Quoted from The Hundred Year Lie:
One of the most memorable and hilarious scenes in the early 1960s satirical movie Dr. Strangelove featured a monologue by a U.S. military general ranting and raving about the necessity to protect “our precious bodily fluids” from contamination by fluoride in drinking water, presumably because the drug had been placed there as part of a Communist plot to control the world.
Ridiculing people who feared the health effects of fluoridated water by labeling them a lunatic fringe proved extraordinarily effective for many decades in protecting fluoride from serious scrutiny. After all, we were constantly being assured by authority figures in medicine, government, and industry that consuming fluoride was not only safe, it would help to ensure that we maintained good dental health. Who could argue with that?
About 66 percent of public municipal water systems in the United States serving 170 million people had been fluoridated by the dawn of the twenty-first century, yet most of the countries in Western Europe–from France and Germany to Italy and Switzerland–continue to reject adding fluoride to their drinking water. Did they know something we refuse to accept?
It might be useful to recall how fluoridation came about in the first place. A scientist working under a grant from the Aluminum Company of America made the initial public proposal in 1939 to add fluoride to public water supplies in the belief that it would help prevent tooth decay. In 1945 the first barrels of sodium fluoride were added to the drinking water in Grand Rapids, Michigan. When the United States Public Health Service endorsed fluoridation a few years later, many cities and entire states quickly followed that advice.
There was an ulterior motive for the aluminum industry and the fertilizer industry to promote the fluoridation idea. A by-product of factory smokestacks operated by both industries was a toxic waste called silicofluoride that contained lead, cadmium, arsenic, and other toxins. Instead of these industries having to pay for the disposal of this waste (today at an estimated cost of $8,000 a truckload), fluoridation enabled both to make money by selling the waste for use in public water supplies.
Using public water as a vehicle to deliver a drug–and one that is among the most toxic substances on the planet, used as an active ingredient in many pesticides–was an idea that concerned some physicians and scientists at the time. It even initially drew opposition from the dental profession. A 1944 editorial in The Journal of the American Dental Association warned that water fluoridation’s prospect for harming human health “far outweigh those for the good.”
Once dentists came aboard the fluoridation bandwagon along with public health-minded politicians, and with backing from the public relations campaign funded by aluminum and fertilizer industry coffers, there was no stopping the fluoridation juggernaut. Industry-funded studies began to appear in dental and medical journals showing improvement in dental health apparently resulting from fluoridated water, and that was all the proof most people needed to accept fluoridation’s benefits as the gospel truth. Anyone who disagreed was branded a right-wing nut.
Periodically a courageous voice with impeccable scientific credentials spoke up to sound an alarm about fluoridation’s potential dangers, only to be dismissed as eccentric. In 1975, for instance, the chief chemist emeritus of the National Cancer Institute, Dean Burk, declared that fluoride in water “causes more human cancer, and causes it faster, than any other chemical.”
Two years later some members of Congress inquired about whether federal health authorities, after a quarter-century of experience with fluoridation, had ever tested fluoridated water as a cause of cancer. The answer was no. More than a decade passed before these tests were finally performed. The results caused a brief uproar. Young male rats exposed to fluoridated water developed both bone cancer and a liver cancer.
These results were quickly attacked on a variety of grounds–flawed methodology, incomplete results, animal studies aren’t always reliable, etc.–and then ignored by the fluoridation establishment. But other researchers, emboldened by the precedent this study set, began conducting their own experiments into fluoride’s effects on health. In 1992, three U.S. scientists found evidence of Alzheimer’s-like symptoms in laboratory animals exposed to fluoridated water that had apparently carried traces of aluminum into the animal’s brains. That same year a study appeared in The Journal of the American Medical Association connecting water fluoridation to an increased risk of hip fractures.
The negative studies about fluoride’s effects on health built into a tsunami during the 1990s. Here are just a few examples: the medical journal Neurotoxicology and Teratology found evidence that fluoride accumulates in the human body and creates motor-skills dysfunction and learning disabilities; two separate studies in the journal Fluoride showed that in areas where water supplies were fluoridated, children’s IQs were lower than normal. Other science papers in Fluoride drew connections between the chemical and thyroid abnormalities, arthritis, even Down’s syndrome in children.
Even the argument that put fluoride into drinking water in the first place–that it prevents tooth decay–came under a sustained challenge. A study in 1995 by the California Department of Health Services revealed that money spent on dental work actually increased in areas where water was fluoridated in that state, while dental costs declined in communities without fluoridated water. In the July 2000 issue of The Journal of the American Dental Association, John D. B. Featherstone of the University of California at San Francisco, concluded that ingesting fluoride from tap water does little to prevent tooth decay. Fluoride only works when directly applied to teeth in the form of toothpaste.
It is these cumulative effects of fluoride in our bodies that should most concern us. A United States Department of Health and Human Services report has estimated that the average person absorbs about seven part per million of fluoride a day from all sources combined–water, food, air, even from pesticides that contain fluoride. By contrast, the optimal level of exposure to fluoride, according to the EPA, should be no more than one part per million a day, but public water supplies use standards of no more than four parts per million. By contrast, the World Health Organization set a fluoride-safety standard of just 1.5 parts per million.
This discrepancy between what we absorb and the levels at which fluoride is safe, along with government studies showing fluoridated water to be instrumental in causing chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia, so alarmed EPA scientists that their union, representing 1,500 civil servants, called for a moratorium on fluoridation. “Like most Americans, including many physicians and dentists, most of our members had thought that fluoride’s only effects were beneficial…. We too believed assurances of safety,” read the statement by J. William Hirzy, Senior Vice President of chapter 280 of the National Treasury Employees Union in May 1999. “Since then our opposition to drinking water fluoridation has grown, based on the scientific literature.”
Hirzy summed up the loony logic of injecting fluoride toxic wastes into our drinking water: “If this stuff gets out into the air, it’s a pollutant. If it gets into the river, it’s a pollutant. If it gets into the lake, it’s a pollutant. But if it goes right into your drinking water system, it’s not a pollutant. That’s amazing!”
The article revealed that a Harvard University study had been suppressed because it “showed a sevenfold increased risk of osteosarcoma in preadolescent boys from fluoridated water.” Furthermore, “in Western Europe, where the drop in tooth decay in recent decades is as sharp as that in the U.S., seventeen of twenty-one countries have either refused or discontinued fluoridation” because of health safety concerns.
The Hundred-Year Lie by Randall Fitzgerald, pg. 129-134