As I write, controversy rages over the plans of local health authorities in Southampton to initiate the mass medication of around 200,000 people in the city and surrounding area. This mass medication attempt comes in the form of fluoridation of the municipal water supply, ostensibly on the basis of ‘dental health’.
Although 72% of those polled stand firmly against the proposal, the pro-fluoridation lobbyists continue their legal fight and the PR battle in an attempt to expand the market for the industrial by-product. Just this morning, I witnessed a dentist making a passionate case for flouride use on the BBC Breakfast sofa. Her arguments were based on the ‘effectiveness’ and ‘safety’ of the halide chemical.
It’s always frustrating and uncomfortable to hear people say things that are so patently untrue. However, it is more relevant to consider what made this dentist so sure of this scientifically-flawed stance. And this is where she is exposed as a naïve pawn in a greater game, a mere product of the system. This system is the Medical Industry, which is owned, run and controlled by the people that pay to do so.
The modern history of flouridation begins in the Du Pont factory in 1944. It was here that the secretive Manhatten Project, a Governmental scheme which led to the development of millions of pounds of fluoride in environmental contamination. Faced with the prospect of a colossal payout to the victims of these incidents, the Government needed studies to support the use of fluoride and play down the dangers. In keeping with the general pattern of the 20th century, these duly arrived; all have since been discredited (Judd, 1996). These developments caught the attention of corporations involved in the manufacture of aluminium, the production of glass and phosphate fertilizers, all of whom created tons of fluoride waste through these activities and were faced with enormous bills to dispose of such a highly toxic compound.
However, what happened next was a perfect example of industry turning a toxic by-product into a profitable side industry; all they needed to do was create a market. And they did. Aluminium giant Alcoa funded studies at the University of Cincinatti’s Kettering Lab who, in a not-entirely-unexpected twist of fate, began to churn out some positive scientific research on fluoride. In 1945, two Michigan cities were chosen for a 15-year trial period, with one having their municipal fluoridated and the other serving as control. Residents of the city were not informed. In 1946, with 14 years left on the study, six other cities were flouridated (Griffiths, 1992). Mass medication of the public had begun.
The history of water fluoridation is littered with sordid tales, scientific distortion and controversial cover-ups. But, to summarise, the Americal Dental Association and the National Institute of Dental Research went to town on convincing the medical profession that fluoride was beneficial and Edward Bernays, the ‘godfather of PR’ who had previously been hired by the tobacco industry to persuade women to take up smoking, was brought in to win over the minds of the public. Before long, the public idea of fluoride had shifted from a dangerous industrial by-product to a nutrient.
Although initial studies looked at the effects of sodium fluoride, the compound used in the fluoridation of water ever since has been the industrial waste product, hexafluorosilicic acid. Masters and Copan (2000) note that low-level dosage of such silicofluorides have NEVER been properly tested for health effects in humans. Yes, this means you become the guinea pig if you consume flouridated water. However, we do know from small-scale trials that silicofluorides at low dose increase the blood level of lead, and can enable aluminium to cross the blood-brain barrier (Varner et al, 1998). A range of studies dating back two decades demonstrate how increases in fluoride added to the water results in higher rates of bone fractures (May, 1992; Cooper, 1991).
Phyllis Mullinex PhD, a research scientist from Harvard University, found her career prospects hampered when she conducted an investigation into the effects of the chemical as part of her research program at the Boston-based institute’s Department of Neuropathy and Psychiatry. She found that: “The fluoride pattern of behavioral problems matches up with the same results of administering radiation and chemotherapy [to cancer patients]. All of these really nasty treatments that are used clinically in cancer therapy are well known to cause I.Q. deficits in children. That’s one of the best studied effects they know of. The behavioral pattern that results from the use of fluoride matches that produced by cancer treatment that causes a reduction in intelligence.” For her efforts, Dr Mullinex got the standard treatment reserved for scientists who argue against the official position; dismissed from her position, she found all future grants withdrawn and has been unable to conduct further research since.
Despite similar revelations from other principaled scientists, the official stance has remained the same; to dismiss the concerns lodged by such individuals on the basis that they are outweighed by the dental benefits. However, a recent study conducted by the Ministry of Health in New Zealand revealed that children livings in areas with no fluoride reported one percent less cavities than those where the chemical added into the water. Interestingly enough, a study conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services (1991) found that, while the amount of dental decay has reduced in almost every country worldwide, it has increased in Japan and Thailand. Both countries now have higher levels of fluoride in the water. The argument that flouride protects teeth is not simply on rocky ground – it has no foundations whatsoever.
Most countries have rejected the fluoridation of water as a ridiculous concept from the start. Other countries, such as Israel, have rejected it on the basis that it is unconstitutional. Some have attempted a trial as a compromise with the corporations, before removing the chemical after the lack of benefits become obvious; Switzerland once trialled the fluoridation of water in Basle but, after 41 years that yielded no benefits, reissued a nationwide ban.
The reality is that there is no compelling evidence that supports fluoridation. The paper most often quoted by pro-fluoridation lobbyists does not actually support the use of the toxic compound in municipal supplies. One such study, conducted by Hunt, Eldridge and Beck in 1989 in the Journal of Public Health Dentistry, is often upheld as ‘supporting the benefits of fluoridation’. The study actually concludes that, for every 30 years of fluoridation use, you have a 50% chance of saving filling. Hardly compelling evidence.
In light of these facts, it becomes tempting to label pro-fluoridation public health officials as stupid. At first glance, it may appear that they have made pawns of themselves, having become foolishly swept away by the lobbyists. But if these federal clowns are so easily influenced, then why is it they are only ever taken by the arguments of organisations with money, and not the cash-strapped action groups?
Money talks. And with lobbyists now spending $25million per politician every year (Younge, 2006), it is capable of talking louder than ever. So, as ridiculously flawed and scientifically unsound as fluoridation may be. Pro-fluoridation groups continue to exert a perverse influence on our central regulators with their bottomless pit of corporate cash; in contrast, public health campaigners can only offer the facts.
Cooper C, et al. (1991). Water Fluoridation and Hip Fracture. Journal of the American Medical Association. 266:513-514.
Griffiths J (1992). Flouride: Commie Plot or Capitalist Ploy? Available online at www.fluoridealert.org/griffiths-1992.pdf [Accessed 19 Jan 2011]
Hunt, Eldridge and Beck (1989). Effect of Residence in a Fluoridated Community on the Incidence of Coronal and Root Caries in an Older Adult Population. Journal of Public Health Dentistry, 49(3): 138-141.
Judd GF (1996). Good Teeth Birth to Death. Glendale, Ariz.: Research Publications Co.
Masters R.D., Coplan M.J. et al (2000). Association of silicofluoride treated water with elevated blood lead. NeuroToxicology 21(6): 1091-1100.
May DS, Wilson MG (1992). Hip Fractures in Relation to Water Fluoridation. Osteoporosis International 2:109-117.
Varner JA et al (1998). Chronic Administration of Aluminium-Fluoride or Sodium-Fluoride to rats in drinking water: alterations in neuronal and cerebrovascular integrity. Brain Research 784, 284-298.
Younge G (2006). Like Arsenic in the water supply, lobbyists have poisoned Washington. The Guardian, January 9.