Hornswoggling the public about science

“If fluoride is potentially dangerous in large amounts, isn’t it best to avoid it altogether? Not necessarily. Yale clinical neurologist Steven Novella, one of the authors of the well-respected blog Science-Based Medicine, put it to me this way: “Everything is toxic at a high enough dose; everything is safe at a low enough dose.” Yes, even water and vitamin C can be deadly when you consume too much. And the idea that something bad at high doses is also necessarily bad at low doses is based in part on the assumption that dose-response effects follow a linear pattern, but many scientists now think that biological responses are more complex than that. Some substances may only be dangerous beyond a certain threshold, while others may follow U- or inverted-U-shaped dose-response curves, such that substances have unexpected effects at high or low doses. (The anti-cancer drug tamoxifen, for instance, can stimulate tumor growth in small amounts.)”

Melinda Moyer got curious after hearing some rumors about the effect of flouride in water on children. See decided to check it out and reports on the question “Does Fluoride Make Your Kids Dumb? (Don’t trust the influential doctor who says yes)” at Slate.

Some people are gullible, some are skeptical, but one has to wonder about those who make it a life’s work to promote and promulgate fear and uncertainty with a complete lack of intellectual integrity. As Moyer illustrates, it often doesn’t take much effort to qualify the rumors and FUD mongering that floats all over the place.

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