National Post (Latest Edition)

You might be won­der­ing ‘What was I think­ing, why did I ac­cept the in­vi­ta­tion?’

— Chris­tine Till, Cana­dian the neuropsych­ologist be­hind con­tro­ver­sial re­search, flu­o­ride spoke at a con­fer­ence fea­tur­ing anti- vaxxers COVID and con­spir­acists,

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As she bat­tles crit­ics of her re­search link­ing fluoridate­d water and lower child IQ, Chris­tine Till won some pow­er­ful val­i­da­tion this month.

The U. S. Na­tional Tox­i­col­ogy Pro­gram ( NTP) com­mented favourably on the York Univer­sity pro­fes­sor’s study and oth­ers ex­am­in­ing the is­sue. Flu­o­ride is “pre­sumed to be a cog­ni­tive neu­rode­vel­op­men­tal hazard,” con­cluded the govern­ment agency in a re­vised re­port on the is­sue that echoes Till’s own con­cerns.

But the neuropsych­ologist’s vir­tual ap­pear­ance at a Nashville con­fer­ence ear­lier in Septem­ber is un­likely to re­as­sure the naysay­ers.

Till spoke on her flu­o­ride re­search, but fel­low pre­sen­ters at the In­ter­na­tional Acad­emy of Oral Medicine and Tox­i­col­ogy event in­cluded a who’s who of the anti-vac­ci­na­tion and COVID-19

con­spir­acy- the­ory move­ments.

Among them were de­frocked Bri­tish doc­tor An­drew Wake­field, whose study link­ing vac­cines and autism was ex­posed as fraud­u­lent, and Judy Mikovits, a for­mer bio­chemist who starred in a vi­ral video that pro­mul­gated a litany of false in­for­ma­tion on the coro­n­avirus.

Wake­field and another of the pre­sen­ters have had their med­i­cal li­cences re­voked, while Mikovits was briefly ar­rested after she al­legedly took lab note­books and other pro­pri­etary in­for­ma­tion from a re­search fa­cil­ity where she’d worked.

It’s dif­fi­cult to say what obli­ga­tion sci­en­tists have to vet fel­low speak­ers, but in giv­ing top billing to Wake­field and Mikovits, this con­fer­ence was “patently ab­surd,” says Tim Caulfield, a Univer­sity of Cal­gary health pol­icy pro­fes­sor and crusader against health mis­in­for­ma­tion.

“Hav­ing a le­git sci­en­tist present at an iffy event gives cred­i­bil­ity to both the event and the ideas that are pushed,” he said. “It sends the mes­sage that speak­ers like Wake­field and Mikovits are on par with re­spected sci­en­tists es­pous­ing sci­en­tif­i­cally plau­si­ble views.”

Till said she was in­vited in Jan­uary to ad­dress the con­fer­ence, held phys­i­cally in Nashville as she spoke by in­ter­net from Toronto. She said she didn’t learn who else was pre­sent­ing un­til or­ga­niz­ers sent her an agenda two weeks be­fore the event.

Till also said she wasn’t aware of Mikovits’ role in

Plan­demic. Viewed mil­lions of times on­line, the video sug­gested falsely that wear­ing a mask could “ac­ti­vate” COVID-19, that Italy’s out­break was linked to flu shots and that beach sand and sea water could cure the virus. Face­book and other so­cial- me­dia plat­forms took the film down.

Mean­while, the Cana­dian aca­demic stressed that she ac­cepted no pay­ment from the IAOMT, and does back child­hood vac­ci­na­tion of the sort her fel­low speak­ers de­cry.

“You might be won­der­ing ‘ What was I think­ing, why did I ac­cept the in­vi­ta­tion?’” she said in an in­ter­view. “Just be­cause I speak to an or­ga­ni­za­tion does not mean I sub­scribe to the views of the other speak­ers … To me the in­vi­ta­tion to speak is to present our re­search find­ings, make them ac­ces­si­ble to this group.”

IAOMT it­self is not ex­actly a main­stream sci­en­tific or­ga­ni­za­tion. Its chief cause is to end the use of metal amal­gam den­tal fill­ings, ar­gu­ing the mer­cury in them is toxic. But while the U. S. Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion re­cently sug­gested that chil­dren un­der six should con­sider avoid­ing amal­gam fill­ings, based on “very lim­ited” ev­i­dence, it says a raft of stud­ies have found them safe for most peo­ple.

Most fa­mous of the Sept. 10-12 con­fer­ence speak­ers is Wake­field, who has found a home in the U. S. anti- im­mu­niza­tion move­ment since his study on autism and vac­cines was dis­cred­ited and his Bri­tish li­cence re­moved.

Mikovits gained some

promi­nence in 2009 with a study that seemed to iden­tify a mouse virus as the cause of chronic- fa­tigue syn­drome. Fur­ther re­search dis­proved the the­ory, lead­ing to her orig­i­nal pa­per be­ing re­tracted. Since leav­ing her re­search fa­cil­ity, Mikovits has pro­moted anti-vac­cine ideas.

Marc Geier, who also ad­dressed the con­fer­ence and links vac­cines and autism, had his med­i­cal li­cence in Mary­land and other states re­voked over his treat­ment of autis­tic chil­dren and mis­rep­re­sent­ing him­self as an epi­demi­ol­o­gist and ge­neti­cist. Another speaker was re­tired chem­istry pro­fes­sor Boyd Ha­ley, who has long es­poused the dis­cred­ited no­tion that mer­cury in vac­cines causes autism.

Till has be­come some­thing of a light­en­ing rod in the de­bate over fluoridate­d water since she pub­lished a study last year that found an in­crease in flu­o­ride lev­els in preg­nant women was as­soci

ated with their chil­dren hav­ing slightly lower IQ.

Flu­o­ri­da­tion ex­perts wrote to York Univer­sity last week, de­mand­ing it con­vene an in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the pro­fes­sor’s re­search, sug­gest­ing she may be putting ide­ol­ogy over science.

Some re­views of her study have ques­tioned its method­ol­ogy and sta­tis­ti­cal anal­y­sis. But the NTP cited it and other re­search in say­ing there is a “mod­er­ate level” of ev­i­dence that flu­o­ride is as­so­ci­ated with cog­ni­tive ef­fects in chil­dren.

Till said the con­clu­sions were no sur­prise, given the high- pro­file jour­nal that pub­lished her own work first sub­jected it to an un­usual amount of scru­tiny and peer re­view.

“We re­sponded to hundreds of cri­tiques just to get the study pub­lished,” she said. “I haven’t heard any­thing new.”

 ?? Charles Rex Arbogas / the aso­ciat ed press files ?? Bri­tish doc­tor An­drew Wake­field, whose li­cence was re­voked over a study link­ing autism and vac­ci­na­tions, head­lined a Nashville med­i­cal con­fer­ence where York
Univer­sity pro­fes­sor Chris­tine Till also spoke.
Charles Rex Arbogas / the aso­ciat ed press files Bri­tish doc­tor An­drew Wake­field, whose li­cence was re­voked over a study link­ing autism and vac­ci­na­tions, head­lined a Nashville med­i­cal con­fer­ence where York Univer­sity pro­fes­sor Chris­tine Till also spoke.
 ??  ?? Chris­tine Till
Chris­tine Till

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