INTRO by Alaska Report: This opinion essay is part of a developing dialogue about fluoride in public drinking water in Alaska. It was written in response to a guest opinion favoring fluoride that appeared in the Fairbanks Daily New-Miner. However, Kelly Bostian, the paper’s managing editor, rejected this essay, saying his readers didn’t need the irritation. It’s presented here for readers to make their own judgment. In light of Juneau’s recent election banning fluoride, every community in the state should take notice.
Mark Twain once said, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” Twain’s quip illustrates the debate over fluoride in Fairbanks water. The orthodoxy taught by Stan Justice relies on the quick appeal of tradition and unsupported claims. Though slower and more demanding, this contest will be won by scientific evidence.
Mr. Justice prefers the status quo. He counsels that we ignore recent science showing fluoride, even at low levels, damages biological systems. The mass-medication scheme he advocates has been rejected in Europe and lacks current peer-reviewed studies to support it.
For several years, I shared my concerns about fluoride toxicity with people in positions of social responsibility. Members of the board of the Northern Alaska Environmental Center repeatedly turned me away. The organization responded to the emerging science on fluoride by placing its collective head in the sand.
Hypocrisy, as it turns out, is not exclusive to some Fairbanks environmentalists. When Juneau outlawed fluoride in October, the grassroots clean-water campaign swept the polls without the benefit of the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council. The venerable champion of salmon and other wild things stood on the sidelines, despite science that shows fluoride harms salmon.
The depth of some people’s trust in fluoride is daunting. Among the reasons for blind faith is the all-too-American willingness to accept the government’s word. Fluoride’s political history is only now coming to light and includes selling good intentions to cloak corporate advantage. Packaged with promises of quick-fix dental health, the plan has coerced 62 percent of Americans to cede municipal water supplies to Big Brother.
Mr. Justice claims the added fluoride is the same as the trace mineral found in soil and water. Not so. Calcium fluoride is naturally occurring, but it does not readily dissociate and therefore cannot bond strongly to human tissues. Sodium fluorosilicate, a hazardous waste product of the aluminum and fertilizer industries, is added to Fairbanks water. Fifty percent is retained in our bodies, concentrating in the bones and pineal gland.
The US Public Health Service, the Centers for Disease Control and the Environmental Protection Agency assure us that fluoride is safe. Though such claims lack scientific validity the agencies soldier on, fortified with bureaucratic boilerplate. However, there’s dissent in the ranks. In 2005, a union for 7,000 scientists and health staff at EPA called for a moratorium on fluoride. It was a risky move for career civil servants, yet human cancer data compelled the action. (Mullenix et al., 1995)
Each of the four million gallons of water that flows daily to Fairbanks homes and businesses contains a chemical we are told is “safe and effective”. Yet fluoride’s industrial applications raise questions. It’s widely used as a pesticide on fruits and vegetables. Fluoride is also an important material in nuclear weapons development and high-temperature plastics like Teflon.
Fluorine is found in Prozac and Paxil, drugs designed for mental disorders and now largely discredited by side effects that include suicide. Infants who were breast-fed by mothers taking Prozac demonstrated a growth curve significantly below that of infants who were breast-fed by mothers not taking the drug (Chambers et al., 1999). Similarly, newborn mouse pups exposed to Paxil were more likely to have low birth weights (Rayburn et al., 2000).
Mr. Justice says my views are extreme, that I’m fear mongering. Would he say the same of Roger Masters, an emeritus researcher at Dartmouth College? Masters led research that found a connection between fluoride and lead. The study compared children’s blood in communities using fluoride-treated water with communities using non-fluoridated water. Drawing from samples of over 400,000 children, increased blood lead levels were always associated with fluoride-treated water. No one disputes that chronic lead poisoning lowers IQ and promotes criminal behavior.
The jig is up. Thyroid dysfunction, brittle bones, arthritis and cancer are too high a cost to bear. It’s time policy makers and community leaders pay heed to fluoride science. Besides its now documented harms, the city mandate erodes the foundations of ethical government. It is a violation of civil rights.
As a monument to unintended consequences, “fluoride in public water” ought to be engraved on a headstone and left to the weeds.
I call on the city council to follow Juneau’s leadership. Convene a panel of experts and charge it with analyzing current research with an eye to evaluating the evidence on both sides. Ignoring the accumulating science is not an option. Fluoride’s chronic assault on our health is a burden that can’t be sustained.
Blood lead: http://tinyurl.com/2zc3jf
EPA union statement: http://tinyurl.com/yu73n5
Globe and Mail: http://tinyurl.com/2tj6cy
Free thinkers abandon fluoride in water http://newsminer.com/2007/11/04/9701
Douglas Yates is a writer and photographer with a keen interest in water. He lives in Ester.
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