A Critical Response to Yolanda Whyte, M.D.
Stephen Barrett, M.D. Thanks to Quackbush
Yolanda M. Whyte, M.D. has been actively opposing fluoridation during the past few years. She speaks at community meetings, has testified at legislative hearings, and is currently appearing in a video sponsored by the Fluoride Action Network (FAN), the primary U.S. antifluoridation organization. This article dissects some of her views and indicates why they should be disregarded.
Whyte’s Web site bio states:
Dr. Yolanda Whyte has been practicing primary care pediatrics for 7 years. She began her career as Director of Pediatrics at a rural community hospital, and contracts with other pediatricians throughout the state of Georgia and Indian Health Service. She has used telemedicine and speaks some Spanish. Her most rewarding experiences have been on medical mission trips to Ghana, Vietnam, Guyana, Jamaica and Haiti.
Dr. Whyte’s expertise is in environmental health and advocacy, where she lobbies and provides medical testimony to politicians and other policymakers on air pollution, water quality, food quality and safe chemicals. Ensuring that public policies have health-protective, environmental and pediatric considerations is crucial, and has the greatest impact on preventing chronic disease and premature death, especially in children. She serves as a medical consultant to a number of environmental health organizations, and speaking engagements are done at schools, community groups and advocacy groups.
Dr. Yolanda Whyte attended Howard University in Washington, D.C. at age 16 years and graduated with honors, earning a B.S. in Biology. She earned her medical degree at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine in Madison, and received the Medical Student Leadership Award. Her pediatric internship was at Medical College of Virginia, and she completed pediatric residency at Morehouse School of Medicine, where she was appointed Pediatric Resident Representative, Pediatric Chair of Morehouse Resident Association and received a Pediatric Residency Teaching Award.
Research training in genetic studies was done at the National Institutes of Health, where she co-authored a paper in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology. Research training in virology was done at the University of California San Diego, as a fellow of the American Society for Microbiology .
The Web site does not mention whether or not she is board-certified. The HealthTap Web site (for which she answers questions) states that she is, but the American Board of Medical Specialties does not list her in its database, which means she is not. The description of her practice suggests that she does mainly locum tenens work (temporarily filling in for other doctors).
The Antifluoridation Video
In December 2012, a FAN video presentation by Whyte was posted to YouTube. The claims she makes include:
- The dose of fluoride that’s supposedly effective in preventing dental cavities is very close to the dose that, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, can cause harm for some children. This statement is false. The EPA has expressed concern that fluoridated water at above 2 parts per million can cause severe fluorosis . However, the level in community fluoridation ranges from 0.7 ppm to 1.2 ppm and is likely to be lowered because of the availability of fluoride in toothpaste and other products has increased .
- I am deeply concerned that fluoride is not good for babies and that they are at risk for harmful side effects. This statement is misleading. Fluoride is an important mineral for young children. Children who drink fluoridated water while their permanent teeth are forming have less tooth decay later . After teeth are in the mouth, fluoride helps to reverse early signs of decay .
- The most clearly visible side effect is dental fluorosis. According to the Centers for Disease Control, dental fluorosis affects 41% of teenagers. That’s millions of children who now have a visible form of chronic fluoride toxicity. The 41% figure refers to all degrees of dental fluorosis, but the commonest forms— questionable, very mild, and mild fluorosis and most cases of moderate fluorosis—are barely visible and pose no problem whatsoever . In addition, teeth with fluorosis are more resistant to decay than teeth without fluorosis . Such teeth may appear whiter than otherwise, but they are neither unattractive nor structurally damaged. Moreover, many people think that extra whiteness make the teeth more attractive. Severe fluorosis can adversely affect both appearance and function. It is common in communities where water is naturally fluoridated at 4 ppm or higher, but its incidence is close to zero among people who drink water that is optimally fluoridated. Implying that most cases of fluorosis represent “chronic fluoride toxicity” due to community fluoridation should be considered dishonest.
- I’m concerned that fluoride could also affect tissues and organs that are not visible like the . . . brain. My concern is based in part on a large body of research finding that modestly elevated levels of fluoride can reduce a child’s intelligence. . . . During this statement, the video displayed the heading from an article that reviewed fluoride-IQ studies from China, Mongolia and Iran. Many of these studies included water samples in which the natural fluoride levels were considerably above the recommended level for fluoridating water in the U.S. No reasonable person could call these “modestly elevated levels.” The Harvard researchers who examined these fluoride-IQ studies found that all “had deficiencies, in some cases rather serious, which limit the conclusions that can be drawn.” and that “the actual exposures of the individual children are not known.” [8[ Fluoride opponents also ignore the fact that between the 1940s and the 1990s, while fluoridation steadily expanded to serve millions of additional people, the average IQ scores of Americans improved 15 points .
Healthy Kids, Healthy Portland has posted a superb response to Whyte’s misinformation.
The Milwaukee Hearing
|In May 2012, at a City Council hearing in Milwaukee, Whyte stated that she spent about half her time practicing pediatrics in Atlanta and half doing lobbying. She went on to say that fluoride is a toxin and claimed that fluorosis is as common as cavities and that she diagnoses it at least five times a day. Her presentation, which lasted about 20 minutes, is probably the wildest attack I have ever observed on the subject. She spoke very rapidly and made one dramatic charge after another. The hearing was called to discuss a resolution intended to bring an immediate halt to fluoridation in Milwaukee. Prudent observers should conclude that if even one item on Whyte’s enormous “laundry list” of criticisms were valid, fluoridation would have been stopped worldwide. The hearing was called to consider a resultion to halt fluoridation in Milwaukee. Fortunately, the council members modified the proposal and voted to keep fluoridation but lower the concentration from 1.1 ppm to 0.7 ppm .|
Whyte’s Reaction to Me
Before posting this article I telephoned Whyte to ask whether she is board certified and to offer her a chance to check the article before it was publicly displayed. I told her who I was and indicated that I had concerns about her fluoridation views and had read a number of things about her on the Web. After I asked aher about board certification, she became defensive and hung up the phone. A few minutes later, I called back to ask for her e-mail address so I could mail her a link to the article. When she said I should get it from her Web site, I ended the call, e-mailed her the link, and sent it again a day later after the draft was revised. She sent this response at 2:58 AM on February 7th.
|Stephen Barrett,I resent
1)being called by you at 8:30pm on 2/5/13
2)the bombastic tone of your voice
3)your baseless interrogation of me
4)your reference to me as a quack and
5)your reference to me as being extremely dishonestYou may recall I referred to you as “weird” and clearly expressed that I am not comfortable communicating with you. Despite this, you called again in the night and sent me 2 emails.
Considering your unprofessional behaviors . . . I wish to have no future contact with you via phone, email, online, in-person or any other method. This should’ve been clear when I hung up on you twice.
From all your websites still under construction, I see you are distracted from completing tasks. It is unfortunate that you lack the competence to challenge me in a more constructive manner.
STOP STALKING ME! STOP HARASSING ME!
Yolanda Whyte, MD
Copies of this message were sent to firstname.lastname@example.org and to Tim Bolen, whose favorite activity seems to be spreading false information about me through the Internet.
The Bottom Line
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has included fluoridation of drinking water among the ten great public health achievements of the twentieth century . Fluoridation is supported by public health departments and relevant major professional organizations throughout the developed world. In my opinion, Whyte’s views on fluoridation reflect extreme ignorance and suggest that she is a “true believer” of the type described by Eric Hoffer in his classic book .
- About me. Yolanda White Web site, accessed Feb 4, 2013.
- National Research Council Committee on Fluoride in Drinking Water. Fluoride in Drinking Water: A Scientific Review of EPA’s Standards. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2006.
- Proposed HHS recommendation for fluoride concentration in drinking water for prevention of dental caries. Federal Register 76:2383-2388, 2011.
- Singh KA and others. Relative effects of pre- and post-eruption water fluoride on caries experience of permanent first molars. Journal of Public Health Dentistry 63:11-19, 2003.
- Fluoride and Infant Formula: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ). American Dental Association Web site, accessed Feb 4, 2013.
- Iida H, Kumar, J. The association between enamel fluorosis and dental caries in U.S. schoolchildren. Journal of the American Dental Association 140:855-862, 2009.
- Barrett S., Baratz RS. Dental fluorosis. Dental Watch, Jan 7, 2013.
- Choi AL and others. Developmental fluoride neurotoxicity: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Environmental Health Perspectives, July 20, 2012,
- Nesser U. Rising scores on intelligence tests. American Scientist, Sept-Oct 1997.
- Taylor B. Compromise reached in Milwaukeeâ€™s fluoride debate. Fox6 Now, July 24, 2012.
- Ten great public health achievements—United States, 1900-1999. MMWR 48:241-243, 1999.
- Hoffer E. The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements (1951). Republished by HarperCollins in 1989.
This article was revised on February 11, 2013.