Most of us would be incredulous if we were told that scientific papers on some sensitive subjects are being routinely rejected by journals for political reasons. The more informed among the readership might suggest that papers are sometimes rejected because of national security considerations, but almost never for purely political reasons. Unfortunately, our confidence in the system is misplaced. Politically motivated scientific censorship is alive and well.

In early 1984, G.E. Smith, an Australian dental surgeon, sent a paper to the New York State Dental Journal. The paper questioned the safety of our ever-increasing exposure to fluoride. The reply he received from the editor said in part: “Your paper … was read here with interest,” but it is not appropriate for publication at this time because “the opposition to fluoridation has become virulent again.”

Manocha and Warner, of the Emory University Medical School, received a similar rejection from the American Medical Association’s Archives of Environmental Health. This rejection was based on a reviewer’s comment stating that “I would recommend that this paper not be accepted for publication at this time” because “this is a sensitive subject and any publication in this area is subject to interpretation by anti-fluoridation groups.”

John A. Colquhoun, former principal dental officer in the Department of Health in Auckland, New Zealand, did not get as far as a journal. Having originally set out to show the great advantage of fluoridation, he carefully compared decay rates in fluoridated and non-fluoridated regions. Unfortunately his data failed to find any difference in decay rates between the areas studied. After his final report was written, his superiors refused him permission to publish it.

Brian Dementi, a toxicologist with the Virginia Department of Health, authored an extensive study titled “Fluoride and Drinking Water” that mentioned some possible health risks. This report never saw the light of day and was in fact purged from the health department’s library so that a copy no longer exists.

Each of these reports and papers and many like them have been systematically rejected and suppressed – not because of defects in scientific methods or because of faulty logic – but purely because the papers might possibly provide ammunition for radical anti-fluoridation groups.

Regardless of where you stand on the fluoridation issue, this suppression of information should be exceedingly disturbing. Such shenanigans can prevent us from every obtaining an honest evaluation of the effectiveness of fluoridation. Consider, for example, that grant applications to do research in this area must pass exactly the same gauntlet of peer review in order to obtain funding. Consider further that most people who are interested in promoting their own careers will deem it wise to avoid such a highly politicized research area in favor of safer territory. In effect, the best people may be discouraged both by funding and political climate from even considering fluoridation studies.

In the past year, a number of review articles have appeared exposing this deplorable state of affairs. As a result, the ability of the fluoride establishment to suppress information has been damaged and some papers are beginning to appear.

The current state of knowledge seems to be as follows: First, like any drug, fluoride has an effective dose. Also like most drugs, if we exceed the effective dose, fluoride can be toxic. The first effect of too much fluoride is a condition called dental fluorosis, which produces mottled teeth. Like any drug, the dose which causes the fluorosis side effect is dependent on the individual.

There seems to be little question that fluorosis as a side effect of fluoridation is on the rise. The reason is simple. The recommended level of fluoride in municipal water is based on the assumption that water is the sole or principal source of fluoride in the diet. In 1989, this is hardly the case. Consider, for example, that it is almost impossible to find toothpaste which does not contain fluoride. Consider further that most people and especially small children inadvertently swallow some toothpaste. The most common level of fluoride in toothpaste is 1,000 parts per million. If you swallow only a small amount, you make a big change in your daily intake of fluoride. Combine this with fluoride rinses, supplements and fluoridated soft drinks, and you very quickly develop a situation of overdose in which fluorosis becomes prevalent in susceptible individuals…

Proponens claim that fluorosis is a “cosmetic” effect and not a “health” effect. However, in the case of severe fluorosis, this is hardly the case because the teeth can become pitted and brittle and therefore more prone to fracture. As far as other potential health effects are concerned, it is fair to say tat fluoride supplements have never undergone the level of intense study which would be routinely required for a food additive today. This lack of study is a direct result of an intensely negative political climate.

The prevalence of alternative sources of fluoride is particularly well demonstrated by numerous studies like that of Colquhoun, which have shown that areas with municipal fluoridation are now very difficult to distinguish from non-fluoridated areas. Part of this effect is due to vastly improved nutrition and oral hygiene among the entire population, but a major part of the effect is directly attributable to the alternative sources of fluoride to which we are all exposed.

It is clear, therefore, that we need to pay much more attention to our total intake of fluoride from all sources. It is also clear that we cannot be too vigilant in our efforts to ensure the free flow of information. There is no question that fluoridation proponents mean well, but meaning well can never be a justification for censorship.