This seems to be a fairly common belief. Beware chemicals, they are dangerous no matter the quantity. I’m not entirely sure if the people that think this actually mean harsh chemicals. My usual response to people making claims about the dangers of chemicals is: “Beware the chemical known as H2O.”
This all comes about after I trolled an anti-fluoride page on Facebook. I criticised some of the links they were posting and received an onslaught of arguments. Some of their arguments may have been worthwhile if they weren’t posting links to anti-fluoride propaganda websites. I requested information from sites not affiliated with their beliefs and they were unable to produce any. They kept saying that the information they posted was written by doctors, so it must be true. That only made me think of Dr. Oz.
This lead me to research into the moderation of fluoride in municipal water supplies more than I wanted to. I used a good research tool by the name of Google Scholar rather than reading through those wonderful articles supplied to me. No matter how hard I looked I could not find any scientific papers that supported any of their claims.
The papers I found almost always have the same results, especially when the subjects they were using were school children. The common finding was that in areas with higher concentration (within the recommended levels) of fluoride, they found that the children had less caries (cavities). They also found that more of the children in these areas also had higher rates of dental fluorosis, although it was still at a rate of very low concern. Yes, it does increase dental fluorosis but it is of absolutely no concern as it is mostly superficial.
We know for a fact that too much fluoride is bad, especially for young children. If you have too much fluoride you can end up with severe skeletal fluorosis, if you want to see how bad this can be just do an image search online. These things are something that we don’t have to worry about when looking at fluoridation of municipal water supplies, since it is a moderation (add or remove fluoride as necessary) of fluoride and not always addition.
In trolling this anti-fluoride page I have helped build my knowledge of the subject. I have found that there is very little to be concerned about and that there are possibly ethical as opposed to medical implications to worry about. Is it ethical for governments to add something like fluoride to water supplies? This also begs the question of whether it is ethical for them to remove fluoride from the water when it’s content is above recommended levels.
Now enough of the fluoride argument as I was planning on looking at why people have an irrational fear/concern about chemicals (harsh ones). This is when I use the argumentum ad ignorantiam, some people may think this is a bad thing to do but I think it works quite well here. In regards to many of the products that people are concerned about there is usually no evidence to show an increase in any of the illnesses/problems they claim since these products have been introduced. This includes things like aspartame (sweetener), fluoride, genetically modified foods, pesticides and vaccinations.
There is very little evidence that these things are harmful in the quantities consumed by most people in first world countries. There is absolutely no evidence to show that they have caused harm since being introduced; considering in the case of fluoride and aspartame, the quantity that is consumed is exceptionally high.
It always comes down to being sceptical and not allowing someone to persuade you simply by telling you something. Too many people don’t do this and we end up with this anti-science problem we have, especially when it come to anthropogenic climate change.