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Christopher "Tanoro" Gray is a web programmer and science advocate especially concerned with resource management technologies, biology, and artificial intelligence. He is a student of epistemology and philosophy as well as an Atheist competent in Christian theology.
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Harvard Study Shows Fluoride Drecreases IQ by Half a Point
Posted by: Tanoro - Jul 28, 2012 10:40PM

Earlier today, a friend of mine on Facebook asked me about a meta-analysis published this week in the journal, Environmental Health Perspectives. Researchers of Harvard University conducted the review of the past year's scientific literature, looking for correlations in data linking fluoride exposure and effect on the neurobiology of developing youth.

The abstract begins:

Although fluoride may cause neurotoxicity in animal models and acute fluoride poisoning causes neurotoxicity in adults, very little is known of its effects on children’s neurodevelopment.

So what is going on here is that experts are suggesting that an area of research has not been researched thoroughly for their liking, so they are selecting to skim through the literature and see if anything jumps out at them. If they find anything interesting, then they should announce it in peer review so that other experts can make note of it and watch their research accordingly.

This is called a "meta-analysis." What makes a meta-analysis different than a typical study is that no actual experiment has taken place, no samples collected, and no new data is being presented. All the researchers are hoping to do here is review all of the most recent data and try to look for anything worth exploring that one wouldn't have noticed having the limited perspective of only a few of the recent papers.

To announce the publishing of this study, Harvard published a press release of their own in somewhat friendlier language.

Based on the findings, the authors say that this risk should not be ignored, and that more research on fluoride's impact on the developing brain is warranted. ... "For the first time we have been able to do a comprehensive meta-analysis that has the potential for helping us plan better studies. We want to make sure that cognitive development is considered as a possible target for fluoride toxicity," Choi said.

It is important to note what is being stated here. Harvard researchers are suggesting that there might be an issue, but we won't know for sure until more research is done. They are not suggesting we start raising alarms just yet. They are saying that this area of research has not been given enough attention and that more research is needed just to eliminate some cause for concern.

So what did this paper find?

The average loss was only half of one IQ point, but some studies suggested that even slightly increased fluoride exposure could be toxic to the brain. Thus, children in high-fluoride areas had significantly lower IQ scores than those who lived in low-fluoride areas.

Now, I don't want to downgrade this to something that isn't worthy of concern, but it is crucial to understand that this study has not made any claims. At best, it has suggested a hypothesis worth further study. The problem is that non-science opponents of fluoridation have already started touting this meta-analysis as "absolute proof" that they've been right all along.

Let's hear the word on fluoride from an actual biologist.

This blog is an editorial and contains only the opinions of the author. The author claims no expertise on most topics of discussion and this blog is not to be cited as an alternative for properly vetted journalism or scientific sources.

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