Final week, Public Overall health England urged a lot more councils to contemplate including fluoride to their water supplies. The situation for this is clear: fluoridation improves dental wellness, decreases hospital admissions due to dental issues and thus saves far much more funds than it expenses.
Some have argued that fluoridation is a chance to overall health, but the report by public Health England looked at prices of hip fractures, kidney stones, cancers, Down’s syndrome births and all-result in mortality and concluded that there is “no evidence of harm to wellness in fluoridated areas”.
Nevertheless, as with so numerous public well being interventions, the sound and fury of opposing ideology usually trumps rational evaluation. If the backlash against fluoridation in the Republic of Ireland is anything at all to go by, Public Health England can count on vigorous opposition.
Fluoride has been extra to water in Ireland considering that the 1960s and has substantially enhanced the nation’s dental well being, even in the era of fluoridated toothpaste. Despite this, a small but extremely vocal opposition repeatedly pops up to declare fluoridation is damaging to wellness. These claims have been debunked time and time yet again.
The recent incarnation of the opposition relies heavily on a report by self-proclaimed “fluoridation scientist” Declan Waugh, who blames fluoride for a range of illnesses. The report has been roundly dismissed by the Irish Skilled Board on Fluoridation and Overall health, its chairman Dr Seamus O’Hickey concluding that “… in spite of its presentation, its material is decidedly unscientific … the allegations of ill wellness results are based on a misreading of laboratory experiments and human wellness studies, and also on an unfounded personal theory of the author’s.”
Despite this, clever use of social media and powerful lobbying has gained fluoridation naysayers significant political traction, prompting the Irish government to promise however an additional full overview of the practice.
This variety of irrational thinking is equally apparent in the anti-vaccination movement, for illustration between people who proceed to think that the MMR vaccine leads to autism. A 2011 editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine noted wearily that “… the spectrum of anti-vaccinationists ranges from people who are basically ignorant about science … to a radical fringe element who use deliberate mistruths, intimidation, falsified data, and threats of violence in efforts to avert the use of vaccines and to silence critics.”
Study into the mindsets of anti-vaccination campaigners suggests that they have a tendency to exhibit traits this kind of as conspiratorial considering, reasoning flaws, a reliance on anecdote above data and minimal cognitive complexity in considering patterns. Equivalent traits are noticed in the anti–fluoride motion, with comparable mistrust of well being interventions. It could not be a coincidence that the present drive against fluoride in Ireland emanates from West Cork, a region of the nation with an very lower vaccine uptake that has been the epicentre of latest measles outbreaks.
That such beliefs persist in the face of sturdy proof could be a quirk of human psychology. Campaigners could see themselves as enlightened crusaders, so when their assertions are questioned or contradicted by the information, this is viewed not as a valuable correction of error but rather an attack on their identity and narrative. Conspiratorial thinking is endemic in such groups with critics being regarded as agents of some ominous interest group – big pharma is a widespread bogeyman – that desires to conceal the truth. This gets a defence mechanism to defend beliefs that are incompatible with the evidence.
If all else fails, attacking the messenger could be easier than accepting that your complete raison d’être is misguided.
Motivated rejection of evidence is often a symptom of cognitive dissonance, a psychological phenomenon that occurs when individuals are challenged by details inconsistent with their beliefs. They might reject unwelcome info, seek out confirmation from these who currently share their beleaguered viewpoint, and try to persuade other folks of the veracity of their world see. This may describe why some folks proselytise even far more vigorously right after their beliefs have been debunked.
That people can be irrational is hardly a revelation, but possibly the ugliest facet of the Irish debate is how elected representatives have given this kind of outlandish fringe assertions a sense of legitimacy. One Irish politician has claimed that fluoridation leads to cancer and Down’s syndrome others have demanded an end to the practice, parroting claims that would have taken all of three minutes on Wikipedia to expose as utter nonsense.
The Irish government’s response is appeasement, and a waste of time and public money. Not only is there previously an Irish body that routinely testimonials the safety of fluoridation, this is a Sisyphean process because anti-fluoride groups have previously reached their conclusion, and will trust no professional body unless it agrees with their assertions. Nearly undoubtedly fluoride will get but yet another clean bill of well being, campaigners will reject the findings and the same tedious cycle will repeat again, in significantly the very same way dad and mom who oppose vaccination are impervious to the scientific literature undermining their place.
It is irresponsible for politicians to demonstrate this kind of contempt for science that they are prepared to take the lead from pseudoscientists and conspiracy theorists rather than experts. Leadership ought to be about generating the greatest selections based on the data available, even on emotive troubles such as fluoridation and vaccination.
As the Irish debate lumbers on, and nearby authorities in the Uk take into account fluoridation, we ought to demand that our elected representatives base well being policy on evidence. There will undoubtedly be opposition as there has been in the previous but what is crucial is that decisions are based mostly on scientific analysis, not misinformation and worry. The cost of this kind of folly is clear to anyone who remembers the human suffering in the wake of the misinformed panic more than the MMR vaccine just a decade in the past.