CORNWALL ISLAND – F. Henry Lickers remembers the once-thriving cattle herds in Mohawk country and how fluoride fumes from nearby metal factories weakened their bones, decayed their teeth and wiped them out.
Almost 30 years have passed since the toxic gas began pumping out of aluminum smelters in Massena. And while Reynolds Metals Co., now Alcoa Inc., offered the Mohwaks a settlement for their losses, the problems have persisted.
“The cattle are still dying and the Mohawk environment is still being impacted,” said Mr. Lickers, director of the Department of Environment for the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne.
That’s why the Haudenosaunee Environmental Task Force, which represents the Mohawks and four other Iroquoid tribes, is cosponsoring a July conference at St. Lawrence University, Canton, and the Akwesasne Reservation on the dangers of fluoride.
The Mohawks are working with the Fluroide Action Network, Canton, to bring in scientists, journalists and environmental policymakers who can educate people on why fluoride may be as bad for them as it is for cattle.
A Citizens’ Conference on Fluoride will be held July 30 to Aug. 2 and will begin at St. Lawrence University.
On the first day, presenters will discuss the allegedly harmful effects of fluoride on the brain. Scientists from the Environmental Protection Agency, and from laboratories in Massachusetts and Kansas, will lecture on the impact of fluoride on rat and human brains. There will also be a presentation on IQ studies conducted in China on people exposed to fluoride.
The conference will proceed the next day on how fluoride affects bone structure. Presenters will highlight studies from India, China and Africa that show fluoride can induce bone and joint disease with symptoms similar to those of arthritis.
On the final day of the conference, attendants will travel 40 miles north of Canton to the Mohawk Nation Longhouse at Akwesasne, on Cornwall Island, Ontario. They will learn about the Mohawk experience with fluoride pollution from Mr. Lickers, and listen to members of the community recount their experiences.
Mohawks who lived in the area when the cattle herds began to die will speak about what led to the case brought against Reynolds and Alcoa by the tribe for $50 million. The Mohawks eventually settled the case in 1980 against the aluminum producers for $464,000 after agreeing not to sue the companies for 10 years for damage to cattle and vegetation.
Paul H. Connett, executive director of the Fluoride Action Network and a professor of chemistry at St. Lawrence University, decided to work with the Mohawks on this conference because their personal experience with fluoride adds a human dimension to his organization’s crusade.
Launched in May 2000, the Fluoride Action Network set itself a goal to end fluoridation of public water supplies worldwide. The group, made up of scientists from the United States, Europe, Australia, and Asia, believes the way to do this is through education.
“Everybody has been brain-washed with the warm and fuzzy image of fluoride by toothpaste manufacturers,” said Mr. Connett, who has avoided using fluoridated toothpaste and any tap water for the past eight years. “These companies have spent billions of dollars killing the debate on the utility of fluoride, and presenting their critics as unscientific nut cases. The purpose of this conference with the Mohawks is to counteract this propaganda.”
Mr. Connett added that the conference comes at a critical point in the fluoride debate because it follows the publication of a book called “The Fluoride Deception,” which examines the issue. It also precedes a definitive review of fluoride toxicity to be done in 2005. The Environmental Protection Agency has asked the National Research Council to review its safe drinking water standards for fluoride.
However, a conference that seeks to educate the public on the fluoride debate will be decidedly one-sided.
Neither Alcoa, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention nor the American Dental Association was invited.
“We could go through the charade of inviting our critics, but every attempt we’ve made in the past to bring them into a debate has failed,” Mr. Connett said. “Frankly, we don’t feel obliged to have them participate.
William R. Maas, director of the division of oral health at the CDC, agreed that an invitation from Mr. Connett would be turned down.
“He asserts things that are inconsistent with conclusions made by independent experts who are qualified to make judgments on this issue,” Mr. Maas said. “I don’t really know if there is anything really to debate with him.”