VALPARAISO — In May the city’s water department was honored by the U.S. dental directors for helping prevent tooth decay by fluoridating the water for the past 50 years. In September the water board was asked to stop fluoridation because it is a danger to humans.
Gary Foreman of Native Sun Productions, a Valparaiso company that specializes in producing historical documentaries that have appeared on the History Channel, A&E, Discovery and PBS, has done research on fluoridation for the past few years as part of the work for a documentary on the poisons in the foods we eat and drink.
The documentary, “Food to Die For,” is a bit of a departure for Foreman, whose works usually focus on American and Indiana history “because some of these stories have never been told. They are fascinating stories and they changed the course of history.”
A native of Indiana, the 53-year-old Foreman was mesmerized by photography in college and couldn’t decide whether to be a history professor or a film producer. So he decided to do both. After many years doing film work in journalism and advertising, he created Native Sun in 1998 after securing contracts with several networks based on the pilot he did for “Frontier Legends of the Old Northwest.”
The program won Best Documentary from the Western Writers of America, and now Foreman said he is doing what he always wanted to do.
“I’ve learned some interesting lessons from gifted people with interesting observations about who we are now,” he said. “I think we are living in extraordinary times with a lot of wake-up calls coming.”
At the water board’s Sept. 9 meeting, Foreman and co-worker Carolyn Raine asked the board to consider the wealth of new research being done on the possible hazards of fluoridation and whether it is necessary. The board’s initial reaction perhaps was reflected in President Jack Barkley’s question before the two spoke.
“How long is this going to take?” Barkley asked.
Raine told the board there is more research coming out that fluoride is harmful and has no benefits. Fluoridating water is endorsed by virtually every state health department, national water producers, dental associations and the World Health Organization.
“It’s become a part of our culture, but it’s nothing less than a big smoking gun,” Foreman told the board saying the fluoride compound used to treat water is a product of the Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bomb. “Other parts of the country are still fighting it. We are asking the board to consider the evidence and the research and whether we really need this in our water.”
Water Operations Leader George Brown said Valparaiso adds six pounds of fluorine compounds per million pounds of water, which is about a quarter of what is recommended by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency because the city’s water already has enough naturally occurring fluoride to make up the difference.
“Anything in the wrong dosage can be harmful,” Brown said, pointing out that sodium and chlorine are harmful separately but together they form table salt. “We get more complaints about the chlorine than the fluoride. The research is not really there (saying fluoride is bad). It’s mostly anecdotal and opinion.”
Foreman called fluoridation “part of an ongoing effort to become a mutant race.” He compared the effort to remove harmful food coloring, flavoring, preservatives and other chemicals from what people eat and drink to the early battle against the health hazards of tobacco. He identifies with the tobacco issue very closely, saying both his parents died of cancer as a result of smoking.
“The public is asleep at the wheel,” he said. “We find that the Midwest is one of those dormant places that could be a leader but chooses to be a follower. We are not as sophisticated about our role, and we exhibit less energy and concern. People here are less aware of their geography and heritage and their opportunities.”
Foreman said he was not surprised by the water board’s response, which was to ask the general manager to look into the matter. He provided the department with more information and said it’s an issue that will not go away.
“If people look at the information that’s out there, they can see there is a need to be informed and to care. There are issues with the environment and health that are near catastrophic. Those issues are going to surprise a lot of people, and the information is available. Just by the way we function, it’s obvious we don’t understand the whole concept of what water is all about.
“Everything about what we do now is based on packaging and myth, and that includes how we landscape our properties. We are living with an artificial landscape. Most of the turf grass we have on our lawns is not native, and it sheds water so it is not absorbed like it should be and the water tables dry up.
“What examples are we setting today in Indiana and the Midwest that will inspire our youth to stay here and prosper?” he said. “Are we going to be leaders or continue to be followers?”
* Phil Wieland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (219) 462-5151, ext. 352.