Helen Cunningham, Ph.D.
The next time you fill your glass from the kitchen tap or open a plastic bottle, think about what is in the water you are about to drink. About 74 % of tap water in the United States is fluoridated. About 10% of bottled waters contain significant amounts of fluoride. The story of how fluoride was added to our drinking water is an extraordinary tale. The plot includes some of the most spectacular events in human affairs … including the development of the atomic bomb!
Although fluoride concerns and people who express them have been ridiculed for decades, recent research shows that fluoride REALLY IS BAD FOR YOU. Here’s a summary.
WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT FLUORIDE TODAY?
Fluoride accumulates – Fluoride is stored in bone and accumulates there over the course of a lifetime.
Fluoride works topically – There is some evidence that fluoride (in small amounts) strenthens teeth. But you don’t have to ingest it! Toothpaste & gels work fine.
Most industrialized countries do NOT fluoridate water – Most advanced nations do NOT fluoridate and yet they have seen sharp reductions in dental decay over the last 50 years, similar to those in fluoridated communities in the U.S. If they don’t need fluoride, then neither do we! Apart from the U.S. only about 12 countries fluoridate >40% of their water supply today . These include Chile, Guyana, Hong Kong, and Malaysia.
Skeletal fluorosis is a severely crippling condition seen in people whose water naturally contains fluoride at levels above 3 m/L. Its symptoms closely resemble osteoarthritis. Fluoride is taken up & stored in bone, and has been shown to increase bone brittleness & risk of fracture.
Brain and IQ
As of June 2018, a total of 100 studies have investigated the relationship between fluoride and bran functioning in humans & animals. Of these investigations, 98 studies have found that elevated fluoride exposure is associated with reduced IQ in humans or impaired learning and memory in animals. A Harvard review team has concluded that fluoride’s effect on the young brain should now be a “high research priority.”
In the 1930s many doctors prescribed fluoride to reduce thyroid function in patients with over-active thyroids. In February 2015, British scientists reported that fluoridated water in Britain is associated with under-active thyroid. Fluoride is associated with reduced thyroid hormones and iodine depletion. These in turn cause a range of ill effects, including fatigue, muscle/joint pain, depression, weight gain, menstrual disturbances, impaired fertility, impaired memory, and inability to concentrate.
Over 60 animal studies have found that fluoride adversely impacts the male reproductive system. The effects observed in rats, mice, chickens, and rabbit include: (1) decreases in testosterone levels; (2) reduced sperm motility; (3) altered sperm morphology; and (4) reduced sperm quantity. While not many studies have been conducted on humans, the FDA reported in 1994 that populations in the United States with more than 3 ppm fluoride in their water had lower total fertility rates than average.
How did fluoride come to be in our drinking water?
THE ATOMIC AGE & HUNGER FOR FLUORIDE
In 1943 Brigadier General Leslie C. Groves (Army chief of the Manhattan Project) began receiving disturbing reports of workers and scientists being gassed and burned in atomic bomb laboratories and factories. Fluoride was essential in making the bomb. In the “gaseous diffusion” process, uranium is mixed with elemental fluorine to form a volatile gas called uranium hexafluoride, which is then enriched by diffusing that gas through a fine membrane.
Accidental fluorine-gas releases caused mental confusion, extreme fatigue, pulmonary fibrosis, and deteriorating teeth. Then, in 1944, engineers Peter Bragg and Douglas Meigs were killed almost instantly when a massive explosion occurred at a super-secret facility using hot liquid fluoride and pressurized steam to enrich uranium for the atomic bomb. Colonel Stafford L. Warren (chief of the Manhattan Project’s Medical Section) seized the organs of the dead men, stuffing the heart and lungs of Meigs and Bragg into his briefcase before returning home. Warren later explained that the organs “had become classified material.”
Fearing lawsuits, General Groves established the Manhattan Project’s Medical Section at the University of Rochester to “strengthen the government’s interests,” placing Dr. Harold C. Hodge in charge of a secret unit studying fluoride and the other chemicals used to make the atomic bomb. Hodge later became infamous as the researcher who exposed unsuspecting hospital patients to plutonium in order to study its effects.
In 1943 farmers downwind of a New Jersey DuPont plant noticed that “something is burning up the peach crops”. Dr. Hodge was dispatched to marshal the government response. General Groves assisted by calling secret meetings attended by scores of scientists and officials from the U.S. government & industry. The farmers lost their legal case, but ultimately were pacified with financial settlements.
In 1944 ALCOA learned that 120 workers at aluminum smelting plants in New York state had “bone fluorosis”. Workers’ X-rays showed evidence of fluoride- linked medical injury. A few years later, ALCOA would figure prominently in the acceptance of fluoride as a water additive.
WHOSE IDEA WAS IT TO USE FLUORIDE FOR TOOTH DECAY?
In 1901 a young dental graduate named Frederick McKay opened a dental practice in Colorado Springs, CO, and was astounded to find grotesque brown stains on the teeth of the locals. Sometimes entire teeth were splotched the color of chocolate candy. He also discovered that teeth afflicted by the brown stain were surprisingly resistant to decay.
McKay published a report that somehow reached the desk of ALCOA’s chief chemist, H. V. Churchill. Churchill’s team discovered that it was fluoride causing the discoloration of tooth enamel, and this gave him an idea. He went to a young researcher named Gerald J Cox, whose work was funded entirely by ALCOA, and suggested that a review of the literature on fluoride’s risks AND benefits would be of great interest to ALCOA. He then introduced Cox to Harold Hodge of Rochester.
In 1950 Cox & Hodge published a glowing report on fluoride’s benefits. To give you an idea of how objective they were, check out this quote from their Introduction:
“Objections to the uses of fluorides in dentistry have come mainly from the specialists in various fields who are uninformed about the proved possibilities of fluorides, those who have competing procedures have advanced their wares by attacks on fluorides, and some who have seen only the bad effects of fluorides refuse to accept the good …”
Later in 1950 based mostly on the Cox & Hodge report, the United States Public Health Service formally endorsed fluoridation of municipal water supplies, and recommended that municipalities be “strongly encouraged” to do so. Safe levels were based solely on the risk of dental fluorosis, not with respect to other dangers of fluoride, which Cox & Hodge had mostly ignored.
WHERE DOES THE FLUORIDE IN YOUR WATER COME FROM?
“Wet scrubbers” are pollution control devices used by the phosphate industry to capture fluoride gases produced in the production of commercial fertilizer. In the past, when the industry let these gases escape, vegetation became scorched, crops destroyed, and cattle crippled. Today, after being captured in the scrubbers, the fluoride acid (hydrofluorosilicic acid) is barreled up and sold, unrefined, to communities across the country. Who then add it to your water. Really.
HOW TO AVOID FLUORIDE?
The current Health & Human Services Department recommendation is a maximum of 0.7 mg/ liter. Note this assumes an “average” amount of water consumed per day. If you drink more because you are an athlete or live in a hot dry climate, you may be getting too much. Also bear in mind other foods and drinks contribute to your total fluoride intake. Water is not the only source.
Over 10 million prescriptions are dispensed annually for drugs like ciprofloxacin (“cipro”) and levaquin. Originally perceived as effective and safe for a variety of infections, they are no longer recommended to any patient for whom a non- fluoroquinolone antibiotic will work. The FDA label says to see your doctor if you have: “Unusual joint or tendon pain, muscle weakness, a “pins and needles” tingling or pricking sensation, numbness in the arms or legs, confusion, and hallucinations, disturbances in attention, disorientation, agitation, nervousness, memory impairment and delirium.” A suspected (unproven) side effect is aortic aneurysm!
Mechanically Deboned Chicken
Meats that are pulverized into a pulp form (e.g., chicken fingers, chicken nuggets) are made using a mechanical deboning process which increases the quantity of fluoride-laden bone particles in the meat. Deboned chicken meat has consistently been found to have the highest levels. This includes pureed chicken meals for infants!
Cryolite is a fluoride-based pesticide that is allowed to be added to most vegetables. Sulfuryl fluoride is a fumigant in food-processing facilities used to kill bugs, rodents, and reptiles. Although EPA granted Fluoride Action Network’s request in January 2011 to rescind approval, this is being challenged by the agribusiness industry and sulfuryl fluoride is still being used.