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Ecologist p249

FLUORIDE - The Poison in our Midst

By Doris Grant

In October 1985, after a mediocre debate and abstentions by two-thirds of the MAPS, Parliament passed the Water (Fluoridation) Bill, by which it became legal for local authorities to fluoridate public water supplies. Doris Grant presents compelling reasons why both on health, as well as on moral grounds, we must vigorously resist fluoridation.

It is both tragic and ironic that the very section of the community which the Government's controversial Water Fluoridation Bill is alleged to benefit - children - is the one most likely to be harmed by fluoride.

As far back as 1952, at the hearings on Chemicals in Food and Cosmetics, Dr John Knudson of the United States Public Health Service, although pro-fluoridation, frankly admitted that no research had been done on the possible effect of artificial fluoridation on children suffering from malnutrition. The same year, the Journal of the American Dental Association published a warning by two investigators, Drs Massler and Schour, that "low levels of fluoride ingestion which are generally considered to be safe for the general population may not be safe for malnourished infants and children because of disturbances of calcium metabolism." In 1977, in The Total Science of the Environment, John R. Marier, Canadian National Research Council scientist, warned that "people with inadequate dietary intakes, particularly of calcium and/or vitamin C, are likely to be more 'at risk' as a consequence of long-term low dose fluoride ingestion."[1]

These warnings are of the gravest significance for Britain in the light of a shock report by Geoffrey Cannon and Caroline Walker witch appeared in The Observer of January 27 and February 3, 1985. It revealed that Britain is "the sick man, woman and child of Europe" and warned that the state of health of Britain's infants and children is deplorable, citing recent medical research showing that during the past 25 years childhood eczema has doubled[2] and childhood insulin dependent diabetes has increased sixfold.[3] Adolescent obesity is also a problem and, according to Dr Walter Barker, director of the Child Health Development Programme at Bristol University, there is "tremendous amount or minor recurring illness, like diarrhoea and chest infection that just shouldn't be there."

In the Government's own report, Fit For The Future (1976)[4], it frankly revealed that child health among the under-nourished in Britain is causing "profound anxiety", with an alarmingly high infant death rate compared to other countries, and much acute illness in childhood.

Particularly shocking is the state of health of infants and children in Scotland. According to The Observer report, more Scottish infants die in the first year of life of congenital malformations than in 17 other developed countries, and the incidence of foetal defects, including spina bifida, is much greater in Scotland (and in Northern Ireland) than in Portugal or Spain. It is also much higher than in other UK areas, so much so that the incidence of serious deformities of the central nervous system is known, emotively, as "The Celtic Curse". Arthur Wynn, scientist and statistician, and his wife Margaret, co-authors of Prevention of Handicap and the Health of Women (1979), found that women In Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales - though not going hungry - have the worst diet in terms of nutrients than any other developed countries. Their offspring, inevitably, are also badly nourished.

The Water Bill

The Scottish diet of white bread, cakes, pastries and refined sugar, with insufficient fresh fruit and leafy vegetables is deficient in a highly essential trace element - magnesium, until the past few decades "the forgotten mineral."[5] A paper published in The Proceedings of the Finnish Dental Society (1980)[6] revealed just how deficient in magnesium our diet has become. The author, John R. Marier, showed that the magnesium content of food has been falling since the first decade of this century and can be as much as 50 per cent lower than required. He also warned that the more severe the deficiency of magnesium, the greater the toxic effects of fluoride, "very low levels of dietary fluoride are toxic at ultra-low levels of dietary magnesium, whereas much higher levels of fluoride are innocuous when dietary magnesium is increased".

Marier's warnings have particular significance regarding the Water (Fluoridation) Bill. As well as tying up calcium, zinc, iron and other important minerals, fluoride 'locks-up magnesium,[7] forming near insoluble magnesium fluoride which the body cannot use. Fluoridation will therefore increase be already serious magnesium deficiency in the modern diet. This deficiency has detrimental effects on every cell in the body because magnesium is required for the work of some 200 enzymes.

Moreover, its removal by fluoride inhibits the cytochrome, oxygen-carrying enzymes which are of particular importance to the unborn and the very young. A deficiency of these enzymes - cytochrome C oxidase in particular - causes oxygen starvation in the cells acknowledged as one of the major causes of birth detects, Down's Syndrome, infant mortality, and cot death.

Magnesium is also involved in biochemical processes such as the structure of nucleic acids - the genetic substance which transmits normal hereditary traits from one generation to another. This deficiency, plus excess of fluoride can therefore increase the risk of bearing a malformed child. There are 30,000 malformed children born annually in Britain. Fluoridation could increase this number considerably, especially in Celtic Curse areas.

In June this year, in an open letter to John Mackay, Minister of Health for Scotland and George Younger, Secretary of State for Scotland, I drew attention to the shocking ill-health record of Scotland's infants and children, and the appalling extra risks to these children inherent in the Water (Fluoridation) Bill and its likely effect of fluoridation of their drinking water.

Their reply stated: "the safety or water fluoridation has been confirmed repeatedly by groups of scientific experts." In support of this a affirmation a number of 'major reviews' were cited which were undertaken by associations such as the World Health Organisation and the Royal College of Physicians.

Apart from the Knox Report,[8] published at the end of 1984, these 'major reviews' were undertaken in the 1970s: they mainly consisted of endorsements rather than original research. They have now been invalidated by new research in the 1980s proving serious harm from fluoride at the molecular level. As for the Knox Report, an eleven page review of it, The Knox Report on Fluoridation and Cancer was published by the National Anti-Fluoridation Campaign. Its author, George Stern, MA, MSc., Fellow of the Royal Statistical Society, trenchantly reduces its arguments to absurdity and reveals it as merely "a lengthy report which slightly and insignificantly alters what has been said before, and presents this as the answer". Mr Stern's chief criticism is Knox's omission of much pertinent scientific data - data which contradicts himself. As Stern points out, "Knox does tell us that in the Scottish case, the judge accepted that fluoridation did not increase cancer deaths. He does not tell us that three out of four judges in the USA ruled the other way" - on the same evidence. As Dr George Waldbott has observed, "Omission of pertinent scientific data is at best a demonstration of poor scholarship; when the health of millions is at stake, however, it is intolerable."

Compelling Evidence of Harm

In 1981, research by John Emsley and his team at King's College, London, reported in New Scientist of January 22, 1981, revealed that they had round a mechanism at the molecular level whereby the allegedly 'chemical inert' fluoride ion could disrupt enzymes and DNA. It could thus be "responsible for the serious charges being laid at fluoride's door: genetic damage, birth defects, cancer and allergy".

Later in 1981, two Soviet researchers provided independent support for the validity of John Emsley's findings. In the October issue of Fluoride they reported fluoride interference with RNA (a close relation of DNA).

In 1982, Japanese researchers at the Nippon Dental College, Tokyo, provided still more independent support for John Emsley's findings. In The Japan Times of August 24, they reported studies showing that fluoride, as used in topical applications to teeth, induced genetic damage and irregular synthesis of DNA in mammalian cells.[9] A leading opponent, Professor Martin Smellie, promptly dismissed these highly disturbing findings because "the doses of fluoride used in the Japanese tests were too high - at least 70 times higher than what is proposed to add to drinking water"

The Japanese tests, however, were undertaken to investigate the potential hazards of high doses of fluoride used in topical applications (9,000 ppm) to teeth, and in fluoride rinses (250-500 ppm). The highest dose of fluoride used in the tests - 57 ppm - was nearly 158 times less than that used in topical applications to teeth, and nearly nine times less than the highest dose used in mouth rinses!

In 1985, a new study by three scientists at the Department or Chemistry of the University of California, San Diego, provided the first ever solid evidence of the mechanism by which fluoride can inhibit enzymes and wreak its harm on health.[10] This study, reported in New Scientist of February 28, used X-ray analysis to compare the structure of a fluoridated enzyme with that of a normal one. According to the New Scientist report, "A disturbing picture emerges. Fluoride switches off the enzyme by attacking its weakest links - the delicately balanced network of hydrogen bonds surrounding the enzyme's active sites."

It is of special significance that the enzyme featuring in the San Diego study is cytochrome C oxidase - the same oxygen-carrying respiratory enzyme a deficiency of which is linked to cancer and to cot death and other tragedies of babyhood. This American study therefore provided incontrovertible confirmation of the fluorid/cot death hypothesis put forward in 'Fluoride: The Threat To Your Children' in Here's Health (April, l984).

The reply to my open letter to the Minister of Health and the Secretary of State for Scotland insisted that there was nothing in the San Diego study "which would change the Government's conviction that fluoridation is safe". The reason given was that, "It has been known for many years that fluoride at very high concentrations can inhibit or enhance the action of many enzymes. Direct enzyme inhibition in humans has never been shown to result from the low levels of fluoride ingested from fluoridated water" - a statement virtually denying the well documented fact that many essential enzymes in the body are inhibited by a concentration of fluoride greatly below that used for fluoridation. For instance, enzymes such as lipase, esterases and phosphatases are inhibited by as little as 0.2ppm.[11]

Danger of Overdosage

In their enthusiasm for fluoridation and in their unshakeable conviction of its absolute safety, proponents are blinding themselves to its side-effects or refusing to acknowledge them. One overlooked side-effect of serious consequence for the very young infant, is the enormously-increased fluoride dosage which bottle-fed babies receive when their artificial feeds are reconstituted with fluoridated water. The danger of this overdose was highlighted by Dr J. Cuthbertson in a letter to the Lancet in 1976, warning that because babies consume a high level of fluid in relation to body weight, the infant's dose or both sodium and fluoride could be eight to ten times the proportionate adult one.

In a l979 publication by the University or Goteborg, Professor Arvid Carlsson expressed great concern over the massive overdose received by bottle-fed infants.[12] Though producing no obvious effects on the child's bodily development, it might damage the developing brain and permanently affect learning ability. Now Professor Ian Ekstrand and his team have found that when fluoridated water is used to prepare mixtures for bottle-fed infants, they receive 150 times as much fluoride as breast-fed infants.[13] It is therefore of special interest that cot death was described in 1965 by Dr R Coombs as "preponderantly a disease of the bottle-fed infant".

In view of these alarming facts about fluoride and bottle-fed babies, it is now imperative for the Department of Health to ensure that supplies of fluoride-free or low-fluoride bottled water are delivered to the hone of every mother in a fluoridated area who is bottle-feeding a child.

Also imperative should be the banning in all national health baby clinics of fluoride tablets for pregnant women. Drug News Weekly, October 24,1966, reported that the FDA had consulted leading dental authorities who agreed that taking fluoride tablets before a child is born will not mean stronger teeth or prevent decay. Moreover, the FDA had admitted that scientific studies suggest possible harm to the foetus from fluoride. The advertising of fluoride tablets to women during pregnancy was banned by the FDA in 1966. It is therefore unforgiveable that no studies have been undertaken into the effects of fluoride ingestion on pregnant women. This was admitted by an official of the American National Cancer Institute at the famous Delaney Hearings in 1952.

That many baby clinics in Britain are nevertheless still advising fluoride tablets for pregnant women is dangerously irresponsible. That they are also still advising fluoride tablets for very young children could well be a contributory cause to the increased incidence of acute illness in children today, especially in cases of kidney failure. "In the human body, the kidneys are probably the most crucial organ during the course of low dose long term exposure to fluoride" - warned National Research Council of Canada scientists, Marier and Rose in Environmental Fluoride, 1977.

In Britain, especially in the fluoridated Birmingham area, there appears to be a significant increase in chronic renal failure in young children accompanied by acute thirst (polydipsia) - both classic symptoms of chronic fluorine poisoning.

A report from Victoria, Australia (now the most fluoridated country in the world) has revealed that the incidence of chronic renal failure in Australian children is increasing and is now so high that a child kidney transplant and dialysis unit has similarly had to be established. A report of the Australian Kidney Foundation in l982 made it abundantly clear that there had been a 63 percent increase in the incidence of renal failure since 1977 - the date when fluoridation was introduced into Victoria's water!

Harm From Fluoridated Toothpastes

There are now widespread and serious reports of harm from the use of fluoride toothpastes. Mouth ulcers, stomach and bowel disorders, vomiting, abdominal cramp, diarrhoea, facial spots (bullous eczema), have all been experienced by fluoride toothpaste users.

Children, especially, swallow toothpaste, far more than is generally realized. An editorial in the Lancet of September 18, 1971, reported that fluoride toothpaste could deliver a dose of approximately 1mg or fluoride per squeeze, and a proportion of children in one study occasionally consumed as much as 2.4 to 2.6mg by his means. Where the water is fluoridated this could result in a daily intake three times higher than the so-called safety dose of 1mg. Even the pro-fluoridation British Dental Health Foundation's publication, Facts on Fluoride, admitted that fluoride toothpaste should not be swallowed in large quantities because of its toxicity!

As well as swallowing some, or all, of their toothpaste, children have been reported making "toothpaste butties".

Fluoride is one of the industrial poisons that can depress the immune system (even at the 1mg fluoridation level).[14] Fluoride tablets and toothpastes could therefore be a largely contributing factor to the increasing incidence in Britain today of childhood diseases.

The Antidote

The reduction of environmental fluoride pollution - especially in the form of 'acid rain', and the prevention of fluoridation of drinking water, is imperative. Also imperative is preconceptual dietary advice to both husbands and wives such as that given by Foresight, The Association For The Promotion of Preconceptual Care.[15] The diet during pregnancy must be rich in all the necessary vitamins and minerals, especially in magnesium which helps to buffer fluoride's toxicity. Such an antidote could prevent thousands of baby casualties.

It should constitute a salutary warning for Britain that Holland banned fluoridation in 1976, by Royal Decree, on grounds of health hazards exposed; that Chile stopped fluoridation after 23 years of trial in 1977, mainly because of its harmful effects on children; and that Sweden banned fluoridation in 1971 because of concern that fluoride might be harmful to the unborn and very young children.

In conclusion, it is now known that there has been a substantial decrease in dental decay in children during the past 20 years in both fluoridated and unfluoridated areas. This makes a nonsense of the fluoridation argument, especially as no evidence has ever been produced anywhere in the world which proves that fluoride in any form has prevented tooth decay and that prevention has not been due to other factors (such as, for instance, the Department of Health's withdrawal in 1971 of sweetened orange nice - an acknowledged cause of tooth decay in infants - from National Health Clinics).

Patrick Clavell Blount, honorary chairman of the National Anti-Fluoridation Campaign, considers this the most important argument against fluoridation.

As Dr Alan B. Shrank observed in Hospital Doctor of January 13, 1983, "Now that it is clear that dental caries in children is falling without fluoridation and that there is strong evidence that it might be harmful, only the incautious and the arrogant would continue to promote fluoridation."


1. Some Current Aspects of Environmental Fluoride, The Total Science of the Environment, 8, p.253-265, 1977.
2. Taylor, Dr Brent, The Lancet, Dec. 1984, 11, pp. 1255-57.
3. Butler, Dr, McCarrison Society 14th Annual Conference, Nutrition and the prevention of physical degeneration, 1984.
4. Command 6684 (HMSO).
5. Rodale, J.I., with Taub, Harald, J., "Magnesium, the nutrient that could change your life", Prevention/Pyramid, 1968.
6. "Comments on magnesium intake and fluoride intake in the modern-day World", Pro-Finn, Dent. Soc., 1980, pp.76, 82-92.
7. Borei, Hans and Kemi, Arkiv, Mineral Geol., 20A, No.8 (1945).
8. Fluoridation of Water and Cancer, A Review of the Epidemiological Evidence - Report of the Working Party, Chairman, Prof. E.G. Knox (HMSO).
9. Paper presented to the meeting of the Japanese Society for Cancer Research on August 23, 1982.
10. Edwards, Stevens, Poulos, Thomas and Kraut, Joseph, Journal of Biological Chemistry, 1984, vol. 259, p.12984.
11. Hodge, H.C. and Smith, F.H., Fluorine Chemistry, 1965.
12. Carlsson A., Current problems relating to the pharmacology and toxicology of fluorides, Univ. of Gotesborg, 1978.
13. Caries Research, 18: pp.87-92.
14. Fridlyand, I.G., Gigiana Sanitariya, 1959.
15. Foresight, The Old Vicarage, Church Lane, Witley, Surrey.

Doris Grant, author of books on Nutrition is the forefront of the anti-fluoridation campaign in Britain.

  • This article appeared originally in Here's Health.

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