Last month the Empire published a My Turn column on water fluoridation from ABC science columnist Lee Dye which accused “some Juneau residents who posture themselves as public health advocates” as distorting scientific research to “suit their own purposes.” Since it was my letter the writer was referring too, I feel I am entitled to a reply.

First, the writer attacked a study by Harvard researchers that found an association between fluoridation and bone cancer in young boys. He asserted that it was only a research paper, and that it was not published under a rigorous peer review process. Wrong. This study by Elise Bassin and three other authors, David Wypij, Roger B. Davis and Murray A. Mittleman, was indeed published last April in the journal Cancer Causes and Control. Here is the citation: “Age-specific fluoride exposure in drinking water and osteosarcoma.”

Journal: Cancer Causes & Control, 2006, Vol. 17, No. 4, pp. 421-428. According to their Web site, Cancer Causes and Control is an international refereed journal. Moreover, while Elise Bassin was a grad student when she wrote her original dissertation on this topic, she is now a clinical instructor in oral health policy and epidemiology at Harvard. I think that qualifies her as a “Harvard researcher.”

And what about her mentor, Dr. Chester Douglas? Here is where the story gets really interesting. Douglas was the subject of an investigation at Harvard into whether he suppressed findings of federally funded research into whether fluoride is associated with bone cancer in adolescent boys. The university did conduct an investigation and “exonerated” Douglas.

The only problem is, Harvard never released its report on the Douglas affair. They simply issued a four paragraph statement. Last October, the Environmental Working Group wrote the university a letter asking Harvard to release the full text of their final report. So far, no report has been forthcoming. I wouldn’t expect one either, in light of the fact that it was recently revealed that Douglas donated one million dollars to the university’s dental school in 2001. Those “connections to a major toothpaste manufacturer” must by mighty lucrative.

“Smacks of a cover up?” I’ll say.

Second, Dye suggested that the National Research Council study on Fluoride was not relevant to the issue of water fluoridation because it was only considering whether the current MCL for fluoride, which is 4 parts per million, should be lowered, and it did not make any conclusions about the policy of fluoridating municipal water. Of course I knew that. Anyone who read the report knows that.

However, Dye does not contradict the fact that the report identified numerous studies which indicated that fluoride in low doses does indeed reduce thyroid function, as well as contribute to a host of other health problems. So it’s conclusions are indeed relevant to the debate about whether Juneau should fluoridate.

But you don’t have to take my word for it. Recently, there were public presentations here in Juneau by Dr. Hardy Limeback. As it happens, Limeback was one of 14 members of the panel that conducted the National Research Council’s review of fluoride research. He was a co-author of the final report, and was opposed to fluoridation.


David Ottoson owns Rainbow Foods and has bought, sold and written about food and health for 20 years. He writes a weekly Neighbors column, Food For Thought.