There was a bit of car crash radio on RTE a couple of weeks ago as Gerry Byrne and Declan Waugh were on Today With Sean O’Rourke, with Keelin Shanley standing in as presenter, to discuss fluoridation in Ireland.   As part of the interview, Declan Waugh made the claim that fluoride was a factor in Down Syndrome levels in Ireland.  Shanley immediately asked him to cite the research which supported this claim, which Waugh was unable to do and was admonished by the presenter for making such a claim on national radio without the evidence to back it up.

The anti-flouride lobby has made giant strides in making their cause a national issue, which frankly I’m amazed by considering all the scientific evidence which supports fluoridation.  When it comes to science, however, media have been found quite wanting on a range of topics, whether its fluoridation or climate change due to succumbing to ‘false balance’ and giving opinions and scientific fact the same weight (this damning report – pdf – on the BBC’s coverage on climate change is well worth a read.)

Waugh could have at least made the claim, however, if he imply was able to reference the research he based his claim on.  Whether it was a slip of the mind or simply a case of never being challenged by a journalist in the past, he floundered and rightly came in for criticism from Shanley.  This single moment completely undermined him and he lost all credibility to the listener.  So it just goes to show that if you want to position yourself as an expert, make sure you know your facts when you’re asked for them.

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Piaras Kelly
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