The History of Water Fluoridation
by Darlene Sherrell
Fluorine isn't created in a laboratory. It's a natural element, present in virtually all food and water supplies. It gets into the atmosphere when volcanoes erupt, when coal is burned, and when metals are heated. It would be impossible to devise a diet free of fluoride.There have always been a few areas in the United States where the native population developed a condition formerly called Texas teeth, Colorado brown stain, or mottled enamel; but for a long time, no one knew why.
In 1931, researchers finally discovered that fluoride in the well water of these areas was responsible, and the condition came to be known as dental fluorosis.
During the period when the teeth are developing, fluoride poisons the cells which create dental enamel, causing changes in the structure and appearance of the teeth. In very mild cases, the result can often be described as "beautiful white teeth." In other cases there are opaque white flecks or spots in the otherwise normal translucent enamel. If the dose is high enough, the enamel can be rough, pitted, brittle, and easily stained, with portions of the tooth breaking away. These severely mottled teeth were the cases that caused alarm.
Since the defect is caused only when the teeth are forming, adults who drank the same water and ate the same foods were not affected – at least not so you would notice.
Water supplies and typical diets were analyzed throughout the country. Warning signs were posted, advising people not to use high fluoride water for cooking, or to let their children drink it. Communities began removing fluoride from public water supplies.
At the same time, industries like Alcoa were selling fluorides for use as rat poison and insecticide. No one was crazy enough to suggest we put it in toothpaste, or deliberately add it to the water.
Beginning around the turn of the century, numerous law suits were brought against aluminum, steel, fertilizer and brick industries. Factories dumped fluoride into rivers and streams, and polluted the air with smokestack emissions.
By the late 1930s over fifty industries were having trouble finding a market for their fluoride wastes. Lawsuits over damage to crops and livestock were becoming a serious problem, and the cost of removing fluoride from public water supplies was growing.
The Journal of the American Medical Association labeled fluoride a "protoplasmic poison" capable of interfering with vital enzymes, and suspected of causing thyroid problems. H.T. Dean, D.D.S., director of dental research for the U.S. Public Health Service, warned that fluoride at any level in water is harmful to some people. The dental journals published papers describing methods of removing brown stains from teeth; and several dentists wrote about the high incidence of periodontal disease in the fluoride areas. They also complained about teeth breaking when they tried to fill cavities.
Between 1921 and 1932, Andrew Mellon served as Secretary of the Treasury, a job which placed him in charge of the United States Public Health Service. In 1939, Andrew Mellon was running the Aluminum Company of America. It was one of his research fellows at the Mellon Institute who first suggested a new use for fluoride.
University of Pittsburgh biochemist, Dr. Gerald Cox, worked for two masters. One, the leading aluminum company, faced with litigation for disposing of fluoride waste into waterways; and two, the Sugar Institute, whose aim was to stop recognition of sugar as a cause of dental disease.
If fluoride could be seen as a nutrient, rather than as a poison, and if cavities could be avoided without restricting sugar consumption, both sponsors would be happy.
Cox's idea would turn the burden of an unwanted waste into corporate profit.
Based on the effects of selected diets fed pregnant and lactating rats, he boldly defied earlier policy when he wrote, "the present trend toward the removal of fluorine from food and water may need some reversals."
Cox didn't have any solid research to back him up. His own paper, published in the Journal of Dental Research in 1939, shows the rats who got more fluoride had more cavities; but that didn't really matter. It was his conclusion, at the end of the article, which got all the attention.
Cox also cited early studies by Armstrong and Brekhus, who had reported higher levels of fluoride in the dental enamel of sound teeth than in teeth with cavities. However, Armstrong later invalidated his findings, and he reported in the same journal, February, 1963: "No difference in fluoride content of enamel of sound teeth from that of the sound enamel of carious teeth was found with teeth of persons in the same decade of life."
The only other bit of information available to Cox was the comment by researchers in areas where mottled enamel was common. They said the teeth didn't appear to have more cavities, in spite of their structural defects. They didn't say they had fewer cavities: they just said that they didn't have more.
Dr. Cox, sponsored by aluminum and sugar interests, prepared six summaries of the literature on tooth decay for the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Research Council, the liaison between industry and government. These led to the Council's endorsement of fluoridation.
The national clearing house for fluoride research became the Kettering Laboratory at the University of Cincinnati. This program was initiated by several of its sponsors, whose concern was the effect of industrial exposure to fluorides. The sponsors include the Aluminum Company of America, Aluminum Company of Canada, Ltd., American Petroleum Institute, Columbia-Geneva Steel Company, E.I. DuPont de Nemours, Harshaw Chemical Company, Kaiser Aluminum and Chemicals Corporation, Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company, Pennsylvania Salt Manufacturing Company, Reynolds Metals Company, Tennessee Valley Authority, and the Universal Oil Products Company.
Many of the industries sponsoring Kettering Laboratory's research produce fluoride as a chemical waste. They in turn sell the waste to public water supply systems for use as a dietary supplement.
Kettering Lab abstracts – not the research papers published in the various medical, dental, industrial, and public health journals, – are used when preparing government sponsored documents promoting water fluoridation. In many cases, there are outrageous discrepancies between the abstracts and the articles they purport to describe. Kettering's contract stipulates that the corporation can withhold publication of results unfavorable to its interests. They have also been responsible for a great deal of misinformation regarding the more subtle effects of lead poisoning. (See Oil Facts, July/August 1962.)
Your dentist has probably seen a great deal of profluoridation material supplied by the American Dental Association and the National Institute of Dental Research. Most health professionals are much too busy to read all the material published in the various journals, so they rely on abstracts and reviews of the scientific literature. Unfortunately, they do not realize that most of what they see has been prepared by people whose funding comes directly from the industries whose fluoride pollution problems were the incentive to fluoridate in the first place.
Fluoride is just one of forty one elements found in dental enamel. Others include lithium, cadmium, silicon, manganese, boron, vanadium, phosphorus, magnesium, strontium, beryllium, aluminum, sulfur, titanium, vanadium, chromium, iron, cobalt, zinc, selenium, niobium, molybdenum, zirconium, tin, iodine, and lead. While generous levels of calcium and magnesium in a water supply will improve dental health, high levels of copper will destroy it.
In 1940 the Journal of Dental Research contained a report describing a survey of the inhabitants of St. David, Arizona. The water supplies contained from 1.6 to 4 parts per million of fluoride. There was no apparent dental benefit from fluoride. In fact, more than half the people in all age groups over the age of 23 had artificial dentures. Only one person beyond the age of 21 was found free from cavities.
On December 19, 1942, Collier's printed an article called, "The Town Without a Toothache," about Hereford, Texas, with 2.5 ppm fluoride naturally present in water. Hereford's rich fertile soil produces food high in tooth building minerals, especially calcium, magnesium and phosphorus, but this fact was overlooked.
There weren't any comparisons made between similar groups, where fluoride was the only difference in the water or food supply. There weren't any safety studies to determine whether or not the high levels of fluoride were causing any adverse health effects. No one knew exactly what they should be looking for, so they relied on Xrays.
Instead, a trial was begun in two sets of cities. Grand Rapids, Michigan, was the first city to have fluoride added to the water supply, with Muskegon as the control. The trial – they dared not call it an experiment – was to last for ten years.
In 1947, Oscar Ewing, formerly Washington D.C. counsel for Alcoa, became U.S. Social Security Administrator – in charge of the Public Health Service. Three years later, when it was noted that dental health was improving in the nonfluoridated city of Muskegon just as rapidly as in Grand Rapids, the trial ended. Fluoridation was declared a success, and the control cities were fluoridated.
It was learned that so long as the dosage was below a certain level for the first eight years of life, the teeth would show only acceptable changes in their appearance; and in order to avoid the costly removal of all fluoride from drinking water supplies, a campaign was begun to promote acceptance of the first visible signs of fluoride poisoning.