“Have you never wondered why I drink only distilled water, or rainwater, and only pure-grain alcohol? Have you ever heard of a thing called fluoridation of water? Do you realize that fluoridation is the most monstrously conceived and dangerous Communist plot we have ever had to face?”
That was Gen. Jack Ripper (Sterling Hayden) to Capt. Lionel Mandrake (Peter Sellers) in the 1963 Cold War send-up Dr. Strangelove. Gen. Ripper is so concerned about his precious bodily fluids that he launches an attack on the Soviet Union. Such an attack never occurred, but conspiracy theories did indeed swirl around fluoridation. A re-run of sorts is now occurring courtesy of York University (Toronto) neuropsychologist Christine Till, author of a study that links fluoride in drinking water to lower intelligence in children.
The Journal of the American Medical Association claims it subjected the study to added scrutiny and peer review, but experts from six countries are taking aim at Till. Harvard dental professor Myron Allukian Jr., former president of the American Public Health Association, charges that Till is “misleading the public and others by distorting the data and not doing the proper analyses.” In similar style, a report by Canada’s independent health agency claims Till’s conclusions were “not supported by the data” and Till was reluctant to hand it over. According to McGill University chemistry professor Joe Schwarcz, “Whoever owns the data should be willing to release it.”
Fluoridation of drinking water to prevent tooth decay began in the 1940s, and as Jesse Hicks notes at Science History, anti-fluoridation literature goes back more than half a century. Critics claim fluoride is linked to cancer, diminished intelligence, and birth defects, among other serious concerns. Christine Till has also linked fluoridated water with ADHD, and her controversial work provides some takeaways.
When it comes to medical science, peer review is not enough. Studies must be subject to replication by independent parties. When it comes to tooth decay, fluoridation is hardly the only factor, and other substances in water raise cause for concern.
For example, in 2018, waters at the confluence of the Sacramento and American rivers were contaminated with E. coli bacteria, caused by fecal contamination. As KCRA reported, while only a small percentage of E. coli strands are harmful, “they can cause significant health problems.”
So if General Ripper were around today, he would have a lot more to worry about than fluoride.
Posts by K. Lloyd Billingsley | Full Biography and Publications