The Politics of Water Fluoridation

Fluoride is a potent poison that doesn't belong in our water supply.

by John R. Lee, M.D.

Fluoride issues are flaring up in government circles again, so I’ve decided it’s time to share what I know with you, my newsletter readers. I’ve even postponed my usual newsletter interview this month so that I have enough space to do the story justice. I could easily have gone on for dozens more pages, filling you in on the details of this amazing story, and someday I do hope to write a book about it.

This Forced Medication Program has a Hidden Agenda

Fluoridation has been with us for over 50 years, purportedly for the purpose of preventing dental cavities in children. Few people realize that, despite the passage of a half-century, the wisdom of this practice is still hotly debated.

There was a flare-up of this debate at a January meeting of the Food and Nutrition Board (FNB), which is part of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), this past week in Washington, D.C.

Earlier, in 1997, the FNB met to consider the benefits and risks of five “essential” nutrients: calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin D, and fluoride. Numerous respected and reputable scientists challenged the classification of fluoride as an essential nutrient. Their challenge was based on the facts that no study has ever shown fluoride to be essential for any human metabolic need, and there is no such thing as a fluoride-deficiency disease.

A letter of objection (of which I was a co-signer) was sent to Drs. Bruce Alberts and Kenneth Shine of the NAS. We received no response until November, 1998, after prompting by Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania. In that response, Drs. Alberts and Shine conceded that fluoride was not an essential element but was included because it is “a beneficial element for humans,” referring to its supposed dental benefits. On January 21, 1999, the FNB met again. Its agenda was to set the recommended upper limit (UL) of these same five items. Again, the inclusion of fluoride with these four essential nutrients was challenged.

How I Got Involved in the Fluoride Debate

My involvement with the fluoride debate began in 1972 when I was chairman of the Environmental Health Committee of the Marin Medical Society. At that time our committee was asked to evaluate the pros and cons of fluoridation. After doing so, we concluded that: 1) the Public Health Service (PHS) claim of dental benefit by fluoride was weak; 2) PHS studies of fluoride toxicity were inadequate; and 3) the PHS ignored the rising total daily fluoride intake from the fluoride content of processed food and fluoridated toothpaste. Since that time, my evaluation is that the case against fluoridation has only gotten stronger.

In 1981, for example, the Rand Corporation performed an extensive review of the fluoride/dental health literature1 and found that the PHS studies “suffer from poor experimental design and from analysis plans that largely ignore the possible effects of other factors of tooth decay.” The author stated that the studies were so poor that they “have no relevance to any criterion of public policy-making.” It is a sad and telling fact that the specific errors identified in that report have yet to be corrected.

Since 1972, the majority of advanced (industrialized) countries have banned or discontinued fluoridation because of their own studies showing 1) lack of benefit, and/or 2) evidence of unacceptable toxicity. The public health programs of these countries attempt to limit, as much as possible, environmental fluoride exposure.

Fluoride is as Poisonous as Cyanide

Fluoride is a potent poison. In toxicology texts it is classified with cyanide, and it is a potent enzyme inhibitor. The amount of fluoride contained in a tube of toothpaste is enough to kill a child. Low-concentration fluoride powder was once commonly used as a pesticide for chicken lice, to preserve important papers from being destroyed by earwigs and other insects, and as a rodenticide (rat killer). Because of fluoride’s toxicity, such use is no longer allowed.

It is my personal opinion that the inclusion of fluoride in the FNB panel’s agenda is bizarre. If the only reason for fluoride’s inclusion with truly essential nutrients is the presumption that it is a beneficial element for humans, the same argument would apply to antibiotics, aspirin, and thousands of other agents, not to mention music, prayer, and clean cotton underwear. The inclusion of fluoride under these ill-fitting circumstances appears to me to be an attempt to validate fluoridation for some other motive; a hidden agenda that’s not so hidden anymore.

Top Scientists Speak Out Against Fluoridation

As it happens, I know four of the scientists who intended to speak on this matter at the January meeting of the FNB. They held a press conference prior to the meeting to tell the public what they intended to say which is fortunate, since most of them were not allowed to speak.

Professor of Chemistry, Dr. Albert Burgstahler (U. of Kansas), a researcher on the toxic effects and chemistry of fluoride for over 30 years, planned to report errors in the NAS’s arithmetic and reasoning on the subject of fluoride. He also planned to point out the inherent bias of the FNB panel members involved — their professional life depends on pleasing the NAS program.

Professor of Chemistry, Dr. Paul Connett (St. Lawrence U.) planned to discuss the mechanisms of fluoride toxicity, including recent information of fluoride-induced suppression of the pineal gland and its effect on aging and adaptation. He also planned to point out the present over-dosing of fluoride throughout America.

Dr. William Hirzy, representing the scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), planned to explain why his union, the National Treasury Employees Union, Chapter 20, voted to endorse efforts to ban water fluoridation. He would give examples of how fluoride has been treated as a “protected pollutant” by the EPA administration, and explain how his union is trying to change that situation.

Professor Lennart Krook (Cornell U.) planned to summarize his years of work on the toxicity of fluoride in animals as well as the work of other researchers and epidemiologists who have reported on the bone-weakening effects of fluoride, work that has virtually ignored by the NAS. His work includes seminal studies of the massive damage to cattle herds in upstate New York by industrial fluoride.

At the FNB meeting, these scientists were told that, despite their signed intention to speak at the meeting, they would not be allowed to do so because they had not submitted a summary of their planned remarks. After extensive argument, they were finally allowed a total of 15 minutes to make their presentation. By common consent, they selected Professor Connett to be their spokesman. By reports from observers at the meeting, Professor Connett did an outstanding job. None of the panelists had ever been exposed to this information before. He awakened in them the concept of the deception to which they were being asked to subscribe. After he finished, an NAS “manager” announced that fluoridation was an NAS policy, not to be included in the panel’s judgement!

Dr. Hirzy, having been denied the opportunity to speak, brought out his video camera to record Professor Connett’s talk. He was told that this, too, was denied to him. What is the NAS trying to hide?

The Origin of the Fluoridation Deception

To understand the ongoing fluoridation debate, it is helpful to learn the genesis of the problem. The true originof the fluoridation deception occurred during World War II. From records derived via the Freedom of Information act by writer Joel Griffiths, some interesting facts emerged . It is now no secret that our atomic bomb program created fluoride waste. It is used to create uranium hexafluoride in the process of separating uranium 235 in ore. There are still rusting cans of sodium hexafluoride in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, contaminating the workers while awaiting disposal. But while the first atomic bomb was being produced, the fluoride waste was a closely guarded secret, and because of its intense toxicity, its disposal became a serious problem. The first waste fluoride from atomic bomb production resulted in run-off that entered local waterways and resulted in “dead” lakes because the fluoride had killed animal and plant life in the lakes.

By ignorance and carelessness, chemical industries in New Jersey producing bomb-grade uranium during WWII allowed an escape of waste fluoride into the air, severely damaging fruit trees and animal life downwind of these industries. A legal suit brought by people living in New Jersey for their damages was silenced by payoffs to the plaintiffs.

The problem of disposal of fluoride waste had to be resolved in a manner that disguised its true nature. Thus arose the fluoridation concept. With very little evidence and no adequate testing, a campaign was mounted to trickle away the waste fluoride into multiple community water supplies for the supposed benefit of dental decay prevention.

Why Does the Deception Continue?

What keeps the deception going? World War II is history. Why does the PHS (now called Health and Human Services) continue the pretense of fluoridation safety? Read on. Aluminum manufacturing also results in fluoride waste, so the plan of disposing fluoride into municipal water supplies was a great boon for the aluminum industry, saving them millions of dollars in disposal costs. In 1947, Oscar Ewing, chief legal counsel for Aluminum Company of America (ALCOA), was named head of Federal Security Administration, an overseer of the PHS. It was he who changed the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) to remove fluoride from the regulations that control food levels of other potentially toxic materials, and placed all control of drinking water fluoride concentration in the hands of the PHS. He then made fluoridation promotion an official policy of the PHS. This, of course, led to subversion of science in order to maintain the fiction of fluoride’s dental benefits and supposed safety. Scientists willing to go along with the deception were rewarded with secure positions within the PHS and other government agencies. Scientists unwilling to do this found their careers halted or destroyed.

The climate of the times dictated the rise of the pseudo-science that persists today in the fluoridation scam. The climate is now changed but the beat goes on. We are in an era of liability litigation. To admit to fluoridation-caused dental fluorosis and other toxic fluoride effects at this time would instigate a huge volume of liability legal suits. The fiction must be kept alive.

Publically Opposing Fluoridation is Career Suicide

When Dr. Phyllis Mullenix of Harvard published her research on the brain-damaging effect of fluoride in rodents, she lost all funding of future planned research projects. Her mentor, Dr. Harold C. Hodge, was one of her senior advisors on this research. According to Mullenix, during the early days of atom bomb building, Hodge had a leading role in the medical surveillance of the project, during which he observed brain damage in workers exposed to fluoride. He initiated a study to investigate it. This study was aborted after six months by orders from the War Department.

In 1965 Hodge (with Frank A. Smith) wrote his magnum opus, Fluorine Chemistry, and never mentioned a central nervous system problem from fluoride. While senior advisor to the Mullenix research in the 1990s, he also never mentioned it. He kept his professorships and his silence on this matter to his grave.

Mullenix only found out about Hodge's deception through an investigative journalist who uncovered letters about the project through the Freedom of Information Act. The fact that punishment befalls the government-employed scientist who questions fluoridation is not commonly known. Here are some examples from the past 30 years that I personally know about.

When Dr. Grey, senior public health dental officer in British Columbia, published his report in the Journal of the Canadian Dental Association (JADA) showing no fluoridation dental benefit among British Columbia school children (and publicly questioned the usual claims of fluoride dental benefit), he was sent off to exile in the bowels of the national public health offices in Ottawa.

When Dr. John Colquhoun, senior public health dental officer in New Zealand, published his report showing no dental benefit to the schoolchildren of Auckland, he lost his post, was demoted, and forced to accept a lower retirement benefit than his due.

When William Marcus, PhD, chief scientist in the Office of Drinking Water at the EPA, publicly commented that independent scientific review of the PHS fluoride literature might be a good thing, he was fired. After a lengthy and expensive court battle, the judge ordered him reinstated with a raise in salary, all court costs paid, and to receive a handsome cash settlement from the EPA.

When Carolyn Albrecht, MD, public health officer in Marin County and medical colleague, learned of fluoride toxicity and attempted to get permission from the California State Public Health Service to stop fluoridation of the Marin Municipal Water District, she was given the choice of early retirement or being fired. She chose early retirement. Many other examples could be provided. The pattern, I believe, is evident to anyone who chooses to look.

It's Time for the Public to Speak Up

Since so many countries have chosen not to fluoridate their drinking water, potential markets for that mode of fluoride disposal have literally evaporated. Therefore, sites here in the U.S. become even more important to the fluoride-generating industries. The underlying motive for the Food and Nutrition Board's classification of fluoride as a nutritionally essential element is merely an attempt to “validate” fluoridation. Industry needs fluoridation as a dumpsite for their toxic fluoride waste. Without it, industry suffers. With it, the people suffer. Who has political power in America? The people should, but the reality is that industry has the political clout in America today. Only an educated and aroused citizenry will get our government back on course to safeguard and serve the people as it is intended to do.

A recent occurrence gives me hope that Americans can become outraged enough about the fluoride scam to force the government to change its policy. Thanks to a massive public outcry, on January 21, 1999, the U S Department of Agriculture (USDA) reversed its previous position that would have significantly diluted the definition of “organic food.“ It now plans to issue rules prohibiting the label “organic” for any food that is irradiated, genetically engineered, or treated with pesticides or antibiotics. It took 280,000 letters to get the government’s attention on this matter. If the USDA can decide to help people choose food that is not contaminated with a pesticide, why doesn’t the PHS and the Food and Nutrition Board help people to drink water that is not contaminated with the pesticide fluoride?


The issue of fluoridation of community water has direct application to women at risk for osteoporosis and hip fracture. About five years ago, I reviewed all of the available scientific literature on hip fractures and fluoride, and wrote a paper on my findings, which was published in the journal Fluoride (Vol.26 No.4, 274-277, 1993). In it I pointed out that fluoride’s bone effect is considered by most authorities world-wide to be toxic; bone density on x-rays may increase, but further study reveals areas of bone destruction and an increase of fracture rates, especially in the hips.

Eight of the ten studies I reviewed showed a considerably increased risk of hip fracture in fluoridated communities as compared to non-fluoridated communities. The two that didn’t show increased risk were done on older postmenopausal women who had been exposed to fluoridated water for less than five years. If you are at risk for osteoporosis, I would strongly recommend that you avoid exposure to fluoride through water and toothpaste.



Good Reasons to Avoid Fluoride

  • Fluoride has never received FDA approval and does not meet the legal requirements of safety and effectiveness necessary for such approval.

  • Fluoride is a pharmacologically active substance unrelated to water purification. There is no possibility of obtaining individual informed consent for medication with this experimental drug when it is placed in a public water system. For this reason, fluoridation violates the Nuremberg Code of medical ethics and human rights.

  • A worldwide decline in human tooth decay has occurred at the same rate in populations exposed to elevated fluoride levels and in populations not exposed to elevated fluoride levels. This decline in tooth decay has been superstitiously attributed to fluoride.

  • Medical research shows that hip fractures are 20 to 40 percent higher in fluoridated communities.

  • Fluorosis is a permanent malformation of tooth enamel characterized by discoloration and brittleness. The fluoride dose administered without prescription to everyone in community drinking water is expected to cause dental fluorosis in 10 percent of children. Actual Public Health Service figures show that 30 percent of children in fluoridated localities have dental fluorosis, and 10 percent of children in non-fluoridated areas now have fluorosis.

  • Ingested fluoride is deposited in bones as well as teeth. X-rays show abnormal bone structure in children with dental fluorosis.

  • Fluorides are used in biochemistry laboratories to stop enzyme activity. The have the same effect on enzyme activity in the human body.

  • Normal water filtration systems do not eliminate fluoride. Only reverse osomosis or distillation will remove fluoride once it’s in the water.

Source: Health Action Network


  • Write a letter to your congressional representatives, both in the House and in the Senate, telling them that you oppose fluoridation of community water supplies.

  • Write a letter to toothpaste manufacturers urging them to remove fluoride from their toothpaste, and support those who offer non-fluoridated toothpastes.

  • Do not let your children participate in fluoride “rinse” programs at school, which expose them to unacceptably high fluoride levels. Young children do not have good control over their swallowing reflex, and often swallow all or part of a fluoride rinse.

  • Find out whether your community has fluoridated water, and if it does, take action to have it removed.

  • If attempts are made to fluoridate your community water, take strong action to fight it. You can find support in how to go about this from the Health Action Network website listed above.

References for Fluoride Article

1. Foch CB. The costs, effects, and benefits of preventive dental care: a literature review. Rand Publication N-1732-RWJF, Dec 1981.

2. Information from Robert Carton, PhD, previously of the Environmental Protection Agency.

3. Mullenix PJ, Denbesten PK, Schunior A, Kernan WJ. Neurotoxicity of sodium fluoride in rats. Neurotoxicology and Teratology, 1995; 17: 169-177.

4. Gray AS. Fluoridation: time for a new baseline? J Canadian Dental Assoc., 1987; 53: 763-5.

5. Colquhoun J. Fluoridation in New Zealand: new evidence. American Laboratory, 1985; 17(5): 66-72 and 17(6): 98-102.

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