THE CDC'S ROLE IN THE POLLUTION STORY BEHIND FLUORIDATION.
with Daniel Stockin, MPH
Daniel Stockin, MPH, is a career public health official and former manager of the Environmental Protection Agency's Western Regional Lead Training Center. He has a master's degree in public health from San Diego State University.
Ep7 with Daniel Stockin, MPH
The CDC's Role in the Pollution Story Behind Fluoridation
The federal government's promotion of artificial water fluoridation in the United States stems from a small team of officials within the Oral Health Division at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia. In August 2007, a nonprofit organization called the Lillie Center for Energy and Health Studies filed an ethics complaint against the CDC director and the Oral Health Division over their intentional efforts to mislead the public on the toxicity and health risks of fluoridation. In this interview, the director of the Lillie Center, Daniel Stockin, MPH, explains the ethics violations at CDC that promulgate the myth that public water fluoridation is a safe and effective way to prevent cavities.
Daniel Stockin, MPH, is a career public health official and former manager of the Environmental Protection Agency's Western Regional Lead Training Center. He has a master's degree in public health from San Diego State University and a bachelor of science in biology from Westmont College. He is currently director of the Lillie Center, a non-profit organization dedicated to energy and health studies in Ellijay, Georgia. View their website at www.NextStageScience.org.
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.
Discussed in this episode:
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 .
Melissa Gallico: 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.
Previously, we talked about the pollution scandal that led to the advent of fluoridation in the 1950s and the marketing effort that followed to rebrand fluoride, known at the time as a common rat poison, as a nutrient that’s good for your health. We also heard from two former presidents of the EPA union who worked to expose the political pressure that corrupted the science on the safety of fluoride soon after the union was formed in the 1980s. But the epicenter of the fraudulent science supporting fluoridation in the United States is the Oral Health Division at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia—and that is the topic of today’s episode.
My guest is Daniel Stockin, a career public health official and the former manager of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Western Regional Lead Training Center. He currently works at the Lillie Center for Energy and Health Studies, a non-profit organization that filed an ethics complaint against the CDC’s Division of Oral Health and the CDC Director in 2007 over their intentional efforts to mislead the public on the toxicity and health risks of artificial water fluoridation.
Mr. Stockin has a master’s degree in public health with an emphasis in environmental health from San Diego State University. His expertise is in HAZMAT and toxic assessments.
Daniel Stockin, welcome to the show.
Daniel Stockin: Thank you for having me.
Melissa Gallico: When you worked at the EPA, you were very well established in your career as an expert in lead toxicity. You remind me of Dr. William Marcus in that sense, the lead toxicity expert who was fired from his position at the EPA’s Office of Drinking Water in the 1990s over some studies that show fluoride is a carcinogen. It's really an amazing story, we talked about it in our last episode with Dr. Bill Hirzy, the former president of the EPA union. But tell us, how did you go from being a national expert on lead toxicity, managing the entire Western Regional Lead Training Center in the United States, to working for a small nonprofit with a focus on fluoride toxicity?
Daniel Stockin: Sure. I’m a career public health person and I cut my teeth working in this field with biological agents, radiological materials, and hazardous chemicals. I used to put the white suit on and dive into spills and those kinds of things. And I was also given responsibility for testing workers and doing environmental compliance, etc. I was actually starting, with another person, a small public health training firm. My partner in this endeavor was an elderly woman who, she actually had gotten a skin condition, a rash on her forearm, and she called me one day right after we started this public health training firm. She had seen signs on the side of the road, we were living outside of Nashville Tennessee at the time, and she said the sign said “Approved. Fluoridated drinking water.” And she's a very intuitive person, not a scientist, but she said to me, “Is it possible that this fluoride that I'm showering and drinking, could it be causing this rash that I can't get rid of?”
So I did what I've done hundreds of times in my career. I back away from a chemical and look at how your body metabolizes it and what the target organs are in the body, and my jaw just hit the ground. Even though I had worked with some very dangerous chemicals, including fluoride compound, very serious ones, I never really looked at the water fluoridation issue. I had not lived in a fluoridated area until just at that point. I went in and told her, I said, “This is a no-brainer. Clearly people should not be drinking fluoridated water or showering in it, etc.” And she uttered these fateful words which changed the direction of my career, etc. She said, “Well, I don't know who you have to talk to, get it turned off.”
So, I got pulled into this whole thing sort of sideways, but it wound up being something that caused me to realize that if I, as a person trained in the Sciences had not looked at this issue, even though I had even worked with some really dangerous fluoride chemicals and compounds, what must it be like for other people who are also in the sciences? And that's what really showed me that some of the more basic things about water fluoridation have not even been looked at by the vast majority of people in science disciplines.
Melissa Gallico: I completely identify with this story because, as you know, this is what brought me to the issue of fluoridation as well when, after moving back and forth between fluoridated and non-fluoridated countries during my career as an intelligence analyst, I figured out that my cystic acne was caused by fluoride in my drinking water and my diet.
So you became aware of the fraudulent science behind fluoridation in 2004, and by 2007 the Lillie Center had filed an ethics complaint against the CDC’s Oral Health Division and the CDC director at the time, Julie Gerberding, for violating the agency’s own code of ethics in regard to artificial water fluoridation. You cite a lot of examples in the text of the complaint and I want to spend some time discussing those in more detail, but first, can you give us the back story on how the complaint came about and, how and why the Lillie Center decided to take this route and file an ethics complaint against the CDC over fluoridation?
Daniel Stockin: Well, the Lillie Center was originally formed in Tennessee outside of Nashville. And as it happened, both Dr. Lillie and I wound up moving just across the line into Georgia in the north Georgia mountains in 2007. And suddenly, it dawned on me. Here I was living in the same state as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). And of course, I had always been trained in a lot of different things, it was sort of a goal of mine because of the breadth of my experience that I might run a division within CDC one day. So, I was kind of intrigued with this idea and when I begin looking at what that CDC’s website had to say, I realized that people had not really sort of taken the whole issue straight at CDC. People were sort of at arm's length more corresponding with them and various things but not actually physically going to CDC. Not actually addressing the specifics of how CDC was involved in this whole thing. So, since CDC was a little bit less than a hundred miles south of where we were living and because I had seen a number of really disturbing and misleading statements on CDC’s website about water fluoridation, I just decided that when I learned about their ethics committee, and that there were two ethics committees, and they met together jointly and that the public could go visit and sit in on these meetings, I thought, you know, why don't we submit a complaint? Because they appeared very obviously to be violating their own ethics policies in how they were promoting water fluoridation.
So, we came up with some very specific examples, text from the website and other specific statements made by CDC staff, and put together the thing and went down to a meeting, the joint meeting of the ethics committee. And suffice to say, it was a very, very... how do I say this, kind of an explosive situation in the room. They had all these outside ethicists who had flown in from all around the United States who were sitting in the room along with the director of public health policy for CDC and some other people. And as it turned out, the director of public health policy at the time formerly, recently had been in Nashville running the public health division. So she knew me because I had a meeting with her previously about fluoridation. Well, I actually wound up quoting her in the ethics complaint from their own minutes of their own meetings and.. well, they were not happy. Put it that way. And so, we wound up giving this ethics complaint to everybody in the room and I made a presentation about it and I won't go into all the details about what happened as the meeting went down and I was followed out of the room by a yelling person and all this kind of thing. But the complaint then took on a life of its own and it circled the globe. And I wound up actually getting phone calls, really interesting phone calls, one of them which was from a law firm in Kentucky. The lawyers said to me, “This looks like the basis of civil and criminal charges to me.”
Melissa Gallico: I could definitely see that because many of the points raised in the complaint revolve around the CDC’s failure to inform the public or in some cases, their efforts to intentionally mislead the public, with regard to harm from fluoridation, especially concerning certain vulnerable population groups that are particularly susceptible to harm from fluoride. When you talk about these vulnerable population groups, who are you referring to?
Daniel Stockin: Well, the National Research Council in their report that came out in 2006 on fluorides, particularly, they mentioned the susceptible subpopulations. And when I read it, it sort of hit me because as a public health person, I had worked on some minority health work in various arenas with lead and other things. And I thought to myself, you know, some of these statements, I wonder if the groups that are mentioned as being especially vulnerable to harm— kidney patients and diabetics—I wonder if those people actually know that it mentions them in this National Research Council report. And of course when I began to look into that it was very disturbing that, first of all, CDC was not interested in informing these people about it. Second of all, they were actively working to suppress the spread of the information. And then we found out that the, how do I say this, the misleading statements (that's a generous term) they were not really happy that we could back it up that the statements were misleading.
For instance, there was a thing in there where they said that the amount of fluoride in water was equivalent to basically to one inch in 16 miles or one penny in $10,000. Well, we mentioned in the complaint, well, that might be an interesting analysis but you're mixing up dose versus concentration. And for people who are not scientists, they might be led to think that, hey, it’s a small amount. But one penny in $10,000 adds up. What they're not telling you is that it bioaccumulates in the body. So the pennies add up. It may start off with your first exposure as one penny but then over time the pennies add to dollars and the dollars add into all kinds of things.
Melissa Gallico: This information about dose is so important and it's one of the primary concerns from people who oppose fluoridation. When you're indiscriminately adding a chemical to the public water supply to treat a specific medical condition, there's no way to control the dose in all the various population groups consuming that water. The difference between the supposedly optimal level of fluoride and the maximum contaminant level, as bloated as that number currently is, is relatively small. People drink varying amounts of water, plus they're getting fluoride from other sources like toothpaste or food because fluoride is a common pesticide.
In my conversations with people about fluoridation, even health professionals, most of them are unaware of the fact that fluoride bioaccumulates in bone and other tissue. And they certainly aren't aware that the National Academy of Sciences estimates that the half-life of fluoride in bone is 20 years. Reading over your ethics complaint, it really becomes clear that the reason this information is not more widely known is because it's the CDC’s job to disclose it. And instead, as you point out in the complaint, there is an “overall pattern of unethical strategy to not disclose cumulative dose concerns and the true nature of fluoride effects on the body.”
With regard to this concern over dose, one of the vulnerable population groups that you focused on in the ethics complaint is infants. The National Research Council in their 2006 report pointed this out, that infants in the United States are receiving three to four times the dose of fluoride as are adults on a body weight basis. And when that report came out, the CDC updated their website with a very carefully worded advisory to parents to use fluoride-free water when reconstituting infant formula if they're concerned about their child developing dental fluorosis. That advisory, the wording has changed over the years. Why are those updates significant and how is it indicative of the CDC’s overall pattern of ethics violations when it comes to the issue of dose and fluoridation?
Daniel Stockin: This issue about babies is something that, they knew that when you get mothers concerned about protecting their babies, this is something that they did not want to have gaining traction. The infant formula thing is, this is a no-brainer. Obviously when they're getting it from a whole series of things... and the U. S. Department of Agriculture had actually come up with a database of fluoride content of foods and beverages. So we actually reference that in the ethics complaint. The USDA had come up with this database and of course the public had never even heard that there is this database of fluoride or even knew how to use it. So I thought that the issue of the baby formula, because it affects so many millions of people, that got them scared. So they started doing damage control.
Melissa Gallico: So just to play devil's advocate here for a moment, what was the problem with CDC’s response to this concern over the dose of fluoride that infants were receiving? They did put the advisory on their website informing parents of the concern over using fluoridated water to reconstitute infant formula. What's the problem with that?
Daniel Stockin: The average person who is a mom or dad or a nursing mother or someone who has babies, they're not going to go to the CDC website an awful lot to learn about things. A certain small group will. But there's a lot of people who don't speak English as a first language, there's a lot of people who are economically disadvantaged, and there are kind of groups and methods that could be used to reach out both grassroots as well as through the media connections that CDC has. They put out press releases that get picked up all the time. But they have to want that occur and why would they want this to occur when it's going to make them look bad?
Melissa Gallico: I don't think we've explained this yet but dental fluorosis is a mottling and discoloring of the tooth enamel that's caused by overexposure to fluoride when the teeth are forming. And it's a condition that has reached epidemic proportions in the United States since that report was released in 2006. The latest study I saw which came out earlier this year was that over 60 percent of 16 and 17 year olds have some form of dental fluorosis. And it's a permanent condition, something that these children will be dealing with for the rest of their lives. What could the CDC have done to prevent this increase in dental fluorosis in children?
Daniel Stockin: Well, the public health community is... they work with parent organizations, with schools and education systems, daycares, and the whole public health infrastructure which includes preschool and daycare facility supervision and input, that could have been brought into this. And of course, then there's this whole series, the whole consumer protection, there were other parallel agencies within the federal government which could have been brought in. But they obviously we're not going to do that and they did it... you know, if you look at what happened with lead. Lead is the perfect example. You know, if they really believe that it needs to be said and there's no downside to it, they wind up using the public health infrastructure which includes state health departments and the county health departments, etc. to spread news to grassroots organizations and to national organizations etc., but they didn't. Lead is a good example. And because I used to work with lead I saw what they could have done, and they chose not to.
Melissa Gallico: One of the other vulnerable population groups that you highlight in the ethics complaint is people of color. You point out that the CDC was ignoring its own data showing disproportionately high rates of dental fluorosis among minority communities. How did you identify that disparity?
Daniel Stockin: Well, because I had been involved in and worked with outreach to communities of color previously and I actually happened to be married to a lady who is Hispanic, this was personally something I had personal interest in. And I'm one of these nerdy guys who would actually read some of the publications that CDC would send out including what's called their MMWR, it's a report, morbidity and mortality, and people don't even know the difference between the two, the average community, so really that report doesn't get seen by the average person. Just the man on the street. But in it, I noticed that in 2005 they had acknowledged there was a significantly higher amount of this dental fluorosis in the black and Hispanic communities.
And so just because I thought it would be useful to find out how this would play and see if people really knew, we started reaching out to members in the black community and the Hispanic community to say, “hey, were you aware of this information and did you know what dental fluorosis was?” And we did something that’s never been done before. I actually blew up pictures of dental fluorosis to 8.5" x 11" size and we waded into a major city, in this case Atlanta, and literally walked the streets with pictures of dental fluorosis and we showed it to people inside stores and on the streets and on college campuses etc. And we said, “Are you familiar with this? Have you ever seen it? Do you know someone in your family or yourself, do you have it?” And the knowledge that people had was virtually nonexistent. We found very interesting reactions from people when they suddenly realized what was causing the staining on their teeth. And they had been so impacted in their job interviews and their personal life and they're dating life, their self-esteem, and they didn't even want to talk about it. That got picked up by the media in Atlanta and they filmed us filming other people's fluorosis. In other words, we had our cameras and we were filming the people who had fluorosis and then the media filmed us filming them.
So because Atlanta is in the backyard of the CDC, we felt this would get some good traction and it turns out it did. And it spread and of course we found out later in the Freedom of Information Act request that they were really upset inside CDC and Health and Human Services that we were doing this. To this day, I get calls. It's amazing. A simple little thing like simply showing the pictures to people, that's what the Telemundo Atlanta people did. And they won an Emmy for their three part series.
Melissa Gallico: I had heard about that but I had the hardest time finding those videos. I did actually find them and I'll put a link in the show notes for anyone who wants to watch that series. But how did that not make more of an impact in the English language press? Even though it won an Emmy, it didn't seem to get a lot of coverage outside of Telemundo.
Daniel Stockin: Well, it didn't get an awful lot of coverage but it did open doors for me, and other people actually. Fluorosis was one of those things that, because they can't say it's not caused by fluoride, so all they can do is sort of muddy the waters. It's amazing to me the way they spin fluorosis, the severity of it how it's classified, they dismissed it. The issue of harm to Hispanics and the fact that for the first time, fluorosis pictures were actually being shown to people on their Facebook page, meaning the TV stations’ Facebook page, they started following up with what we had done and showing pictures of fluorosis. This is something that we think should be done more of.
Melissa Gallico: One of the other vulnerable population groups that you identified in your ethics complaint about CDC’s fluoridation policy is people who suffer from chronic kidney disease. You even visited dialysis centers and spoke with doctors and kidney patients about it. What made you reach out to that particular segment of the population with regard to harm from fluoridation?
Daniel Stockin: The first thing that got me started with it was when I saw that the National Research Council said, well no, that's not true, the 1993 NRC report, not 2006, talked about kidney patients/diabetics being susceptible. And I thought, well that's odd. No one's ever really followed up on that and here we are getting another National Research Council report. So I knew that there was a whole bunch of different kinds of kidney patients, you know, transplants, those on dialysis, those with kidney stones, those with chronic kidney disease, there's a whole series. So, I started visiting dialysis centers just to ask the doctors and the patients, “Hey, did you know that kidney patients are especially vulnerable to harm? That it builds up in their bones?” And there was literally no knowledge. I didn't find one person who knew anything, even the basics about it.
So then, I noticed that the National Kidney Foundation had a statement endorsing water fluoridation but it was so old that it had been written on a typewriter, you could sort of tell by it. And so I thought, well this is interesting I wonder if they're aware that kidney patients are especially vulnerable to harm. So we corresponded and I talked to their medical director and whatnot. And the bottom line is, they wound up taking the information and they called a meeting of their board and they brought up the issue and then they voted to withdraw their endorsement of water fluoridation. And they didn't oppose it but they said... You know, if you read what they did it's very disturbing to me. And if you know anyone who is a caregiver for a kidney patient or who is a kidney patient themselves, this to me—because what is it, something like one out of every 12 people in the United States has some form of kidney disease—and so this issue we thought they should be very open about it. After we submitted the information to them, I heard nothing. I heard nothing. And one night this literally happened. It was 2 in the morning and I happened to go to their website and I happened to just bounce around their website and I found that they had withdrawn their endorsement and that they were going to do this and their name disappeared off of the American Dental Association's list of fluoridation endorsers. And so they were not going to tell anybody openly. What they did is, they buried it. You had to know to actually enter a search term under the name fluoridation or fluoride to find the action that they had taken. So they said that they were going to tell people on their website; they said that in their meeting, in the notes from that meeting. But then they didn't. They didn't actively tell anybody. They just buried it two or three levels down inside the website. So no one would find it unless they actively did a search.
So we continued to reach out to kidney patients and we began to find that dialysis patients would get very upset about this. But then, you know, candidly what they would tell me, they were afraid that if they spoke out they would lose their place in line at the dialysis center. So it was very sad to see that. And I found that kidney stone people, they were very interested in talking about this and also people with chronic kidney disease and it dawned on me how many people were hoping to skirt the need for dialysis and maybe just had chronic kidney disease but got tipped over into needing dialysis by harm from fluoride.
Melissa Gallico: In the complaint, you also point out ethics violations on the website regarding the CDC’s explanation of various studies that they claim prove fluoridation is safe. For example, the York Review, which you then included a letter from the chair of that review stating that the study was being misrepresented and it did not show fluoride to be safe. The CDC uses a similar rationale to dismiss all the safety concerns cited in the 2006 report from the National Research Council. As a science and technology analyst on the outside looking in, the literature supporting fluoridation is so weak and these holes are just all over the CDC’s website and their policy on fluoridation. How did the ethics committee respond to the evidence you were presenting to them about how the CDC was misrepresenting the science and intentionally misleading the public on the safety of fluoridation?
Daniel Stockin: We did get a response. And what they basically said was, well, the ethics committees, we don't investigate ethics complaints. That's what they said. So we'll give it to one of our administrative people and we'll have them evaluate it. And that's what happened. And it turns out that the gentleman who wrote the Letter responding to the complaint, if you saw the line of supervision, he works for the direct line to the director of CDC. So basically he would be incriminating his own boss if he did agree with what we said in the complaint. But what I found out is that this process of getting them... when we began to... and we're going to talk about the Freedom of Information Act request... what we found out was that people within CDC were largely, I'm talking about, there's thousands of CDC employees but the statements about fluoridation were being controlled by one or two people. That information was basically disseminated throughout CDC and it was sort of one of those, just trust us on it.
And so the complaint led to a whole series of things. Obviously the committee did not want to address it. When we finally got a response, it was a non-response. They didn't even physically address, literally just glossed over key sections of it. And so, we knew we hit a nerve. What we continued to do was continue to focus on the CDC over a period of time with both Freedom of Information Act requests and it even resulted years later in 2015 with the Telemundo Atlanta people interviewing the sole Spanish-speaking person inside the Oral Health Division. Very interesting story there. I still believe to this day the CDC must be held accountable for not telling the whole story of people.
Melissa Gallico: Once you realized the CDC was not going to effectively police itself and hold their own Oral Health Division accountable for misleading the public on the safety of fluoridation and the cumulative dose concerns, you in effect started a very pointed campaign to take this information about the toxicity of fluoride to some specific groups of people, including some very influential voices in the civil rights movement regarding the disproportionate harm from fluoride to minorities. Who did you reach out to and how did these civil rights leaders respond to the information you were presenting to them?
Daniel Stockin: Well, because we were near Atlanta and I knew that Martin Luther King and the King center was here, etc. I thought we would start reaching out to members of MLK's family and so we began to do that. And I also reached out to Andrew Young and that happened through another meeting. I had this sort of this thing that we decided to start doing because it seemed like it would be useful. Whenever I met somebody, after talking to them I would ask them one simple question: Who do you know? Because people know people and if we don't ask that question we may miss a whole entree to a whole bunch of people. So I was talking to a PTA lady in Atlanta somewhere and she said, did you know Laura Seydel, Ted Turner’s daughter? And so I worked to see if I could get a meeting and Laura graciously invited me to have a meeting with her. She's the head of her own environmental organization, a really amazing, amazing person. And I asked her, who do you know? And she said well, I know Andrew Young. And I said, any chance we can get a meeting? So she started doing what she does and sure enough, we had a meeting with Andrew Young. And that was an amazing meeting, my first meeting with him. My respect for him is just up in the stratosphere.
Melissa Gallico: What a cool experience. Can you tell us more about that meeting?
Daniel Stockin: Well, you know, his dad was a dentist and his brother is a dentist. And he actually had written a paper supporting fluoridation himself earlier but then through some things that happened in his life he began to look into it and by the time I showed up, he actually got it before I even got there. And here's what I learned. Is that a lot of people out there, if you will, in the United States, they are against fluoridation but they just don't know what steps they individually can take to make a difference. And so, this was something we begin to do at the Lillie Center is to really educate people not just the civil rights leaders but other people, kidney patients, you name it, that they can make a real difference, a very noticeable difference by simply talking about who they know, by speaking out, not just letters to the editor but actually speaking out, and there's some other things that we would encourage people to do. I don't disclose all of our strategies all the time in my interviews. But with Andrew Young, he is so amazing and I asked him if he'd be willing to speak out and he said yes. And so he sent out a statement and it shook the planet. I mean, it just did. I knew it was going to because he's so well known internationally as well as nationally. And then of course, I worked with Martin Luther King's family, his daughter, Bernice, and then his niece, Alveda King. And they both spoke out. Bernice King went on a radio program in Atlanta and started speaking out. And Alveda King started putting things up on Facebook, etc. And then I also worked with Rev. Durley, a civil rights leader, he's in the Civil Rights Hall of Fame. He had all kinds of connections and introduced me to groups of black ministers and all kinds of things.
So, it all started with a simple question, who do you know. And then I had the privilege of working with some really super, super people and they continue… what he did, what Andrew Young did, the media did pick up on this to some extent and it actually helped me to start talking to more politicians. Because once they knew that Andrew Young was on board, then we began to get more entrees to people who had national as well as state of Georgia and Tennessee kind of political appointments and offices that they were in. And also we started meeting lobbyists and media people who hung out with politicians. So I can't say enough about what civil rights leaders did to help move this thing forward towards the collapse of water fluoridation.
Melissa Gallico: I agree. These statements from civil rights leaders, they're not pulling any punches. I'd like to read just a few lines from them here.
This one is from a statement released in 2011 by Dr. Alveda King, the niece of Dr. Martin Luther King. She says, “… people with built-in biases in support of fluoridation have been controlling the discussion about harm from fluorides. The Centers for Disease Control has clearly been trying to preserve fluoridation at all costs, but the facts about fluoride harm are coming out anyway. This is a civil rights issue.”
Also in 2011, the League of Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the oldest Hispanic civil rights organization in the United States, condemned fluoridation as a civil rights issue. I believe you worked with a grassroots activist in Texas, Henry Rodriguez, to play an important role in that. And in their statement they said, “LULAC demands to know why government agencies entrusted with protecting the public health are more protective of the policy of fluoridation[,] than they are of public health.”
Andrew Young wrote in one of his letters, “I am most deeply concerned for poor families who have babies: if they cannot afford unfluoridated water for their babies milk formula, do their babies not count? Of course they do. This is an issue of fairness, civil rights, and compassion.”
I see that Ambassador Young is still actively calling on the government and state legislators in Georgia to repeal George's fluoridation law and hold congressional hearings—he refers to them as fluoridegate hearings—on how fluoridation has been allowed to continue for all these years. I'll put a link to one of his letters in the show notes. It's really smart to focus on the state of Georgia, especially considering the CDC is headquartered there in Atlanta. Has there been any movement from state politicians towards responding to Ambassador Young's demand for fluoridegate hearings?
Daniel Stockin: Well, I've had some fascinating and sometimes disturbing meetings with state officials and it's a little bit, how do I say this… You know, a lot of politicians don't want to get onboard a train until they see which way the train is heading. And so what I found is, because certain people have spoken out and it does get them to listen more, but the dental lobby spends money on both sides of both political aisles and very often... we found out of course, through things we're doing here, they brought in the first ever African-American head of the American Dental Association just coincidentally was brought in at this time. He goes into office just coincidentally and is brought down to meet with the black caucus of the Georgia state legislature. And we have a transcript of what was said about us at the Lillie Center. And basically, they're trying to make the legislative black community to dismiss this issue. But I have had a series of meetings with political leaders. I've had multiple... things are still percolating and I guess I'll leave it at that. But we have experienced blowback, the active efforts from folks to sort of contain this, to put the genie back in the bottle. And of course they're not going to be able to.
Melissa Gallico: The government is not known for moving quickly but it's amazing how fast they move dto set up a meeting with Andrew Young when he started speaking out about fluoridation. Can you tell us more about that meeting? Who attended and what was the conversation like?
Daneil Stockin: There was a meeting set up to, and we found this out sort of after the fact. I already knew some things were happening. I get information fed back to me through various sources. I'm a public health person and I have some networks. The bottom line is, they were concerned. There was a letter that came out, I believe Carol Kopf got ahold of it originally and it was a great find. It showed how they were saying that they were concerned (this was the Health and Human Services people in CDC) that the issue of harm to minorities had the potential to “gain traction”. And so there was a lot of information which we found in Freedom of Information Act documents to make this go away.
Well, they asked Andrew Young and Dr. Durley if they would come to a meeting at Morehouse College. It's a historical black organization and the head of the medical school was actually a dentist, go figure. So they brought him in and I was actually invited to come by Dr. Durley. He said, “Why don't you come down to the meeting?” So I got ready for the meeting and actually drive down there and I got within 5 or 10 minutes of the actual campus there and then I got a phone call that I was being disinvited. We found out later what had happened that there was pressure being brought to bear to keep me out of the meeting. That meeting was to, ostensibly, to sort of have a dialogue and we found out later, of course, that what they were really doing is assessing what they needed to do and could they get Andrew Young to be quiet about it. Except they made promises. They made some promises that they were going to do certain things, to research some things. They all sounded really good but I knew of course that this was a knee-jerk response. I knew it was going to happen the minute I was disinvited. I thought to myself as I drove back, I thought, you know what, we're going to get some Freedom of Information Act information on this and one day this is going to come back to bite the fluoridation promoters on the back end. And sure enough it has.
So now we know that they were promising research and trying to demonstrate that they were concerned, etc. And of course they did absolutely nothing to mitigate the harm that was happening. And so that's why I have so much appreciation for Andrew Young continuing, as you said, I think it was in 2016, to even come out with another letter. But the thing that happened was, the attendees in the room, it was an interesting group of people flown in from all over the place. And I thought it was very disturbing that the National Dental Association was there. This is the organization of dentists that serves sort of the minority communities, primarily the black community but also other groups, and they basically, in my personal opinion, were more concerned about shutting up the issue then protecting the constituents that they were formed to serve. We got a list of the attendees and they brought in consultants and they brought in various kinds of people basically to make this issue go away.
But if you read the Freedom of Information Act documents on our website, you'll see a lot of this prep for that meeting was redacted. We ask for the Freedom of Information Act documents. Some parts of it, fully one-third of it, in fact a whole bunch of the strategy stuff about how they were going to contain/deal with the issue of harm to African Americans was literally whited out. The documents that were provided under the Freedom of Information Act, one of them was a 300-page series of documents that we received. One hundred out of the 300 wages were white. So this is what I tell people about this. This is water fluoridation. This is not national security. Why the secrecy? What is it about the issue of harm to African-Americans and Hispanics that requires them to redact and white out all this information? It's not national security. Well, clearly they're trying to hide something.
Melissa Gallico: I was surprised by that, as well, the amount of information that was redacted from those documents. And like you said, a lot of it revolved around how they were going to handle this disparity in harm. One of the most glaring redactions is on a page attached to an agenda from a meeting that was held a few weeks after the meeting with Ambassador Young and presumably, they were discussing the follow-up from that interaction. And the title of the page is, “Fluoridation and Oral Health Disparities Strategy.” And other than the title, the entire page is redacted. So we’re left to try to piece together what that strategy exactly is.
But after reading through over 300 pages of communications regarding the planning and follow-up to this meeting with Ambassador Young—which went all the way up to the Director of the CDC and beyond— it becomes clear that CDC officials were very sensitive to messaging, how the information on fluoride looks to the public. In one email thread from William Bailey, the Chief Dental Officer at the US Public Health Service, he instructs his staff to “decide on which data describing prevalence and severity of dental fluorosis and caries will be most appropriate for messaging.” In another thread, he describes Ambassador Young’s concerns about fluoridation as a “serious threat” if other community leaders start seeing fluoridation as a source of racial disparity. They spend a lot of time crafting “talking points,” and they even fret over what signal it would give if they send too many or too few people to the meeting with Ambassador Young.
Is there any indication that the CDC’s strategy for dealing with the disparities in dental fluorosis was substantive? Have they released any new studies about it since 2011 or made efforts to increase public awareness about dental fluorosis, especially among minority groups?
Daniel Stockin: Well, we know that they've continued to obfuscate on this issue. We know that they wanted to get some research started that would show that, well, you know, it's just not so bad in the black community, issues with fluorosis as well as other issues. And their approach to this, I characterize it as damage control. You know, you can draw whatever conclusions you want. Unfortunately today, science has been corrupted in many, many ways. And not just who funds it but just how you raise the question, your hypothesis and various things like this. So, what I've seen is. Fluoridation is what I call the equivalent... I don't know if you're familiar with what happened when the U. S. invaded Iraq originally, they set up what’s called the green zone. The green zone was the area where the headquarters and our initial beach head, and where it was the most heavily fortified place on earth, you know, because of all of our generals and all kinds of people would be there. It was the central core from which all operations in Iraq started from so it had to be heavily defended. If the green zone ever fell, all hope for everything else was lost. Well, water fluoridation is the green zone area of the public health community. When water fluoridation goes down, and it will, all trust in whether you can believe these so-called experts about public health related issues is going to be impacted.
And so, I didn't know when I got into this that fluoridation is literally not just the poster child, it is the green zone of the public health infrastructure. And so we had actually poked the bear in the den at CDC with the ethics complaint. And then of course when we started speaking with the civil rights leaders, under the Freedom of Information Act request through some other folks, we began to find out that the sheer amount of energy that was brought to bear—money, resources, people, etc.—to do damage control... this wasn't about, you talk about ethics, this wasn't about addressing and righting the ethics wrongs. It was about doing damage control. Everything from that point forward in our experience was that they were going to do what they had to do to contain, to put the genie back in the bottle. That's what they were going to try to do it.
But this whole issue of how they're going to respond to it, with the issue with the civil rights leaders and others, this is what I would say: they can't put the genie back in the bottle. There is historical data, a large amount of it. This is what really got me started. When I started looking back in the ‘50s, etc., when we knew, when it was published it was acknowledged in the literature that the black community has significantly more fluorosis. And what we've seen is that when people have an economic interest in this, a control interest, and you know this as well as I do, it's very difficult for them to be objective. But the good news is, fluoridation... they can't stop people from learning. There is a scandal. At the center of fluoridegate is Atlanta because that's where the CDC is. That is the world's foremost promoter of water fluoridation. And the civil rights leaders are there, the kidney issue there… Most people don't know that the Atlanta area has a 40 percent higher rate of kidney failure than the rest of the country. And so when we began talking to the political leaders about fluoridegate we realized, people get it. The issue is, are they willing to pay the price for speaking out about it. That's the issue.
Melissa Gallico: The Freedom of Information Act request also revealed some previously unpublished data showing that rates of moderate and severe dental fluorosis are also higher among minorities, whereas publicly, the CDC only emphasizes the disparities with milder forms of the condition. In one email exchange someone asks the subject matter expert if the data on the racial disparities in dental fluorosis is accurate and he says that it is. And then he speculates the reason is possibly due to increased use of powdered or reconstituted infant formula diluted with fluoridated water. Is that your guess as well as to what is causing this disparity in the rate of dental fluorosis?
Daniel Stockin: I would say that yes, I mean, that was the biostatistician at CDC who was pretty blunt in an internal communication about this. That, you know, it's not going to go away if you don't address the root cause. If you look at the Journal of Public Health Dentistry, they acknowledge that there's just more fluoridated water use in the black community. And they're not drinking as much milk, for instance, and other kinds of things. And so I think the exposure, more exposure simply because of socio-economic reasons.
And here's an example. This is what we would do. You take these one gallon jugs of what they call infant water that does not have fluoride or very little in it, and it's being sold by the big box stores and whatnot. And I would go and I would take a jug of that and I'd go sit in a politician's office and one gallon is what, about eight pounds? So I would hand it over to the politician and say—there's something about them feeling this and touching it, the sensory part of it—and I say, “Can you imagine if you're a mom riding a bus to go grocery shopping and you have two, you've got two kids in strollers and you have to get on the bus. You have to carry back these jugs so that your kid won't get dental fluorosis from their formula?” And everyone gets it. It's socio-economic, the logistics of it. You're already paying for water. Why would you want to pay for something else also, right?
And of course there's a nutritional angle on this I think is very important. When you don't have as much good bioavailable calcium and your vitamin D, etc. and various kinds of things can make the fluoride that you are ingesting more potent. And of course then you’ve got the lead in the plumbing. And so all those things together make it so that people who are economically disadvantaged really get it from multiple sources, multiple modalities of harm
Melissa Gallico: Since you mentioned lead toxicity and you have an expertise in that area, can you explain how fluoridation affects the problem of lead exposure in children? I've seen the studies where hydrofluorosilicic acid, the primary fluoridation chemical used in the United States, has been shown to contain trace amounts of lead. But there's also a concern that fluoridation increases the amount of lead in drinking water because of the lead used in piping and older plumbing fixtures. Is that a valid concern and if so, how does that work?
Daniel Stockin: You know, when you have lead in plumbing, in joints and various things, there’s sodder and various things that have lead in it. And if fluoridated water sits overnight or it comes in contact with these lead-containing materials, it actually works to pull the lead into the water until then you get an increased exposure to lead. And of course we know that fluoride and lead mixed together, you know one plus one does not equal two, it’s a worser thing than that.
You know, what a lot of people don't know is there's actually some patents out there. If you're going to, let’s say, manufacture a plumbing component. A lot of times what they do is, they use lead because it's slippery. It's kind of a lubricant. And they use it as a lubricant. So it comes out of the manufacturing process coated in this lead. So before they can sell it to the public, they have to find a way to get this lead off. You know, clean it up. Well, what do you do? Turns out one of the things you can do is to soak it in a vat of a caustic fluoride compound which will bind with the lead and pull it off that plumbing component. And guess what one of those is? Hydrofluorosilicic acid is one of the things that you can soak it in and it will pull the lead off. If you're in older housing, for sure that's a concern, not only just the fact that lead is pulled into the water by the fluoride but there's this potentiation that occurs, of harm that happens. So there's enough evidence now that that should alone, just the lead issue, should have stopped water fluoridation. I mean, if people want to get fluoride there's other ways to get it without sending it through the water system.
Melissa Gallico: I wanted to give you an opportunity to respond to an accusation that was made about you in the Freedom of Information Act request documents. There's one email exchange between the State Dental Director in Georgia and some officials at the CDC where she says “our favorite anti-fluoridationist” in TN notified us of Andrew Young’s statement on fluoridation, which I presume she is referring to you there, and then she writes, “shame on the anti-fluoridationists for sinking to a new low in using race-baiting tactics.” What is your response to that accusation?
Daniel Stockin: Well, I have a lot of personal feelings about that but you know, the fact of the matter is, I was using CDC’s own data. That's was CDC's data I was talking about in that MMWR report. We weren't concocting anything, we were just saying this is what you said and we were telling people about it. And that particular individual also had been very, very much embarrassed at a meeting when it turned out that some of the more basic things about fluoridation... When I was making one of our earlier presentations there in Tennessee, this person didn't know some real basic things and got pretty embarrassed. So I think there was probably some of that there. But regardless of that, that's my personal feeling. The bottom line is that it's not race-baiting when it's a fact. And that information is available for the public. All we were doing was just basically making people know what's already there.
Melissa Gallico: There are several other batches of documents available on your website from various Freedom of Information Act requests regarding fluoridation. How did those come about and what, in your opinion, is the biggest takeaway?
Daniel Stockin: The Freedom of Information Act documents, I knew that they knew who I was. CDC basically does not like me. So I started working with people and I would talk to them and say, what do you think about maybe doing a Freedom of Information Act request? Meaning, not for me, but would they be interested. And once they sort of realized that they had the opportunity to do it, that they were upset about it, that they want to personally find out. And I thought that one of the most telling things was about who within CDC was making all the statements for CDC. There's one of the Freedom of Information Act requests that said please provide all the names, titles, and job descriptions of everybody in CDC providing input into CDC’s stance on fluoridation, and making its decision on how it will move forward on fluoridation, and you know, because the CDC has kidney specialist people and toxicologists and all those kind of things you would think they would have input. But it turns out, no. It was the Oral Health Division exclusively. They were making the statements, they were writing the talking points, and they were speaking on behalf of CDC giving talking points to the director, etc. So I mean, talk about the fox guarding the hen house. It was very clear. When we expected all these names, titles, and job descriptions and then the only thing they sent back was the names of the directors of oral health. That was it. That's stunning.
Melissa Gallico: And that request was really precise in the wording and specifically asked for the CDC to list anyone outside of the Oral Health Division who had any input on the CDC’s policy on fluoridation.
Daniel Stockin: What is also apparent to me when you read the Freedom of Information Act documents as well as the other documents that have come out in fluoridegate is that this is not just about... People ask me all the time, how come fluoridation continues. Well, it's not just about science. It's about people concerned about being actually embarrassed and losing their jobs and in some cases, maybe even having broken laws. It shows the nature of how severe a threat this is to their bulwark of this pillar of water fluoridation.
Melissa Gallico: So I have to ask you about this. There is an interview with you online from 2008 with Alex Jones, a very controversial political figure who is currently facing litigation for promulgating the idea that the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 was fabricated. Alex Jones’s father was a dentist who eventually came to oppose fluoridation, and he’s brought it up a few times on his show. I watched his interview with you in preparation for this episode and it was really interesting to see because it really illustrates how the two of you represent two very different camps of people opposed to fluoridation. On the one hand, there is this core group of scientists who have kind of passed the torch opposing fluoridation from the outset of the practice in the 1940s. And then, there is also a group on the political spectrum that is distrustful of government in general and fluoridation ticks all those boxes: it’s an industrial pollutant being added to their drinking water against their will that affects the brain and causes all kinds of health problems. In your interview with Alex Jones, the difference in your two approaches is almost comical. At one point he’s talking about people who promote fluoridation and he refers to a “hell-spell demon seed dark force inhabiting minds of men” and you’re kind of like, ‘I think most people who promote fluoridation are well-intentioned’ which he does not agree with. So, first of all, when you went on that show, did you have any idea of how polarizing of a figure Alex Jones is, or would become?
Daniel Stockin: No. I have gotten interview requests from both sides of the political spectrum for, what is it, 15+ years or whatever now. And you know, whenever we got a microphone that we could talk to and reach out to people to get awareness built, we are just interested in focusing on the issue of getting people aware and getting them to take appropriate action.
But I will say, fluoride is what I call an equal-opportunity offender. People on both sides, Republican and Democrat, etc,. can easily find something that they disagree with about the practice of uncontrolled dosing of fluorides in drinking water, and the sourcing of the chemicals and what it does to the environment and how it harms certain groups. There are some people who are going to use anything they can to try to discredit not just me, but you or anyone else who is speaking against water fluoridation. And you know what, if that's what they have to do, I don't get real lathered up over it. Let them do it. Because on the back end of this thing, they're going to wish they had been more forthright.
Melissa Gallico: As your experience opposing fluoridation has shown, there is such a disparate collection of people who want to see this practice come to an end. Many of the civil rights leaders you’ve worked with are democrats, there a lot of members of the Green Party and Libertarian groups who oppose fluoridation for environmental or ethical reasons, and then you’ve got several groups on the right and the far right who argue for limited federal government. And historically, promoters of fluoridation have used this to their advantage. For example, they would make lists of people who oppose fluoridation and put highly regarded scientists next to members of the Ku Klux Klan in an attempt to discredit their names. And their efforts were largely successful. Even today, if the topic of fluoridation comes up in conversation I never know if the other person is going to immediately think of me as a character from Dr. Strangelove. And it’s sad, but I always feel the need to ask this next question of the scientists who have come on this show. Have you ever experienced any harassment or retaliation due to your opposition to fluoridation? What kind of effect has it had on your career in public health?
Daniel Stockin: Well, yes. I mean, I had a pretty robust career going on before I spoke out about water fluoridation and then suddenly people stopped calling. I had one particular politician, I'll never forget the day when he looked at me and said, “You know, they formed a dossier on you.” And I said, “Well, fine. Feel free. Whatever you got to do.” I don't get real focused on that kind of thing. There is a lot of... you know, whenever they change the subject, they want to focus on the messenger instead of the message, that just shows how weak their stance is.
The thing I like as this is unfolding is that it takes on a life of its own that even the best efforts, the obstructionists, they won't be able to stop it. Fluoridegate is unraveling. There's document that have surfaces. There's all kinds of people that are starting to look at each other. You know, this is what I say. When the ship starts to sink, the rats all... they're not above devouring each other when they're trying to save their own skin. And you know, you see that one ship start to sink. And the rats start snapping at each other. And that's beginning. The basis of that is starting to happen now where people are starting to look sideways. Like, wait a minute, do I really want to be in bed with this issue? With that person, or whatever? And I've had people... I can tell you stories and it's just not useful probably to give you all the specifics. But yeah, there are people who, not only did they disparage me and other people, wonderful people, I work with so many amazing people who are smarter than me and I'm just honored to be with the people who have a spine and who get it and who are willing to do something. There's a price you pay and yeah, my whole career had to take a different direction because places that should have been calling me, they just stopped calling. But the thing that's encouraging to me is that as fluoridegate continues to unravel...
The term fluoridegate, it's fascinating what happened with it. Where did that come from? Well, one day I was thinking about this and I said, you know, the name fluoridegate came to me and I realized it's a good thing because sometimes people will look at a thing and pay more attention when they realize there's a scandal with it rather than if it's just some dry dispute among scientists about some obscure chemical sounding thing, right? And when people understand there is a real scandal that's unfolding—that there are active efforts to get people to not find out the real, whole story—what is encouraging to me is, I'm starting to get copies of newsletters and articles from all over the place, across the world where people mention the word fluoridegate. So, this is good.
Melissa Gallico: Daniel Stockin, thank you so much for being on the show, for continuing to be vocal about harm from fluoridation, and for literally taking on the CDC, which is not an easy opponent to tackle. The institutional bias at the CDC favoring fluoridation almost seems insurmountable. Do you see any actions that the CDC, or Congress, or the Public Health Service, or anyone with influence on the federal government could take to correct for these institutional biases and allow our decision makers to really get to the scientific truth of how fluoridated water is harming the American public?
Daniel Stockin: Well, see, that question that you're asking me is actually one that speaks to some of the strategies to ending fluoridation and I always tell people, I don't tell everything I know and that's not because I don't trust you or anyone else, it's just that years of involvement in this lets me know that it's just wisdom to not give away certain things too soon. And what I, as this whole thing is unfolding now, I'm just trying to think how I would say this... The strategies to end water fluoridation… It's going to collapse, and there are people, you know... When I first got into this, I saw that people were doing a lot of education. And I think education is important but education alone was not going to end water fluoridation. Can we trust politicians to have the spine to do it? I don't know, I think there are few people of goodwill but I also think sometimes they're willing to sort of put things on the back burner because they think other things are more important to them so in the meanwhile people just continue to be poisoned. I think that this whole issue of how you're going to end fluoridation and what the agencies should do... I guess I don't have an awful lot of expectation that the agencies in and of themselves are going to do it. I don't think that they have... the amount of energy it would take to overcome the inertia, the biases, the money that would be necessary, etc, that's pretty tough.
But I think that there are some strategies that can be used to bring this issue to the public and to basically go over the heads of the leaders and go over the heads of the dental lobby. And those are the things that we continue to work on and I think that there are some strategies, not just education—education is important, we have to do it and we need more research—but when it comes right down to it, you know, the other side is going to spin and spin and spin, no matter what research conclusions come out, they spin it and spin it. That's been documented even recently. So what will be sort of the hundredth monkey or the final straw that breaks the camel's back? That's an interesting discussion and I think we need to do everything that we've just mentioned, the research and getting the politicians and all that, but I think the thing that's going to be the thing that nudges it over, that actually starts an unstoppable domino-style collapse of water fluoridation, are things that can't be suppressed and stopped by the lobbyists and the dental lobby. And there are some things there, I just don't know that I particularly feel like maybe I should share those in the podcast. (laughing)
Melissa Gallico: Well, let us know what we can do to help with those super secret efforts behind the scenes to end fluoridation.
Daniel Stockin: Well, I appreciate it. There are so many people doing this, it's certainly not just me. There's really smart people now that are strategizing using legal options and other things and I think that's really, really important. The legal thing is important to get people put under oath. It's just shocking how little people have ever been put on a witness stand under oath. I had a story I could tell you about that, about being put under oath but bottom line is, sometimes politicians lose their will at the very last second. So I think that the strategizing must continue and we continue to need to ask the question of people, “Who do you know?” Because “who do you know” may be the key thing to ending fluoridation.
Melissa Gallico: My guest, Daniel Stockin, is a career public health official and the former manager of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Western Regional Lead Training Center. He currently works at the Lillie Center, a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing knowledge in energy and health studies. You can view their website at .
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 support the show by becoming a producer at Gallico Studios, or to sign our petition to end fluoridation, visit our website at .
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