31 Oct 2013

A little light reading, perhaps?

A little light reading, perhaps?
When will the government appoint Ministers who actually understand basic science?
Dr. Thomas Stockmann
Prof Stephen Peckham is quite correct; the response of Earl Howe to Parliamentary Questions put by Earl Baldwin entirely fails to address the real issues raised by the Noble Earl. Once again the government's spokesman seems to be speaking with blissful ignorance and aplomb on a subject of which he appears to know nothing - no, not fluoridation, but science itself!
If you read (God forbid!) the entire paper on which he relies (McGrady et al - on 'social deprivation,dental caries, and fluorosis in the UK') you'll find it liberally endowed with numerous disclaimers about the reliability of the study. The authors are clearly well aware of the limited reliability of their findings. They provide numerous disclaimers, carefully expressed in impeccably reasonable language, about certain points on which the study might be viewed as not quite meeting the high standards that one would expect in any experimental medication of large numbers of the general public.
The study presents challenging examples of complicated-looking statistical techniques, giving the impression (at least to the lay reader) that here at last is a really robust study, one that settles all this annoying confusion once and for all. Yet don't be fooled - all such epidemiological studies are inevitably subject to uncertainty and even (Oh no!) bias, and this one is no exception.
Here, as in some other studies referred to in the introduction, we see once again this irritating habit of 'cherry picking' the data. These studies rarely if ever deal with ALL of the data on ALL relevant communities. Instead they compare selected towns - but annoyingly they never reveal all of actual data. When perfectly simple (but curiously unreported) 'Confidence Intervals' are calculated, which describe how much error exists in a study's data, all too often it it turns out that the level of uncertainty in the effects on the selected town populations is so great that the comparison is statistically meaningless!
That's the problem with research on the effects of experimenting on the public - you don't really know nearly enough about your unwary subjects to be certain of what the supposed 'results' of follow-up studies mean in the real world. The effects of fluoridation on the governmental's unsuspecting guinea pigs really are a matter of some considerable confusion.
But even so, these Ministerial statements appear designed to give the impression to potentially critical listeners and readers that they can ignore the suspicion that there might just be some serious flaws that could lead to the impression that (Heaven forbid!) a slight pinch of salt might be a sensible accompaniment to this latest waffling. (You might think that, I couldn't possibly comment, honest Guv, trust me, I'm a politician!)
If the way that an experiment is carried out is subject to severe bias (as is this one) then it is entirely irrelevant how fancy the statistical analysis of its basic data may be - it's still wrong! The more complex the study, the greater the confounding effects of the flaws. Just because a study happens to get 'results' that appear to be 'consistent' with other studies in the same field - and often even those performed by the same people - this doesn't mean that its conclusions are any more reliable than any of the other studies. It may simply means that all such studies suffer from the same defects - they may all be equally and consistently wrong!
Earl Howe's reliance on this paper, in an apparent effort to disarm Earl Baldwin's questions, is the latest in a long chain of Parliamentary Answers that serve merely attempt to conceal the chaotic state into which the government's fatuous promotion of fluoridation has descended. The recently leaked study of dental fluorosis in Ireland, by John Gormley TD, reveals that fluorosis in Irish kids increased by a factor of seven after fluoridation was introduced, yet it remained extremely rare in unfluoridated Northern Ireland.
I've mentioned this several times over the past years, as it's already well known, and even in the public domain over there - yet still our Parliamentarians trundle our the same old gossip for our edification. Shouldn't spokesmen for the government be aware of ALL recent evidence, rather than 'cherry pick' what's been lying around for years because it happens to fit their official policy briefings? Come on, Earl Howe - tell us about the latest 'Gormley Repor't, then!
Fluoridated water may not be the only cause of fluoride overload and dental fluorosis, but it sure as Hell is the most dangerous and pervasive environmental source of bioavailable fluoride, even including that damned fluoridated toothpaste!. It's the most active cause of the rampant spread of dental fluorosis (and not just of 'severe fluorosis', Earl Howe) in Irish kids throughout that unfortunate country.
Unfortunately, the equivalent data on how much fluorosis our own kids have is a closely guarded official secret here in the UK.The info has been deliberately suppressed for decades - just check out the BASCD instructions to collectors of dmft/DMFT to ignore fluorosis in the biennual compilation of these statistics. The claim that it's not causing 'general ill health' is unsupported by any real evidence, so just why have the US and Irish governments both been forced to reduce the recommended level of fluoride added to drinking water to well below the magic 1ppm, with special warning to mothers with babies?
Sadly, Earl Howe somehow seems to have forgotten to answer Earl Baldwin's awkward question about our old sparring partner, the BFS. Perhaps he prefers not to admit to the government's continuing close association with an organisation that has for years been recklessly making some rather naughty medicinal claims about the supposed prophylactic property of unlicensed medical products? (Yep, they're even pushing fluoridated school milk, up here in the benighted North West too!)

The paper referred to by Earl Howe does not contribute anything new to the scientific understanding of this epidemic - it's worthless, so forget it.

1 comment:

rcannard said...

Brilliant just brilliant