Christine Till said she didn’t learn who else was presenting until organizers sent her an agenda two weeks before the event
As she battles critics of her research linking fluoridated water and lower child IQ, Christine Till won some powerful validation this month.
The U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP) commented favourably on the York University professor’s study and others examining the issue. Fluoride is “presumed to be a cognitive neurodevelopmental hazard,” concluded the government agency in a revised report on the issue that echoes Till’s own concerns.
But the neuropsychologist’s virtual appearance at a Nashville conference earlier in September is unlikely to reassure the naysayers.
Till spoke on her fluoride research, but fellow presenters at the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology event included a who’s who of the anti-vaccination and COVID-19 conspiracy-theory movements.
Among them were defrocked British doctor Andrew Wakefield, whose study linking vaccines and autism was exposed as fraudulent, and Judy Mikovits, a former biochemist who starred in a viral video that promulgated a litany of false information on the coronavirus.
Wakefield and another of the presenters have had their medical licences revoked, while Mikovits was briefly arrested after she allegedly took lab notebooks and other proprietary information from a research facility where she’d worked.
It’s difficult to say what obligation scientists have to vet fellow speakers, but in giving top billing to Wakefield and Mikovits, this conference was “patently absurd,” says Tim Caulfield, a University of Alberta health policy professor and crusader against health misinformation.
“Having a legit scientist present at an iffy event gives credibility to both the event and the ideas that are pushed,” he said. “It sends the message that speakers like Wakefield and Mikovits are on par with respected scientists espousing scientifically plausible views.”
Till said she was invited in January to address the conference, held physically in Nashville as she spoke by internet from Toronto. She said she didn’t learn who else was presenting until organizers sent her an agenda two weeks before the event.
Till also said she wasn’t aware of Mikovits’ role in Plandemic. Viewed millions of times online, the video suggested falsely that wearing a mask could “activate” COVID-19, that Italy’s outbreak was linked to flu shots and that beach sand and sea water could cure the virus. Facebook and other social-media platforms took the film down.
Meanwhile, the Canadian academic stressed that she accepted no payment from the IAOMT, and does back childhood vaccination of the sort her fellow speakers decry.
“You might be wondering ‘What was I thinking, why did I accept the invitation?’” she said in an interview. “Just because I speak to an organization does not mean I subscribe to the views of the other speakers … To me the invitation to speak is to present our research findings, make them accessible to this group.”
IAOMT itself is not exactly a mainstream scientific organization. Its chief cause is to end the use of metal amalgam dental fillings, arguing the mercury in them is toxic. But while the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently suggested that children under six, pregnant women and some other vulnerable groups should avoiding amalgam fillings – based on “very limited” evidence of possible harm – it says a raft of studies have found them safe for most people.
Most famous of the Sept. 10-12 conference speakers is Wakefield, who has found a home in the U.S. anti-immunization movement since his study on autism and vaccines was discredited and his British licence removed.
Mikovits gained some prominence in 2009 with a study that seemed to identify a mouse virus as the cause of chronic-fatigue syndrome. Further research disproved the theory, leading to her original paper being retracted. Since leaving her research facility, Mikovits has promoted anti-vaccine ideas.
Marc Geier, who also addressed the conference and links vaccines and autism, had his medical licence in Maryland and other states revoked over his treatment of autistic children and misrepresenting himself as an epidemiologist and geneticist. Another speaker was retired chemistry professor Boyd Haley, who has long espoused the discredited notion that mercury in vaccines causes autism.
Just because I speak to an organization does not mean I subscribe to the views of the other speakers.
Till has become something of a lightening rod in the debate over fluoridated water since she published a study last year that found an increase in fluoride levels in pregnant women was associated with their children having slightly lower IQ.
Fluoridation experts wrote to York University last week, demanding it convene an independent investigation of the professor’s research, suggesting she may be putting ideology over science.
Some reviews of her study have questioned its methodology and statistical analysis. But the NTP cited it and other research in saying there is a “moderate level” of evidence that fluoride is associated with cognitive effects in children.
Till said the conclusions were no surprise, given the high-profile journal that published her own work first subjected it to an unusual amount of scrutiny and peer review.
“We responded to hundreds of critiques just to get the study published,” she said. “I haven’t heard anything new.”
(Modified 10 a.m. Sept. 30 to correct Caulfield’s affiliation.)
*Original article online at https://www.thewhig.com/news/canadian-behind-controversial-fluoride-research-spoke-to-conference-featuring-anti-vaxxers-covid-conspiracists/wcm/3f69211e-4209-4ccc-a7d2-54803372b474?video_autoplay=true