Journalist’s Resource Takes On Fluoride Misinformation
Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy Journalist’s Resource recently published Fluoride in water in the United States and public health misinformation: Research review. Authors Brittany A. Seymour and Denise-Marie Ordway identify the rapid spread of misinformation online and caution journalists against creating a “false balance” in their reporting.
The overwhelming body of evidence and 70 years of practical experience support the effectiveness of community water fluoridation (CWF) as a public health measure. Leading health, medical and scientific groups continue to recommend the practice.
Despite decades of sound science, experience, and support, anti-fluoride groups continue to distort information and have succeeded in disseminating these distortions online. The authors of this research review use the “Harvard study” as a prime example of this phenomenon. The 2012 review of 27 flawed, heterogeneous studies has been used as the basis for claims that fluoridated water lowers IQs in children, ultimately leading to the claim that fluoride is a neurotoxin. The evidence, of course, doesn’t support these claims. But the nature and effectiveness of online networks, and a platform where opinions can be presented as facts regardless of their validity, supports the diffusion of misinformation.
That is all the more reason that this research review is such a valuable resource for anyone seeking to write about fluoridation or simply understand the science in support of community water fluoridation.