In a recent article the New York Times (NYT) made a very embarrassing mistake. Specifically, it cited a videotape that repeated a serious mistake on the toxicity of fluoride that was corrected 6 years ago.
The mistake made in the video was the claim that an important meta-analysis of 27 IQ studies carried out by a team from Harvard University (Choi et al., 2012) – comparing the IQ between children from villages with high fluoride exposure and villages with low-exposure- reported an average loss of 0.45 of an IQ point. In reality, the Harvard researchers reported a loss of 0.45 of one standard deviation, which amounted to a loss of 7 IQ points. A huge difference. A loss of half an IQ point might be insignificant, but a loss of 7 IQ points would be very serious at the population level. Such a loss would more than halve the number of very bright children (IQ greater than 130) and increase by at least 50% the number of mentally handicapped (IQ less than 70).
Under any other circumstances this would be a very embarrassing mistake but on the matter of fluoridation the NYT is not embarrassed easily. For example, in 2015 the senior science editor wrote an email in connection with fluoridation:
“… I understand that you disagree, but I think it’s fair to say
that most members of the science staff of The New York Times
consider this debate to have been decided – in fluoride’s favor –
about 50 years ago.”
Donald McNeil Jr., Science Correspondent, New York Times
April 2, 2015 email. Subject: READERS MAIL
See copy of email at 4:35 minutes into Our Daily Dose
It is quite possible that Donald McNeil’s pro-fluoridation position here has something to do with the fact that his father wrote a history of water fluoridation that was decidedly pro-fluoridation (The Fight for Fluoridation, Donald McNeil, Oxford University Press, 1957). Be that as it may, McNeil should know that such a statement is preposterous. Science is never “settled.” This situation is what Thomas Huxley described as the “great tragedy of science – the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact.”
In the case of water fluoridation there are dozens of ugly facts that slay the hypothesis and the much repeated mantra that “fluoridation is safe and effective.” These include 53 studies that associate a lowering of IQ with exposure to fluoride (http://fluoridealert.org/studies/brain01/). From the fluoridation promoters’ perspective, the “ugliest” of these “facts” came last year in the form of a rigorous US government-funded study that found an association between fluoride exposure in pregnant women and lowered IQ in their children at 4 and 6-12 years of age (Bashash et al., 2017).
New York Times continues to ignore recent IQ studies
The worrying thing here is not so much this recent “clanger” from the NYT but rather the fact that the editors of this paper made a decision that these important findings from 2017 (and repeated in 2018 by Thomas et al.) were not “fit to be published.”
This, despite the fact that this multi-million-dollar research effort was carried out over 12 years, and involved researchers from many leading US, Canadian and Mexican institutions and Universities, with over 50 published papers on other neurotoxic chemicals between them, and that it was published in the world’s leading environmental health journal (Environmental Health Perspectives).
Failure of the New York Times means that pregnant women are not being warned to avoid fluoride
FAN is doing its best to warn people about these important findings but sadly, without the attention of important outlets like the NYT, pregnant women in the US and other fluoridated countries will not be adequately warned that they should avoid fluoride during pregnancy.
FAN writes letter on June 3rd to the New York Times requesting correction
Letter to the Editor:
The speaker in the video claims a Harvard University meta-analysis of 27 fluoride/IQ studies reported an average difference of 0.45 IQ points. In reality, the Harvard researchers reported a loss of 0.45 of one standard deviation, which amounts to a loss of 7 IQ points. A huge difference.
A loss of 7 IQ points would more than halve the number of very bright children (IQ greater than 130) and increase by at least 50% the number of mentally handicapped (IQ less than 70).
We are also disappointed that the Times failed to report recent findings of a rigorous US-government funded study conducted by a team of highly experienced researchers (Bashash, 2017 and Thomas, 2018) that essentially confirmed the Harvard review’s concerns. In this latest study, a loss of 6 IQ points in children was associated with exposure to women during pregnancy of levels of fluoride commonly experienced by adults in artificially fluoridated communities.
Without the attention to such important science, by such news outlets as the NY Times, pregnant women in the USA will not be adequately warned that they should avoid fluoride during pregnancy.
Paul Connett, PhD
FAN has also written a letter to the video host
Dear Dr. Carroll,
In 2014, you made a YouTube video entitled “Fluoride in the Water Isn’t Going to Hurt You.”
In the video, you stated that a Harvard meta-analysis found that higher fluoride levels in 27 studies, on average, lowered the IQ’s of children by about one half an IQ point. Actually, the study said that it was about half a standard deviation, equating to about seven IQ points (https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/features/fluoride-childrens-health-grandjean-choi/). This was a major error, leading to anyone watching your video to underestimate how serious fluoride in water can be. Since that study, many others have found that fluoride may lower IQ’s, including last year’s major NIH-funded study led by the University of Toronto (https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/ehp655/) (and including at least one researcher from your own Indiana University) that linked higher fluoride levels in pregnant women to lower IQ’s in their children.
Recently, the New York Times ran an article linking to your video, further compounding this misunderstanding.
I have a simple request. Would you please, in the very near future, either correct your YouTube video or, if that’s not possible, remove it entirely from the internet as soon as possible? Please let me know.
Meanwhile, would you also inform the NY Times – who relied on your video – of this error.
Paul Connett, PhD
Executive Director, Fluoride Action Network
We have received no reply and no correction from either the New York Times or Carroll. Thus, the lie (fluoridation is safe) persists and other than FAN no one is warning pregnant women to avoid fluoride.
Paul Connett, PhD
Fluoride Action Network