The fluoride story

How an extremely toxic, hazardous industrial waste chemical was transformed into a medical panacea to protect our teeth

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Seldom has there been a major public health issue as controversial and as polarizing as water fluoridation. But it’s certainly not the first time medical professionals, health authorities, politicians  and even the media have obstinately defended a substance detrimental to our health.
"Fluoride science is corporate science, fluoride science is DDT science, it’s asbestos science, it’s tobacco science, it’s a racket!"
History of science supporting toxic substances
When will hexafluorosilicic acid and other toxic fluoridation chemicals join this infamous list?
  • There’s a disturbing amount of precedence involving toxic substances that were arrogantly promoted and defended for decades by science and medical professionals;
  • It was (and still is) easy to “sell” fluoride to the public because it satisfies an important psychological need to cover up our intrinsic fear, and more;
  • The original science is extremely weak and poor quality, if not fraudulent;
  • There were deeply vested commercial interests in the whole fluoridation fallacy;
  • It might have started with Gerald Cox and his absurd rat “study”;
  • Fluoride was endorsed even before efficacy studies were complete, then these studies were found to be erroneous; 
  • The sugar co-op funded the promotion of fluoride for decades;
  • PHS spent $2 million promoting fluoride and it was magically transformed from poison to therapy;
  • Extremely poor science, endorsements based on poor science and endorsements based on endorsements – this is the history of fluoridation;
  • There is so much evidence showing that fluoride doesn’t work – how can proponents continue to ignore this?
  • No wonder many people find it hard to believe where our fluoridation chemicals really come from, because it’s UNBELIEVABLE;
  • 70 years of fluoridation and still no Randomised Controlled Trials;
  • The lack of ethics and the arrogance involved in defending fluoridation is astounding; but it’s just history repeating itself.

Please use the links included to read other related articles.

A recurring theme

Unfortunately, history is beleaguered with stories about apparently harmless substances that were staunchly embraced and vehemently defended for decades for their wonderful properties that changed and improved our lives. Biased commercial interests, a lack of thorough, objective science, poor politics, a pigheaded reluctance to change and sheer ignorance have all resulted in several substances remaining prevalent in our society for decades until they were finally outed for their toxic, harmful effects on our health. Radical psychological shifts have clearly occurred around the attitude towards these widely-used substances over time, but in each case, it took far too long to see, and longer to accept, their damaging effects.

Asbestos, BPA in plastics, cigarettes, DDT insecticide, diethylstilboestrol (DES), Vioxx, lead in fuel and paint, mercury fillings and thalidomide are all good examples of this toxicity-resistant phenomenon. In every case, science and medical professionals not only defended the widespread use of these products but confidently and aggressively promoted them as safe and effective. In fact, they even attacked anyone who proclaimed otherwise.

Fluoride is not much different. Although one notable difference is that community water fluoridation satisfies an important psychological need to cover up our intrinsic fear – fear of the pain and suffering from tooth decay and fear of visiting a dentist, receiving injections and having our teeth drilled and filled. For most people this experience is terrifying. Fluoride also provides another enormous benefit – it creates a false sense of security, alleviating our need to take responsibility, especially to reduce our sugar consumption, but also maintain a healthy overall diet and lifestyle and follow a disciplined dental hygiene regime. All together, no wonder fluoride has been so enthusiastically embraced for so long!

After all, if you were told by a health professional that a substance will be added to your water that is colourless, odourless, tasteless, harmless, that will protect you against tooth decay, prevent you from having to eat less sugar, reduce the chances of you having to visit the dentist and not cost you anything; of course most people will embrace it wholeheartedly without hesitation and without asking any questions. In fact they may even steadfastly defend their belief in fluoride as if it were a religion. The impact of this underlying psychological drive and its effect on our perception and beliefs should not be underestimated – at a societal level and an individual level.

The only problem is, fluoridation doesn’t work – at least it doesn’t protect our teeth. It’s also not safe. And it’s absolutely not ethical; nor are the regularly misleading and biased tactics often used by our health agencies and authorities to defend and promote our mandatory water fluoridation program. Even many health professionals remain unaware of the real science behind fluoride and continue to support fluoridation using rehashed inaccurate, misleading and sometimes blatantly false statements. For example, fluoride proponents often refer to various “good quality” studies supporting fluoridation when they are often extremely poor quality studies.

Before we summarise these basic issues of safety, efficacy and ethics, and introduce other articles, let’s take a quick look at fluoride’s somewhat controversial history.

For starters, the original science often relied on to defend and promote fluoridation is extremely weak and poor quality. The initial studies also involved a particularly biased agenda that is consistently overlooked. This bias, involving obvious vested interests, played a major role in establishing this 70-year-old fluoride belief system.

Deeply vested commercial interests played a major role in establishing the 70-year-old fluoride belief system.
Common advertising catch phrases from doctors and dentists confidently endorsing smoking from the 1930s to the 1950s. In the future we will look back on water fluoridation in the same way - astounded they were believed!

See more unfortunate endorsements from health professionals:

A case of deeply vested interests

This story begins the 1920s, when a businessman called Andrew Mellon was appointed Secretary of the Treasury in the United States federal cabinet. At the time, the Public Health Service fell under Treasury jurisdiction, so Mellon was easily able to influence major health issues. Mellon also happened to be a founder and major shareholder of Alcoa, the largest fluoride polluter in America.

Alcoa’s directors and other major shareholders, including Andrew Mellon’s brother Richard, were already very concerned about the extensive damage being caused to both the company’s employees and to surrounding cattle farmers – directly due to fluoride poisoning. They were particularly concerned about major fines the company was facing and were most eager to find a way to dispose of tonnes of its highly-toxic fluoride waste.

So Andrew and Richard Mellon established the Mellon Institute, an applied science laboratory that was heavily funded by Alcoa, explicitly to research chemical hazards resulting from industrial operations, especially their worrisome toxic-waste product fluoride. 

Another major fluoride polluter at the time was a seemingly obscure company Kinetic Chemicals – a joint venture between two renowned companies; General Motors and Dupont. Kinetic held the patent for Freon, a fluoride-based gas that became the main refrigerant in the 1930s, grossing US$35 million in just over ten years.

Charles Kettering, Research Director at General Motors, was also concerned. He had already established the Kettering Laboratory which had also discovered fluoride was toxic in very low doses and this was jeopardizing sales and creating a potentially enormous liability for damages caused to factory workers.

Some of the most influential pro-fluoride research was carried out at the Mellon Institute and the Kettering Laboratory.

The Kettering Laboratory - now part of the University of Cincinnati

But the damage being caused by fluoride wasn’t exclusive to America. Metal smelters in Germany and elsewhere in Europe had already paid major damages to neighbours injured by fluoride emissions. So in 1932, Danish Professor P. Flemming Moller already suspected that fluoride was responsible for multiple ailments among workers at the Oresund Chemical Works in Copenhagen where cryolite dust often filled the air. Cryolite, used as a flux to melt metals, contains more than 50 per cent fluoride.

Moller engaged a diligent Danish scientist and researcher by the name of Kaj Roholm to investigate. Several years later, after a comprehensive study involving every one of the factory workers, Roholm published his 364-page review titled Fluoride Intoxication. He reported that toxic fluoride accumulated in the teeth, bones and quite possibly the kidneys and lungs and that 84 per cent of the workers developed signs of osteosclerosis and other serious forms of skeletal damage. But he was particularly concerned with fluoride’s ability to poison enzymes. “We must assume that the effect of fluoride on protoplasm and on enzymatic processes is capable of causing profound changes in the metabolism of the organism,” Roholm stated.

In 1933, back in the United States, in response to the substantial damage fluoride emissions were causing Alcoa and other factory workers and surrounding farms, the US Department of Agriculture commissioned Floyd DeEds, a senior toxicologist, to thoroughly investigate the matter. In his exhaustive review, totally independent to Roholm’s review (published in 1937), DeEds documented fluoride’s many harmful effects and warned of the growing risk from industrial fluoride pollution. This review only turned up the heat for Alcoa and Kinetic Chemicals.

In 1935, Francis Frary, Alcoa’s research director, approached Gerald Cox, a researcher at the Mellon Institute and suggested he include fluoride in a tooth-decay study. “This was the first time I ever gave fluorine a thought” said Cox. He was also surprised because he was aware of a previous study conducted in 1925 at the Johns Hopkins University where rats fed fluoride developed weaker teeth. In fact this study reported that fluoride “markedly disturbs the structure of the teeth.”

By 1936, Cox had concluded his “study”, also feeding fluoride to laboratory rats and announcing that fluoride actually protected their teeth. 

Soon after that, Charles Kettering, fully aware of Cox’s study, quietly met with senior officials at the American Dental Association (ADA) and somehow became a member of the ADA’s Advisory Committee on Research in Dental Caries. Not only did Kettering not disclose the damages caused to his factory workers from fluoride and the potential liability, or the risk of falling Freon sales due to fluoride’s toxicity, but he also began donating to the ADA – an organisation that would become one of the most aggressive promoters of fluoride and water fluoridation.

In 1938, Cox wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Association that “the case should be regarded as proved” and in 1939 he proposed that America should consider adding fluoride to the public water supply.

ID card of Gerald Cox, researcher at the Alcoa-funded Mellon Institute. Cox was advised to conduct another fluoride study on rats after the previous study clearly showed fluoride weakened rat's teeth.

In 1942, H. Trendley Dean completed his renowned 21-city “Dean study” showing reduced tooth decay in areas where drinking water contained naturally-occurring calcium fluoride. At least that’s what people thought, and still think to this day. Instead of using all available data from 272 cities, Dean cherry-picked the best records from 21 cities. Under testimony, Dean later admitted that some of the cities did not meet the study’s criterion and therefore were not selected.

Rudolf Ziegelbecker, an Austrian statistician, later replicated and extended the study and found the only correlation with fluoride was dental fluorosis. In other words he confirmed that fluoride only damaged the teeth.

On January 25, 1945, Grand Rapids became the first city in the world to add fluoride to its public water supply as part of a 15-year study to determine the effectiveness of fluoride in the prevention of tooth decay.

In 1949 the Sugar Research Foundation (a lobby group for around 130 sugar producers and suppliers) stated that the purpose of the foundation’s research was to “find how tooth decay may be controlled effectively without restriction of sugar intake.” The sugar industry obviously had a huge vested interest in diverting attention away from sugar as the major cause of tooth decay. This lobby group might have influenced the US Public Health Service to endorse fluoride, but it certainly funded the work of Dr Frederick Stare, chair of the Nutritional Department at Harvard from the 1940s through to the 1990s. During this time Dr Stare was a spokesperson for the sugar industry and also a strong advocate of water fluoridation.

In 1950, Gerald Cox and Harold Hodge published an article stating, “There is no other known toxic effect of drinking water containing 1ppm fluorine than the ‘very mild’ mottling of the teeth.”

Soon after, in the same year, the US Public Health Service (PHS) endorsed fluoridation and well before fluoride efficacy studies were even complete, the American Dental Association, the American Medical Association and other professional organisations followed with official endorsements. In 1951, PHS allocated $2 million to promote fluoridation nationwide and thus an extremely toxic, hazardous industrial waste product that had so far caused extensive damage to employees, nearby factory residents and surrounding farms, had suddenly been transformed into a medical panacea to protect our teeth.

In 1951, PHS allocated $2 million to promote fluoridation nationwide and thus an extremely toxic, hazardous industrial waste product that had so far caused extensive damage to employees, nearby factory residents and surrounding farms, had suddenly been transformed into a medical panacea to protect our teeth.

Later the completed studies, showing a radical reduction in tooth decay, were said to be of extremely poor quality and unreliable. But it was too late – authorities and the public embraced fluoride simply because they liked the idea.

Endorsements based on endorsements

Of course many fluoridation proponents will dismiss all of this without hesitation as being fictitious or irrelevant, while continuing to refer to extremely poor science, endorsements based on poor science, and endorsements based on endorsements. This is the history of fluoridation.

In fact fluoridating health authorities and pro-fluoride spokespeople will often say there is “overwhelming scientific evidence to support fluoridation”. The reality is, however, there is no valid science to support toxic industrial-waste fluoridation chemicals being added to our drinking water.

All major, large-scale, population-based fluoride efficacy studies conducted since those early dubious trials have shown there is no difference in tooth decay rates between fluoridated and non-fluoridated countries, regions, cities. The York Review (2000 and clarification statement 2003) and the Cochrane Review (2015), concluded that there was a lack of reliable, good-quality evidence to support fluoridation.

Fluoridation was introduced at a time when doctors advised that children should drink coca-cola and before people knew that some people can be allergic to minute amounts of substances.

These and other major studies have also shown the reduction of tooth decay over the last 70 to 90 years has absolutely nothing to do with fluoridated water and that the fall in decay rates began before water fluoridation and continued just as precipitously in non-fluoridated countries. To say that fluoride is responsible for the decline in tooth decay since it began is therefore entirely false and just one of the many misleading tactics used.

To say that fluoride is responsible for the decline in tooth decay since it began is therefore entirely false and just one of the many misleading tactics used.

SOURCE: US Centers for Disease Control (1999). Achievements in Public Health, 1900-1999: Fluoridation of Drinking Water to Prevent Dental Caries. But what the CDC failed to mention is that tooth decay rates have fallen sharply in all western countries, irrespective of whether the country ever fluoridated its water, as the WHO chart below shows.

Less than five per cent of the world’s population receives fluoridated drinking water and 98 per cent of European countries have ceased, rejected or banned fluoride being added to their water. Only four western European countries have fluoridated salt available and around 10 per cent of people in Europe use this salt. In fact most people wisely opt for unfluoridated salt when it’s available because of the general awareness of the toxicity of fluoride and the public comments made by their government representatives.

Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), which receives around $900 million in federal funding each year for medical research, has also never conducted any harms-related fluoride study, other than dental fluorosis.

Before examining hundreds of substantial research studies showing the biological damage of fluoride, dozens of peer-reviewed studies show that fluoridation produces fluorosis that is at least objectionable and often damaging. In 2016 the results of the 2011-2012 NHANES survey showed that adolescents with any form of fluorosis had jumped to a staggering 65 per cent, while combined moderate and severe fluorosis jumped from 3.7 per cent previously to a massive 30.4 per cent. Read more about dental fluorosis.

Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), which receives around $900 million in federal funding each year for medical research, has never conducted any harms-related fluoride study, other than dental fluorosis.

And the source of fluoridation chemicals: how can we not touch on this extraordinary phenomenon? Instead of purified, pharmaceutical-grade fluoride – as any reasonable person would expect – the chemicals added directly to our water, without any purification whatsoever, are a Schedule 6 or 7 poison – a highly-corrosive , highly-toxic, industrial waste by-product resulting from the processing of phosphate fertiliser. Liquid hexafluorosilicic acid, the most commonly used fluoridation chemical in Australia, is so corrosvive that special equipment is required for its transport and storage. It eats holes in concrete, dissolves metal and and of course human flesh in seconds. But it’s perfectly safe to add to our drinking water!

It’s also hard to believe that sodium fluoride is the active ingredient in rat poison. As historian Frank Zelko states in his article Optimizing nature: Invoking
the “natural” in the struggle over water fluoridation; “Regardless of its scientific merit, if fluoride’s dental efficacy had been discovered in the course of laboratory studies on rat poison instead of via analysis of drinking water, it undoubtedly would have faced greater resistance.” (Summary article available here).

The CSBP Fertiliser plant in Kwinana, where the highly-toxic waste product Henxafluorosilicic Acid is collected and added directly to Western Australia's drinking water.
Sodium fluoride (AKA rat poison) is so good for your health!

Then there’s the enormous cost of building and operating more than 300 fluoride dosing plants around Australia, not to mention the dumping of more than 180,000 tonnes of toxic fluoridation chemicals (a large percentage imported from China) into our environment, since fluoridation began in this country. Read more about the Source of “fluoride”.

Another remarkable element of the whole fluoridation story is that, despite the claims made by proponents that fluoride is safe and effective, there has never been a Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT) conducted on fluoridated water, anywhere in the world. An RCT is the standard clinical trial used before any substance can be utilised by the public as a therapy, treatment or drug. Instead, Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration has illogically excluded fluoridation chemicals from its approval process, explicitly to avoid an inevitable fail.

As for the safety of fluoridation chemicals, there is a substantial and growing body of research showing the potential damage of fluoride. For example there are 300 studies showing the neurotoxicity of fluoride and 53 human studies alone that show reduced IQ in children.

Despite the claims made by proponents that fluoride is safe and effective, there has never been a Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT) conducted on fluoridated water, anywhere in the world. An RCT is the standard clinical trial used before any substance can be utilised by the public as a therapy, treatment or drug.

What about the ethics of fluoridation?  Well, they are glaringly lacking. In fact mandatory water fluoridation is a violation of ethics for several reasons: there is no consent from the individual, there is no warning of possible health risks (especially to those who may be more sensitive), there is no prescription or regard for an individual’s circumstances and the dose cannot be controlled.  Using public water supply to deliver a treatment or medication regardless of the extensive evidence against this practice and the possible consequences, even before acknowledging the Precautionary Principle, is not only incredibly arrogant but also extremely reckless. 

But the arrogance behind fluoridation is just history repeating itself.

How much longer?

It is obvious that as far as acknowledging the toxicity of various substances, our medical communities and our politicians don’t have such a good track record. What if they are wrong once again? It has happened all too often, sometimes taking decades to grapple firstly with the science, but more likely with our own ineptitude, biased commercial interests, reluctance to change, tainted perception and – especially as far as Australia is concerned – an obstinate refusal to admit that we might have got it wrong once again. It just depends how long it will take for fluoridation chemicals to be added to the infamous list of toxic substances detrimental to our health and how long we will continue to believe this fluoride story.

"Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they are presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable called cognitive dissonance. And because it is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalize, ignore and even deny anything that doesn't fit in with the core belief."
Frantz Omar Fanon (1925 – 1961);
Afro-Caribbean psychiatrist, philosopher, revolutionary, and writer.

More examples of doctors and dentists strongly endorsing and promoting smoking in the 1930s to 1950s.