Home | Archives | Advertisers | Events | Links | Contact Us | Ad Info | Book Reviews

Spring 2001
Issue 17

Awakening The Buddhist Heart
An Interview with Lama Surya Das

By Peter Moore

My Father's Clouds:
A Line In The Sand

By John Borowski

On The Path:
The Wonder of Bamboo

By Bob Czimbal

Live Foods for Life
By John Checkal

Toxic Waste in the Public Well:
The Lie About Fluoride
or Why I No Longer Feed My Kid
Rat Poison
By Miriam Green

Physicians' Perspective:
In Harm's Way:
Toxic Threats to Child Development

By Dr. Rick Bayer

Building with Oregon Cob
A Leap of the Imagination

By Becky Kemery

Leaving Home:
Singing Off Key

By Ness Mountain

Taking Refuge
By SarahJoy Marsh

Spring Greens
By Sharol Tilgner, ND

Listening to the Wildflowers
By Camilla Bishop

Tongue in Cheek
about Obsessive/Compulsive Behaviors & Other Oral Traditions

By Kalab Honey

Toxic Waste in the Public Well
The Lie About Fluoride or Why I No Longer Feed My Kid Rat Poison

By Miriam Green

I remember standing in the kitchen with my daughter when she was a little girl. I was about to give her an orange or purple tablet from a bottle of pills her doctor had prescribed.

My friend Celeste was visiting, and asked about the pills.

I told her it was a prescription for fluoride.

"I wouldn't give my kid rat poison," she replied.

That was my introduction to the question of fluoride.

"Sodium fluoride acts as an internal poison to insects, and is frequently used in poison baits for Cockroaches, Earwigs, and other pests..." (Bailliere's Encyclopaedia of Scientific Agriculture, 1931, p. 601.)

As a little girl in Seattle, I remember my mother adding fluoride drops to my breakfast juice. It was supposed to make my teeth healthy.

"Fluoride is the only site contaminant which may cause adverse health effects to workers. Fluoride levels can result in an increase in the incidence of dental caries and skeletal fluorosis." (From the report, Public Health Assessment, Reynolds Metals Company, Troutdale, Multnomah County, Oregon, CERCLIS NO. ORD009412677, January 14, 1997, http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/HAC/PHA/reynolds/rmc_toc.html)

Unravelling the Lie
I tend to be a packrat of obscure information. If something strikes my interest, I do what all good packrats do. For better or worse, I start collecting.

Celeste's comment got me thinking about fluoride. What was the truth of the matter? Every time I came across a health-related book, I'd check to see if it referenced fluoride.

I soon came across the writings of Dr. Paavo Airola, Dr. Robert Mendelsohn, and Nurse Elben (first name not indicated). These works categorized fluoridation of drinking water as a scam, a hoax, useless, or fraudulent.

It was the investigative work of Dr. F. B. Exner, though, that exposed the incestuous relationship between the powerful industries which produce fluoride, and the U.S. Public Health Service, which instituted fluoridation policy in the 1940's and awarded grant money to the American Dental Association in fluoridation's early days.

"Question. Would there be any use in making attempts to counteract the local fear of fluoride on the part of residents of Salem and Gloucester counties through lectures on F toxicology and perhaps the usefulness of F in tooth health?" (Harold C. Hodge, Chief Pharmacologist, in letter of May 1, 1946 to Col. S. L. Warren, Manhattan Project; letter concerned government and industry response to litigation filed by orchard owners over air-borne fluoride damage to crops; government was connected as fluoride was a component/byproduct of nuclear bomb production; Pages 86 and 87 of declassified government documents uncovered by Joel Griffiths and Chris Bryson; see 1998 Project Censored award winner: "Fluoride, Teeth and the Atomic Bomb." http://www.fluoridealert.org/wastenot414.htm)

Perhaps I should give you the other side of this story. I should quote proponents and say, "Hey, fluoride is wonderful! It's good for your teeth! Drink up and be merry!"

But I don't want to lie to you.

Darlene Sherrell is a woman who has devoted her life to working against fluoridation--since it almost killed her. She is a walking encyclopedia of fluoride knowledge. She read and analyzed the medical and scientific reports published on the subject--and found something curious:

The numbers alleging safety of fluoride dosages and toxicity levels published in scientific abstracts (summaries) were not the same as those used in the research papers on which the abstracts were based.

A numbers game. Was anyone paying attention? For more along these lines, see http://www.ia4u.net/~sherrell.

"In my view, the evidence is quite convincing that the addition of sodium fluoride to the public water supply at one part per million is extremely deleterious to the human body, and, a review of the evidence will disclose that there was no convincing evidence to the contrary." (The Hon. John P. Flaherty, Justice, Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, letter of July 31, 1979)

"Cancer of the thyroid has been linked to highly fluoridated water." (Healthy Healing, Tenth Ed., Winner Best Alternative Health Book 1998, p. H339)

"High fluoride content in community water supplies has been linked to increased bone loss and fractures in pre- and post-menopausal women in a study reported in a recent issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology." (The Oregonian, May 16, 1991)

The truth is, the obsession over whether or not fluoridation of water supplies is healthy for children's teeth is simply a distraction from what is really going on. So here are the issues, in plain English:

Fluoride: What Exactly Is It?
Proponents will tell you that it's a natural substance. It's been around forever, and it's nothing to worry about.

They don't tell you that the fluoride used in the majority of U.S. water fluoridation programs is a hazardous waste by-product of the phosphate fertilizer industry.

Maybe you won't believe me when I say that. So I'll give you the scoop "from the horse's mouth," so to speak.

To understand fluoride, I contacted Gary Pittman. I came across Gary's name when I read a copy of a letter he wrote to Congress about fluoride toxicity and damage.

Gary Pittman spent 21 years in Florida making phosphate fertilizer, and its byproduct--fluoride--for a living. He supervised 80-100 people for many of those years.

I asked Gary how fluoride was made, and he gave me the basic recipe. First, you take phosphate rock from the earth. Add water and sulfuric acid. That creates phosphoric acid, which gives off hydrogen fluoride. You send the mix to an evaporation unit to cook.

The heat drives off the fluoride. You trap the vapors off the phosphoric acid, which is "black as tar." You condense the vapors. That's fluoride--also known as fluosilicic acid, hydrofluosilicic acid or sodium fluorosilicate.

Gary explained that fluoride itself is second in toxicity to arsenic, and more toxic than lead. Fluosilicic acid, as byproduct of the phosphate fertilizer industry, contains industrial carcinogens like arsenic, lead, cadmium, uranium, radium, radon and polonium.

Fluosilicic acid will eat concrete and asphalt, Gary says. It's noxious--it burns your nose; you can't breathe it. On your skin, it's "the worst acid in the world."

Fluoride attaches to things--aluminum, metal, sodium. It takes many forms. It has biological effects. Gary Pittman explained that fluoride crosses the blood-brain barrier. He mentioned former co-workers who had brain tumors, symptoms similar to Alzheimer's, and multiple chemical sensitivity.

Gary was exposed to fluoride by drinking water from the faucet at work, as fluoride had gotten into the groundwater. He was exposed by breathing the vapors, and by contact with his skin.

At age 47, Gary is disabled, suffering from so many health problems it is difficult for him to list them all. Gary sued the phosphate industry for damage to his health, and finally received a settlement. Over 100 other workers have a class action lawsuit pending against the phosphate industry for health damage.

I asked Gary whether his teeth were healthy.

Gary Pittman told me he has eight real teeth. The rest are porcelain, crowns and caps.

Fluoride: How Much Are We Already Getting?
U.S. water fluoridation policy originally came into being primarily to obscure the fact that literally tons of fluoride were being put into the air by industry and government. If fluoride were to be added to drinking water, and later people filed lawsuits for fluoride damage, industry and government could claim innocence, pointing instead to the side-effects of fluoride in the water as the cause and the necessary trade-off that one should put up with in exchange for supposedly healthier teeth.

Dr. F. B. Exner was one of the people who devoted his life to investigating fluoridation. (Since the inception of mandatory fluoridation programs some 50 years ago, there have been many.) His 1961 article, "Economic Motives Behind Fluoride," references some of our Oregon fluoride producers. Dr. Exner has long since died; but I quote several sections from his article on the premise that he'd be pleased that his work lives on--though probably unhappy that 40 years later, we're still dealing with this issue.

"The situation regarding aluminum was much worse. Aluminum is made by electrolysis of bauxite (aluminum oxide) in a bath of molten cryolite (sodium Aluminum fluoride), either artificial or the natural mineral.

"In a typical plant, with four "pot lines" of 128 "pots" each, five tons of fluorine (as cryolite, aluminum fluoride, and calcium fluoride) were added each day to replenish losses. Of this, the company estimated that 7,000 pounds a day escaped into the atmosphere.

"This plant, at Troutdale, Oregon, was built and operated for the Government by Alcoa during the war. In 1946, it was rented from the Government by Reynolds Metals who demanded that air-cleaning equipment first be installed. This was done at a cost of more than $270,000. This cut the emission to less than 4,000 pounds per day.

"Additional controls were installed in 1950, at a cost of more than $2 million, and cut the emission to less than half a ton per day."

The article continues a few paragraphs later...

"The story elsewhere is similar--at Sauvie Island, Longview, Tacoma, Spokane--with extensive damage to crops, land, and live-stock.

"At the Dalles, Oregon, vegetation was analyzed both before and after the plant was built. The plant was opened July 26, 1958. On June 30, the average fluorine content of seven crops grown within a mile of the factory was 3 ppm. After 73 days of factory operation it had jumped to 140 ppm. The following year, peaches contained up to 22 ppm of fluorine; and many suffered from the condition called "soft suture".

"At Longview, the people voted down fluoridation in 1952. A few years later, children started to show mottled teeth; whereupon the Council put in fluoridation without a vote. Now the mottling can be blamed on the water rather than the aluminum plant."

Exner's 1961 article mentions that Washington State University had conducted fluorine studies in Washington and Oregon in the early years. Apparently these studies didn't return the kind of results wanted by the powers that be. The University was presumably penalized by having its NIH research grants cut. Meanwhile the University of Washington, which had an "Environmental Research Laboratory" but had "made no study of fluorine since 1951" received 94% more in research grant money.

That was 40 years ago. How many tons a day are now being pumped into the air? Is anyone keeping track?

In checking the Washington State University online database, I found no reference to fluorine monitoring since the time of Dr. Exner's article.

Citizens' Right to Know
There is some monitoring going on now, though it is far from comprehensive. The "Right to Know Network Database" is a searchable database which allows the user to search and sort contaminant emissions by geographical location, by name or type of contaminant, or by company name. (http://www.rtk.net/) Right to Know gets its information from a copy of EPA's TRIS database.

I got into it and listed hydrogen fluoride emissions, by company and amount, for the state of Oregon, as well as Clark County and Longview, Washington. (The EPA has a Hazardous Air Pollution Synonym List that equates Hydrogen Fluoride with Hydrofluoric Acid; page C-3 of http://www.epa.gov/ttn/chief/eidocs/airtoxic.pdf.)

In southern Washington we get local hydrogen fluoride emissions from Reynolds Metals Co. in Longview, and from Vanalco Inc. and SEH-America, Inc. in Vancouver. In Oregon, several companies release fluoride emissions. These include (but are not limited to) Reynolds Metals Co. (Alcoa) in Troutdale; Northwest Aluminum Co. Inc. in The Dalles; Wah Chang Albany in Albany; Large Parts Campus (a division of Precision Castparts Corp.) in Portland; Mitsubishi Silicon America in Salem; and Wacker Siltronic Corp. in Portland.

People today get fluoride from other sources as well. We get it in grape (and other) juices, from insecticide residue. We get it in much of our foods, which are grown or processed with fluoridated water. We get high doses in both black tea and green tea. We get it in certain medications, including some major anti-depressants. We get it in the air as industrial emissions. And we get it in dental products and treatments. (See also http://www.nofluoride.com/consumption.htm)

Water fluoridation proponents claim that 1 ppm is the "optimal" dose of fluoride we should be getting. Yet the "safety margin" for this hazardous waste substance is extremely thin--and fluoride bio-accumulates in a person's body.

Shouldn't we know how much fluoride we are already eating, drinking and (especially) breathing, before we decide to add fluoride to the drinking water?

Fluoride: Why Is Government Still Promoting It?
"In regard to the use of fluosilicic acid as a source of fluoride for fluoridation, this Agency regards such use as an ideal environmental solution to a long-standing problem. By recovering by-product fluosilicic acid from fertilizer manufacturing, water and air pollution are minimized, and water utilities have a low-cost source of fluoride available to them." (March 30, 1983 letter from Rebecca Hanmer, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Water, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.)

If a hazardous waste product is sold, rather than disposed of as waste, it becomes a product, rather than an environmental liability. A product generates income. Hazardous waste generates--well, hazardous waste disposal fees, of course. And hazardous waste landfills.

The Seattle Times in July of 1997 reported on how hazardous waste becomes fertilizer. As in the case of fluoride, hazardous waste is "recycled" into our food chain by way of the fertilizer industry.

"'When it goes into our silo, it's a hazardous waste,' said Bay Zinc President Dick Camp. 'When it comes out of the silo, it's no longer regulated. The exact same material. Don't ask me why. That's the wisdom of the EPA.'" (The Seattle Times: Fear in the fields: Part 1 - How hazardous wastes become fertilizer, July 3, 1997).

So why is government/industry still disposing of fluoride in community water supplies?

Embarrassment? Fear of Litigation? Inability to be Accountable? Economics? Status Quo? Or is it simply that government still believes that the solution to pollution is dilution, and industry would much prefer to make money off the "product" than pay to dispose of the environmental contaminant?

Gary Pittman was not optimistic about our chances of keeping Oregon's water free of mandatory fluoridation. He says that industry is running out of places to dump it, and most foreign countries won't accept it. That leaves the most convenient avenue--the one that's been used for over half a century--still open. It's simple. Just convince people to pollute their clean drinking water on purpose with a known hazardous waste. Convince them, in the absence of any credible scientific evidence, that it's good for them.

"Hey, fluoride is wonderful! It's good for your teeth! Drink up and be merry!"

Miriam Green is an independent distributor of Multi-Pure water filtration systems, a member of the National Writers Union, UAW Local 1981/AFL-CIO, a legal secretary and a college student. For information on water filtration, email Miriam: waterwoman@hevanet.com. To help keep our water safe from hazardous waste additives, email Oregon Citizens for Safe Drinking Water: ocsdw@qwest.net or phone 503-675-7451.

eMail the editor

Top | eMail Alternatives | Home 

Site updated Fall 09