More proof Justin Elliott isn't credible (Sharron Angle, public health concerns over fluoride)


Sharron Angle [1] won the Republican primary against Harry Reid yesterday, and as could be expected Democratic Party proxies are already beginning their attack. One of those is Justin Elliot of TalkingPointsMemo, who offers "FLASHBACK: GOPer Angle Spoke Out Against Fluoride In Water Supply" [2].

It's a low-grade attempt to provoke a conditioned response that most people have: when someone says something against fluoridation, you're supposed to think that person must be nuts. As it turns out, the science of fluoridation isn't anywhere near as settled as some would have you believe, and the original program of fluoridation was sold using a smear campaign without having the benefit of rigorous studies.

For an overview, see this:

The reality is that anyone making any confident statement on fluoride speaks way beyond the evidence. In 1999 the [UK] Department of Health commissioned the centre for reviews and dissemination at York University to do a systematic review of fluoridation and its effects on dental health. Little new work has been done since. In the review, 3,200 research papers, mostly of very poor quality, were unearthed. The ones that met the minimum quality threshold suggested there was vaguely, possibly, around a 15% increase in the number of children without dental caries in areas with fluoridated water, but the studies generally couldn't exclude other explanations for the variance. Of course, the big idea with fluoride in water is that it can reduce social inequalities in dental health since everyone drinks it. But there isn't much evidence on that either... A study from Taiwan found a high incidence of bladder cancer in women from areas where the natural fluoride content in water was high. It might have been a chance finding; but it could be real...

For more, see the following links, presented roughly in order of value and credibility. Please think for yourself and once again don't trust what Justin Elliot tells you:

UPDATE: In case it wasn't clear, I'm not saying that fluoridation is good or bad; I don't know since I'm not a scientist. Like it says below, this post is designed to encourage critical thinking rather than simply believing what one's been taught to think.

There are links about various European cities and countries deciding against fluoridation here.

Also see this study done by researchers at the University of Michigan:

In 1983/1984, a study of bone mass and fractures was begun in 827 women aged 20-80 years in three rural Iowa communities selected for the fluoride and calcium content of their community water supplies. The control community's water had a calcium content of 67 mg/liter and a fluoride content of 1 mg/liter. The higher-calcium community had water with a calcium content of 375 mg/liter and a fluoride content of 1 mg/liter. The higher-fluoride community's water had 15 mg/liter of calcium and 4 mg/liter of fluoride naturally occurring. In 1988/1989, a follow-up study characterized the 684 women still living and available for study. Residence in the higher-fluoride community was associated with a significantly lower radial bone mass in premenopausal and postmenopausal women, an increased rate of radial bone mass loss in premenopausal women, and significantly more fractures among postmenopausal women. There was no difference in the 5-year relative risk of any fracture in the higher-calcium community versus the control community; however, the relative risk was 2.1 (95% confidence interval (CI) 1.0-4.4) in women in the higher-fluoride community compared with women in the control community. There was no difference in the 5-year risk of wrist, spine, or hip fracture in the higher-calcium community versus the control community; however, the 5-year relative risk for women in the higher-fluoride community, compared with women in the control community, was 2.2 (95% CI 1.1-4.7). Estimates of risk were adjusted for age and body size.

And, see "The Fluoride Deception" (Amazon link):

Concerns over fluoridated drinking water have long been derided as the obsession of McCarthyite cranks. But this muckraking j’accuse asserts that fluoride is indeed a dire threat to public health, one foisted upon the nation by a vast conspiracy—not of Communist agents, but of our very own military-industrial complex. Investigative reporter Bryson revisits the decades-long controversy, drawing on mountains of scientific studies, some unearthed from secret archives of government and corporate laboratories, to question the effects of fluoride and the motives of its leading advocates. The efficacy of fluoridated drinking water in preventing tooth decay, he contends, is dubious. Fluoride in its many forms may be one of the most toxic of industrial pollutants, and Bryson cites scientific analyses linking fluoridated drinking water to bone deformities, hyperactivity and a host of other complaints. The post-war campaign to fluoridate drinking water, he claims, was less a public health innovation than a public relations ploy sponsored by industrial users of fluoride—including the government’s nuclear weapons program. Legendary spin doctors like Edward Bernays exploited the tenuous link between dental hygiene and fluoridation to create markets to stimulate fluoride production and to prove the innocuousness of fluoride compounds, thereby heading off lawsuits by factory workers and others poisoned by industrial fluoride pollution. Bryson marshals an impressive amount of research to demonstrate fluoride’s harmfulness, the ties between leading fluoride researchers and the corporations who funded and benefited from their research, and what he says is the duplicity with which fluoridation was sold to the people. The result is a compelling challenge to the reigning dental orthodoxy, which should provoke renewed scientific scrutiny and public debate.

UPDATE 2: From the Sierra Club (

The Sierra Club recommends lowering the maximum contaminant level of fluoride in drinking water from the present 4mg/L to a level shown not to harm aquatic ecosystems or human health. [National Research Council, Fluoride in Drinking Water: a Scientific Review of EPA's Standards, March 2006] ...The Sierra Club understands the historic reason that fluoridation of public water supplies has been promoted and that it may have been historically justifiable (162 million people get fluoride added to their municipal water supply at the recommended level of 0.7-1.2 mg/L). There are now, however, valid concerns regarding the potential adverse impact of fluoridation on the environment, wildlife, and human health.

Alex Pareene - now of Salon - has a post similar to Elliott's, and at least some of the comments point out how he's wrong (

Has the editorial staff at Salon ever come across a technocrat-endorsed initiative they didn't like? ...She's wary of state medicated water. Ha ha. Probably GMO and rBGH too. Salon's hipster with-it young writers strike again. ...Maybe Salon should have a rule that authors must consult a science writer before posting political hit pieces (no matter how well deserved!) which have a leg in science. Otherwise, Salon is being just as ignorant as the admittedly ignorant targets of Salon's partisan attacks.

See also this:

Among the more significant health conditions evaluated in relation to fluoride intake are cancer, dental fluorosis, and bone fractures. Other conditions are evaluated in the full report.

1/7/11 UPDATE: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is lowering the recommended level of fluoride in water for the first time since 1962 (link). Partly that's due to fluorosis leading to spotty teeth but also presumably due to things like this:

In March, 2006, the National Academy of Sciences released a report recommending that the EPA lower its maximum standard for fluoride in drinking water to below 4 milligrams. The report warned severe fluorosis could occur at 2 milligrams. Also, a majority of the report's authors said a lifetime of drinking water with fluoride at 4 milligrams or higher could raise the risk of broken bones.

[1] This is a pro-critical thinking post, not a pro-Angle post. She's the tea parties candidate (or at least the candidate for the Tea Party Express), and she didn't give me a straight answer when I asked whether she supported comprehensive immigration reform on Twitter.