The Claim Game


Posted & filed under Facts about Fluoride.

An Oregon father, writer, and science enthusiast has written this article on his blog, exploring the messages and tactics used by anti-fluoride activists. It is worth reading. He writes:

“While fluoridation opponents continue to make the same old claims about cancer, if you point out that these have never been substantiated they will simply put forth a variety of other more recent assertions. The most popular of these are effects on I.Q. and thyroid function. New claims of risk published in any kind of peer-reviewed journal should always be taken seriously and tested for replicable results. They should not be automatically dismissed or idly refuted. But neither should they be summarily accepted. If the evidence is poor or the methodology suspect, better evidence should be gathered and more reliable methods applied (as was done on the issue of osteosarcoma). But a new claim is never by itself grounds for dismissing existing assumptions.”

Opponents of fluoridation frequently argue that the “doubts” they raise about community water fluoridation amount to sufficient cause to end this health practice. But the Oregon blogger explains why reasoning such as “When in doubt, keep it out” is misleading:

“… For the precautionary principle to apply it’s not enough to say something might be bad. You also have to make a claim that it does no good. A proven benefit clearly outweighs an unproven risk. And so opponents often cite studies trying to demonstrate that the benefits of water fluoridation are illusory. It’s usually not difficult to find some study somewhere to support whatever claim you want, and even easier to find a seemingly well credentialed individual with a good quote. But finding studies that say water fluoridation is simply ineffective is actually pretty tough. And that’s because of the overwhelming consensus that it is effective.”

Perhaps the most important point this blogger makes is that scientific evidence that resoundingly supports sensible public policy will never be convincing to those whose core beliefs reject it.