Fluoride & Neurotoxicity in The Lancet

Not this again! Lately anti-fluoridationists have been touting a recent study, Neurobehavioural effects of developmental toxicity, published in the Lancet,

Who would have thought that it ever would have happened? Someone in mainstream medicine and peer reviewed literature and journals would publish the ‘unthinkable’: fluoride, the stuff they put into municipal water supplies supposedly to ‘protect’ teeth from cavities, is a neurotoxin. Wow! And congratulations to doctors Philippe Grandjean, MD, and Philip J Landrigan, MD, two researchers who published their findings in The Lancet Neurology, Volume 13, Issue 3, Pages 330 to 338, March 2014. [source]

But how significant is this finding? Not very. This is simply a rehashing* of the same Chinese studies from the so called “Harvard study” and adds nothing new to the discussion. Dentist and pro-fluoridationist Steven D. Slott writes,

The “Harvard Study” was simply a review of 27 Chinese studies found in obscure Chinese scientific journals, of the effects of high levels of naturally occurring fluoride in the well water of various Chinese, Mongolian, and Iranian village. The concentration of fluoride in these studies was as high as 11.5 ppm. By the admission of the Harvard researchers, these studies had key information missing, used questionable methodologies, and had inadequate controls for confounding factors.

The Chinese studies have been addressed to death already (you can see my break down of the studies here), but anti-fluoridationists just don’t seem to care. They will continue to parrot anything that casts fluoridation in a sinister or scary light. For them this is not an issue of science, this is fear and ideology.

As I’ve written before fluoride is a social justice issue. Endemic fluorosis disproportionately affects the poor in developing nations, while fear-based efforts to stop community fluoridation programs disproportionately affect the poor in developed nations. When anti-fluoridationists cite such evidence what they are essentially doing is exploiting a very real problem of mostly poor and non-white folks (endemic fluorosis) in order to drum up attention and donations for a *made-up* problem of mostly privileged white folks in the West. The Fluoride Action Network in particularly is fond of citing Chinese, Indian, Middle Eastern and African data on endemic fluorosis, yet to my knowledge they have not lifted a finger to help people in these areas. Instead they focus entirely on blockading or dismantling public health programs.

Thankfully however there are some organizations on the ground in India addressing the issue of endemic fluorosis in a science-based manner, the Fluoride Knowledge & Action Network (not to be confused with the anti-science Fluoride Action Network) is one such organization. Hopefully this organization will grow and make some headway however I do share one concern expressed by science-blogger Ken Perrott,

I wish the Fluoride Knowledge and Action Network well in their future activity. They are dealing with an important problem in their area and hopefully won’t get diverted by Connett’s organisation. I think that is a possibility because the fluoride free groups, and the “scientific” journal Fluoride they love to quote, does try to make capital out of these real problems by arguing that they are also a problem with fluoridation in countries like New Zealand [and the US]. They aren’t.

Another organization doing some good in India is Frank Water which helps to provide “safe drinking water for the world’s poorest communities” by setting up sustainable filtration programs in areas with bacteriological and fluoride contamination. Their work in India, a fluorosis hotspot, has resulted in safe drinking water for hundreds of thousands of people who now have a brighter future. It is projects like this that are doing the real good, spreading fear and misinformation, however, helps no one.

*in that spirit you may find some that some of the text here is rehashed from previous posts on the subject.

Further Reading:
Repeating bad science on fluoride by Ken Perrott
The Data Behind the Global Neurotoxicity “Silent Pandemic” Is Kinda Sketchy by Michael Byrne
Upholding its tradition, a new Lancet piece on chemicals aims to scare rather than inform. from the ACSH
Fluoride & the Brain: The China Studies by Skeptical Vegan

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3 Responses to “Fluoride & Neurotoxicity in The Lancet”

  1. joad Says:

    all I know is this: my niece is autistic….when she was six, she was given, without consent, a fluoride treatment in school….after the treatment..within two hours…she regressed so severely she needed to be put back in diapers and she lost all her speech, everything…gone…it took weeks for her to recover ..since opting out of the fluoride treatment program at her school that regression has never happened again.

  2. Zach Says:

    Not that I’m questioning the extreamly high scientific standards of the sceptical vegan. But isn’t clasification as a neurotoxin by one of the worlds oldest and most respected scientific journals a pretty clear indication that there is a scientific basis to be concerned about flouride use? I come from a country that doesn’t add flouride to water and don’t use flouride bases toothpaste and have had no dental problems whatsoever, not even a filling. So the main thing to question, is it really necessary to add toxic chemicals no matter how small a level to the communal water supply? Anyways, there’s my two cents.

    • skepticalvegan Says:

      “But isn’t clasification as a neurotoxin by one of the worlds oldest and most respected scientific journals a pretty clear indication that there is a scientific basis to be concerned about flouride use? ”

      This paper does not represent any form of official position or opinion of Harvard University. Researchers at the Harvard School Of Medicine wrote a paper that contained a single reference to fluoride based on studies done in China on both fluoride exposure from excessively high level in air, water, and food from naturally occurring deposits as well as coal burning. The researchers themselves confirmed that, “While the studies the Harvard team reviewed did indicate that very high levels of fluoride could be linked to lower IQs among schoolchildren, the data is not particularly applicable here because it came from foreign sources where fluoride levels are multiple times higher than they are in American tap water.
      Additionally the researchers themselves confirmed that the IQ differences found “may be within the measurement error of IQ testing.”
      And they didnt even reach a strong conclusion “our results support the possibility of adverse effects”

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