The Great Fluoridation Hoax; Fact or Fiction?
by Dr. Ronald S. Laura and John F. Ashton



The controversy surrounding fluoridation raises a number of important socio-ethical issues which cannot be overlooked. One of the most burning questions is whether the fluoridation program represents a milestone in the advancement of community health or the opportunistic outcome of a powerful lobby concerned largely to advance its own vested interests at the expense of the interests of the public. The historical origins of fluoridation are revealing, though we shall for obvious reasons in what follows not interpret the revelation itself, but rather tease out a few of the truly remarkable coincidences which make those origins revelatory.

In a more direct approach to a related issue, however, we shall argue that the potential and actual health risks associated with fluoridation have not been sufficiently appreciated by those in favor of fluoridation. The intentional introduction of fluorides in drinking water has certainly not received the rigorous scrutiny and testing properly brought to bear on the wide array of available medical drugs, many of which can be bought without prescription.


Finally, we urge that even if it were determined that the addition of a minimal amount of fluoride to our water supply was both safe and effective in the reduction of caries in the teeth of children, the relevant dosage of fluorides could not be satisfactorily restricted to ensure that the harmful effects of fluoride did not outweigh the alleged beneficial effects.


Many readers will be surprised to hear that fluorides have been in use for a long time, but not in the prevention of tooth decay. The fluorides we

Dr. Ronald S. Laura is a professor of education at the University of Newcastle and is a PERC Fellow in Health Education, Harvard University, and John F. Ashton teaches in the department of education at the University of Newcastle.

now, in the name of health, add to our drinking water were for nearly four decades used as stomach poison, insecticides and rodenticides. Fluorides are believed to exert their toxic action on pests by combining with and inhibiting many enzymes that contain elements such as iron, calcium and magnesium. For similar reasons fluorides are also highly toxic to plants, disrupting the delicate biochemical balance in respect of which photosynthesis takes place.


Nor is there any reason to suspect that humans are immune from the effects of this potent poison. Even a quick perusal of the indexes of most reference manuals on industrial toxicology list a section on the hazards of handling fluoride compounds. In assessing the toxicity levels of fluorides Sax confirms that doses of 25 to 50 mg must be regarded as "highly toxic" and can cause severe vomiting, diarrhea and CNS manifestations.1

It is crucial to recognize from the outset that fluoride is a highly toxic substance. Appreciation of this simple point makes it easier to understand the natural reluctance on the part of some to accept without question the compulsory ingestion of a poison to obtain partial control of what would generally be regarded as a non-communicable disease.


The potent toxicity of fluoride and the narrow limits of human tolerance (between 1-5 ppm) make the question of optimum concentration of paramount importance.


The fluoridation controversy becomes even more interesting when we realize that industrial fluorine wastes have since the early 1900s been one of the main pollutants of our lakes, streams and aquifers, causing untold losses to farmers in regard to the poisoning of stock and crops.

Fluorides such as hydrogen fluoride and silicon tetrafluoride are emitted by phosphate fertilizer manufacturing plants (phosphate rock can typically contain 3 percent fluoride). The industrial process of steel production, certain chemical processing and particularly aluminium production which involves the electrolysis of alumina in a bath of molten cryolite (sodium aluminium hexafluoride) all release considerable quantities of fluorides into the environment.


The fluorides emitted are readily absorbed by vegetation and are known to cause substantial leaf injury. Even in concentrations as low as 0.1 ppb (parts per billion), fluorides significantly reduce both the growth and yield of crops. Livestock have also fallen victim to fluoride poisoning caused primarily by ingesting contaminated vegetation.2 It is reported that the Aluminum Corporation of America (ALCOA) was confronted by annual claims for millions to compensate for the havoc wreaked by their fluorine wastes.


It was in 1933 that the United States Public Health Service (PHS) became particularly concerned about the poisoning effect of fluoride on teeth determining that dental fluorosis (teeth mottled with yellow, brown and even black stains) occurred amongst 25-30 percent of children when just over 1 ppm of fluoride was present in drinking water.3 By 1942 the PHS, largely under the guidance of Dr. H. Trendley Dean, legislated that drinking water containing up to 1 ppm of fluoride was acceptable.


The PHS was not at this stage introducing fluoridation—it was concerned mainly to define the maximum allow-able limit beyond which fluoride concentrations should be regarded as contaminating public water supplies.


Dean's research investigations also indicated that although 1 ppm fluoride concentration caused enamel fluorosis or mottling in a small percentage of children (up to 10 percent), it also served to provide partial protection against dental decay.4


Dean was also well aware that fluoride concentrations of as little as 2 ppm could constitute a public health concern, causing severe dental fluorosis. Coincidentally, the U.S. PHS was at the time sponsored under the Department of the Treasury, the chief officer of which was Andrew Mellon, owner of ALCOA. In 1939 The Mellon Institute (established and con-trolled by the family of Andrew Mellon), employed a scientist, Dr. Gerald Cox, to find a viable market for the industrial fluoride wastes associated with the production of aluminium.


Of this intriguing series of connections between the interests of ALCOA and the story of fluoridation Walker writes:

In 1939, Gerald Cox, a biochemist employed by the University of Pittsburgh, was undertaking contract work for the Mellon Institute. At a meeting of water engineers at Johnstown, Pennsylvania, he first put forward his idea to add fluoride to public water supplies. By 1940, Cox had become a member of the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Research Council, and he prepared for this illustrious body a series of submissions strongly promoting the idea of artificial fluoridation.5

Dennis Stevenson also comments about this connection between Dr. Cox, ALCOA and fluoridation but somewhat more cynically.


He writes:

Dr. Cox then proposed artificial water fluoridation as a means of reducing tooth decay. What better way to solve the huge and costly problem of disposing of toxic waste from aluminum manufacturers than getting paid to put it in the drinking water? What an incredible coincidence— ALCOA and the original fluoridation proposal.6

Nor do the chain of seeming coincidences end here.



A computer analysis of the data from the largest dental survey ever done—of nearly 40,000 school children—by the National Institutes of Dental Research revealed no correlation between tooth decay and fluoridation. In fact, many of the non-fluoridated cities had better tooth decay rates than fluoridated cities. The city with the lowest rate of tooth decay was not fluoridated.


Of the three with the highest rate of decay, two were partially fluoridated.

The Missouri State Bureau of Dental Health had conducted a survey of more than 6,500 lifelong resident second-and sixth-grade children in various parts of Missouri and found that overall... there were no significant differences between children drinking optimally fluoridated water and children drinking sub-optimally fluoridated water.
—Albertt W. Burgstahler, Ph.D. Professor of Chemistry, University of Kansas districts reporting the highest caries-free rates, were totally unfluoridated. How does one explain this?
—A. S. Gray, D.D.S. Journal of the Canadian Dental Association, 1987

Caldwell refers to the very interesting testimony of Miss Florence Birmingham on May 25-27, 1954, before the Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce, which had organized a series of hearings on the fluoridation issue. As President of the Massachusetts Women's Political Club, Miss Birmingham was on the occasion representing some 50,000 women.


She is recorded as saying:

In 1944 Oscar Ewing was put on the payroll of the Aluminum Company of America [ALCOA], as attorney; at an annual salary of $750,000. This fact was established at a Senate hearing and became part of the Congressional Record. Since the aluminum company had no big litigation pending at the time, the question might logically be asked, why such a large fee? A few months later Mr. Ewing was made Federal Security Administrator with the announcement that he was taking a big salary cut in order to serve his country.



... all surveys both here and in Western Europe show that the reduction in [dental] caries over the past 20 years is just as great in un-fluoridated as in fluoridated communities.
—John R. Lee, M.D.


Even the Journal of the American Dental Association [states] that "the current reported decline in caries in the U.S. and other Western industrialized countries has been observed in both fluoridated and non-fluoridated communities, with percentage reductions in each community apparently about the same."
—Chemical & Engineering News, 1 August 1988


Figures released by the National Centre for Health Statistics reveal that infant mortality is a big problem in the United States. The data shows that the ten cities with the worst rate of infant mortality have all been artificially fluoridated at least seventeen years or longer!

After the first full year of fluoridation Kansas City, Missouri's infant mortality increased 13 percent.
—The Kansas City Star, 21 November 1982

After the fifth year of fluoridation in Kansas City, infant mortality increased 36 percent.
—The Kansas City Star, 26 February 1987

As head of the Federal Security Agency (now the Department of Health, Education and Welfare), he immediately started the ball rolling to sell "rat poison" by the ton instead of in dime packages... sodium fluoride was dangerous waste product of the aluminum company. They were not permitted to dump it into rivers or fields where it would poison fish, cattle, etc. Apparently someone conceived the brilliant idea of taking advantage of the erroneous conclusions drawn from Deaf Smith County, Texas.*


* In a footnote Caldwell comments on this point:

This refers to a widely circulated report published in a popular magazine in the early forties, in which Dr. George Heard, a dentist in Deaf Smith County, claimed he had no business because of the natural fluoride in the water. Later, when Dr. Heard found mottled teeth too brittle to fill and a rushing business after supermarkets moved in with processed foods, he tried in vain to set the record straight. He could find no publisher for his new information. His original article was entitled "The Town Without A Tootache." 8

The Aluminum Company of America then began selling sodium fluoride to put in the drinking water.7


The series of events which thereafter led to the apparently inevitable implementation of fluoridation deserve also to be reviewed. In 1945 Grand Rapids, Michigan was selected as the site of the first major longitudinal study of the effects of fluoridation on the public at large. Comparisons were to be made with the city of Muskegon, Michigan which remained un-fluoridated so that it could be used as a control.9

Although the experiment was supposed to be undertaken over the course of ten years to determine any cumulative side-effects which might result from the fluoridation of municipal water, Ewing intervened after only five years to declare the success of the study in showing fluoridation to be safe.


As Walker puts it:

In June, 1950, half-way through the experiment, the U.S. PHS under its Chief, Oscar Ewing, "endorsed" the safety and effectiveness of artificial fluoridation; and encouraged its immediate adoption through the States.10


One year later Ewing was able to convince the American Congress that fluoridation was a necessity, and a total of two million U.S. dollars (an enormous sum of money in those days) was immediately directed to pro-mote the fluoridation program throughout the USA.11

While the circumstances surrounding Ewing's achievement were revealing, an even more intriguing set of interconnections was yet to be revealed. Miss Birmingham's testimony had included a statement that "Mr. Ewing's propaganda expert was Edward L. Bernays."12

Her testimony continued:

We quote from Dr. Paul Manning's article: 'The Federal Engineering of Consent." Nephew of Sigmund Freud, the Vienna born Mr. Bernays is well documented in the Faxon book published in 1951 (Rumford Press, Concord, N.H.); Public Relations: Edward L. Bernays and the American Scene.


The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses must be done by experts, the public relations counsels (Bernays invented the term);

"they are the invisible rulers who control the destinies of millions... the most direct way to reach the herd is through the leaders. For, if the group they dominate will respond... all this must be planned... indoctrination must be subtle. It should be worked into the everyday life of the people—24 hours a day in hundreds of ways...


A redefinition of ethics is necessary... the subject matter of the propaganda need not necessarily be true," says Bernays.

If the socio-ethical attitudes expressed in this testimony are associated with the fluoridation program, it is clear that we have more than just health reasons to be concerned about fluoridation.

In 1979 Chemical & Engineering News13 published a review of a well documented anti-fluoridation book by Waldbott.14 The unashamedly pro-fluoridation review prompted a spate of letters criticizing the tenor and content of the review, and re-asserted Waldbott's persuasive case against fluoridation. One letter complained that the reviewer was in fact explicitly urging readers not to take seriously the various reports of fluoride poi-soning.15 Another letter writer drew attention to another aspect of the review, saying:

Waldbott does not base his objection to fluoridation merely on dental fluorosis but on the broader issue of individual clinical toxicity. Those of us in clinical practice (and our patients as well) have much to be grateful to Waldbott for in our attention to this aspect of fluoridation problems. The alert clinician who goes beyond the orthodox practice of making diagnoses keyed to organicity and providing symptomatic treatment will find in his practice those individuals who are being made ill by fluoridation. It is this insight that is Waldbott's greatest contribution . . .

A second major point bypassed in the book review is the fact of dramatically increased dietary fluoride exposure, as confirmed by the data of Rose and Marier (Canadian National Research Council), Herta Spencer, Wiatroski, and others, including my own food fluoride study ... It boggles the mind to argue, as the U.S. Public Health Service does, that "optimal" water fluoridation levels should be the same in 1979 as they were in 1943 when food fluoride was essentially negligible.

It is ironic that if fluoridation were to be raised as new concept for the prevention of tooth decay today, the same government agencies that might employ reviewer Burt would reject the proposal without a second thought. It is only an accident of historical scientific naïveté that fluoridation became an entrenched public policy. The fact that 100 million Americans (and a large percentage of them against their expressed desire) are subject to the unnecessary ecologic burden of water fluoridation does not make it right...16

Mandatory medication by fluoridation was not of course peculiar to the United States. Australians have for more than three decades been subject-ed to forced fluoridation of their drinking water. In 1953 the National Health & Medical Research Council of Australia lent its support to the mandatory mass-medication of Australians.17 It is bizarre and disconcerting to find that the introduction of the fluoridation program into our cities was also linked with political and industrial interplay. These connections have been deftly exposed by Walker and more recently by Wendy Varney in her book, Fluoride in Australia—A Case to Answer.18

Today, Australia has "distinguished" itself by promoting the fluoridation program with such vigor that Australia now ranks as the most comprehensively fluoridated country in the world. More than 70 percent of Australians are obliged to drink water to which fluorides have been added. Brisbane is the only capital city which remains un-fluoridated. Australia persists in its policy commitment to artificial fluoridation, despite the fact that 98 percent of the world's population has either discontinued fluoridation programs or never begun them.

Statistics show that less than 40 percent of the U.S. is currently fluoridated and less than 10 percent of England. Sweden, Scotland, Norway, Hungary, Holland, West Germany, Denmark, and Belgium have all discontinued fluoridation, to name only a few.19


Although 1 ppm is standardly defined as that level of fluoride concentration which provides maximal protection against dental decay, with mini-mal clinically observable dental fluorosis, controversy ranges widely as to adverse effects of prolonged fluoride exposure even at this level. As early as 1942, it was reported that in areas of endemic fluorosis with fluoride concentrations of 1 ppm or less, children with poor nutrition suffered skeletal defects, coupled with severe mottling of teeth.

Even if one grants that fluoride concentrations of 1 ppm are relatively safe, it has become increasingly clear that individual levels of safe fluoride ingestion cannot be adequately controlled. Drinking water dosages of fluoride, for example will depend partly upon variable factors such as thirst. Liquid intakes also vary according to age, work situation, climate and season and levels of exercise. Athletes, for instance, tend to consume more water than their non-athletic counterparts. Adjustments to municipal water supplies cannot accommodate satisfactorily the wide array of relevant individual differences of this kind.

In addition fluorides are ingested in varying quantities from many unsuspected sources. Fluoride tablets, seemingly innocuous mouthwashes, gels and even water-based tablets contribute to dangerous increases in fluoride levels well beyond the recommended 1 ppm contained in drinking water. Although the point has yet to be established definitively, it has been suggested that aluminum cooking utensils and non-stick cookware which are coated with Tetrafluoroethylene may exude fluoride into food, particularly if they have surface scratches or are overheated.20


Even more surprising is the fact that tea leaves contain sufficient fluoride that by drinking three to eight cups daily, using fluoridated water, the total fluoride dosage is somewhere between four and six times the safe maximum recommended daily allowance.21


In addition to endemic fluorides in the natural foods we eat, we are in many industrial cities forced to breathe fluorides derived from factory emissions.22


By far the most common source of additional fluoride intake comes from beverage consumption. Beverages which contain fluoridated water include reconstituted juices, punches, popsicles, other water-based frozen desserts and carbonated beverages. Studies have shown that soft drink consumption in the U.S. has increased markedly over the last two decades, not only among teenage boys from 15-17 years of age, but among 1-2 year old children. Statistics show that in Canada soft drink consumption increased by 37 percent from 1972 to 1981.23


The increase in soft drink consumption coincided with a decrease in the consumption of milk, thereby increasing the overall fluoride intake. A number of studies reveal that the dramatic increase in beverage consumption, coupled with fluoridation of municipal waters constitutes a potential health haz-ard.24 Prolonged exposure to fluorides may actually increase rather than diminish the incidence of tooth decay. Enzymatic damage related to enamel mineralization creates a parotic tooth far more susceptible to caries than would otherwise be the case.25

In a major study of adverse effects of fluoride, Yiamouyiannis and Burk reported in 1977 that at least 10,000 people in the U.S. die every year of fluoride-induced cancer. In the introduction to their work 17 research papers are cited which demonstrate the mutagenic effects associated with fluorides.26 There is now side consensus within the scientific community that the mutagenic activity of a substance can be regarded as an important indication of its potential cancer-causing activity.

Since those provocative studies over a decade ago, a vast scientific literature has continued to accumulate which strongly indicates that the practice of fluoridating municipal water supplies is dangerous. In 1983 an Australian dental surgeon, G. Smith, reported a number of studies which suggest that there is now a serious risk to the public of fluoride overdose. He argues that "the crucial argument does not concern the fluoride lev-el in a community water supply per se, but rather whether fluoridation increases the risk that certain people develop, even for a short time, levels of fluoride in the blood that can damage human cells and systems."27

In 1985 another Australian scientist, M. Diesendorf, drew attention to the discovery of a whole new dimension to the health hazards associated with the ingestion of fluorides. Sodium fluoride, for example, had been found to cause unscheduled DNA synthesis and chromosonal aberrations in certain human cells.28 Other recent studies purport to reveal the actual mechanism by virtue of which fluoride can disrupt the DNA molecule and the active sites of the molecules of many human enzymes.29

When all is said, it is manifestly clear that the time has come for a serious and comprehensive review of the policy which mandates the compulsory fluoridation of our municipal water supplies. Such a review will no doubt require a multi-faceted approach in which reliable research investigations can be integrated with a philosophy of health education to assist their implementation.


Through education it may be possible to appreciate that within nature itself are important patterns of design for an overall program of health. In nature, for instance, fluorides are typically found in decidedly insoluble forms which are relatively safe. By deliberately intervening to make nature's insoluble forms of fluoride soluble we transform a relatively harmless natural substance into a concentrated and highly toxic substance which can then be indiscriminately dispersed throughout the environment as a poison.


The subtle constellation of health clues which nature provides in respect of fluorides is further illustrated by the simple but elegant mechanisms of breastfeeding. Breastfed infants are actually protected from receiving more than extremely low concentrations of fluoride in breast milk by an inbuilt physiological plasma/milk barrier against fluoride.30 There is much about health to learn from nature, but to do so we must be more concerned to join with nature in partnership than to stand back from nature to subdue and manipulate it.

Whether the fluoridation campaign must be indicted in the light of the evidence as one of the major public hoaxes perpetrated this century, is a judgment best reserved for the reader. Whatever the judgment, it is incontestable that the prevention of tooth decay is not the bottom-line of the fluoridation debate when the panacea has become the poison.

For more information on artificial fluoridation, we recommend to readers: The Australian Fluoridation News, GPO Box 935G, Melbourne, Vic, 3001. This is a bi-monthly publication, which costs $15 per annum.


  1. N.I. Sax, Dangerous Properties of Industrial Materials, 2nd ed. (New York: Reinhold Publishing Corp., 1963), p. 1187.

  2. L. Hodges, Environmental Pollution, 2nd ed. (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1977), p. 64.

  3. G.S.R. Walker, Fluoridation—Poison on Tap (Melbourne: Glen Walker Publisher, 1982), p. 40.

  4. H.T. Dean, "Studies on the Minimal Threshold of the Dental Sign of Chronic Endemic Fluorosis," Public Health Rep, 50:1719-1729, 1934.

  5. Walker, op. eit. p. 115.

  6. D. Stevenson, "Fluoridation, Panacea or Poison?," Simply Living Magazine, Vol. 3, #6 (1988), p. 102.

  7. G. Caldwell and RE. Zanfagna, Fluoridation and Truth Decay (Cali-fornia: Top-Ecol Press, 1974), p. 7.

  8. Ibid.

  9. W. Varney, Fluoride in Australia (Sydney: Hale & Iremonger, 1986), p. 14.

  10. Walker, op. cit. p. 159.

  11. Ibid.

  12. Caldwell and Zanfagna, op. cit. p. 8.

  13. B. Burt, Chem & Eng News (22 October 1979), p. 6.

  14. G.L. Waldbott, Fluoridation: the Great Dilemma (Kansas: Coronado Press Inc., 1978).

  15. D. Sherrell, Chem & Eng News (7 January 1980), p. 4.

  16. J.R. Lee, Chem & Eng News (28 January 1980), pp. 4-5.

  17. Walker, op. cit. p. 156.

  18. Varney, op. cit.

  19. Stevenson, op. cit. p. 103.

  20. Ibid. p. 104.

  21. Committee on Food Protection, Food and Nutritional Board National Research Council, Toxicants Occurring Naturally in Foods (Wash-ington, DC: National Academy of Science, 1973), pp. 12-14.

  22. Walker, op. cit. p. 308.

  23. J. Clovis and J.A. Hargreaves, "Fluoride Intake from Beverage Consumption," Community Dent Oral Epidemiol, 16:14, 1988.

  24. J. Mann, M. Tibi, and H.D. Sgan-Cohen, "Fluorosis and Caries Prevalence in a Community Drinking Above-Optional Fluoridated Water," Community Dent Oral Epidemiol, 15:293-294, 1987.

  25. Ibid. p. 295.

  26. J. Yiamoyiannis and D. Burk, "Fluoridation and Cancer. Age-Dependence of Cancer Mortality Related to Artificial Fluoridation," Fluoride, 10:102-123, 1977.

  27. G. Smith, "Fluoridation—Are the Dangers Resolved?," New Scientist (5 May 1983), p. 286.

  28. M. Diesendorf, "Fluoride: New Risk?," Search, 16, nos. 5-6:129, 1985.

  29. Ibid.

  30. Smith, op. cit. p. 287

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