Fluoride Action Network

Des Moines: Troubled Water?

Source: CityView | December 4th, 2013 | By Amber Williams
Location: United States, Iowa

Gargle and spit. That’s what you do with fluoride. You scrub your teeth with it, your tongue and your gums, then, you rinse and spit. “Do not ingest,” it says on the label. And Mom said so, too.

But what about a little? Just 0.7 parts per million of fluoride in your drinking water is safe for consumption, right? According to scientists, it is — even at the Institute of Medicine’s recommended two to three liters a day — and the people of Des Moines have been drinking it from their taps and bathing in it for 54 years, even though toothpaste labels warn to call Poison Control if too much is swallowed, and despite the Centers for Disease Control’s website disclaimer: “It is not the CDC’s task to determine what levels of fluoride in water are safe, yet our understanding about the safety of fluoridation is guided by federal regulations, comprehensive reviews by expert panels, and individual studies.”

Water fluoridation chemicals include fluorosilicic acid, sodium fluorosilicate and sodium fluoride, and about two-thirds of Americans drink at least 1 ppm of it from their tap every day, according to the American Cancer Society. More than 50 years after water fluoridation came to Des Moines, the practice is being challenged publicly following clamorous public outcry.

The Bill Hamilton thorn

A few years ago, local artist and activist Bill Hamilton, brought his concerns regarding local water fluoridation to former Des Moines Water Works CEO Randy Beavers, who met him with “defensive ignorance,” he said.

“Neither the CEO nor the board knew the first thing about fluoride,” Hamilton said. “They were completely uneducated on water fluoridation. This disturbed me, since they were the only ones in charge of it, and they didn’t know a thing about it.

“When I first approached Beavers, he was defensive off the bat. He said it was food-grade fluoride. I thought, ‘What? Food-grade fluoride? There’s no such thing as food-grade fluoride.’ So I went to the manufacturers with this, and the manufacturers laughed, said no such thing existed. When I went back to Beavers to tell him he didn’t know what he was talking about, he just clammed up. He didn’t say a word after that.”

Hamilton believes the board simply went along with the pre-set program, “trusting in those who came before them.”

Bill Stowe was hired as the new CEO in 2012, giving Hamilton fresh ears for his theories. Stowe encouraged him to send the information to him in an email, so he admittedly overwhelmed Stowe with his anti-fluoridation findings, he said.


A 1990 study of lab animals reported by the U.S. National Toxicology Program offered evidence of a potential link between fluoridated drinking water and the development of cancer in male — but not female — rats. Research showed a “higher-than-expected” number of cases of osteosarcoma (a type of bone cancer) in the rats.

“One theory on how fluoridation might affect the risk of osteosarcoma is based on the fact that fluoride tends to collect in parts of bones where they are growing,” the ACS states on its website. “These areas, known as growth plates, are where osteosarcomas typically develop. The theory is that fluoride might somehow cause the cells in the growth plate to grow faster, which might make them more likely to eventually become cancerous.”

However, although the last of these reviews were published in 2006, and several of them noted that further studies are needed, osteosarcoma is considered to be a rare cancer. About 400 cases are diagnosed in children and teens each year in the United States, making it difficult to gather enough cases for large studies, according to the ACS. Therefore, the research findings remain inconclusive.

“More than 50 population-based studies have not found a strong link between fluoride and cancer,” ACS states. “Just about all of the studies have been retrospective, and there are other issues that make this topic hard to study. For example, if fluoridation is a risk factor, is the type of fluoride used important? Also, is there a specific level of fluoride above which the risk is increased, or a certain amount of time or an age range during which a person would need to be exposed?”

That’s a point Des Moines activist Hamilton makes in opposition.

“The level of fluoride used in Des Moines water (0.7 ppm) is dangerous,” Hamilton advised. “Also, it’s nearly impossible to monitor the dosage of fluoride since different people drink varying amounts of it and may have specific physical conditions that react differently to fluoride.”


“Numerous peer-reviewed studies show a 1 ppm fluoride level is unhealthy and dangerous,” Hamilton expressed to Stowe in his email, citing the following effects on the brain from a 1 ppm dosage:

Reduction of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (ion channels in the plasma membranes of certain neurons);

Reduction in lipid content (important in diet for energy and nutrients);

Impaired antioxidant defense systems (which help fight against disease);

Damage to the hippocampus (important to memory and navigation);

Damage to the purkinje cells (a class of neurons located in the cerebellum);

Formation of beta-amyloid plaques (present in Alzheimer’s Disease); and

Accumulation of fluoride in the pineal gland (a small endocrine gland in the vertebrate brain that produces a hormone that affects the modulation of wake/sleep patterns and seasonal functions).


The 2006 National Research Council report states: “Effects on thyroid function were associated with fluoride exposures of 0.01-0.03 mg/kg/day when iodine intake was inadequate.” The Health and Human Services Fluoride Report of 1991 stated that a typical total fluoride intake of someone in a 1 ppm fluoridated area is 0.9-3.6 mg/day, Hamilton pointed out.

“That means, for someone my weight (170 pounds), that is 0.7 mg/day, which is less than the amount in one quart of Des Moines fluoridated water,” Hamilton explained. “Thus, typical water fluoridation exposure is medically likely to diminish thyroid function in hundreds or thousands of people.”

The pituitary/thyroid system is important in the early mental development of children. Interference with its activity can result in lowered IQ in children. And studies on animals and humans show fluoride exposure may be linked to lowers IQs, Hamilton said.

Harvard University recently published a meta-analysis, funded by the National Institute of Health, which backs up his claims. It reads: “Findings from our meta analysis of 27 studies published over 22 years suggest an inverse association between high fluoride exposure and children’s intelligence. The results suggest that fluoride may be a developmental neurotoxin that affects brain development supporting the plausibility of our findings, rats exposed to 1 ppm for one year showed morphological alterations in the brain. In conclusion, our results support the possibility of adverse effects of fluoride exposures on children’s neurodevelopment.”

“Our children’s brains are at stake,” Hamilton said. “But, hey, at least they›ll have a nice smile — given they don’t develop fluorosis (white spots on the teeth resulting from water fluoridation).”


The EPA has set a maximum amount of fluoride allowable in drinking water of 4.0 mg/L. Long-term exposure to levels higher than this can cause a condition called skeletal fluorosis, in which fluoride builds up in the bones, according to the ACS. This can eventually result in joint stiffness, joint pain, weak bones and fractures in older adults.

The EPA has also set a secondary standard of no more than 2.0 mg/L to help protect children (under the age of 9) from dental fluorosis, a condition where fluoride collects in developing teeth and prevents enamel from forming normally. This can cause permanent staining or pitting of teeth.

Is it enough?

Stowe admits that the $125,000 the Des Moines Water Works spends per year on fluoridation would be brought to $0 expenditure upon the removal of fluoride. But measured against the cost savings in dental health, he’s not convinced it’s worth it.

“The public health benefits are many times the risk,” he said. “The Dental Institute said the public health benefit is 30-40 times. We serve 500,000 customers, and I’m confident that not all of them are well-informed or financially able to have fluoride on their own.

“Realistically there are strong opinions on both side of the debate. So ultimately, we need to cut through the strength of those opinions and get to the data. You have to set aside the emotions and get to the facts.”

Stowe said Hamilton and other anti-fluoridation people piqued his intrigue with the fluorosis studies, some of which are currently being litigated.

“That study is important to our deliberation,” Stowe said. “We’re approaching this as a problem-solving opportunity, otherwise we wouldn’t be going through this exercise.”

For weeks the Des Moines Water Works, its board and Stowe have been asking the public for scientific studies and valid research to review as they came to a decision on Dec. 3, which is after press time for this article. See www.dmcityview.com for updates.

“Why they didn’t do it themselves, I don’t know,” Hamilton said. “Why they put it on the public to do that, when it’s their jobs — I guess they’re too busy doing less important things.

“This is about water. I can’t think of anything more important — maybe air — and they contaminate it, affecting our brains in the process. To me, this is an urgent situation.”

Is there a ‘fluoride deception?’

Hamilton puts water fluoridation on par with the nation’s past use of DDT, asbestos and lead-based gasoline, which have all since been denounced publicly and all but completely eliminated commercially.

“Fluoride in the water has the same PR (public relations) people as those did — as DDT, asbestos and lead gas,” he said, citing the documentary “Fluoride Deception,” a 2004 documentary based on a book written by investigative journalist Christopher Bryson.

In the book, Bryson said, “Fluoride science is corporate science; fluoride science is DDT science; it’s asbestos science; it’s tobacco science; it’s a racket.” It was a project 10 years in the making inspired by the water fluoridation controversy that emerged in Britain in the 1990s, according to the documentary.

It was Francis Frary, director of aluminum laboratory for the Aluminum Company of America, who had something to gain from fluoride’s improved public image. Concerns about fluoride pollution emissions from his aluminum plants rose, Bryson explained during the documentary interview.

“At the time, fluoride was causing lots of damage to agriculture, more than all other pollutants combined,” Hamilton said. “There were serious lawsuits facing them and pressure.”

So Frary urged researcher Gerald Cox at the Mellon Institute of Industrial Research to propagate the chemical’s only positive attribute, dental health. It was Cox who then proposed adding the chemical to public water supplies, according to Bryson.

“Right at the very source of the stream, you find the aluminum industry,” Bryson said in the documentary. “Cox’s suggestion that we need to add fluoride to public water supplies needs to be understood for who was saying it and where he was saying and what the track record of the Mellon Institute was. The Mellon Institute was a leading defender of asbestos for the asbestos industry. For generations, the Mellon Institute produced research that said that mesothelioma was caused by something other than asbestos. That’s how you have to understand the fluoride issue.”

“Fluoride Deception” and other anti-fluoride sources not only tie the chemical to cancer, conspiracy, Nazi and Communist mind-control, environmental pollution and health hazards, but also to the invention of the atomic bomb.

Hamilton refers to 1940s water fluoridation advocate Dr. Harold Hodges. “He was also the co-orchestrator of the human radiation experiments at the University of Rochester where patients were injected with plutonium and uranium under Hodge’s direction,” he said, citing the documentary. “He was also the Chief Toxicologist for the Manhattan Project. He studied the toxic properties of many of the chemicals used to make the atomic bomb. One of the chemicals of major concern was fluoride due to its toxicity. They needed massive amounts of fluoride to build the atomic bomb. Hodges was asked to come up with medical information that would help the government in lawsuits in which the U.S. Army and U.S. government were being charged with fluoride pollution.”

Because Hodge was also Chairman of the Atomic energy Commission, which strictly forbade publication of scientific information by the Atomic Energy Commission scientists that would increase the chance of litigation against the bomb program, “he would never admit to any danger involving fluoride,” Hamilton claimed.

Hamilton also points at Robert Kehoe, who he says was a key figure in the public health establishment and a leading proponent of fluoride.

“All his studies were funded by the aluminum manufacturers as well as National Institute of Dental Research,” Hamilton said.

From there it became a marketing strategy, he said, as Bernays launched the public campaign for water fluoridation. “He was also the brains behind the PR campaigns for the American Tobacco Company,” Hamilton added.

Bernays was invited to Washington D.C. by The National Institute of Dental Research and charged with the task of developing a similar strategy for water fluoridation. His campaign was apparently so successful in improving fluoride’s public image, it remains the strongest argument in favor of water fluoridation in Des Moines, Stowe said.

“That’s the center of gravity, and it’s pretty strong on this,” Stowe admitted. “The use of 0.7 ppm is heavily supported by the dental industry, and what do they have to gain from people having less cavities?”

By the time this issue went to press, Stowe was still deliberating. But he did leave us with this:

“We have about 12 to 24 hours left of meetings and discussions on this,” Stowe said late Monday. “But I think it’s safe to say, more likely than not, current fluoride levels will continue.”

“Is it worth sacrificing our brain for our teeth? Are Des Moines residents viewed as a pair of teeth with legs, like those little wind-up toys? What about our brains, specifically the brains of our precious children? What about our thyroid glands, our kidneys?” Hamilton asserted. “To me, it’s not even up for debate. When in doubt, leave it out.”