THE POLLUTION STORY BEHIND FLUORIDATION (Part I).
with Melissa Gallico
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Former FBI analyst and military intelligence officer, Melissa Gallico, uses historical, primary source documents to reveal the pollution story hiding at the root of artificial water fluoridation in the United States.
Ep2 with Melissa Gallico
The Pollution Story Behind Fluoridation (Part I)
U. S. public health officials are very proud of their artificial water fluoridation program (the CDC named it one of the top ten public health achievements of the twentieth century) and they tell a nice story about its history. In this premier episode of The Gallico Show, host Melissa Gallico offers a different version of that story. Drawing from historical primary source documents which she links to in the transcript below, Gallico argues that public water fluoridation is, at its heart, a pollution scandal—the biggest pollution scandal in American history.
Melissa Gallico is a former FBI analyst and military intelligence officer. She is also author of The Hidden Cause of Acne, illustrator of F Is for Fluoride, and host of the #Fpollution podcast, dedicated to exposing the pollution story behind fluoridation. She has a degree in science and technology in international affairs (STIA) from Georgetown University and a master's in international security studies from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland where she spent a year as a Fulbright scholar to the United Kingdom.
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Featured documents discussed in this episode:
"The Story of Fluoridation" on the National Institute of Health website
Earliest study of industrial fluoride poisoning in factory workers in Europe
Europe's leading fluoride expert blames air pollution tragedy in Meuse Valley, Belgium on fluoride
Example of internal documents showing fluoride poisoning in U. S. factory workers
Declassified notes of 1944 meeting on fluoride toxicity between USPHS dentists and corporate polluters
Example of corporate polluters using dental claims to ease fears over fluoride pollution
Head USPHS dentist argues against first fluoridation trial because of evidence of harm
*For other documents discussed in this episode, please see the links in the transcript below.
READ THE TRANSCRIPT.
This podcast is produced by Gallico Studios, a multimedia effort supported by a community of activists who share the goal of ending artificial water fluoridation. To join the studio or learn more, visit our website at www.Gallico.co.
Welcome to the #Fpollution podcast. I'm your host, Melissa Gallico, author of The Hidden Cause of Acne: How Toxic Water is Affecting Your Health and What You Can Do About It and F Is for Fluoride: A Feasible Fairytale for Freethinkers 15 and Up.
In a preview episode, I spoke with Dr. Hardy Limeback, the former head of preventive dentistry at the University of Toronto and a co-author of the National Research Council’s 2006 report, Fluoride in Drinking Water, about why we need to talk about artificial water fluoridation even though government agencies assure us the practice is completely safe and effective. In this premier episode we’ll cover the main point I want to express with this entire series: that public water fluoridation is, at its heart, a pollution scandal—the biggest pollution scandal in American history.
I’ll be releasing the rest of the series on a weekly basis, including interviews with some of the world’s leading experts on fluoridation, from EPA scientists and public health officials, to renowned healthcare professionals, and even anti-pollution icon, Erin Brockovich. But in this episode, I am going to lay out for you the pollution scandal buried at the very root of artificial water fluoridation. As a former FBI intelligence analyst, this episode is right in my lane.
U. S. public health officials are very proud of their artificial water fluoridation program—the CDC named it one of the top ten public health achievements of the twentieth century—and they tell a nice story about its history. Here’s how the version on the National Institute of Health’s website begins. It’s a little dramatic but I’ll try to give it my best reading:
“It started as an observation, that soon took the shape of an idea. It ended, five decades later, as a scientific revolution that shot dentistry into the forefront of preventive medicine. This is the story of how dental science discovered—and ultimately proved to the world—that fluoride, a mineral found in rocks and soil, prevents tooth decay. Although dental caries remains a public health worry, it is no longer the unbridled problem it once was, thanks to fluoride.”
The story goes on to explain how in 1901 a dentist named Frederick McKay moved west to Colorado Springs and soon noticed a dark brown stain on people’s teeth. He started studying the condition and decided it was caused by something in the water, but he didn’t know what. It took him thirty years to figure it out. In 1931, there was a breakthrough when a chemist at the Aluminum Company of America measured high amounts of fluoride in the water the people were drinking. McKay also noticed that these brown teeth were, in the words of the NIH website, “inexplicably resistant to decay.” A public health official named H. Trendley Dean started investigating and he discovered that 1 ppm fluoride in drinking water still prevented dental decay but without permanently disfiguring tooth enamel.
In 1945, Dean began the first trial of artificial water fluoridation in Grand Rapids, Michigan and after 15 years of study, his team concluded that the rate of cavities dropped more than sixty percent.
In the NIH story, Dean and McKay are the clear heroes. The story concludes, “McKay, Dean, and the others helped to transform dentistry into a prevention-oriented profession. Their drive, in the face of overwhelming adversity, is no less than a remarkable feat of science—an achievement ranking with the other great preventive health measures of our century.”
I am going to tell you a different version of this story and leave it to you to decide which one you think is more reflective of the history of artificial water fluoridation in the United States.
Many people are surprised to learn that in the mid-twentieth century when public water fluoridation was first proposed as a way to decrease the rate of cavities in the American populace, fluoride was a leading form of industrial air pollution.
Fluoride is a common element deep in the earth’s crust, a fact that proponents of fluoridation like to point to as evidence that fluoride is natural and therefore safe. It even occurs naturally in some water supplies, especially deep water wells or wells at the base of large mountain chains or volcanoes where the shifting of the earth brought fluoridated rock and fluorine gases closer to the surface. With the advent of industrialization and large-scale mining operations, factories began emitting toxic amounts of fluoride into the atmosphere, poisoning nearby farms, townspeople, and the factory workers themselves.
The first scientists credited with recognizing the harmful health effects of industrial fluoride pollution were medical doctors in Europe. I’ll link to one of their studies in the show notes.
I’m making some big claims in this episode and I’m backing them up with historical primary source documents that you can view for yourself on the webpage for this show. If you don’t know how to view the show notes, visit Gallico.co/podcast and then click through to view the page for this episode.
Okay, back to the story.
So, in the early 1900s, Denmark was the colonial power over Greenland which contained virtually the world’s entire known supply of a mineral called cryolite. Cryolite is a white rock composed of sodium, fluoride, and aluminum—the same aluminum needed to equip soldiers during the first world war.
Only two companies in the world had contracts to import cryolite from Greenland. One of them was in Denmark. Cryolite deposits were mined and shipped to Copenhagen, where they were processed by Danish workers. These factory workers quickly developed multiple health symptoms, from skin rashes and gastrointestinal ailments to respiratory conditions and a debilitating bone disorder called osteosclerosis.
A young PhD candidate named Kaj Roholm was one of the first researchers to study these poisoned workers. He soon realized that the cryolite industry wasn’t the only industry causing fluoride poisoning. Factories used for the mining of other raw materials such as phosphate and coal also released dangerous amounts of fluoride. Moreover, because of fluoride’s ability to lower the melting point of metal, a fluoride mineral called fluorspar was a bedrock of metal smelting for important commodities like iron, copper, nickel, and steel. Fluoride was also used in the production of everyday building materials like glass and brick.
One of Roholm’s most noteworthy observations regarding the toxicity of fluoride pollution was his analysis of the Meuse Valley fog disaster in Belgium, an event that killed 60 people and shocked all of Europe. It is believed to be one of the earliest recorded events that shows industrial air pollution can cause human fatalities.
The Meuse Valley was once one of the most densely industrialized regions of continental Europe. When a heavy fog descended on Belgium in December 1930, a temperature inversion in the valley trapped the air pollution that was streaming out of factory smokestacks. Within two days, thousands of people were suffering from an acute respiratory illness and dozens were killed. The government conducted an official investigation, blaming the incident on industrial fumes of sulphur dioxide and carefully downplaying the responsibility of industry. Air pollution was seen as the cost of doing business, and no one was interested in jeopardizing the economic prosperity of the region.
In Roholm's analysis published a few years later in the Journal of Industrial Hygiene and Toxicology, he critiques the official report and argues that fluoride was to blame for the tragedy in the Meuse Valley. Of the 27 factories in the vicinity of the incident, at least 15 were working with dangerous amounts of fluoride at the time.
A bronze statue by Paul Vandersleyen now stands in the valley to commemorate the victims of the fog. It bears a plaque that reads, and I’ll try to say this in French first in case it loses something in my translation, “Toute enterprise humaine, fut-elle industrielle, est susceptible de perfectionement.” We can work towards perfection in all human endeavors, even industrial ones.
In 1937, Roholm published a 350-page book called Fluorine Intoxication, firmly establishing his reputation as the world’s leading expert on fluoride poisoning. It’s available online and I’ll link to it in the notes. After citing nearly 900 scientific references and years of his own exhaustive research, Roholm concluded the final chapter in his book with an emphatic, italicized warning. He writes, “Our present knowledge most decidedly indicates that fluoride is not necessary to the quality of [tooth enamel], but that on the contrary, the enamel organ is selectively sensitive to the deleterious effects of fluoride.”
Roholm went on to become the Deputy Health Commissioner of Copenhagen, but suffered an early death due to colon cancer in 1948, two years before the U. S. government endorsed artificial fluoridation of public water supplies.
The other company that imported cryolite from Greenland was the Pennsylvania Salt Manufacturing Company, which held a virtual monopoly in North America on cryolite. But they didn’t report the same health problems from industrial fluorosis in their factory workers that Roholm observed in Denmark. In fact, none of the leading fluoride industries in the United States reported any signs of fluoride toxicity in their work force.
To prove my point, here’s a document from a conference held on January 6, 1944 at the Hotel Pennsylvania in New York City. Now, if you go to the show notes and look at this document, you might have some questions, like “why was this document produced by the war department?,” “why was it classified?,” and “why were representatives from Pennsylvania Salt and the Aluminum Company of America and Dupont and all these big industry leaders meeting with a seemingly random assortment of military commanders, dentists, university researchers, and public health officials for a classified conference on ‘fluoride metabolism?’”
Hopefully the answers to those questions will become more clear as the story unfolds, but for now I want to draw your attention to the paragraph on industrial fluoride hazards in the summary of proceedings. I highlighted it for you. It’s on page 6. It says, “Reference was made to the older observations of fluorosis in cryolite workers in foreign countries. It was stated by several members of the conference with long experience in industrial hygiene of fluoride-using industries in this country that they had never met with this disease in their factories.”
Now, we know this isn’t true because the companies at that conference were paying the university researchers at that conference to study the extent of fluoride toxicity in their factory workers. The paper trail on this is enlightening, to say the least. When these companies came across evidence of fluoride poisoning in their employees, they simply closed their eyes and refused to see it-or-tell anyone about it. They especially weren’t going to tell the workers or nearby townspeople who could sue them for industrial fluoride poisoning or the government officials who could saddle them with expensive regulations.
Here’s a written example that illustrates this point very clearly, but first I need to give you some background.
In the 1940s, at the time this conference occurred, Pennsylvania Salt was paying researchers at the University of Cincinnati’s Kettering Laboratory to study their fluoride problem. Kettering was the first university-based laboratory devoted to the toxicological problems of industry. The lab was founded in 1930 and named after Charles Kettering, the director of research for General Motors. GM selected a young medical doctor named Robert Kehoe to be the director of the new lab. They began working with Kehoe a few years prior when, fresh out of medical school, they hired him to study potential health issues associated with leaded gasoline.
This is when industry knew they found their man. Kehoe argued that lead, a natural substance, occurred naturally at low levels in the human bloodstream. He convinced the U. S. Surgeon General that there was no evidence of negative health effects from the small amount of lead in leaded gasoline and therefore, sale of the product shouldn’t be restricted.
Kehoe’s argument, that a lack of evidence of risk indicates no risk of significance, became known as the Kehoe Rule, or the Kehoe Paradigm. It’s a counterpoint to the precautionary principle which would require proof of safety rather than proof of harm. The Kehoe Rule was later adopted to defend other hazardous commercial products like cigarettes, asbestos, and various pesticides. The argument was so persuasive in the case of leaded gasoline because, at the time, industry controlled all the relevant studies and could ensure any evidence of harm was explained away or concealed altogether. Claims of the safety of leaded gasoline were further bolstered by outside health authorities, like the American Medical Association, even though they never conducted any independent research on the product.
The idea that leaded gasoline was completely safe wasn’t seriously challenged until 1965, nearly forty years later, when a geochemist from the California Institute of Technology, Clair Patterson, published an article in the Archives of Environmental Health arguing that humanity was suffering from lead toxicity on a global scale that started with the industrial revolution, but rapidly increased once leaded gasoline hit the market. It took 20 more years before lead was phased out of consumer gasoline in the United States. During that timeframe, the average blood level for lead in both children and adults dropped over 80 percent.
But, back in the 1930s, Robert Kehoe wasn’t concerned with any of that. His testimony on the safety of leaded gasoline was championed for single-handedly salvaging a billion dollar business, and at just 37 years old, he was rewarded with a prestigious appointment as the first director of the Kettering Institute of Applied Physiology at the University of Cincinnati. In those early years, the lab focused almost exclusively on defending the safety of two industrial elements—lead and fluoride—which is how Kehoe came to be studying the effects of fluoride in factory workers for the Pennsylvania Salt Manufacturing Company.
If you look through the archive of Kehoe’s papers at the University of Cincinnati’s Health Sciences Library, you’ll find a lot of evidence of this. But one of the most illustrative is this series of letters from 1947 between Kehoe and an official at Pennsylvania Salt. It shows just how easy it was for the industry to close their eyes to the reality of fluoride poisoning in their workers.
In this first letter in the exchange, S. C. Ogburn Jr, the manager of Pennsylvania Salt’s Research and Development Department, is upset because the doctors who took x-rays of one of their factory workers sent a copy of the report to the plant where the worker was employed. Ogburn writes,
“Dear Dr. Kehoe:
“I attach copy of letter from office of Dr. Pillmore of Easton Hospital and signed by Dr. J. Russell Davey under date of January 31st, which you will see is addressed to our company’s plant at Easton.
“You will note that he has taken roentgenograms [or x-rays] of ___________ one of our Easton employees, and has definitely stated that 'all of the films show osteosclerosis previously described and considered to be as a result of fluoride poisoning.'
“You can imagine my consternation in receiving copy of this letter from our Production Manager here in Philadelphia, who was sent a copy of Dr. Davey’s letter by our Easton Plant Superintendent. Doubtless, this letter has been widely discussed at our Plant and is evidence of extremely poor tact…”
Well, that’s not all this letter is evidence of. In the remainder, Ogburn explains how the regular doctor who conducted x-rays was no longer available and the new ones didn’t follow the proper protocol of sending the x-rays directly to a certain Dr. Bovard for “interpretation and conclusions.” He reminded Kehoe that other doctors had also made assessments that Dr. Bovard refused to verify and it was vital that any conclusions drawn from outside work were not to be shared with employees at the plant.
Ogburn concludes with a warning that Pennsylvania Salt will not continue their x-ray program with Kettering if it is to be handled in such a way. He then says, “we hate to write in the above vein, but you can appreciate the seriousness of this situation to us, primarily in the way it has been handled and the lack of following previously approved procedures. Very truly yours, S. C. Ogburn, Jr.”
Ogburn encloses the original letter from Dr. Davey that was sent to the plant. It reads,
“Gentlemen: We have made roentgenograms of the entire spine, the skull and the pelvis and the rib cage. All of the films show osteosclerosis previously described and considered to be as a result of fluoride poisoning. The films are available upon request. Thank you for the privilege of examining this patient for you. Very truly yours, (signed) J. Russell Davey, M.D.”
If you want a master class from a master spin doctor, you can read Dr. Kehoe’s reply to Ogburn in a letter he sent two days later. Basically, Kehoe explains that it was reasonable for a professional man like Dr. Davey to assume the plant manager wished to have all the information concerning its employees at first hand, but he also assures Ogburn it will never happen again. He then mentions that Dr. Bovard himself found evidence of “fluorine intoxication” in some of the x-ray shadows and that it was “merely an unfortunate choice of verbal expression.”
Pennsylvania Salt wasn’t the only company that was hiding evidence of fluoride poisoning in their employees. Here’s a study from the Cleveland plant of the Harshaw Chemical Company, another group that was represented in that 1944 meeting with the war department. This one’s particularly insightful because we have access to three different versions of the report: a classified version (see pages 19-20) which was included in the minutes for the meeting in New York City, an internal version that an investigative reporter named Joel Griffiths dug up in a government archive, and a public version that was published in 1948 in the Journal of the American Dental Association, just two years before the U. S. government endorsed artificial water fluoridation. The published version was an important study at the time because it provided a rare window into the effects of industrial fluoride on the oral health of factory workers exposed to high amounts of hydrofluoric acid—a type of fluoride that is similar to the hydrofluorosilicic acid currently added to public water supplies.
In this study from the Harshaw Chemical Company, researchers examined 35 men who worked directly with hydrofluoric acid and compared their dental health with that of 11 office workers from the same plant. The published version conveniently leaves out the part about the teeth of the exposed men showing more than usual signs of attrition and instead describes the group as “unusually healthy, judged from both a medical and dental point of view” with little or no active dental decay. The classified version reveals a key detail left out of the published report: the exposed group was “in large proportion edentulous [i.e. toothless] or nearly so.” It’s hard to have cavities when you don’t have teeth.
The published study also leaves out some other vivid details, like the fact that the factory workers needed to wear rubber boots because the nails in their leather shoes would disintegrate in their workspace, or that only darker skinned employees were used for the work with fluoride because of how damage from the fumes remained visible on the skin of “fair-complexioned men.”
The Harshaw Chemical Company wasn’t using fluoride for the usual purposes, like to produce aluminum or pesticides or for metal smelting. The reason factory workers in the Harshaw plant were exposed to high amounts of hydrofluoric acid is because, during World War II, the facility was one of the Manhattan Project’s largest producers of uranium hexafluoride, a fluoride chemical known simply as hex and used to create weapons-grade fuel for the atomic bomb. Hydrofluoric acid is one of the main ingredients in the process of enriching uranium.
The Atomic Energy Commission later reported that during the war, the Harshaw plant released 4,000 pounds of fluoride particles into Cleveland’s atmosphere each year. The vast U. S. military industrial complex that sprung to life during the second world war was the single largest source of fluoride pollution in the world. Not just because of the Manhattan Project, but also all of the industries that went into producing metal for airplanes and submarines and for the fluoride pesticides needed to grow all those raisins for snacks for allied troops overseas.
Alright, that last one was kind of an inside joke for the readers of my book on acne, but there is a serious story there. If you eat raisins or love dogs, do an internet search for the phrase: “how to keep your dentist from killing your Labrador retriever.” There ya go.
So, now you understand why, in 1944, the U. S. war department was hosting a secret conference on fluoride toxicity with representatives from industry, academia, and the public health sector. Most of the people who attended the meeting didn’t even know that it was being organized by the U. S. military.
Here’s a letter from September 29, 1943 written by James Conant, the chairman of the National Defense Research Committee, to J. G. Townsend, a medical director at the U. S. Public Health Service, and it reveals how desperate the war department was for information about fluoride poisoning. In the letter, Conant tells the PHS official that the military needs as much information as possible on the toxicity of fluoride and they think the best way to do that is to gather all the experts and hold a symposium. But they don’t want the experts to know the importance of fluoride for the war effort, so Conant asks the Public Health Service to pretend to be the one hosting the meeting. The PHS official talks it over with the Surgeon General and they readily agree as long as they can suggest a few speakers of their own. But the agenda for the conference, including the discussion topics and final speaker lineup would be selected by a doctor assigned to the Manhattan Project, Dr. Stafford Warren of the University of Rochester in New York.
Two days before this letter was written, Warren was appointed as chief of the medical section of the Manhattan district and received an immediate commission in the U. S. Army at the rank of colonel. His mission was to investigate all possible health risks associated with the use of hazardous material for the atomic bomb program, as explained in this letter from Col. Nichols of the Army Corps of Engineers. There was little oversight if any. This declassified memo from 1944 shows the Surgeon General was officially relieved of responsibility over Warren’s program because of security considerations.
Warren knew the military, just like industry, had a fluoride problem. If you read the transcript for this episode, I’ll link to several documents here to illustrate my point. Authorities in the Manhattan Project were well aware their workers were handling hazardous fluoride compounds in spite of limited toxicological data. Commanders were receiving reports of hazardous accidents by word-of-mouth, sometimes weeks or months after the incident occurred. Factory workers exposed to fluoride fumes reported mysterious symptoms. And there were unexplained fatalities from personnel handling fluoride chemicals in the lab. They also knew fluoride pollution from factories used in the war effort was streaming into nearby communities. It was only a matter of time before the lawsuits over fluoride toxicity would begin.
In the spring of 1945, Warren sensed these lawsuits coming. He makes this evident in a memo written after his first few months on the job outlining the purpose of the Manhattan Project’s medical research program as he sees it. He writes, “for consideration of medical legal aspects, including necessary biological research” investigations should be “limited to those features which are deemed most likely to embarrass the government.”
Not everyone was happy with Col. Warren’s focus on medical research used for legal purposes. At the University of Chicago, the site of the first controlled, nuclear chain reaction in 1942, Dr. Robert Stone, head of the university’s program for the Manhattan Project, responds to Warren’s memo, writing:
“No biological investigation should be carried on from a purely medico-legal standpoint. If the health and welfare of the workers are the main objects, the medico-legal aspect is automatically taken care of. I wish to record these statements because it is apparent from the document being reviewed that there is a fundamental difference of opinion on many of the matters concerned.”
Dr. Stone wrote this response on August 17, 1945, two days after the emperor of Japan announced his country’s unconditional surrender in a radio address, citing the devastating power of “a new and most cruel bomb.”
The war was over and the lawsuits were about to begin, but we’ll cover that half of the story in Part II next week.
The year World War II ended, 1945, was the same year the U. S. Public Health Service began the first trial of artificial water fluoridation in the United States. Now that you have some insight into fluoride’s history as an industrial pollutant, and the legal jeopardy the U. S. government accurately predicted they were about to face as a result of its widespread use in the war effort, you can start to see some holes in the official story of fluoridation, like the one I recounted at the beginning of this episode that is currently told on the National Institute of Health’s website.
The most obvious involves the presence of H.V. Churchill, the chemist for Alcoa (the Aluminum Company of America), who is credited with identifying fluoride as the cause of the brown enamel McKay observed on people’s teeth. That discovery was actually reported in the literature three months earlier by a researcher at the University of Arizona named Margaret Smith. She had even reproduced the condition in her lab using animal studies. Within a year, she and her team visited practically every community in Arizona and conducted extensive analysis of fluoride in the water supply and its effect on tooth enamel. Like Kaj Roholm in Denmark, she didn’t notice the “inexplicable” resistance to dental decay that NIH claims Frederick McKay observed. In fact, on the first page of the 80-page study she published on the topic that year, she writes, “Mottled teeth though perhaps no more subject to decay than normal teeth, do not hold fillings well and deteriorate more rapidly.” Smith went on to oppose artificial water fluoridation. She wouldn’t have fit in well with the NIH story, so they don’t credit her as the first American to discover that fluoride in drinking water causes dental fluorosis.
Churchill, on the other hand, fits in nicely. In his article, published three months after Smith’s, in the Journal of the American Water Works Association, he emphasizes that he discovered a correlation but no causal relationship between fluoride in the water and the “mottled enamel defect.” There is also a convenient note at the end from a Mr. Gaudey of Hollywood, California. The note is devoid of any scientific references but was included to “call attention to the fact that, if fluorine is absent from the food or water, growing children will not be furnished all the materials necessary to tooth structure. Thus it would seem… that there is a threshold point up to which fluorine concentration is desirable...”
Churchill knew, at this time, that fluoride pollution from Alcoa’s factories was contaminating public water supplies. Here is a letter he wrote earlier that year to Mr. C. F. Drake of the Pittsburgh Filtration Plant. Pittsburgh was, and still is, the site of the global headquarters for Alcoa. Drake had written to Churchill concerned about fluoride contamination in Pittsburgh’s water supply. Churchill responds, “… there is no occasion for alarm. Fluorine, however, has been present in Pittsburgh water during the past six weeks.” He assures Drake the levels are too low to cause concern and states that, “fluorine in this amount is probably not harmful and may even be beneficial.” He concludes by pointing out that “the presence of fluorine in water is apparently not necessarily proof of industrial contamination since it occurs in small amounts in so many water supplies.”
Another big hole in the NIH story of fluoridation is their claim that when McKay first documented the existence of dental fluorosis he made the observation that mottled teeth were inexplicably resistant to decay. This description is, at best, a gross exaggeration of McKay's observation. Here is a Public Health Report from October 20, 1916, the same year the NIH website says McKay made his famous observation about cavities and fluoridated teeth. The U. S. Public Health Service summarizes all the existing literature on the condition and notes that McKay’s studies reveal that cavities are “not more frequent" in teeth with dental fluorosis. That’s a far leap from the idea that McKay observed an inexplicable resistance to cavities from fluoride.
Furthermore, the NIH story states that McKay's observation is what prompted H. Trendley Dean, a U. S. public health official now known as the “father of fluoridation,” to first wonder if adding fluoride to public water supplies would prevent tooth decay.
This telling of the story serves two purposes. First, it makes it sound like fluoride's ability to prevent cavities is dramatic and has been incredibly obvious to researchers since the very beginning. In reality, this is not the case. You really need to squint to see any reduction in cavities from fluoride in drinking water, but that's a topic for an upcoming episode.
Neither Dean nor McKay was convinced fluoride had a beneficial effect on teeth until decades after McKay first documented the condition of dental fluorosis. In fact, if you examine Dean’s extensive correspondence with McKay in the 1930s, the two men barely even mention fluoride’s effect on cavities. As you can see in these letters, they were focused on removing fluoride from water supplies to prevent it from permanently disfiguring children’s teeth.
Here are the drinking water standards from the U. S. Public Health Service in 1943. The maximum safety standard for fluoride in public water supplies was legally limited to no more than 1 ppm fluoride. The legal limit today is four times that amount.
Towards the end of the decade, Dean did start to research if a certain amount of fluoride could help prevent cavities without permanently disfiguring tooth enamel. But in his correspondence with McKay, they spend more time discussing how the media was sensationalizing his findings than they do any conclusive evidence that adding fluoride to water supplies could prevent cavities.
When William Hearst, founder of the largest news empire in the world at the time, expressed interest in covering one of Dean’s studies published in 1939, Dean was baffled. He writes, “I fail to see why there should be such public interest in a paper that reaches no conclusions and makes no recommendations.”
When Time magazine published an article about fluoridation in 1940, McKay says, “I agree it is inopportune just now to represent that method of dealing with caries with so much assurance but these magazines must have their sensations you know. It was misleading to say the least…”
I’m not saying that H. Trendley Dean and the U. S. Public Health Service did not eventually advocate for artificial water fluoridation. They obviously did. I’m saying that they—and the altruistic science they represent—were not the driving force behind the practice, as the National Institute of Health would have you believe.
In addition to making its sound like fluoride's ability to prevent cavities is obvious, the NIH story of fluoridation conveniently conceals the true origin of the concept of adding fluoride to public water supplies as a health measure. Long before H. Trendley Dean and the U. S. Public Health Service made any conclusion about fluoride's effect on dental decay, the people pushing for artificial water fluoridation were researchers sponsored by corporate polluters.
The idea of adding fluoride to public water supplies to prevent cavities came from the same industries that were hiding evidence of fluoride poisoning in their workers and emitting thousands of pounds of fluoride pollution into America’s air and waterways each year.
The first proposal to add fluoride to the public water supply was made in 1939 by a researcher named Gerald Cox in a presentation to the American Waterworks Association which was then published as an article in their journal. In his presentation, Cox argued that "the present trend toward complete removal of fluorine from water and food may need some reversal." He notes that Dean hasn’t yet drawn a conclusion regarding fluoride’s role in preventing cavities. But in the mind of Gerald Cox, as of 1939, “the case should be regarded as proved.”
Cox was a researcher at the Mellon Institute of Industrial Research at the University of Pittsburgh. Like the Kettering Laboratory, the Mellon Institute conducted privately-funded research to solve the scientific problems of industry. In the early 1930s, he was working on a grant from the Sugar Institute to research dietary solutions to prevent cavities (other than restricting sugar intake, of course). Prior to that, Cox worked on a fellowship for the Aluminum Company of America. As this letter from Cox illustrates, he was prompted to study fluoride’s effect on cavities in 1935 by the Director of Research for Alcoa.
The NIH narrative also claims that in 1944, Dean was longing for the chance to test his fluoride theory and “got his wish” when the government decided to start fluoridation trials in major cities. But at that time, Dean was opposed to the idea of experimenting with artificial water fluoridation on the American public. Here is a transcript from a meeting held April 24, 1944 in New York City that proves Dean opposed the practice of adding fluoride to public water supplies.
The purpose of the meeting was to discuss plans by New York health officials to start a controlled experiment by adding fluoride to the public water supply in the city of Newburgh and then compare the results with a non-fluoridated city nearby. New York officials invited Dean as a special guest and they were surprised when he spoke forcefully against their plans. He argued that fluoride’s effect on parts of the body other than teeth were not yet studied. He pointed to evidence of bone damage and higher rates of cataracts among people who drink fluoridated water. He expressed concerns for the elderly and people with reduced kidney function. The New York officials argued that public pressure to start fluoridation was so great that it would likely happen anyway, so they might as well be the ones doing it so it would be done in a controlled fashion and they could set up appropriate safeguards (although they admitted they had no idea what those safeguards should be).
When the attendees voted unanimously to move forward with their fluoridation experiment, Dean advised them to keep the information he provided about the potential negative health effects of fluoride confidential because they could be found "negligent" if the public knew there was evidence of harm and they went ahead with fluoridation anyway.
Just two months later, Dean seemed to change his mind about fluoridation trials and agreed to oversee a similar experiment in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Perhaps he reasoned that if New York was going to do their study anyway, he might as well be the one controlling the experiment.
Or maybe he was inspired by the newspaper clipping McKay sent him a few weeks after the Newburgh meeting that read, "To Newburgh, it now appears, may go the glory of pioneering the first demonstration in human history that there is an easy, universal way to reduce tooth decay."
There is so much more to this story—more than I could possibly fit into one episode or even one podcast series. But I hope I have at least started to make clear that the story we are being told about artificial water fluoridation by our public health officials is a myth.
It’s not a bad story. Dean and McKay go down in American history as heroes, the public has a convenient way to help prevent cavities that seems to be working, at least for a time, and industry polluters saw their primary effluent recharacterized as a natural mineral that’s good for your health.
The only problem is, the story isn’t true.
Artificial water fluoridation did not originate from well-meaning public health officials who had nothing but good intentions for the American people. It came from biased scientists paid for by corporations who were vulnerable to lawsuits over fluoride pollution—and they knew it.
The best way to get a feel for the extent of the legal threat these companies were facing over fluoride air pollution during the war is to hear it in their own words. Frank Seamans was the lead fluoride litigator for Alcoa (the Aluminum Company of America) and he tells the story in a book called Fluorides written decades later, in a chapter entitled "Historical, Economic, and Legal Aspects of Fluoride."
Seamans explains that during World War II, new aluminum smelters were built wherever they could find the electricity to run them. When the government ordered a plant in the middle of a robust farming community in Riverbank, California, the farmers quickly observed the effects of fluoride poisoning on their crops and cattle. In August 1943, they filed a lawsuit and Alcoa was forced to close the plant. They spent years settling each case until finally, in Frank Seamans’ words, “the Riverbank nightmare came to an end.” He adds, “After this experience, however, knowledge quickly spread and soon we had claims and lawsuits around aluminum smelters from coast to coast… once this sleeping giant was awakened, claims and lawsuits were brought against all types of plants involving fluoride emissions—steel plants, fertilizer plants, oil refineries and the like.”
In next week’s episode, we’ll cover the second half of the pollution story behind fluoridation starting in 1945 when the war ended and artificial water fluoridation began.
If you enjoyed this episode of the #Fpollution podcast, please subscribe and leave a review. It really helps other listeners find the show. This episode was executive produced by Linda Peterson, Scott Cousland, Linda Palmisano, and Kristie Lavelle. To find out how you can help me expose the pollution story behind fluoridation by joining the crew at Gallico Studios for as little as $1 a month, or to sign our petition to end fluoridation, visit our website at www.Gallico.co.
I’d also like to take a moment to thank all the people who helped me track down the historical, primary source documents that prove fluoridation is a pollution story, especially Ellen Connett and the team from the Fluoride Action Network, Peter Mackinlay, Heather Robertson, Karen Spencer, Nina Hernandez, and Mike Dolan at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst whose library houses the largest collection of papers from anti-fluoridation activists in the country, including the archives of Dr. Frederick Exner, a radiologist, who, to the best of my knowledge, was the first person to start investigating the corporate influence behind fluoridation in the 1950s soon after the practice began.
I also want to thank investigative reporter extraordinaire Joel Griffiths who began digging up many of these documents decades ago and was kind enough to help point me in the right direction. If you want to learn more about the pollution story behind fluoridation and can’t wait until next week’s episode, I recommend reading Joel's past articles and a book called The Fluoride Deception by a former BBC journalist named Christopher Bryson who began working on the story with Joel in the 1990s. I’ll link to them in the show notes, along with all the other references used for this episode, at Gallico.co/podcast. I hope you'll take some time to look at them and decide for yourself if there's credence to my argument that artificial water fluoridation is a pollution story.
Thanks for listening.
Select articles by Joel Griffiths:
Fluoride: Industry's Toxic Coup by Joel Griffiths (Food and Water Journal, Summer 1998)
Fluoride: Commie Plot or Capitalist Ploy by Joel Griffiths
Fluoride, Teeth, and the Atomic Bomb by Chris Bryson and Joel Griffiths (Waste Not #414, September 1997)
'83 Transcripts Show Fluoride Disagreements by Joel Griffiths (Medical Tribune, April 1989)
*The information presented in this episode reflects the views and opinions of the host and guests invited to appear on the show. It is not intended as medical advice and does not represent the views of the FBI, the U. S. government, or any other individuals or organizations.
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