Mainely Tipping Points 36: Stopping Fluoride

Mainely Tipping Points 36



An October 13, 2011, article in “The New York Times” by Lizette Alvarez reported that about 200 jurisdictions in the United States have chosen to end fluoridation in the last four years.  The most recent is Pinellas County, on Florida’s west coast.  Eleven small cities or towns opted out this past year, including Fairbanks, Alaska. 

In Maine, municipal voters must vote directly to begin or discontinue fluoridation.  It’s difficult to patch together a list, but it seems as if the following Maine jurisdictions have voted to end fluoridation:  Mt. Desert, Jackman, Moose River, Lincoln, Seal Harbor, and Norridgewock.  In November, Damariscotta and Newcastle will vote on ending fluoridation.

In THE CASE AGAINST FLUORIDE:  HOW HAZARDOUS WASTE ENDED UP IN OUR DRINKING WATER AND THE BAD SCIENCE AND POWERFUL POLITICS THAT KEEP IT THERE (2010), Paul Connett, PhD, James Beck, MD, PhD, and H.S. Micklem, DPhil, note that since no one federal organization is in charge of the fluoridation program, stopping it at the federal level will be very difficult.  The best way, write Connett et al, is through local, democratic efforts.  After reading this book, which is an exhaustive study of the history and safety of fluoridation, I hope Camden and Rockland citizens—and other citizens of other towns–will join together to opt out of fluoridation in the near future.

When Mt. Desert voted in 2007 to end fluoridation—by a ratio of four to one—over thirty health officials met in Augusta for a press conference where they condemned the decision (Craig Idlebrook, “Mount Desert Fluoride Vote Sparks Debate,” “Working Waterfront,” 1 May 2007).  Yet, the 2006 EPA-commissioned report by a twelve-member panel of the National Research Council (NRC) had very clearly raised warning flags about fluoridation’s negative effect on the human body and had flatly stated that the Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) of 4 ppm was not protective of human health. 

To clarify, the NRC is part of the National Academies.  And, the 2006 NRC report is the most recent report from the National Academy of Sciences on fluoridation.  The twelve panel members were told to review toxicologic, epidemiologic, and clinical data on fluoride and exposure data on orally ingested fluoride from drinking water and other sources.  The panel was not charged to investigate risk-benefit assessment.  Nevertheless, as Connett et al document repeatedly and as panel member Kathleen Thiessen notes, the NRC panel implicated fluoride, even at low levels, as causing damage to human bones and teeth.  The report also implicated fluoride as adversely interfering with many systems of the body (142-147). (Parts 1 and 2, Tipping Points 34 and 35, highlight some of that information.)

 In January 2011—a full five years after the 2006 NRC report—the EPA got around to lowering their current recommended range of 0.7 to 1.2 ppm to 0.7 ppm.  (But the 4 ppm MCL remains in place.)  And, in January 2011, the EPA announced it will move toward banning fluoride pesticides used on food because children are currently over-exposed to fluoride (Dan Shapley, “EPA Will Ban Fluoride Pesticide Used on Food,” 11 January 2011, 

Already, our well-meaning health officials are writing letters to local papers endorsing fluoride.  These are likely good people who want what’s best for their communities.  The mistake they are making is that they are relying on endorsements from major health organizations who have not done their own, or any, analysis or who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo—maybe because any backsliding could result in major law suits. 

So, if you see vague, uncited endorsements like “studies show,” or “the scientific evidence is clear,” seek more information because the 2006 NRC report does not support that position.  Nor do the very reputable authors of THE CASE AGAINST FLUORIDE.  Go online and poke about the NRC report yourself.  It’s on the National Academy of Sciences web page:  FLUORIDE IN DRINKING WATER:  A SCIENTIFIC REVIEW OF EPA’S STANDARDS,  Even reading the Summary is instructive. 

Remember, endorsements are not scientific inquiry.  And, the history of fluoridation is made of up endorsements piled up like a house of cards.  What has already fallen out of this face-saving mess is your health.     

As for fluoridation’s success in preventing dental caries, that case hasn’t been made.  Fluoride itself has never been subjected to rigorous, randomized clinical trials, explain Connett et al (270).  Further, communities opting out of fluoridation worldwide have not experienced increased cavities.  Indeed, Connett et al argue that benefits have been “wildly exaggerated” in the absence of good studies.  Further still, in 1999, the Center for Disease Control admitted that if fluoride works at all to strengthen teeth, it works topically, not through ingestion (13). 

So, tell me again, why are we putting it in our water, especially since it is so toxic for so many?

Also, I do think that we have to put our health officials on notice that continuing to “drink the Kool-Aid” about fluoride and not doing due diligence themselves is not ok.  We rely on our health officials for solid information, so if they are going to take a public position, I would urge them to read Connett et al and the 2006 NRC report first.  You can’t read either without rethinking fluoride drastically. 

One argument—made by James Donovan, CEO and President of the Lincoln County healthcare system, which is the Miles Memorial Hospital in Damariscotta, in THE FREE PRESS, October 24th—is that all you have to do is drink the fluoridated water to cheaply protect your teeth.  Oddly, a civil engineer from Louisiana made the following comment on this blog:

 “I know that people drink only 1/2% (one-half percent) of the water they use. The remaining 99 ½ % of the water with toxic fluoride chemical is dumped directly into the environment through the sewer system.  For example, for every $1000 of fluoride chemical added to water, $995 would be directly wasted down the drain in toilets, showers, dishwashers, etc., $5 would be consumed in water by the people, and less than $0.50 (fifty cents) would be consumed by children, the target group for this outdated practice.  That would be comparable to buying one gallon of milk, using six-and-one-half drops of it, and pouring the rest of the gallon in the sink.”

And, of course, the more fluoridated water you ingest, the bigger your dose of fluoride and the larger your risk of harm.  Just drinking the water is “not the “holistic benefit to our overall health” that Donovan claims.

The ethical and moral components of this debate are deeply troubling.  Drugging a whole community, as Connett et al note, not only puts subsets of the population (like babies, diabetics, the elderly, the ill, the allergic) at real risk, this practice violates each person’s right to give informed consent, which is both “an ethical obligation and a legal requirement…in all fifty states of the United States” (3-4). Note too that in 2006, the American Dental Association advised against giving babies fluoridated water (“10 Facts about Fluoride,” Fluoride Action Network web site).  Poor families are faced with buying distilled water for formula—water that likely comes in a plastic bottle which brings into play a whole new set of contaminants.         

Why is our medical community, which must abide by legal requirements about informed consent in their work place, so willing to ignore them with regard to fluoride?  Especially since, as Connett et al note, tooth decay “is neither life threatening nor contagious at the community level” (269). 

So, I’m looking to young parents, especially, to work together to organize a vote to end fluoridation in Camden and Rockland.  Protect your children, yes.  But prevent, also, the skeletal fluorosis that is likely masquerading as arthritis when you become a senior citizen.   


Mainely Tipping Points 35: Part 2: THE CASE AGAINST FLUORIDE

Tipping Points 35



In THE CASE AGAINST FLUORIDE:  HOW HAZARDOUS WASTE ENDED UP IN OUR DRINKING WATER AND THE BAD SCIENCE AND POWERFUL POLITICS THAT KEEP IT THERE (2010), Paul Connett, PhD, James Beck, MD, PhD, and H.S. Micklem, DPhil, demonstrate both that there is now documented worldwide evidence that low levels of fluoride are dangerously toxic for humans and that evidence for the effectiveness of fluoride in either making teeth stronger via ingestion or preventing tooth decay is very weak.  Connett et al conclude that the known, serious risks of fluoridation harm outweigh any claimed, but unproven, benefits.  

 With regard to fluoride’s effectiveness for tooth decay as an ingested drug, Connett et al note that 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). 

 Connett et al explain that “the vast majority of countries in the world—including…nearly all European countries—do not fluoridate their water.”  And, World Health Organization data show that “rates of tooth decay in twelve-year-olds have been coming down as fast in non-fluoridated countries as in fluoridated ones.”  “Moreover, there is no evidence where fluoridation has been started and stopped in Europe that there has been a rise in tooth decay” (33).  Connett et al demonstrate that in most cases, countries rejecting fluoridation do so because health issues have “not been resolved” and because they do not “want to force it on people who didn’t want it” (32).  Connett et al show repeatedly that income level is “a far greater factor affecting dental decay than the percentage of the population that has fluoridated water” (40) and argue that “very high rates of tooth decay in the United States occur in cities that have been fluoridated for years” (170). 

 Connett et al explain that the fluoride added to public water is not a pharmaceutical grade drug—it’s a hazardous waste product from the phosphate fertilizer industry that cannot legally be dumped locally or into the ocean.  Once purchased by public water utilities, it becomes a “product” and escapes EPA’s “legal requirements for handling hazardous waste.”  No tests have been done to determine how much radioactive material or arsenic this hazardous waste contains (17-18). 

 A turning point in fluoridation should come as a result of the National Research Council’s (NRC) 2006 report on fluoridated water.  Connett et al show that this EPA-commissioned report determined that “fluoride was associated with damage to the teeth, bone, brain, and endocrine system and possibly caused bone cancer.”  The panel concluded that the “U.S. safe drinking water standard for fluoride (4 ppm) was not protective of health.”  And, “since the report was published, further evidence has emerged of lowered IQ associated with exposure to fluoride and of an increased incidence of osteosarcoma in boys who drink fluoridated water in the sixth to eighth years of life” (271, 181-194).     

 Fifty percent of all fluoride ingested stays in the body.  Fluoride calcifies in human bone and in the pineal gland, located between the two brain hemispheres, and concentrates in the kidneys. 

 Today, 32% of children in the United States in fluoridated areas have dental fluorosis, or visible damage to their tooth enamel, which means that “a child has swallowed too much fluoride before the permanent teeth have erupted” (270). For example, babies on formula in a 1 ppm fluoridated water system get up to 250 times more fluoride than a breast-fed baby (x, 270).  Dental fluorosis is a sign of systemic toxicity (114)—which means, as the NRC report and Connett et al conclude, that fluoride is likely having a much greater adverse effect on the body than its promoters over the years have realized.

 Connett et al discuss a recent study in Mexico which connected the severity of dental fluorosis to the incidence of bone fractures in children and adults (169-170).  And they note that the practice of using high doses of fluoride to treat osteoporosis results in, among other outcomes, an increase in hip fractures and gastrointestinal damage (174-175, 130-133). 

 The NRC report determined that clinical Stage II skeletal fluorosis is an “ `adverse health effect, as it is associated with chronic joint pain, arthritic symptoms, slight calcification of ligaments, and osteosclerosis of cancellous [porous] bones’ “ (139).  Connett et al note that skeletal fluorosis mimics arthritis which makes it hard to diagnose and that the United States has very high rates of physician-diagnosed arthritis—rates which are rising, likely due to the fact that “the aging process will coincide with lifelong accumulation of fluoride in…bones and joints” (170-171).    

 The NRC report noted that fluorides can interfere with brain and body functions by both direct and indirect means; that fluorides can produce free radicals in the brain, which can increase the risk of developing Alzeimers; and that the consistency of the Chinese studies looking into the effect of fluorides on human intelligence warrant additional research (151-152).  The NRC panel was not able to rule out the “possibility that fluoridation is associated with an increased risk of Down syndrome in children of young mothers (144).  And, the panel concluded that fluoride “ `appears to have the potential to initiate or promote cancers’ “ (145). 

 The endrocrine system involves glands that secret hormones; e.g., the thyroid, parathyroid, adrenal, and pineal glands.  The NRC panel noted that fluoride “ `affects normal endocrine function or response’ “ both directly and indirectly and expressed concern about fluoride’s impact on the thyroid gland (158).    

 Connett et al point to the incomprehensible lack of research on fluoride’s impact on the thyroid and note the need to study fluoride’s impact on the development of goiter in the thyroid; the impact of fluoride on a normal or underactive thyroid, given that it “calms an overactive thyroid”; and  fluoride’s relationship to the development of hypothyroidism with its attendant problems of “depression, fatigue, weight gain, muscle and joint pain, increased cholesterol levels, and heart disease” (157-165). 

 The NRC panel noted that “`any agent that affects pineal function could affect human health in a variety of ways, including effects on sexual maturation, calcium metabolism, parathyroid function, postmenopausal osteoporosis, cancer and psychiatric disease’” (165-166).

 With regard to diabetes, the NRC panel determined that fluoride exposure “`appears to bring about increases in blood glucose or impaired tolerance in some individuals and to increase the severity of some types of diabetes.’ “ The panel noted that since diabetics often drink more water, they will have higher fluoride intakes (166-167).

 Connett et al explain that as the kidneys concentrate fluoride, they are “particularly at risk” (198).  The NRC report noted that “ `the effect of low doses of fluoride on kidney and liver enzyme functions in humans needs to be carefully documented’ “ (197).  Connett et al note that EPA literature about pesticide poisoning warns that ingested fluorides have “ `a corrosive effect on the epithelial lining of the gastrointestinal tract’” (132).  Other areas of needed further study are the hepatic (liver), immune, and reproductive systems (198).   

 Part 3 will discuss what we can do about fluoridated water. 


Mainely Tipping Points 34: 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.