For today’s bulletin Chris Neurath, FAN’s Research Director, will explain why he joined the fluoride-free movement.  We first distributed this in a bulletin in 2013, in this re-issue Chris has included an update to include Boradbent’s IQ study from NZ.  The quote we have used for this bulletin Fluoride Science is Tobacco Science, comes from another Chris, Chris Bryson, author of The Fluoride Deception.  The full quote is:

Fluoride science is corporate science,
fluoride science is DDT science,
it’s asbestos science,
it’s tobacco science,
it’s a racket!

Chris Bryson issued these words in the videotaped interview I had with him in June 2004, shortly after his book was published.

 An Update On Our Fundraiser

Our new totals are $75,305 from 252 donors.  This means that we are halfway to our goal of $150,000 by midnight Dec 31 and 3/4 ofthe way to our mini-goal of $100,000 by Christmas Eve. Thanks to all who have donated so generously to date. And another thank you to our super-angels who put some FUN into our fundrasing. 

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A Personal Journey: Realizing Fluoride Science is Tobacco Science

By Chris Neurath

I was raised by my parents to believe fluoride and fluoridation were wonderful, progressive things. Before fluoridated toothpaste was available, and before our tap water was fluoridated, my father brought home bottles of fluoride drops from the pharmacy. My brothers and I were supposed to put it in orange juice every day.  I remember wondering why we were given something from a bottle with a huge skull and crossbones on it. I don’t remember my parent’s explanations, but I’m sure I trusted them on this.

In hindsight, I’m glad I didn’t like orange juice so I only occasionally took the fluoride. I had no cavities growing up, in contrast to the mouthfuls of both my parents, and I always attributed this to the fluoride drops. Our family dentist encouraged this belief. Little did I know that in my generation we all had fewer cavities than our parents, regardless of whether we ingested fluoride or not.

It wasn’t until sometime in my 30s that I ever came across anyone who openly questioned fluoridation. He was a genial older man who suddenly became argumentative when the subject somehow arose and I claimed my lack of cavities was living proof that fluoride worked. I dismissed him as a crank. Not until years later did I realize I might have been the uninformed person.

When I first met Paul and Ellen Connett (in the 1980s) they were working on trash incinerators, not fluoride. I worked on this and several other environmental issues for many years with them. Paul and Ellen are both naturally talented at seeing through the lies and spin that poison so many environmental health issues. I was trained as a scientist, but it took me a while to realize how much science gets twisted when a vested interest is at stake. But even with my developing suspicion of manipulated science, I was stunned to read an investigative article on the dark history of fluoridation, first published by the Connetts in their tiny circulation environmental newsletter Waste Not. The Christian Science Monitor had so shortened the commissioned story by authors Chris Bryson and Joel Griffiths, that they looked elsewhere for a publisher. But no mainstream media would touch it, and eventually they gave it the Connetts to circulate so their effort would not be wasted.

The Bryson/Griffith article tied the early promotion of fluoridation to the development of the atomic bomb. One memorable personal incident from my youth was probably what kept me from dismissing Bryson’s work as an outrageous “conspiracy theory.”

Back in high school, we got a reprieve from my chemistry class one day, to see a special presentation by a traveling “lecturer” from the Atomic Energy Commission, given to the entire school. He started out by tossing three whiffle balls into the audience, one of which chanced to go straight to me. He then asked the catchers of the balls to join him on stage. Once there, he announced that one of the balls was radioactive, whereupon the kid next to me dropped his like a hot potato. Being by nature more reserved, I just stood there waiting to find out what would happen next. The presenter singled me out to stay on stage as a “volunteer.” He then offered me a bottle of Coca-cola and asked me to drink some, after which he announced it had been spiked with radioactive iodine. He held his impressive looking Geiger counter at my neck, near my thyroid, and the clicking went crazy. This entire “stunt” was framed to demonstrate how harmless radiation really was. Although I was not at all happy with what went on, I came away, as did most of the kids in the audience, assuming that radiation really was something that could be “fun” to play with, and not that threatening.

That subliminal message stuck with me for years … until I chanced to run into the brainiest kid from my high school, who was then studying physics at MIT. Somehow that presentation on atomic energy came up and he said he had been asked to help the presenter behind the scenes … and he knew what had really gone on. The stunts with radioactivity were all faked. The presenter’s Geiger counter had a tiny radioactive collar, which he could slip back and forth over the detector to make it click at will. There was no radioactive whiffle ball, and no radioactive Coke. I was stunned to realize our government lies – intentionally – to deceive school children. In particular, about the safety of radiation and atomic energy.

The almost unbelievable revelations in the Bryson/Griffith article finally got me to seriously question my previous faith in fluoridation. But I can understand why most Americans still believe what they were told time and again as children … that fluoridation is wonderful and anyone who questions it is crazy. For several more years I was still wary of joining the Connetts’ campaign on fluoridation. But then I started delving into the science myself.

The first dip I took was when Paul asked me to review the seminal reports of the first fluoridation “community trials” in the US, from the 1940s. I couldn’t believe the shoddiness of these studies. Promoters of fluoridation are keen to dismiss any findings of harm from fluoride and fluoridation as “junk science” but if you really want to see “junk science” in action read these early trials.

But I was still wary of getting involved in the issue. Then Paul asked me to look into some of the cancer studies. Having investigated other environmental causes of cancer I had a special interest in this field, so I accepted. The Yiamouyiannis/Burk work was intriguing, but not fully convincing to me. Then a member of the National Research Council (NRC) committee reviewing fluoride suggested I look at a much more recent case-control study on fluoride and bone cancer by Kitty Gelberg. I started wading through the 400-page dissertation as well as her published paper, and realized there were gross errors in both. For example, Gelberg had somehow confused the males with the females! She had never caught this error and neither had the peer reviewers or any readers. In several key tables, she confused cases with controls, which is an even more fundamental error than switching males with females. There were other errors and many questionable interpretations. Gelberg concluded there was no link between fluoride and osteosarcoma, but buried in her study I saw evidence that suggested otherwise. I called Gelberg to try to straighten out the errors and to ask about some of the interpretations. She claimed that it was the first she had ever heard about the possibility of errors in the 10 years since her work had been published. After grudgingly admitting the errors, she broke off any communication. My respect for “fluoridation science” dropped to a new low. Gelberg works as an epidemiologist for the New York State Department of Health, which happens to be one of the leading promoters of fluoridation in the US. It was a disappointing revelation that public servants can stonewall and ignore inquiries from the public.

About the same time as this Gelberg experience, in 2005, FAN was tipped off to the existence of Elise Bassin’s Harvard doctoral dissertation on fluoride and osteosarcoma. This study had been completed four years previously but had been so effectively buried that it was unknown even to the expert NRC panel doing an exhaustive review of fluoride toxicology. Michael Connett went to Harvard to read the only “public” copy available anywhere, but was only allowed to photocopy a limited portion of it. His initial impression was this was a very important study. I made an appointment to see it myself. I was stunned by what I read. Bassin’s high quality study had found a very strong link between fluoride exposure between ages 6-8, and later developing osteosarcoma. I was equally shocked by the fact that this work had been hidden from the public for four years while Bassin’s faculty advisor, Chester Douglass, who ran the study, went around the world, saying his research had found no link between fluoride and osteosarcoma, even though he had signed Bassin’s thesis.

Reading the Bassin dissertation, deep in the bowels of Harvard’s Medical Library, was the turning point for me on fluoride. Here was clear evidence that the fluoride added to 2/3rds of American’s drinking water may be causing a frequently fatal form of cancer. This study isn’t enough to “prove” fluoride causes cancer, but the fact that it had been hidden from the public and scientific community was proof for me that, in Chris Bryson’s words: “fluoride science is tobacco science”.

With pressure from FAN, and with the Environmental Working Group leading the demand for an investigation of the cover-up of the Bassin study, the study was eventually brought to the world’s attention … and has created a stir ever since. The NRC final report notes it as a crucial piece of evidence on the question of carcinogenicity. Later, in May 2006, Bassin formally published her work in a prestigious peer-reviewed scientific journal, with three respected Harvard co-authors.

But the opening salvo of the “tobacco science” attack on Bassin’s work appeared on the same day her paper was published, in the same journal! Douglass wrote a “letter to the editor” where he questions the repeatability of Bassin’s findings, and announced he was analyzing additional data sets from his study and believed they would not confirm her findings. Douglass said he would publish his results within months. His letter was full of omissions and misleading claims, but it was used for the next five years by proponents of fluoridation and government health agencies to dismiss Bassin’s paper. In those five years, Douglass kept promising to publish his results for all to see, but never did … until 2011 (Kim et al 2011). The publication of what Douglass suggests is the “last word” on fluoride and osteosarcoma, took him nearly 20 years! The study was originally scheduled to be completed in about 5 years.

And what does his “final word” paper actually contain? No evidence able to refute Bassin’s study, because Douglass never even addresses the key evidence in Bassin’s study (i.e. the critical period when children were exposed – their 6th to 8th years). Douglass’ study was actually much smaller than Bassin’s, especially in the age group of 0-20 years. Douglass’ paper even states that he had insufficient number of subjects in this age range to derive any conclusions.

Douglass also ended up with a control group that was much older and had a much different sex ratio, than his case group. Such drastic differences mean his entire study is of questionable validity. He is essentially comparing apples to oranges.

Douglass claims his method of estimating fluoride exposure is superior to Bassin’s. Douglass used bone fluoride levels, whereas Bassin used a careful history of drinking water and other fluoride sources. Douglass’ method using bone fluoride is incapable of pinpointing when a child was exposed to fluoride, whereas Bassin’s is the best available method for timing exposure. The timing of exposure turned out to a critical risk factor in Bassin’s study. Douglass’ study does not and cannot even address this key factor.

Douglass ignored a large portion of his data from a control group of people who did not have any cancer. Instead, he looked only at a control comparison group comprised of people who had types of bone cancer other than osteosarcoma.  Bassin’s controls did not have any type of cancer.  Since fluoride concentrates so highly in bone tissue, there is a plausible mechanism for it to increase the risk of any type of bone cancer, not just osteosarcoma.  Virtually no fluoride studies have ever looked for risks in anything but osteosarcoma, so it is disingenuous for Douglass to imply that there is no evidence linking these other types of bone cancer to fluoride.  If fluoride does cause these other types of bone cancer, then his bone cancer controls are a terrible choice and invalidate his findings.

Given these three potentially fatal weaknesses of Douglass’ much-heralded study, the fluoridationist spin machine had to go into overdrive to claim his work refuted Bassin’s.

Perhaps because of the vulnerability of Douglass’ final word on fluoride-osteosarcoma, there has been a recent flurry of low quality ecological studies from fluoridating countries, all claiming to find no link between fluoride and osteosarcoma.  Or perhaps these studies were done because Douglass was so many years late in producing his promised work, that fluoridating countries decided they needed something to try to counter Bassin.  I have carefully reviewed each of these studies, from Ireland, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. They are all much weaker study designs than Bassin’s case-control study.  It is not surprising that these studies were unable to find a link.

UPDATE December 2016

Has anything changed since I wrote this account three years ago?  There have been no new revelations in my own personal experiences, except that now instead of arguing in favor of fluoridation as I did the first time I met someone who questioned it, I find myself trying to suggest to people, as gently as possible (people don’t like to be preached to) that fluoridated water is not necessary to prevent cavities. It may have subtle long-term health consequences.  “Go ahead and use fluoridated toothpaste” I’ll tell them, “that will prevent cavities much better than fluoridated water … just don’t swallow it and be cautious with young children.”

As for the science of fluoride:  There have been remarkable advances in understanding fluoride toxicity, especially in how it can lower IQ of children.  Predictably, there has been a frantic backlash from fluoridation defenders against this mounting scientific evidence of neurotoxicity.  None of the countries that practice artificial fluoridation were willing to study neurotoxicity so it was left to countries like China, India, and Mexico, where there are many people afflicted by naturally occurring fluoride.  After researchers in these countries had amassed more than 50 human studies, almost all of them showing that fluoride lowered IQ of children, a single study was done in the fluoridating country of New Zealand, led by a dentist named Broadbent, to try to counteract the mounting evidence.  This is reminiscent of Chester Douglass, another dentist, leading the Harvard study of osteosarcoma and fluoride.  Why do pro-fluoridation dentists get funded to lead studies of neurotoxicity and cancer?

Broadbent, just like Douglass, proclaimed his study to be the “final word” on whether fluoride lowered IQ, or caused osteosarcoma.  Yet, when Broadbent’s study is examined closely, just like Douglass, it is incapable of answering the question because it used unsuitable subjects.  Broadbent had very few “control children”, those growing up with unfluoridated water.  What’s worse, many of those took fluoride tablets to make up for not having fluoridated water.  With such a narrow difference in total exposure between Broadbent’s subjects, it is no wonder he could not find a difference in IQ as several of us explained in a letter to the editor (Osmunson et al 2016).  Yet he and every other fluoridation promoter will trot out his inconclusive study whenever the issue of neurotoxicity is raised.

The fluoride science wielded by fluoridation defenders is still Tobacco Science.


Kim FM, Hayes C, Williams PL, Whitford GM, Joshipura KJ, Hoover RN, Douglass CW. 2011. An assessment of bone fluoride and osteosarcoma. Journal of Dental Research 90(10):1171–6.

Bassin EB, Wypij D, Davis RB, Mittleman MA. 2006. Age-specific fluoride exposure in drinking water and osteosarcoma (United States). Cancer Causes Control 17(4):421-8.

Douglass CW, Joshipura K. 2006. Caution needed in fluoride and osteosarcoma study. Letter. Cancer Causes Control. 17(4):481-2.

Broadbent JM, Thomson WM, Ramrakha S, Moffitt TE, Zeng J, Foster Page LA, et al. 2015. Community Water Fluoridation and Intelligence: Prospective Study in New Zealand. Amerian Journal of Public Health. 2015;105(1):72–6.

Osmunson B, Limeback H, Neurath C. 2016. Study Incapable Of Detecting IQ Loss From Fluoride. Am J Public Health [Internet]. American Public Health Association; \ Jan 21;106(2):212–3.

Chris Neurath

Research Director
Fluoride Action Network

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