Social Media is More Harmful Than Fluoride

Driven by alternative health practitioners and people who share articles without reading them (do I repeat myself?), a recent article has been making its rounds on social media. Just like anything that would make Alex Jones say he told us so, the boldly titled article, “Fluoride Officially Classified As A Neutotoxin In World’s Top Medical Journals,” should give us pause.

Firstly, who is the source? The website is branded with the “Awareness Act” moniker, but there is no indication that this is a legitimate organization or that it is affiliated with anything other than its own pseudo-brand. There is no about page, no mission statement, no contact information other than a Gmail address offered on the DMCA page, and no single person brave enough to take personal responsibility for this monstrosity. They do, however, have some pretty dank conspiracies:

ConspiracyMan
You’re better off not knowing what this video is about. Source: https://www.facebook.com/awarenessact

If you still are not convinced that there might be more reputable sources to inform public health policy, perhaps you should check out the Awareness Act misinformation featured on Snopes, or their rating on mediabiasfactcheck.com. Still want to hear what they have to say? Alright, let’s dive in.

As we know from the title, the article claims The Lancet (a medical journal) classified fluoride as a neurotoxin. That would be a strange thing for a journal to do. Why the article was written recently when they reference an issue of The Lancet Neurology from 4 years ago is another oddity, but it is clear that they were biased from the onset: “people are hoping that by bringing awareness to this that somehow we can get sodium fluoride removed from the world’s water supply.” It’s almost as if they already found their conclusion and are merely victims of confirmation bias.

Of course, it is no mystery that fluoride can be harmful in high enough doses. This is true of anything. If there is one thing alternative health and conspiracy theory communities continuously fail to grasp, it’s that the dose makes the poison. I doubt anti-fluoride activists are as careful to avoid equally harmless natural toxins found in produce.

As with all things, the benefits must be weighed against the harms. When it comes to public health, this requires careful cost-benefit analysis drawing on years of complex scientific evidence. In the case of fluoride, the evidence tells us that there are public health and financial benefits to maintaining an optimal level of fluoride. I say optimal because there are consequences from a high dose, but – despite what you might hear from dubious internet sources – overly high fluoride intake is more likely to occur from natural fluoride sources than from carefully controlled municipal systems.

Regarding the paper cited in The Lancet, it’s worth pointing out that – despite the Awareness Act article being published less than a month ago – the link in article is a dead end.

The Lancet
Must be a conspiracy, naturally. Source: http://www.thelancet.com/400.jsp

When searching for the original study, I came across this article on Snopes, which debunks the very article I set out to address in this post. Since they were so thorough, I will only conclude by pointing to a recent study examining fluoride neurotoxicity in mice. What did they find? Absolutely no evidence of neurotoxicity, strengthening the growing body of evidence indicating that fluoridated water is both safe and effective.

So what should concern you? Certainly the increasing risk of being misinformed on social media. Unfortunately – despite their best intentions – it’s likely that we all have friends and family who pose a risk by sharing misinformed health information. While it would be nice if everyone took a bit more personal responsibility ensuring they aren’t putting anyone at risk, it’s hard to blame them when even health professional endanger public health with falsehoods.


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