Declaring Fluoride An Essential Element
The Honorable Arlen Specter
Suite 2031 Federal Building
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
8 January 1999
Dear Senator Specter,
Thank you for your efforts in prompting Bruce Alberts, PhD, and Kenneth Shine, MD, to respond to the letter by Professor Albert W. Burgstahler, PhD, et al., (of which I was a co-signer), regarding the inclusion of fluoride in the Food and Nutrition board s 1997 report, Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Vitamin D and Fluoride. Because of your efforts, Drs. Alberts and Shine eventually (20 November 1998) wrote a reply of sorts. Because of your interest, I wish to draw your attention to inadequacies and inconsistencies in the reply that might not be noted by the casual reader.
The reply acknowledges that fluoride is not an essential nutrient. That means there is no known minimum requirement for fluoride. In that manner, it is similar to lead. Since fluoride is so ubiquitous in nature, there is no way to construct a diet with sufficient nutrients that is, at the same time, void of fluoride. Despite this inability to test zero fluoride intake, the fact is that, no matter how little the fluoride intake is, no deficiency state occurs. Unlike the other items listed in the Food and Nutrition report, there simply is no such thing as fluoride deficiency.
Alberts and Shine argue that "Because of its valuable effects on dental health, fluoride is a beneficial element for humans." There are several things wrong with this statement. Fluoride is not a chemical "element"; fluorine (a poisonous gas at room temperature) is. Fluoride refers to a complex formed of the fluoride ion with some other element or compound, such as calcium fluoride or carbon tetrafluoride. The chemical nature of any fluoride compound is determined not only by the fluorine (or fluoride ion) but also by the element or compound to which it is complexed. For instance, hydrogen fluoride (HF) is considerably different in action than sodium fluoride (NaF) and thousands of times more toxic than calcium fluoride (CaF2) is. Similarly, toxic organochlorines become many times more toxic when converted to organofluorines.
Further, there is considerable argument whether or not fluoride is beneficial to dental health. The statement by Alberts and Shine begs the question. I have challenged fluoride spokespersons in numerous debates to provide one valid reference showing any real dental benefit from fluoridation, and none has ever been found. In 1981, the Rand Corporation, in an extensive review of the fluoride literature on this subject, found that Public Health fluoride studies "suffer from poor experimental design and from analysis plans that largely ignore the possible effects of other factors of tooth decay" with the result that they (the studies) "have no relevance to any criterion of public policy-making." The major error cited by the Rand report was the use of age-related "surfaces saved" or "percent reduction in decay" rather than the rate of decay. Correcting this, the report states, "is a first, necessary step in the development of life-cycle models of treatment effect." For example, a cavity delayed by a year is not a cavity saved. Unfortunately, this first, necessary step is still lacking.
Another way of saying this is that fluoridation is neither necessary nor sufficient to prevent dental cavities. The majority of people exposed to very low water fluoride concentrations have teeth just as healthy as people exposed to higher water fluoride concentrations; and many folks develop dental cavities regardless of the water fluoride concentration.
Finally, the statement by Drs. Alberts and Shine that fluoride be included in the Nutrition Board s actions because it conveys a "beneficial element for humans" is bizarre since that same argument would apply to antibiotics, aspirin, and thousands of other agents not to mention music, prayer, and cotton underwear.
Authors Alberts and Shine admit that infants who are exclusively breast fed would have a low fluoride intake, and yet these infants are not at greater risk for dental caries than formula-fed infants are. Because of this, the adequate intake (AI) of fluoride for infants 0 to 6 months of age is set at 0.01 mg/day. If a baby is not breast-fed and the bottle formula used is mixed in fluoridated tap water, the daily fluoride intake would far exceed the recommended daily intake. Drs. Alberts and Shine are surely aware of the studies by Dr. Phyllis Mullenix et al that demonstrated brain damage in newborn rodents exposed to fluoride. Why are they not recommending the use of unfluoridated water in preparing baby formula?
The authors further acknowledge that caries incidence has declined in countries without fluoridated water. In fact, the decline is equal to that of the fluoridated countries. They then falsely attribute this decline to national dental hygiene programs and the use of fluoride in school-based programs and fluoridated toothpaste. This is purely an opinion and not a statement of fact.
Drs. Alberts and Shine then claim that the majority of animal studies have shown no effect on cancer, birth defects, genetic disorders or bone strength of very high and long-term fluoride exposure. This is an egregious misstatement of fact. The National Toxicology Program (NTP) found significant increases in the incidence of cancer, thyroid tumors, and bone disease in rodents to correlate with fluoride intake that resulted in tissue concentrations in the same range as found in people drinking fluoridated water for several decades.
Further, the fluoride compound used in most animal studies is pure sodium fluoride (NF) and purified water, not industrial grade hydrofluorosilicic acid as is commonly used in public water fluoridation. The fluoride compounds used in public water fluoridation are contaminated with a number of toxic chemicals such as lead, mercury, and aluminum which, by synergy, are known to increase the toxicity of fluoride with the potential of brain damage and other health problems. And, since rats are more resistant to fluoride toxicity than humans, it would seem that rat studies using pure NaF rather than the industrial toxic waste used in public water fluoridation are actually designed to obscure the true toxic risk of the fluoride exposure humans face.
In discussing fluoride-induced osteofluorosis (osteosclerosis), Drs. Alberts and Shine claim that skeletal fluorosis, even in its earliest stages, has not been shown to occur in the U.S. and Canada where water fluoride concentration is less than 10 ppm (mg/L). This is another slippery statement designed to obscure the facts. Worldwide skeletal fluorosis, and even disabling osteo-fluorosis, is found to occur commonly when water fluoride concentration is less than 4 ppm. The fact that osteofluorosis is rarely reported in the U.S. and Canada is more likely due to three factors: (1) the relatively high calcium intake we enjoy; (2) the poor diagnostic acumen of conventional physicians; and (3) the low expectation of finding it since they are not taught to look for it. When confronted with a patient with osteofluorosis, the usual diagnosis is arthritis and the usual treatment is aspirin or other non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs.
Drs. Alberts and Shine conclude that "Given the complexities of the issues the report considers, we are confident that much room remains for further objective inquiry." Doesn t this strike you as strange, considering that fluoridation has been promoted for 50 years? Isn t it more reasonable to conclude that because the important health issues have not been resolved in 50 years that perhaps we should avoid fluoridation until they are resolved? How long are the U.S. Public Health agencies going to continue their "objective inquiry"? The majority of advanced countries have seen enough to know that public water fluoridation should be abandoned.
The problem (of persistent, egregious fluoridation promotion) is actually quite simple. Fluoride is an industrial toxic waste product. A typical phosphate fertilizer plant, for example, produces about 500 tons per day. Disposal of this toxic waste is strictly controlled by our Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with the exception of fluoride in drinking water which is under the control (?) of our Public Health agencies. Fifty years ago fluoride promoters gained control of our Public Health agencies. Job security and career advancement within the Public Health agencies are linked to fluoridation promotion. This has led to the prostitution of science in order to maintain this convenient, cost-saving method of toxic fluoride waste disposal. Surely you have seen the same problem (of science data manipulation) in venues such as auto safety, pollution control, and other toxic waste disposal.
Senator Specter, does it surprise you that the scientists of the EPA unanimously voted to oppose water fluoridation? Within the EPA, it is only the political administrators that advocate continued water fluoridation. In fact, they punish any scientist employee that publicly expresses any doubt of the wisdom of fluoridation. To whom would you go to find the scientific truth of fluoride exposure the EPA scientists or their political administrators?
You have served well in prodding Drs. Alberts and Shine to answer the challenging Burgstahler letter. Now that you observe their disingenuous reply, perhaps you will look further into the problem and join the ranks of intelligent, responsible citizens opposing this unwise practice.
Most sincerely yours, John R. Lee, MD