Skeptical Fails and Wins This Week

Hello Skeptifans.  I hope that many of you were able to attend a SkeptiCamp event yesterday. We had a blast in Vancouver, expect a blog post very soon!

Now, it would seem that not everyone loves Lolcats as much as me, so this week I’ll change things up a bit.

Should we question the fluoridation of water?
Lorne, David and Jocelyn all found this Fail in the Globe and Mail. It is a completely one-sided interview with the executive director of the Fluoride Action Network. This is, of course, an anti-fluoride organization. Why do these organizations never put “anti” in their name? While this person is an expert in chemistry, he provides no links or specifics about research that fluoridated water is harmful…but simply says that there “is research”. Of course the journalist asking the questions provides no facts on the other side and makes no attempt to debate what he is saying. If there are real reasons to question fluoridation, this article does not make a compelling case for them. For a quick rebuttal to this story, check out our own Jonathan Abram’s writeup on the topic.

Parents vote to shut off Wi-Fi at Ont. school
Here’s some more wi-fi craziness reported by CBC News. Several readers sent in this story. It’s the typical stuff. Parents are afraid. Health Canada is in bed with the wi-fi industry. Studies and evidence are talked about but none are actually linked or referred to in a way that you could track down the source. And, in more lazy reporting, parents are quoted but no real research done into the issue. It’s a fail of an article reporting on a fail of a situation. Erik found more coverage of the story in the Ottawa Sun. Their version is much more of a Win.

Stem-cell therapy for pets now offered – and disputed – in Canada
Scott found this story in The Globe and Mail. While some of the article seems to advertise the treatment, overall I’d say it’s a win. At every turn the author warns that medical experts say that stem cell science is still in its infancy, and real treatments are far off. The article also links to an excellent website which helps patients and consumers analyze claims made by people selling stem cell treatment. The site appears to be a great resource for skeptics.

Do ‘medical miracles’ really exist?
This excellent article was sent in by both Art and Lorne, and was found in the Globe and Mail. A new saint was recently canonized by the Catholic Church. To be canonized, you need to have performed a miracle, which the church defines as “act of healing inexplicable in the light of present medical science.” The author uses this as a launching point to discuss Occam’s Razor, the nature of science, and the importance of science-based medicine. It’s a really big Win.

Fruitz Watches – The reduce your stress by wearing them?
Lisa found an ad for these watches in the local Vancouver 24 Hours newspaper. The manufacturers claim that the watches deliver “natural frequencies” to your body, and “brings you more in in harmony with the natural earth”. Claims like this are hard to prove or disprove, since they don’t really even mean anything. But they also claim that “Fruitz watches may relax and calm you, and reduce your stress level too”. This is definitely falsifiable, and bordering on a medical claim. Looks like this product is some woo to watch out for.

Need a job? Do NOT look for one
The author of The Secret is at it again with her new book, The Power. Luckily, the author of this story in Maclean’s is not buying it. Rhonda Byrne claims that money will be attracted to you if you just think positive. The article takes these claims apart in a funny and irreverent way. Here’s a taste:

The science: “The inside of your head is 80 per cent water!” Byrne declares. Why does this matter? Because “researchers” have found that “when water is exposed to positive words and feelings . . . the structure of the water changes, making it perfectly harmonious.” I have no idea what she’s talking about either—but think of all we can accomplish with our harmonious brain water! We can live for hundreds of years if we just put our minds to it, Byrne says. Mortality is for sad sacks.

Go read the whole thing. It’s a very definite Win.

Thanks for all your links this week. It was nice to see so many Wins in the mix.  Keep those URL’s coming to links [at] skepticnorth [dot] com.

4 Responses to “Skeptical Fails and Wins This Week”

  1. Dianne Sousa says:

    If people are anti-Lolcats, would they be pro-Lolcamels or pro-Lolardvardks?

  2. Wilson says:

    About the wi-fi craziness… I have to wonder just where do these people live that causes their children to only be exposed to wi-fi at school. If you walk around pretty much any residential neighbourhood with an iPhone (or similar device), you will see wi-fi signals all over the place. And let’s not even talk about the “exposure” if they took theirs kids into the city.

    Or will they start to pressure their neighbours to turn off their wi-fi as well?

  3. Renshia says:

    Someone should send the elementary school in Meaford, Ont. a bunch of tinfoil hats to protect them from the invisible forces.

  4. nyscof says:

    You can read all the science showing that fluoride does indeed have adverse side effects here: http://www.FluorideAction.Net/health A sample:

    – There is clear evidence that small amounts of fluoride, at or near levels added to U.S. water supplies, present potential risks to the thyroid gland, according to the National Research Council’s (NRC) first-ever published review of the fluoride/thyroid literature.“Many Americans are exposed to fluoride in the ranges associated with thyroid effects, especially for people with iodine deficiency,” says Kathleen Thiessen, PhD, co-author of the government-sponsored NRC report. “The recent decline in iodine intake in the U.S could contribute to increased toxicity of fluoride for some individuals,” says Thiessen.

    – Water fluoride chemicals boosts lead absorption in lab animals’ bones, teeth and blood, was reported by Sawan, et al. (Toxicology 2/2010). Earlier studies already show children’s blood-lead-levels are higher in fluoridated communities, reports Sawan’s research team.

    – State University of New York researchers found more premature births in fluoridated than non-fluoridated upstate New York communities, according to a presentation made at the American Public Health Association’s annual meeting on November 9, 2009 in Philadelphia.

    – New York State Department of Health dentist J. V. Kumar published national statistics in the July 2009 Journal of the American Dental Association which show similar cavity rates regardless of water fluoride content, However, dental fluorosis rates increased along with water fluoride levels. See analysis “Fluoridation No Benefit; Definite Harm,” by Kathleen M. Thiessen, Ph.D., SENES Oak Ridge, Inc., Center for Risk Analysis here:

    – Researchers reported in the Oct 6 2007 British Medical Journal that fluoridation never was proven safe or effective and may be unethical.

    – “A qualitative review of …studies found a consistent and strong association between the exposure to fluoride and low IQ,” concluded Tang el al., in “Fluoride and Children’s Intelligence: A Meta-analysis” in Biological Trace Element Research

    – Scientific American editors wrote in January 2008, “Some recent studies suggest that over-consumption of fluoride can raise the risks of disorders affecting teeth, bones, the brain and the thyroid gland”

    – A study in the Fall 2008 Journal of Public Health Dentistry reveals that cavity-free teeth have little to do with fluoride intake. Researchers report, “The benefits of fluoride are mostly topical…while fluorosis is clearly more dependent on fluoride intake.”

    – Research published in Biological Trace Element Research (April 2009). indicates that blood fluoride levels were significantly higher in patients with osteosarcoma than in control groups. (13) Osteosarcoma, a rare bone cancer, occurs mostly in children and young adults

    – All infant formula, whether concentrated or not, contain fluoride at levels that can discolor teeth – even organic, according to research published in the October 2009 Journal of the American Dental Association.

    – Fluoride avoidance reduced anemia in pregnant women, decreased pre-term births and enhanced babies birth-weight, concludes leading fluoride expert, AK Susheela and colleagues, in a study published in Current Science (May 2010).


  • Melany Hamill

    Melany proudly uses the titles of both geek and nerd. As a science-enthusiast and fan of debate, Melany likes to get her facts straight. She graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in Chemical Engineering. Since then her career path has meandered to its current spot as a project manager at a video game studio. Melany lives near beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia. She is not seeking treatment for her caffeine addiction.