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Fluoride: The Hidden Health Hazard

By Cynthia Logan

Pierce County, Washington is up in arms. City councils, water districts and citizen advocacy groups have rallied against the Tacoma-Pierce County Board of Health's recent resolution to mandate fluoridation of most of the county's municipal water supply. Some communities have vowed to challenge the mandate in court. At least one city council has initiated a protective ordinance that would prohibit the addition of any substance intended to treat people rather than water, unless it has FDA approval. One grassroots group, Citizens Opposing Fluoridation in Pierce County, hired a law firm that persuaded the county Board of Health to examine the potential environmental impact before making a decision.

Are those objecting to fluoride radical activists? What's the big deal-fluoride in water and toothpaste helps make our teeth healthy and strong-doesn't it? These groups don't think so, and there's a lot of information out there to support their concerns that: 1) even in non-fluoridated communities, fluoride ingestion now exceeds the original "optimal" dosage; 2) the chemicals used to fluoridate water are neither food nor pharmaceutical grade, but are more toxic than lead and just slightly less toxic than arsenic.1

While calcium fluoride is a trace mineral that is sometimes found in ground-water, the compounds used for fluoridation are industrial waste products, over 90% of which are either fluorosilicic acid or its salt form, sodium fluorosilicate, contaminated with toxic metals and trace amounts of radioactive isotopes. Tom Reeves, fluoridation promoter with the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), states that 95% of fluoridation products come from the phosphate fertilizer industry in central Florida.

Seattle water, supplied by Seattle Public Utilities, comes from two surface water sources, the Cedar and the S.F. Tolt watersheds. Both systems use hydrofluorosilicic acid to fluoridate the water. Buffering chemicals-such as soda ash and lime-must also be added to counteract the low pH and corrosive quality of the acid. On the Cedar system, water is disinfected with chlorine and fluoridated at the Landsburg Plant; the water is disinfected again and lime is added at the Lake Youngs Plant. On the Tolt system, water is chlorinated and fluoridated, and lime and soda ash are added for corrosion control. More than 293,000 gallons of hydrofluorosilicic acid are added to Seattle's two water supplies each year.

In fluoridated communities, people get about a milligram of fluoride with every four cups of water they drink. How much are they getting from other sources? Emily Kalweit, Director of Washington State's Citizens for Safe Drinking Water, points out, "Fluoride exposure is already excessive-foods and beverages either processed with fluoridated water and/or contaminated with fluoride-based pesticides often contain higher dosages than a doctor can legally prescribe. Other sources of exposure include toothpaste, dental treatments, pharmaceuticals and industrial emissions." She notes that, "Only about half of the fluoride we ingest each day is excreted through the kidneys. The rest accumulates in our bones, heart, brain, connective tissues, and the pineal gland."2

Since fluoride is touted as the main reason Americans can flash healthy smiles at Olympic games, it is fascinating that the cover story in the July 2000 issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association stated that current research shows no correlation between ingesting fluoride and healthier teeth! Read the fine print on your toothpaste tube lately? It says, "Warning: keep out of the reach of children under six years of age. If you accidentally swallow more than used for brushing, seek professional assistance or contact a Poison Control Center immediately." Ever answered the phone while brushing your teeth and swallowed in order to speak? Do your kids like the "bubble gum" flavors some companies offer? The warning is on the fluoride toothpaste tubes because the FDA determined that seven-year-old children routinely swallow approximately half of what they use for brushing, while younger children swallow even more. And, despite oft-repeated assurances of safety, fluoride drops and tablets prescribed for children by doctors have never been evaluated by the FDA for safety or effectiveness.3

Does your dentist swab your child's teeth with fluoride to prevent tooth decay? In 1970, a New York City four-year-old went into convulsions and died directly after receiving topical fluoride applications to his teeth. Dental personnel claimed he'd had a heart attack, though neither he nor members of his family had a history of cardiac abnormality. Interestingly, though, cardiologists recognize that ingestion of even small amounts of fluoride can be a possible cause of cardiac arrest.4

Writing in the Earth Island Journal, authors George Glasser and Andreas Schuld bring up another concern: "The municipal water your child drinks, bathes and plays in is a complex chemical mixture of dissolved minerals, contaminants and chemical additives. Chemicals are added to clarify the water, remove solid particulates and to disinfect. When fluoride is added to water supplies, 80% of the 'compound' is hazardous waste. Not only that, but polymers are added to inhibit corrosion of the water pipes. Since the skin is the largest organ of the body, the average person absorbs more contaminants from bathing and showering than from drinking polluted water." As one EPA scientist put it, "a shower cubicle can be considered an 'exposure chamber'."

Since children's bath times may range from 45 minutes to two hours, they are most at risk. As the EPA acknowledged in a June 30, 1998 report, "Children have a greater surface-area-to-body-weight ratio than adults, which may lead to increased dermal absorption." The health threat to both children and adults goes beyond bathing in and drinking fluoridated water. Fluorosilicates do not magically vanish. Pollution released from washing clothes, evaporation from clothes dryers and dishwashers remains in the air, where exposure to volatile contaminants absorbed via the lung would be about double the same amount from drinking water.

Morton Walker, D.P.M. author of Elements of Danger, Protect Yourself Against the Hazards of Modern Dentistry and a couple dozen other health related books, notes that the hazards of fluoride ingestion are listed in the US Pharmacopoeia. Those hazards were expounded upon by Dr. John Yiamouyjiannis in his detailed and well-documented book, Fluoride, The Aging Factor. "Fluoride ingestion causes increased production of imperfect collagen not just in the teeth, but throughout the body," he writes. "Cartilage, tendons and ligaments, which should remain flexible structures in the body, become hardened and brittle when fluoride is consumed."
While fluoride can increase bone density, the bone created is significantly weaker and of poor quality, resulting in calcified joints, arthritis, fused vertebrae and an increase in fractures.5 And, he notes, "at just one part per million [the common dose in water supplies], fluoride in drinking water or in diet drinks cuts the activity of the DNA repair enzyme by 50%!"

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, exposure in fluoridated communities can range as high as 6.6 milligrams per day. Just 2.3-4.5 mg/day has been shown to decrease the functioning of the human thyroid.6 Could the practice of water fluoridation have contributed to the rise in hypothyroidism in this country over the past fifty years? That department's 1991 review, Fluoride Benefits and Risks, pointed out that fluoride penetrates the blood-brain barrier, the brain's first line of defense against toxins. The peer-reviewed journal Brain Research reveals that aluminum induced neural degeneration in rats is greatly increased when the animals are fed low doses of fluoride, which enhances the bio-availability of aluminum-"conducting" it across the blood-brain barrier. The study's authors state that, though they were surprised at the effects created by a small amount of aluminum fluoride in the rats' drinking water, they were alarmed at the neurotoxic results of sodium fluoride given at the same levels found in 'optimally' fluoridated drinking water.7

Recently, the U.S. Army Medical Command, MEDCOM, examined fluoridation. In charge of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. and three other major installations, MEDCOM was concerned about fluoridating the water supply of Fort Detrick, Maryland. They contacted Dr. Phyllis Mullenix, an acknowledged neurotoxicology expert, and requested her opinion. Her response (May 1999) cited data from 18 clinical studies. Dr. Mullenix's analysis stated that "fluoride exposures today are out of control," and "there are no advantages to water fluoridation. The risks today far exceed the hoped for benefit."

Even scientists within the EPA have challenged the safety of fluoridation. Dr. J. William Hirzy, Senior Vice President of the union that represents scientists and other professionals at Washington D.C. EPA Headquarters, testified before the U.S. Senate in June 2000, asserting that results from the 1990 National Toxicology Program Cancer Study were fraudulently altered by EPA management. Dr. Hirzy called for a national review of fluoridation by a Joint Select Committee of Congress to address excessive fluoride exposure, to re-examine the altered cancer study and to asses the implications of recent brain studies and research linking fluoridation chemicals with elevated blood-lead levels in children.8

The Children's Environmental Health Network (CEHN) reports that the U.S. has seen "a worrisome increase" in childhood diseases that may be linked to chemicals in the environment. According to the CEHN, "The incidence of two types of childhood cancers has risen significantly over the past 15 years. Acute lymphocytic leukemia is up 10 percent and brain tumors are up more than 30 percent. Learning disabilities and attention-deficit disorders also appear to be increasing." In May, 2000 the Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility published In Harm's Way: Toxic Threats to Child Development. The report reveals that the growing number of U.S. children with developmental disabilities could be caused by widespread exposure to neurotoxic substances. The report lists fluoride as a chemical that urgently needs re-evaluation: "Studies in animal and human populations suggest that fluoride exposure, at levels experienced by a significant proportion of the population drinking fluoridated water, may have adverse impacts on the developing brain."

The red flags associated with fluoridation go beyond the effects of human exposure: numerous studies indicate that fluoride is toxic to our already threatened salmon and trout species. One major field study, conducted between 1982 and 1986 on the Columbia River, demonstrated that relatively low levels of fluoride-just one-fifth of what is found within fluoridation programs-can negatively affect salmons' ability to migrate upstream. This same study demonstrated that water treated with half the dose that fluoridation provides (0.5 mg/L) resulted in a 55% loss of migrating salmon within a six-day period.9

With so many studies pointing to possible, probable and proven maladies resulting from an overabundance of fluoride-a bio-accumulative toxin known to persist in the environment from one to two million years-why is the American public "sold on it?"
Astonishingly, fluoride was the key chemical in atomic bomb production.10 Whoa-who says? Du Pont and Manhattan Project executives, that's who. The Freedom of Information Act resulted in the declassification of a number of once secret documents-documents that interested two reporters for the Christian Science Monitor. Commissioned to write an article about the history of water fluoridation in the United States, Joel Griffiths and Chris Bryson spent over a year researching just that. They found that shoddy science and a deliberately deceptive PR campaign were "recruited" by the 'Manhattan Project' to protect the U.S. Atomic bomb program from litigation, because the first lawsuit against the program was not over radiation, but over fluoride damage!
In 1944, farms famous for their produce and located downwind of the du Pont chemical factory in Deepwater, New Jersey were victims of a "pollution incident." Crops blighted, workers eating the produce vomited for days, while horses and cattle looked sick and were too stiff to work-symptoms verified by veterinarians as fluoride poisoning. After the War, the farmers sued du Pont and the Manhattan Project. In a secret memo, "Manhattan" stated that, "because of complaints that animals and humans have been injured by hydrogen fluoride fumes in New Jersey, the University of Rochester is conducting experiments to determine the toxic effect of fluoride."

Now this is interesting, for two reasons. First, the University of Rochester is infamous for its "studies" of radioactive plutonium, done on patients at Strong Memorial hospital without their knowledge or consent. Second, most of the "proof" that fluoride is not only safe, but "beneficial in low doses" rests on work performed by the University of Rochester, along with the "Newburgh Demonstration Project." Newburgh, NY, was the site of one of the nation's earliest fluoridation experiments. Begun in May of 1945, residents were studied both by their State Health Department and, secretly, by Manhattan's "Project F." The final report, written by Manhattan's chief toxicologist, Harold Hodge and published in the Journal of the American Dental Association in 1956, concluded that "small concentrations" of fluoride were safe for U.S. citizens.

Today, Newburgh's Mayor, Audrey Carey expresses the shock and anger of many city residents: "This reminds me of the Tuskegee experiment done on syphilis patients down in Alabama." And, after comparing both the secret and the published versions of the study, Dr. Mullenix, former head of toxicology at The Forsyth Institute (a world renowned dental research institution affiliated with the Harvard Medical School) commented: "This makes me ashamed to be a scientist. Were all Cold War-era fluoride studies done like this?" Subsequent studies done by Dr. Mullenix and her colleagues in the 1990's (including the MEDCOM report mentioned earlier in this article) showed fluoride to be a powerful central nervous system toxin which could adversely affect human brain functioning, even at low doses. This finding has been corroborated by studies in China; much like effects from lead exposure, children receiving low-dose fluoride also show diminished IQ. Russian studies show that people displaying the well-known signs of dental fluorosis-chalky-white, irregular patches on tooth enamel (sometimes infiltrated with yellow or brown staining) also "demonstrate dysfunction of sub-cortical axial structures of the brain."11

One of the arguments by those advocating fluoridation is that it's needed to help poor kids. But the latest report by the Surgeon General, Oral Health in America (May 2000) stated: "Eighty percent of Medicaid kids don't receive dental care, because few dentists take Medicaid." While that's a decent 'Catch-22,' Delta Dental, the largest dental insurance company in California, has it beat by a long shot. Delta advocates fluoridation, and gives grants to cities that fluoridate, but won't pay for any dental repair work caused by fluorosis! Medically defined as "chronic fluorine poisoning," dental fluorosis is a permanent condition that can be costly to repair, often requiring repeated bleaching or expensive veneers. Not only can fluoride damage tooth enamel (Canada currently markets a product that claims to repair the damage done by fluoridated dental products), but it can also activate "G proteins," promoting gingivitis and periodontitis, as well as oral cancer.

While the American Dental Association is now advising its members to lower the recommended dosage of fluoride prescribed to children, apparently the organization is concerned that people will neglect fluoride altogether. Why else would they have bought the domain names "www.fluoridealert.com" and "www.fluoridealert.net?" Now, with the slip of a "dot com," web-surfers find ADA pro-fluoridation sites instead of their intended destination: http://www.fluoridealert.org.

Are all U.S. city water supplies destined for fluoridation? In 1997, Natick, Massachusetts considered the issue. In order to sort out conflicting claims, they commissioned a respected team of scientists to analyze the data and make recommendations. The widely read analysis, known as The Natick Report, "emphatically" recommended the water supply "not be fluoridated," and warned that medical problems could ensue if fluoridation was pursued. In March 2000, Wilmington, Massachusetts also reviewed both sides of the issue and decided against it, as did Auburndale, Florida. Natick, Wilmington and Auburndale aren't alone. Over 80 U.S. cities have rejected fluoride since 1996, including Modesto, Santa Barbara, and Santa Cruz, California. Within the past ten years, Bellingham, Bremerton, Kennewick, Goldendale, Olympia, Spokane, Wenatchee, and White Salmon have turned down fluoridation. While approximately 67% of American cities fluoridate municipal water, Europe has almost unanimously rejected it, with only 2% of the entire continent allowing water fluoridation.

Back at home, Newsweek has repeatedly advised the public that "political decisions [about fluoridation] were at odds with expert advice" and "fluoride from your tap may not do much good-and may cause cancer." In 1992, Newsweek published another fluoride safety related article, "Is Science Censored," which examines how political considerations influence what scientific studies get published. Its most recent article examines "The Fluoride Risk."

What can you do? Besides becoming active in Citizens for Safe Drinking Water, contact your city council and county health board and state legislators, and let them know you object to having fluoridation chemicals added to your municipal water supply. Give them a copy of this magazine and have them read this article. Consider a water filtration system and ask specifically whether or not it can remove fluoride, as most do not. Spend some time on the Internet, reviewing the sites listed in the "resources" section below. There are many excellent, documented articles that will give you the facts you need to be an informed citizen. Remember the statement, "Knowledge is Power?" With the facts in hand, we can discern the truth and demand clean, safe water for ourselves, for our cities-and for our children.

Citizens for Safe Drinking Water: Washington State, Contact: Emily Kalweit - 360-459-9287 toxicfree@qwest.net
Citizens for Safe Drinking Water: National, Contact: Jeff Green 800-728-3833 greenjeff@cox.net
Fluoride Action Network: http://www.fluoridealert.org
Custom Pure ­ Water Filtration System
Contact: Jim Fox 206.363.0039, http://www.custompure.com

Additional Articles
http://www.salon.com/news/1999/02/17news.html; A great overview from Salon Magazine
http://www.earthisland.org/eijournal/fluoride/fluoride_index.html; An overview of environmental information
http://www.nteu280.org; EPA Union of scientists & professionals who oppose fluoridation
http://www.rachel.org/bulletin; bulletin.cfm?Issue_ID=2001 good overview article

http://www.fluoridealert.org/wastenot414.htm - You have to read this one! This was written for the Christian Science Monitor, but it was so powerful that they could not run it.
http://www.fluoridealert.org/f-teeth.htm - fluoride alert overview ­ excellent references

1) Clinical Toxicology of Commercial Products, 5th ed., 1984
2) Safe Water Coalition of Washington State, "Fluoride Has Adverse Effect on Central Nervous System," Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients 155 (June 1996):21.
?) Dr. Paul Connett, Professor of Chemistry, St. Lawrence University, NY 13617, from "50 Reasons Not To Fluoridate" http://www.fluoridealter.org
3) A recent congressional investigation into fluoridation verified this fact in a response received from the Food and Drug Administration in December of 2000.
4) M. McIvor, "Hyperkalemia and Cardiac Arrest from Fluoride Exposure During Hemodialysis" American Journal of Cardiology 51 (1983) 901-902
5) Danielson, Egger, Lyon and Goodenough, "Hip Fractures and Fluoridation in Utah's Elderly Population" Journal of the American Medical Association 258 (1992) 746-48
6) Galletti, P. & Joyet, G. "Effect on Fluorine on Thyroidal Iodine Metabolism in Hyperthyroidism," Journal of Clinical Endocrinology; 18:1102-1110 (1958).
7) J.A. Varner, K.F. Jensen, W. Horvath and R.L. Isaacson, Brain Research 784 (1998).
9) Damkaer DM, Dey DB. Evidence for fluoride effects on salmon passage at John Day Dam, Columbia River, 1982-1986. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 9 154-162 1989.
10) See "Fluoride, Teeth and The Atomic Bomb" by Griffiths and Bryson, summarized by Waste Not #414, available at www.fluoridealert.org/WN-414.htm. The entire article and links to declassified documents should be available at this site.
11) http://www.fluoridealert.org/testimony.htm