12/8/13

Another Cityview Conspiracy: Fluoride Is Poison

I wasn't going to touch this one but...can't help myself: Last Wednesday, Cityview published another classic conspiratorial story by Amber Williams, this time on the Des Moines Water Works' public forums on water fluoridation. Like in her past stories on 9/11 and vaccines, Williams extensively parrots the claims of someone with no expertise—in this case a "local artist and activist"—to give a veneer of legitimacy to junk science.

I'm not going to dissect the entire article this time, but to summarize, the activist makes a litany of serious claims, many of them misleading or false, that Williams only occasionally qualifies (mostly by lifting words from the American Cancer Society).

Meanwhile, Williams only reluctantly quotes Bill Stowe, the Water Works' CEO, and implies that he and his predecessor are either puppets of the dental industry or ignorant about the alleged harms of fluoride. The former CEO, the activist claims, was "completely uneducated on water fluoridation"—in other words, he didn't buy his sketchy theories.

The activist's alarmist rhetoric comes nowhere close to matching where the scientific community, which has long considered water fluoridation safe, if worthy of further research, stands: "Is it worth sacrificing our brain for our teeth?" he asks. "Are Des Moines residents viewed as a pair of teeth with legs, like those little wind-up toys? What about our brains, specifically the brains of our precious children? What about our thyroid glands, our kidneys?"

That would be a good quote, in an article that accurately assessed the science on fluoride. But the activist's claim that fluoride damages children's brains, for example, is based on research in China where the levels of fluoride in the water were far higher than anything added to water supplies in the United States. A Harvard review of that research, which Williams says "backs up his claims," explicitly states that it isn't relevant to fluoridation in the US (PDF).

There's another public forum on December 17 at the Des Moines Botanical Garden where activists will have the chance to give the media more fearful quotes, but Stowe has basically said already that he's going to make sure Des Moines keeps fluoride in the water.

Anyway, just another example of the sorry state of alternative media in Iowa right now. (You can contrast Cityview's coverage on this to that of the alt-weeklies in Portland, which both explained why fears of fluoridation are wildly overblown before voters chose to reject it anyway earlier this year.)

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