CENTER for SCIENCE in the PUBLIC INTEREST
Fluorides and Human Health
By Michael J. Prival, Ph.D.; 1972
ALLERGY TO FLUORIDES (pp. 23-25)
The effects of fluoride ingestion which have been most intensively studied have been those on teeth and bone. But the possibility of fluoride-induced injury to other body tissues has been at the center of most of the controversy surrounding fluoridation. In the United States, at least, the possibility of allergic reaction to fluoride has been at the core of some of the most bitter debate.
The chief advocate of the position that there are, in fact, many people who are allergic to fluoride, evenn at the levels found in fluoridated water, has been Michigan allergist Dr. George L. Waldbott. Waldbott and his colleagues have reported case histories of individuals who developed numerous symptoms, including hives, intestinal pain, nausea and ulcers in the mouth, from fluorides (Waldbott, 1962; Shea, et al., 1967). When some of these patients move from fluoridated to non-fluoridated areas, their symptoms disappear. Similar reactions to fluoride air pollution in areas where phosphate fertilizer plants or iron foundries are located have also been reported (Waldbott & Cecilioni, 1969).
These case histories are supplemented with several “double-blind” experiments. In these experiments, patients consume a total of 1 milligram of fluoride per day, or a placebo containing no fluoride. (One quart of “optimally” fluoridated water contains about 1 milligram of fluoride). Neither the patient nor the examining the physician knows which is the fluoride and which is the placebo. When fluoride ingestion began, unknown to the patient or the physician, many symptoms associated with fluoride intolerance also commenced. Termination of fluoride ingestion relieved the symptoms.
Over the many years during which Waldbott has beenn reporting these results, numerous individuals and organizations have denied the validity of his findings. In February, 1971, for example, the American Academy of Allergy Executive Committee, at the request of the U.S. Public Health Service, issued a statement on fluoride allergy. They concluded that there is “insufficient clinical and laboratory evidence to state that true syndromes of fluoride allergy or intolerance to fluorides as used in the fluoridation of community water supplie” (American Academy of Allergy Executive Committee, 1971). This report was uncritically accepted by the U.S. Public Health Service (1971) as another demonstration of the safety of fluoridation in spite of the fact that the Academy of Allergy somehow arrived at its conclusions without having examined any of Waldbott’s patients.
The fact that few investigators have reported patients with fluoride hypersensitivity (Felman & Kosel, 1961) probably weighed heavily in the Academy of Allergy’s conclusions. It might be noted that even some of Waldbott’s severest critics consider him an “eminent” allergist (Hornung, 1956) whose “status and reputation as an allergist, at least prior to his espousal of the role of an antifluoridation advocate has beenn undoubted” (Crisp, 1968). His reports of fluoride hypersensitivity are, however, often dismissed on the grounds that they are subjective and unsubstantiated. To the extent that his research is, in fact, subjective, it is little different from much other published work in the field of allergy. If his findings are unsubstantiated, it may only be because, except for Waldbott’s associates, other physicians have not examined the patients in question.
In its statement on fluorides, the Academy of Allergy Executive Committee refers to “the less-well understood types of drug reactions that may or may not be immunologically mediated.” It is difficult to understand how the Academy could have concluded that such reactions to fluoride could not take place without having even examined any patients.
It is important to realize that Waldbott’s work constitutes a central medical core of the American anti-fluoridation movement, which has been surprisingly effective in blocking the fluoridation of public water supplies across the country. Rather than simply denying the validity of his reports, it would be to the advantage of all concerned to have them thoroughly analyzed. This could best be done if a small number of unbiased, qualified physicians, agreed upon by both “sides,” would independently examine and diagnose several of the patients who are reportedly allergic to fluoride. Only when this is done will there be any possibility of resolving the long-standing controversty surrounding this issue.