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Fluoridation: 60 Years of Shame

When the U.S. Public Health Services endorsed water fluoridation in 1950, before one single trial of this extraordinary medical practice had been completed, it was clear there was more politics behind this endorsement than science. After all, scientists are expected to collect their data before they draw their conclusions!

By Dr. Paul Connett

Chris Bryson, in his splendid book, The Fluoride Deception, offers a very convincing explanation of the political and economic forces behind fluoridation in the 1940s and beyond.

Meanwhile, U.S. authorities continue to plow on, regardless of the accumulating scientific evidence that the practice is neither effective nor safe. Whether continued U.S. support is being driven by the same economic forces that operated in the late 1940s is difficult to ascertain.

However, what is abundantly clear is that today bureaucrats do not want to admit they have been wrong about a practice whose virtues they have so enthusiastically extolled for more than 50 years. In addition, toothpaste manufacturers like Colgate and Procter and Gamble are probably very concerned about the enormous liabilities waiting in the wings, if any of fluoride's health effects are acknowledged.

As far as fluoridation's ineffectiveness is concerned, figures from the World Health Organization show the same declines in tooth decay, which have been experienced in fluoridated countries since the 1960s have occurred equally in non-fluoridated countries (http://www.fluoridealert.org/who-dmft.htm).

In a study published last year, pro-fluoridation dental researchers from the University of Aderlaide in South Australia, were unable to demonstrate any difference in the permanent teeth between those children who had lived all their lives drinking fluoridated water and those who had drunk rain or bottled water. (Armfield and Spencer, 2004)

If You Repeat it Often Enough ...

As far as safety is concerned, since 1950, U.S. health authorities have behaved as if, simply by declaring fluoridation is safe and effective, that it becomes so and that somehow if this mantra is repeated often enough, it offers almost "biblical" protection against any possible effect that fluoride might have. Would that we were so lucky...

We've always known that fluoride can interfere with the developing tooth enamel, a condition called "dental fluorosis." However, early promoters thought that, at the so-called "optimum" level of 1 ppm fluoride in the water, tooth decay would be lowered without causing more than 10 percent of children to be affected with the mildest level of dental fluorosis.

However, a recent national survey indicates that at least 30 percent of children living in fluoridated communities in the U.S. have dental fluorosis on at least two teeth, and not all of this is in its very mild form of little white spots or flecks. (Heller et al, 1997)

Proponents of fluoridation try to make light of this by describing the condition as merely a "cosmetic effect." However, dental fluorosis is the first of fluoride's toxic effects and is an indicator that it might have affected other tissues as well. The latest research from Mexico shows a strong correlation between the severity of dental fluorosis and the frequency of bone fractures in children. (Alarcon-Herrera et al., 2001)

Increased bone fractures would be serious enough, especially hip fractures in the elderly (Li et al., 2001) but even more alarming is the research made public on June 6. The Environmental Working Group reported a finding which appeared in a Harvard PhD thesis, which showed young boys exposed to fluoridated water in their 6th, 7th and 8th years, had a seven-fold increased risk of developing osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer.

Prior to this finding, the evidence from both animal and epidemiological studies has been mixed. This study might go a long way to explain some of the negative human findings, because most authors have not narrowed their focus to when the young boys were exposed to fluoride. The mid-term bone growth spurt seems to be a particularly vulnerable period for fluoride's impact on the developing bone.

While osteosarcoma is a rare cancer, it is frequently fatal. I would re-iterate what the late Dr. John Colquhoun asked in a videotaped interview I had with him in 1998, "How many teeth saved could possibly justify even one child dying from osteosarcoma?"

A Shameful Celebration

Back to the politics, it is shocking that this very important and federally funded study that earned a PhD thesis in 2001, has still not been published in 2005. What is particularly troubling about the delay is that the PhD advisor for this work, Dr. Chester Douglass, is also a consultant for Colgate and edits their "Oral Health report."

Neither the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nor the American Dental Association (ADA), when challenged, can defend water fluoridation in open public debate, nor even answer specific questions submitted to them in writing (other than those of their own choosing). However, that has not stopped these agencies promoting this practice at every turn.

Within the last few months, representatives of these bodies have actively supported efforts to introduce mandatory statewide fluoridation in Arkansas, New Jersey and Oregon. This is almost like a war against our own people. The latest battle in this war, took place last month in Chicago, where the ADA and the CDC held an opening celebration in Millennium Park and a three-day symposium at the ADA headquarters to "celebrate 60 years of fluoridation."

For those who have studied the issue, and thought about the ethics of enforcing medication on the individual without their informed consent, 60 years of fluoridation is not a cause for celebration. Instead, it should be a source of immense shame.

It disturbs me that the CDC is such an active promoter of fluoridation, because this represents a conflict of interest in their key role of protecting the health of U.S. citizens. Even if fluoridation was hugely beneficial to teeth -- and clearly it is not -- it is only one tissue in the body.

By going overboard on this one tissue, it is turning a blind eye to potential damage to other tissues, including the brain (Varner et al., 1998; Xiang et al., 2003); the pineal gland (Luke, 2001); the thyroid gland (Bachinskii et al., 1985); and the reproductive system (Freni, 1994), not to mention the 1 percent of the population who appear to be supersensitive to fluoride (Feltman and Kossel, 1965). (All of these studies are fully referenced at http:/www.fluoridealert.org/health.)

Protecting Fluoride

Nowhere is the CDC's bias towards promotional rather than protective activities made more abundantly clear than in their in-house Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Report of October 23, 1999. In this, they claimed fluoridation was "one of the top 10 public health achievements of the twentieth century." Incredibly, the CDC dismissed health concerns in one sentence based upon a National Research Council (NRC) review, which by 1999, was already six years out of date. (NRC, 1993)

To underline, still further the political nature of CDC's promotion of this practice, one only needs to note that the agency (the NRC) on which they relied for their safety claims in 1999, is currently engaged in an identical review based upon the science that has been published since 1993, some of which is identified above.

However, the CDC is not waiting for this review to be completed in 2006 and, instead, is sending its representatives around the country helping to get as many new communities fluoridated as possible. A key question that I hope that citizens will ask of their U.S. representatives is: Should taxpayers' be financing such unabashed propaganda?