And Why Do We Add Fluoride Into Water?

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fluoridebagThe US Government's conflict of interest and its motive to prove fluoride safe in the furious debate over water fluoridation since the 1950s has only now been made clear to the general public, let alone to civilian researchers, health professionals and journalists. The declassified documents resonate with a growing body of scientific evidence and a chorus of questions about the health effects of fluoride in the environment.

Human exposure to fluoride has mushroomed since World War II, due not only to fluoridated water and toothpaste but to environmental pollution by major industries, from aluminum to pesticides, where fluoride is a critical industrial chemical as well as a waste by-product.

The impact can be seen literally in the smiles of our children. Large numbers (up to 80 per cent in some cities) of young Americans now have dental fluorosis, the first visible sign of excessive fluoride exposure according to the US National Research Council. (The signs are whitish flecks or spots, particularly on the front teeth, or dark spots or stripes in more severe cases.)

Less known to the public is that fluoride also accumulates in bones. "The teeth are windows to what's happening in the bones," explained Paul Connett, Professor of Chemistry at St Lawrence University, New York, to these reporters. In recent years, pediatric bone specialists have expressed alarm about an increase in stress fractures among young people in the US. Connett and other scientists are concerned that fluoride-linked to bone damage in studies since the 1930s-may be a contributing factor.

The declassified documents add urgency: much of the original 'proof ' that low-dose fluoride is safe for children's bones came from US bomb program scientists, according to this investigation.

Now, researchers who have reviewed these declassified documents fear that Cold War national security considerations may have prevented objective scientific evaluation of vital public health questions concerning fluoride.

"Information was buried," concludes Dr Phyllis Mullenix, former head of toxicology at Forsyth Dental Center in Boston and now a critic of fluoridation. Animal studies which Mullenix and co-workers conducted at Forsyth in the early 1990s indicated that fluoride was a powerful central nervous system (CNS) toxin and might adversely affect human brain functioning even at low doses.

(New epidemiological evidence from China adds support, showing a correlation between low-dose fluoride exposure and diminished IQ in children.) Mullenix's results were published in 1995 in a reputable peer-reviewed scientific journal.2

During her investigation, Mullenix was astonished to discover there had been virtually no previous US studies of fluoride's effects on the human brain. Then, her application for a grant to continue her CNS research was turned down by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), when an NIH panel flatly told her that "fluoride does not have central nervous system effects".

Declassified documents of the US atomic bomb program indicate otherwise. A Manhattan Project memorandum of 29 April 1944 states: "Clinical evidence suggests that uranium hexafluoride may have a rather marked central nervous system effect...

It seems most likely that the F [code for fluoride] component rather than the T [code for uranium] is the causative factor." The memo, from a captain in the medical corps, is stamped SECRET and is addressed to Colonel Stafford Warren, head of the Manhattan Project's Medical Section. Colonel Warren is asked to approve a program of animal research on CNS effects. "Since work with these compounds is essential, it will be necessary to know in advance what mental effects may occur after exposure... This is important not only to protect a given individual, but also to prevent a confused workman from injuring others by improperly performing his duties."

On the same day, Colonel Warren approved the CNS research program. This was in 1944, at the height of World War II and the US nation's race to build the world's first atomic bomb.

For research on fluoride's CNS effects to be approved at such a momentous time, the supporting evidence set forth in the proposal forwarded along with the memo must have been persuasive. The proposal, however, is missing from the files at the US National Archives. "If you find the memos but the document they refer to is missing, it's probably still classified," said Charles Reeves, chief librarian at the Atlanta branch of the US National Archives and Records Administration where the memos were found. Similarly, no results of the Manhattan Project's fluoride CNS research could be found in the files.

After reviewing the memos, Mullenix declared herself "flabbergasted". "How could I be told by NIH that fluoride has no central nervous system effects, when these documents were sitting there all the time?" She reasons that the Manhattan Project did do fluoride CNS studies:

"That kind of warning, that fluoride workers might be a danger to the bomb program by improperly performing their duties - I can't imagine that would be ignored."

But she suggests that the results were buried because of the difficult legal and public relations problems they might create for the government. In other words, the government could be (should be) charged with murder !!

The author of the 1944 CNS research proposal attached to the 29 April memo was Dr Harold C. Hodge-at the time, chief of fluoride toxicology studies for the University of Rochester division of the Manhattan Project.

Nearly 50 years later at the Forsyth Dental Center in Boston, Dr Mullenix was introduced to a gently ambling elderly man, brought in to serve as a consultant on her CNS research. This man was Harold C. Hodge. By then, Hodge had achieved status emeritus as a world authority on fluoride safety. "But even though he was supposed to be helping me," said Mullenix, "he never once mentioned the CNS work he had done for the Manhattan Project."

The "black hole" in fluoride CNS research since the days of the Manhattan Project is unacceptable to Mullenix who refuses to abandon the issue. "There is so much fluoride exposure now, and we simply do not know what it is doing. You can't just walk away from this."

Dr Antonio Noronha, an NIH scientific review advisor familiar with Dr Mullenix's grant request, told us that her proposal was rejected by a scientific peer-review group. He termed her claim of institutional bias against fluoride CNS research "far-fetched". He then added: "We strive very hard at NIH to make sure politics does not enter the picture."

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