by Pamela Rogow
Last month, the city of Portland, Oregon, once again, and resoundingly, rejected the addition of fluoride to its municipal water system, voting about 60 to 40 against it. With 900,000 citizens, Portland is the largest U.S. city without fluoride, excepting San Jose, California, which has been taking steps in the opposite direction. The Portland news was celebrated locally by biochemist Vivian Schatz of Mt Airy who lit up as she outlined evidence, in a recent interview, that fluoride is a contaminant that is “added like a medication to everyone’s water.”
For openers, she handed me a book, “The Case Against Fluoride: How Hazardous Waste Ended Up in Our Drinking Water…and the Bad Science and Powerful Politics that Keep it There,” by Paul Connett, PhD; James Beck MD, PhD; and H.S. Micklem, DPhil., published in 2010 by Seven Stories Press. To me the book is a real page-turner. Among the arguments made by the authors are these:
• The fluoride used in public water is an effluent created in the manufacture of phosphate fertilizer. It was originally obtained as a byproduct of aluminum smelting.
• Soon after World War Two, the manufacture and use of phosphate fertilizer skyrocketed. This new industry found itself with a waste product — fluoride — that was creating new environmental problems downstream. So the fertilizer titans re-cast the effluent and sold it to the public as a health aid. (Some readers may remember this period in history, when even some cigarette ads touted the “liberating effects” of smoking.)
• The benefit of using fluoride, if any, to reduce tooth decay comes from topical application, not systemic ingestion of this medication.
• The foundational principle of ‘informed consent’ (by patients) for taking medication is violated by fluoridating water since almost everyone is subject to drinking public water.
• Fluoride is a component of sulfuryl fluoride, a fumigant for food in warehouses, manufactured by Dow AgroSciences and classified by the EPA as a “protected pesticide”.
• Fluoride is a also key component in manufacturing Teflon, refrigerants, waterproof clothing, Prozac and Cipro, steel and circuit boards. Yes, this means that “special interest” money protects it.
And that’s just the opening act of Vivian’s discussion with me. She has been working the fluoride issue for 60 years. In the mid-‘50s, her husband Albert Schatz, who discovered the antibiotic streptomycin, became concerned about fluoride. Vivian’s own academic training reinforced their commitment to protect the public from mass fluoridation; she became a doctoral candidate at the University of Pennsylvania, completing all but her dissertation toward a PhD in microbiology.
Now 88, she vividly recounts when Albert became concerned about fluoride. At the time he was a professor at an agriculture college in Doylestown. “An uncle who was a dentist would come from New York and work in the lab on occasion. One week, he brought along another dentist who was vehemently opposed to fluoridation.” It was 1955.
“Albert went to conferences to learn more. In 1962, we moved to Santiago, Chile, where he was a professor. His job was to foster research in various faculties at the university — the departments of chemistry, dentistry, education and agriculture, among them. There Albert received data about a fluoride experiment in a small town, Curico. It had fluoridated, but a nearby town had not.
“He examined data from both towns and saw that the town with fluoridated water had a major increase in infant deaths and in several conditions. This increase corresponded exactly with the increase in the use of fluoridation. The problems did not exist prior to the addition to fluoridation in the water.”
Albert published the results in a Chilean dental journal and sent copies to every national health organization and to medical and dental associations in the Americas. He sent copies to professors on the faculties of medicine, pharmacy and dentistry. “Shortly thereafter, fluoridation was discontinued in Chile,” said Vivian, “but he was never able to have that article published in a dental journal in the U.S. Pakistan published it in English, and Rodale Press published it here.
“Around the same time, Ian Rapaport — he was born in Romania and trained in Paris but had more recently come to the University of Wisconsin — identified links between Down Syndrome and natural fluoridation, which he published in French journals. He surveyed some places where fluoride was natural in the ground, not added. In 1961, I translated one of his articles from French into English. As a result of publishing this article, Dr Rapaport lost his teaching job in Wisconsin.
“Later he and his family moved to Elkins Park, and we would visit. His daughter, Pola — she’s now in her 40s — was a teenager then. She went on to become an accomplished documentary filmmaker and has begun a film on her father’s work in this arena. She came with a crew and spent the day interviewing me not long ago.”
Schatz and Rapaport were not the only important scientists to view fluoride studies with alarm. Nobel Laureate Arvid Carlsson (awarded in Medicine/Physiology in 2000) is quoted in the introduction to “The Case Against Fluoride”: “Sweden rejected fluoridation in the 1970s, and in this excellent book, these three scientists have confirmed the wisdom of that decision. Our children have not suffered greater tooth decay, as World Health Organization figures attest, and in turn our citizens have not borne the other hazards fluoride may cause.”
In “The Case Against…,” the Head of Preventive Dentistry at the University of Toronto, Hardy Limerack, is quoted: “For anyone who has ever wondered why cities add fluoride to water and questioned whether they should, ‘The Case Against Fluoride’ carefully lays out the arguments…and concludes convincingly that it should now be considered ‘harmful and ineffective.’”
Vivian can cite other scientists and international studies that show damage to health and particularly the nervous system. She adds, however, “I no longer spearhead anything. I’m 88, but I’m an activist.”