears on the York University website.
    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).
    “The review specifically looked at the effects on dental caries/decay, social inequalities and any harmful effects.”
    “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.
    We were unable to discover any reliable good-quality evidence in the fluoridation literature world-wide.”
    “The evidence about reducing inequalities in dental health was of poor quality, contradictory and unreliable.”
    “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.”

    • uknowispeaksense says:

      “There are many peer-reviewed scientific studies which call fluoridation into question”

      and yet you fail to post a reference to a single one.

  10. Berry says:

    It is a myth that opposition to fluoridation is based on “anecdotal evidence”. It is based on careful analysis of all the available scientific evidence. I suggest you look at the NRC review on fluoride toxicity:
    This is the most comprehensive available review on the subject, with over 500 pages, including over 50 pages of references.

    Proponents of fluoridation ignore this review, and instead cite inadequate reviews that only examine a tiny fraction of the scientific evidence. For example, the NRC review has 44 pages examining the endocrine system. It concludes that there is credible evidence that thyroid function is affected at around the levels used in water fluoridation. In comparison, the NHMRC review, cited by fluoridation proponents, only has three lines. Of course it can’t conclude anything from this, and states that there is insufficient evidence to form a conclusion.

  11. […] Debunking the myths of the anti-Fluoridation movement: spread the … […]

  12. […] apologies again, here’s another skeptic site. Well, I do think an unbiased person trying to make up one’s mind should look at both sides. […]

  13. Proponents of fluoridation should look at the York Review, part of the Cochrane Collaboration UK, who supply the NHMRC with most of their studies under the name of Donagh et al who also sat on this review committee, this review about three times the content of local reviews found fluoridation to be not safe, a dearth of reliable evidence, poor studies of low quality, providing not enough data upon which to base policy. Beside this, there is no authority in Australia that certifies this poison for human consumption, and no studies carried out on Australians related to health, only studies on teeth, which Spencer at Adelaide University recently has come to similar conclusions about efficacy, meanwhile hospitals are confronted with exotic new diseases like Alzheimer’s, rare cancers, lots of hip replacements, of course no studies again as to origins, but suspicions run wild and so you have this controversy

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