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Concern Over University Of North Carolina
Child Medical Experiment In Low–Income Community
A University of North Carolina (UNC) dentist is recruiting infants from Lenoir County, NC, for an experiment exposing them to levels of fluoride that have been shown in many peer-reviewed studies to cause harm to the developing brain, according to the Fluoride Action Network (FAN).
The study, named waterBEST and led by dental researcher Dr. Gary Slade, would give bottled water with fluoride to infants starting at age 3–6 months and continuing to age 4 years. It is intended to test whether fluoridated water reduces cavities. The study’s Informed Consent document, that parents must sign, fails to mention the risk of lowered IQ.
National Institute for Health guidelines for human medical experimentation require that participants be fully informed of risks, and that risks do not outweigh potential benefits. FAN detailed how the waterBEST study violates these requirements in a formal Letter of Concern to the UNC Institutional Review Board (IRB) that is responsible for monitoring the ethics of human research.
FAN cites an extensive National Toxicology Program (NTP) review of fluoride neurotoxicity that identifies over 100 studies showing adverse effects including IQ loss and ADHD. Among 27 studies designated as high quality, 15 show fluoride injury at the same exposure levels proposed in Slade’s early childhood study.
Editors of the Journal of the American Medical Association say the loss of IQ from fluoride is “on a par with lead”. Other experts, including Linda Birnbaum PhD, past NTP director, stress the need to avoid fluoride:
“Given the weight of evidence that fluoride is toxic to the developing brain, it is time [to] protect pregnant women and their children [and recommend they] reduce their fluoride intake.”
Slade hopes the study will provide evidence to support expansion of fluoridation in the US. In a 2018 article he advised avoidance of “mixed messages” that inform people of fluoridation’s pros and cons. The Informed Consent document for waterBEST reflects that attitude.
FAN is also concerned that the children will be recruited from a community that is 40% Black and 11% Latino and other minorities, and is one of the poorest regions in North Carolina, thus making this an Environmental Justice issue.
FAN Director, Paul Connett, PhD, says:
“Is it worth losing 5 IQ points to prevent one cavity? This study is ethically unacceptable. It puts vulnerable children at risk.”