The U.S. government has been forced to release a controversial draft review that confirms previous studies which found exposure to fluoride at high levels can reduce IQ in children.
The U.S. National Toxicology Program has released a long-delayed controversial review of the science behind claims that fluoride reduces IQ in children. The NTP review from May 2022 confirms the findings of two earlier drafts from 2019 and 2020 which concluded that prenatal and early life exposure to fluoride can reduce IQ.
The NTP review was made public on Wednesday per an agreement between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Fluoride Action Network (FAN), as part of an ongoing lawsuit under the Toxic Substances Control Act. The FAN and plaintiffs are attempting to prove that fluoride is a neurotoxin and should be regulated or banned under the Toxic Substances Control Act.
The NTP review was released with a table of contents detailing the more than 1500 pages of documents. Other documents include comments from external peer-reviewers and internal departments within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), as well as the NTP scientists responses.
The summary of the May 2022 version of the NTP monograph states that,
“this review finds, with moderate confidence, that higher fluoride exposure is consistently associated with lower IQ in children. More studies are needed to fully understand the potential for lower fluoride exposure to affect children’s IQ.”
Although the release of the NTP review is a positive development for the Fluoride Action Network and plaintiffs, FAN told The Last American Vagabond, “we have very little confidence NTP will ever officially release the monograph as a final report. HHS has now taken over the process, and controls the show.”
The release of the internal documents offers a rare window into deliberations which take place behind the closed doors of the U.S. government’s scientific community. These discussions highlight how the NTP scientists have consistently defended their findings while also seeking to address the concerns of the various agencies which have reviewed their work multiple times.
Additionally, emails released in the course of the lawsuit have highlighted how officials within the CDC and HHS previously blocked the release of the NTP’s May 2022 review, despite the scientists stating it was ready for release.
The NTP’s monograph has already faced numerous peer reviews, by both internal and external reviewers, yet still remains unpublished by the U.S. government. The NTP website now states that the Board of Scientific Counselors Working Group will report the results of the latest review of the NTP monograph at a public meeting on May 4, 2023. The BSC will then make a recommendation to the Director of the NTP, Dr. Richard Woychik.
However, it is Dr. Woychik who previously filed a declaration with the court claiming responsibility for blocking the release of the May 2022 NTP monograph. Woychik’s role in the review process is likely to factor into future hearings of the lawsuit between the FAN and EPA.
Corruption Within the HHS Has Delayed the NTP Monograph
The NTP originally asked the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) to review their research due to the controversial and potentially impactful nature of their findings. NASEM conducted a peer-review of the NTP systematic review before asking external reviewers to peer-review their own peer-review. This entire process happened twice, adding to an already unprecedented number of reviews of the NTP monograph.
During a hearing in October 2022, Michael Connett, attorney representing FAN, stated,“There will be at least 5 separate peer review processes extending over 4 years. This is, to put it mildly, exceptionally unusual.”
The NTP’s monograph was then subjected to another set of external reviews, as well as internal government reviews, from within the HHS. Emails released as part of the lawsuit show that while officials within the CDC and HHS were attempting to prevent the release of the May 2022 draft of the NTP review, the NTP scientists themselves believed the report was ready for release.
For example, on April 28, 2022, Dr. Mary Wolfe, the Director of NTP’s Office of Policy, Review and Outreach, emailed Casey Hannan, the Director of CDC’s Division of Oral Health, and stated that the NTP’s “analysis and conclusions are set”. Dr. Wolfe also let Hannan know that the NTP had reviewed the CDC’s submitted comments, but still planned to release the review “mid/late May” 2022.
In a May 11, 2022 email, Wolfe again notifies Hannan and the CDC that the NTP has “set May 18, 2022 for publication of the monograph. The monograph will be posted to the NTP website, and we will email a notice of the posting to NTP listserv subscribers.”
However, later that day and the following day, Dr. Karen Hacker, the Director of CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (NCCDPHP), tells Dr. Wolfe that there is concern within the CDC about publishing the NTP review without an additional review by “NIH leadership”. Hacker also asked about the potential of a “interagency review” by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Dr. Wolfe subsequently told the CDC that “we (the NTP) believe the current findings, as stated in the monograph, reflect the scope of our evaluation and the available scientific literature and no revision is needed”.
Meanwhile, while Dr. Wolfe was defending the work of the NTP, internal emails among officials at the CDC’s Division of Oral Health reveal that the CDC was already preparing to prevent the release. A May 12, 2022 email from Hannan states:
“The May 18th release date for [the monograph] is almost certainly not going to happen. OASH and NIH OD are pretty clearly going to get more involved.”
OASH is a reference to the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Health, the second highest office in the Department of Health and Human Services, a position currently held by Rachel Levine. NIH OD refers to the NIH’s Office of the Director, the highest office within the NIH. The current Director of the NIH is Lawrence A. Tabak.
As noted above, after the revelations of interference by Levine and Tabak, Dr. Woychik filed a declaration with the court claiming he was responsible for preventing the release of the NTP monograph. Now, Woychik is in a position where he will once again decide whether or not to release the NTP’s latest review.
The next scheduled hearing in the fluoride lawsuit will take place on April 11th.
The Last American Vagabond will continue to report on the findings contained within the 1500 pages of documents released by the NTP.