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Mainely Tipping Points

Archive for September 22nd, 2011

Mainely Tipping Points 34: Part 1: THE CASE AGAINST FLUORIDE

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PART 1:  THE CASE AGAINST FLUORIDE

 

Like many of you, I suspect, until very recently I never questioned the safety of fluoridating the general water supply.  Fluoride makes teeth stronger, right?  The government and many health organizations–like the American Dental Association, the American Medical Association, and the American Public Health Association–have scientific studies showing fluoridation is safe, right?  We’ve been fluoridating water for sixty years now with no ill effects, right?

My awareness of the toxicity and danger of fluoride and of the practice of fluoridation came slowly.  In 2006 when I started seriously researching food and health issues, information about fluoride toxicity emerged slowly.  There were some disturbing assessments in the Weston A. Price Foundation’s (WAPF) materials.  A local activist asked me to look deeper because she believed broken bones in children were much more common today due to fluoridation.  The fact that one of my grandchildren had already, at age two, fallen off the back of a sofa onto a thick carpet and broken his arm began to echo in my head.   I agreed fluoride was likely a problem, but I had other research and essays lined up to do first. 

In late June, I started getting ready for my family’s  annual summer visits by stockpiling food and household supplies.  Only, I couldn’t find a toothpaste for the children that didn’t contain fluoride.  Standing in the toothpaste aisles of various local stores, I remembered seeing recent email alerts concerning new information about fluoridation and brain damage in children. 

Because the FDA classifies fluoride as a drug, the FDA requires adult toothpastes to carry the following dire warning:  “Keep out of the reach of children under 6 years of age.  If you swallow more than used for brushing, get medical help or contact a poison control center right away.”  A dose is the size of a pea.      

Toothpastes, including children’s toothpastes, warn users not to swallow.  Have you tried, lately, telling children who are two, three, and four years old not to swallow when the color is luscious and the flavor delicious?

About this time, Tim Boyd reviewed THE CASE AGAINST FLUORIDE:  HOW HAZARDOUS WASTE ENDED UP IN OUR DRINKING WATER AND THE BAD SCIENCE AND POWERFUL POLITICS THAT KEEP IT THERE, by Paul Connett, PhD, James Beck, MD, PhD, and H.S. Micklem, DPhil, in the spring 2011 WAPF’S journal, WISE TRADITIONS (59).  Boyd noted the authors’ statement that the pea-sized dab of toothpaste contains as much fluoride as one glass of fluoridated water.  Boyd asked if adults call the Poison Control Center after drinking the recommended eight glasses of water per day since they would have exceeded EPA’s daily safety dose for fluoride.

Connett et al explain that controlling the concentration of fluoride is not the same thing as controlling the dose of fluoride, which includes not just drinking fluoridated water but the total dose from other sources, like toothpaste, tea, wine, pesticide residues on food, mechanically deboned meat, and food and beverages processed with fluorideated water (207).  With water, the “dose gets larger the more water is drunk; and the larger the dose, the more likely it will cause harm” since fluoride “is…highly toxic” (8-9).  Further, the kidneys only excrete 50 percent of the fluoride ingested; the rest moves mostly into calcifying tissues like the bones and the brain’s pineal gland and concentrates in the kidneys (123).    

Since scientific credentials are hugely important in the debate about fluoridation, do Connett et al have the kind of knowledge needed to assess the toxicity of fluoride? Connett’s PhD is in chemistry from Dartmouth.  He specializes in environmental chemistry and toxicology.  Until his retirement in 2006, he was a full professor at St. Lawrence University.  Additionally, for twenty-five years he’s worked in waste management.  He currently directs the Fluoride Action Network, whose website is a source of valuable information. 

Beck holds two doctorates:  Medicine from the Washington University School of Medicine and Biophysics from the University of California.  He is currently professor emeritus of medical biophysics at the University of Calgary, Canada. 

Micklem’s doctorate is from the University of Oxford.  He publishes mainly in the fields of stem cell biology and immunology.  He is an emeritus professor in the School of Biological Sciences, University of Edinburgh, UK, and has held visiting research fellowships at l’Institut Pasteur in Paris, Stanford University, and New York University School of Medicine.   

Connett et al’s fluoridation history follows the pattern I’ve seen in my research where a handful of determined men with cultural and political power successfully institute a problematic health practice.  Among the most effective men in 1950, when the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) endorsed fluoridation, were Gerald Cox, a researcher at the Mellon Institute whose research was funded by Alcoa aluminum, and Harold Hodge, the chief toxicologist for the U.S. Army’s Manhattan Project, who supervised experiments where uranium and plutonium were injected into unsuspecting hospital patients (80-81).

Connett et al show that in 1950 there were many scientists with grave concerns about putting an untested drug into the public water supply.  From the 1930s onward there was “a considerable amount of scientific literature, particularly from Europe and from the U.S. Department of Agriculture,  that fluoride posed problems to the bone and to the thyroid (83).  These studies were ignored or dismissed. 

The PHS made its momentous decision to validate fluoridation based on two flawed studies, an article by Cox and Hodge, and two ongoing studies whose results were unpublished, so had not yet been subject to peer review (82-83).  It was a rigged process.          

So, once again, industry benefit is part of this history.   At first, the metal industry benefitted, and, now, the phosphate fertilizer industry benefits.  But also there were then and are now many people who believed/believe that fluoridation would help children, especially poor children, have better dental health and who trusted that the organizations to which they looked for scientific truth had actually researched fluoride objectively. 

Astonishingly, Connett et al report that no federal agency accepts responsibility for the safety of fluoridation.   

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has never approved fluoride for ingestion and rates fluoride as an “unapproved drug”—which is why it can mandate the toothpaste warning.  Nor has the FDA subjected fluoride to rigorous randomized clinical trials for either its effectiveness or its long-term safety (270). 

At the Center for Disease Control (CDC), only the Oral Health Division (OHD) is involved with fluoridation, and the OHD is staffed largely by dental personnel.  In 2008, Connett et al note, not one of the 29 staff members had scientific degrees qualifying them to assess the toxicity of fluoride, yet this division aggressively promotes fluoridation throughout the United States (23-24). 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has an indirect role in that it regulates safe standards for all “contaminants” in drinking water.  In 2002, as it is legally required to do every 10 years, the EPA asked the National Research Council (NRC) to review the current 4 ppm (parts per million) Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) standard.  The NRC appointed a 12-member panel that, the authors state, was “the most balanced ever appointed in the United States to do any kind of review on fluoride” 137).  This panel issued its 507-page report in March 2006, in which it declared that the seemingly low-level 4 ppm maximum standard was not protective of health (25).

The ADA declared the NRC report irrelevant to water fluoridation on the day it was released—claiming erroneously that the panel only reviewed water fluoridation of 4 ppm.  The panel, in fact, “examined several studies that found adverse effects at levels less than 2 ppm” (138). 

The CDC followed six days later with the same conclusion.  To date, write the authors, the CDC has produced “no comprehensive analysis to support its claim.”  And “it’s hard to believe that in six days Oral Health Division personnel could have read and digested the report, let alone its over 1,100 references” (140).  

Ironically, in 1999, the CDC “finally conceded what many dental researchers had been reporting over the previous two decades:  Fluoride’s predominant mechanism of action was topical, not systemic.  In other words, if fluoride works at all, it does so via direct exposure to the outside of the tooth and not from inside the body” (13).  So, write Connett et al, to continue “the practice of forcing people to ingest fluoride has become even more absurd (269-270).

Part 2 will address fluoride’s specific toxicity in the body and claims of its efficacy.