by Joel Griffiths
and Chris Bryson
Volume 5, #3
During the ultra-secret Manhattan Project, a report was commissioned
the effect of fluoride on humans.
That report was classified "secret" for reasons of "national
About the Authors
Joel Griffiths is a medical writer based in New York City. He is the
author of a book on radiation hazards that included one of the first
revelations of human radiation experiments, and has contributed
numerous articles to medical journals and popular publications.
Chris Bryson, who holds a Master's degree in journalism, is an
independent reporter for BBC Radio, ABC-TV and public television in
New York City, and writes for a variety of publications.
The authors wish to thank Clifford Honicker, Executive Director of
the American Environmental Health Studies Project, Knoxville, TN,
for his indispensable archival research.
Some 50 years after United States authorities began adding fluoride
to public water supplies to reduce cavities in children's teeth,
recently discovered declassified government documents are shedding
new light on the roots of that still-controversial public health
measure, revealing a surprising connection between the use of
fluoride and the dawning of the nuclear age.
Today, two-thirds of US public drinking water is fluoridated. Many
municipalities still resist the practice, disbelieving the
government's assurances of safety.
Since the days of World War II when the US prevailed by building the
world's first atomic bomb, the nation's public health leaders have
maintained that low doses of fluoride are safe for people and good
for children's teeth.
That safety verdict should now be re-examined in the light of
hundreds of once-secret WWII-era documents obtained by these
reporters [authors Griffiths and Bryson], including declassified
papers of the Manhattan Project - the ultra-secret US military program
that produced the atomic bomb.
Fluoride was the key chemical in atomic bomb production, according
to the documents.
Massive quantities - millions of tons - were essential
for the manufacture of bomb-grade uranium and plutonium for nuclear
weapons throughout the Cold War. One of the most toxic chemicals
known, fluoride emerged as the leading chemical health hazard of the
US atomic bomb program, both for workers and for nearby communities,
the documents reveal.
Other revelations include:
Much of the original proof that fluoride is safe for humans in low
doses was generated by A-bomb program scientists who had been
secretly ordered to provide "evidence useful in litigation" against
defense contractors for fluoride injury to citizens. The first
lawsuits against the American A-bomb program were not over
radiation, but over fluoride damage, the documents show.
Human studies were required. Bomb program researchers played a
leading role in the design and implementation of the most extensive
US study of the health effects of fluoridating public drinking
water, conducted in Newburgh, New York, from 1945 to 1955. Then, in
a classified operation code-named "Program F", they secretly
gathered and analyzed blood and tissue samples from Newburgh
citizens with the cooperation of New York State Health Department
The original, secret version (obtained by these reporters) of a
study published by Program F scientists in the August 1948 Journal
of the American Dental Association1 shows that evidence of adverse
health effects from fluoride was censored by the US Atomic Energy
Commission (AEC) - considered the most powerful of Cold War
agencies-for reasons of "national security".
The bomb program's fluoride safety studies were conducted at the
University of Rochester - site of one of the most notorious human
radiation experiments of the Cold War, in which unsuspecting
hospital patients were injected with toxic doses of radioactive
The fluoride studies were conducted with the same ethical
mindset, in which "national security" was paramount.
EVIDENCE OF FLUORIDE'S ADVERSE HEALTH EFFECTS
The US Government's conflict of interest and its motive to prove
fluoride safe in the furious debate over water fluoridation since
the 1950s has only now been made clear to the general public, let
alone to civilian researchers, health professionals and journalists.
The declassified documents resonate with a growing body of
scientific evidence and a chorus of questions about the health
effects of fluoride in the environment.
Human exposure to fluoride has mushroomed since World War II, due
not only to fluoridated water and toothpaste but to environmental
pollution by major industries, from aluminium to pesticides, where
fluoride is a critical industrial chemical as well as a waste
The impact can be seen literally in the smiles of our children.
Large numbers (up to 80 per cent in some cities) of young Americans
now have dental fluorosis, the first visible sign of excessive
fluoride exposure according to the US National Research Council.
(The signs are whitish flecks or spots, particularly on the front
teeth, or dark spots or stripes in more severe cases.)
Less known to the public is that fluoride also accumulates in bones.
"The teeth are windows to what's happening in the bones," explained
Paul Connett, Professor of Chemistry at St Lawrence University, New
York, to these reporters.
In recent years, pediatric bone
specialists have expressed alarm about an increase in stress
fractures among young people in the US. Connett and other scientists
are concerned that fluoride-linked to bone damage in studies since
the 1930s-may be a contributing factor.
The declassified documents add urgency: much of the original 'proof
' that low-dose fluoride is safe for children's bones came from US
bomb program scientists, according to this investigation.
Now, researchers who have reviewed these declassified documents fear
that Cold War national security considerations may have prevented
objective scientific evaluation of vital public health questions
"Information was buried," concludes Dr Phyllis Mullenix, former head
of toxicology at Forsyth Dental Center in Boston and now a critic of
fluoridation. Animal studies which Mullenix and co-workers conducted
at Forsyth in the early 1990s indicated that fluoride was a powerful
central nervous system (CNS) toxin and might adversely affect human
brain functioning even at low doses. (New epidemiological evidence
from China adds support, showing a correlation between low-dose
fluoride exposure and diminished IQ in children.) Mullenix's results
were published in 1995 in a reputable peer-reviewed scientific
During her investigation, Mullenix was astonished to discover there
had been virtually no previous US studies of fluoride's effects on
the human brain. Then, her application for a grant to continue her
CNS research was turned down by the US National Institutes of Health
(NIH), when an NIH panel flatly told her that "fluoride does not
have central nervous system effects".
Declassified documents of the US atomic bomb program indicate
Manhattan Project memorandum of 29 April 1944 states:
"Clinical evidence suggests that uranium hexafluoride may have a
rather marked central nervous system effect... It seems most likely
that the F [code for fluoride] component rather than the T [code for
uranium] is the causative factor."
The memo, from a captain in the
medical corps, is stamped SECRET and is addressed to Colonel
Stafford Warren, head of the Manhattan Project's Medical Section.
Colonel Warren is asked to approve a program of animal research on
"Since work with these compounds is essential, it will
be necessary to know in advance what mental effects may occur after
exposure... This is important not only to protect a given
individual, but also to prevent a confused workman from injuring
others by improperly performing his duties."
On the same day, Colonel Warren approved the CNS research program.
This was in 1944, at the height of World War II and the US nation's
race to build the world's first atomic bomb.
For research on fluoride's CNS effects to be approved at such a
momentous time, the supporting evidence set forth in the proposal
forwarded along with the memo must have been persuasive. The
proposal, however, is missing from the files at the US National
"If you find the memos but the document they refer to is
missing, it's probably still classified," said Charles Reeves, chief
librarian at the Atlanta branch of the US National Archives and
Records Administration where the memos were found.
results of the Manhattan Project's fluoride CNS research could be
found in the files.
After reviewing the memos, Mullenix declared herself
"How could I be told by NIH that fluoride has no
central nervous system effects, when these documents were sitting
there all the time?"
She reasons that the Manhattan Project did do
fluoride CNS studies:
"That kind of warning, that fluoride workers
might be a danger to the bomb program by improperly performing their
duties-I can't imagine that would be ignored."
But she suggests that
the results were buried because of the difficult legal and public
relations problems they might create for the government.
The author of the 1944 CNS research proposal attached to the 29
April memo was Dr Harold C. Hodge - at the time, chief of fluoride
toxicology studies for the University of Rochester division of the
Nearly 50 years later at the Forsyth Dental Center in Boston, Dr
Mullenix was introduced to a gently ambling elderly man, brought in
to serve as a consultant on her CNS research. This man was Harold C.
By then, Hodge had achieved status emeritus as a world
authority on fluoride safety.
"But even though he was supposed to be
helping me," said Mullenix, "he never once mentioned the CNS work he
had done for the Manhattan Project."
The "black hole" in fluoride CNS research since the days of the
Manhattan Project is unacceptable to Mullenix who refuses to abandon
"There is so much fluoride exposure now, and we simply do
not know what it is doing. You can't just walk away from this."
Dr Antonio Noronha, an NIH scientific review advisor familiar with
Dr Mullenix's grant request, told us that her proposal was rejected
by a scientific peer-review group. He termed her claim of
institutional bias against fluoride CNS research "far-fetched".
"We strive very hard at NIH to make sure politics does
not enter the picture."
THE NEW JERSEY FLUORIDE POLLUTION INCIDENT
The documentary trail begins at the height of World War II, in 1944,
when a severe pollution incident occurred downwind of the E.I.
DuPont de Nemours Company chemical factory in Deepwater, New Jersey.
The factory was then producing millions of pounds of fluoride for
the Manhattan Project whose scientists were racing to produce the
world's first atomic bomb.
The farms downwind in Gloucester and Salem counties were famous for
their high-quality produce. Their peaches went directly to the
Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City; their tomatoes were bought
up by Campbell's Soup.
But in the summer of 1944 the farmers began reporting that their
crops were blighted:
"Something is burning up the peach crops around
They said that poultry died after an all-night thunderstorm,
and that farm workers who ate produce they'd picked would sometimes
vomit all night and into the next day.
"I remember our horses looked sick and were too stiff to work,"
Mildred Giordano, a teenager at the time, told these reporters.
cows were so crippled that they could not stand up; they could only
graze by crawling on their bellies.
The account was confirmed in taped interviews with
(shortly before he died), of Sadtler Laboratories of Philadelphia,
one of the nation's oldest chemical consulting firms. Sadtler had
personally conducted the initial investigation of the damage.
Although the farmers did not know it, the attention of the Manhattan
Project and the federal government was riveted on the New Jersey
incident, according to once-secret documents obtained by these
A memo, dated 27 August 1945, from Manhattan Project chief
Major-General Leslie R. Groves to the Commanding General of Army
Service Forces at the Pentagon, concerns the investigation of crop
damage at Lower Penns Neck, New Jersey. It states:
"At the request
of the Secretary of War, the Department of Agriculture has agreed to
cooperate in investigating complaints of crop damage attributed...to
fumes from a plant operated in connection with the Manhattan
After the war's end, Dr
Harold C. Hodge, the Manhattan Project's
chief of fluoride toxicology studies, worriedly wrote in a secret
memo (1 March 1946) to his boss, Colonel Stafford L. Warren, chief
of the Medical Section, about,
"problems associated with the question
of fluoride contamination of the atmosphere in a certain section of
"There seem to be four distinct (though related) problems:
"1. A question of injury of the peach crop in 1944.
"2. A report of extraordinary fluoride content of vegetables grown
in this area.
"3. A report of abnormally high fluoride content in the blood of
human individuals residing in this area.
"4. A report raising the question of serious poisoning of horses and
cattle in this area."
FLUORIDE DAMAGE - THE FIRST LAWSUITS
The New Jersey farmers waited until the war was over before suing
DuPont and the Manhattan Project for fluoride damage-reportedly the
first lawsuits against the US atomic bomb program. Although
seemingly trivial, the lawsuits shook the government, the secret
Under the personal direction of Major-General Groves, secret
meetings were convened in Washington, with compulsory attendance by
scores of scientists and officials from,
the US War Department
the Food and Drug Administration
and Justice departments
the US Army's Chemical Warfare Service and
the Bureau of Standards,
...as well as lawyers from
Declassified memos of the meetings reveal a secret
mobilization of the full forces of the government to defeat the New
In a memo (2 May 1946) copied to General Groves, Manhattan Project
Lt Colonel Cooper B. Rhodes notes that these agencies,
scientific investigations to obtain evidence which may be used to
protect the interest of the Government at the trial of the suits
brought by owners of peach orchards in... New Jersey".
Regarding these lawsuits, General Groves wrote to the Chairman of
the Senate Special Committee on Atomic Energy in a memo of 28
February 1946, advising that "the Department of Justice is
cooperating in the defense of these suits".
Why the national security emergency over a few lawsuits by New
In 1946 the United States began full-scale
production of atomic bombs. No other nation had yet tested a nuclear
weapon, and the A-bomb was seen as crucial for US leadership of the
The New Jersey fluoride lawsuits were a serious
roadblock to that strategy.
"The specter of endless lawsuits haunted
the military," wrote Lansing Lamont in Day of Trinity, his acclaimed
book about the first atomic bomb test.3
"If the farmers won, it would open the door to further suits which
might impede the bomb program's ability to use fluoride," commented
Jacqueline Kittrell, a Tennessee public interest lawyer who examined
the declassified fluoride documents.
nuclear-related litigation and has represented plaintiffs in several
human radiation experiment cases.)
"The reports of human injury were
especially threatening because of the potential for enormous
settlements - not to mention the PR problem," she added.
Indeed, DuPont was particularly concerned about the "possible
psychologic reaction" to the New Jersey pollution incident,
according to a secret Manhattan Project memo of 1 March 1946. Facing
a threat from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to embargo the
region's produce because of "high fluoride content", DuPont
dispatched its lawyers to the FDA offices in Washington, DC, where
an agitated meeting ensued.
According to a memo sent next day to
General Groves, DuPont's lawyer argued that,
"in view of the pending
suits... any action by the Food and Drug Administration... would have
a serious effect on the DuPont Company and would create a bad public
After the meeting adjourned, Manhattan Project
Captain John Davies approached the FDA's Food Division chief and,
"impressed upon Dr White the substantial interest which the
Government had in claims which might arise as a result of action
which might be taken by the Food and Drug Administration".
There was no embargo. Instead, according to General Groves' memo of
27 August 1946, new tests for fluoride in the New Jersey area were
to be conducted not by the Department of Agriculture but by the US
Army's Chemical Warfare Service (CWS) - because,
"work done by the
Chemical Warfare Service would carry the greatest weight as evidence
if... lawsuits are started by the complainants".
Meanwhile, the public relations problem remained unresolved: local
citizens were in a panic about fluoride.
The farmers' spokesman, Willard B. Kille, was personally invited to dine with General Groves
(then known as "the man who built the atomic bomb") at his office at
the War Department on 26 March 1946.
Although diagnosed by his
doctor as having fluoride poisoning, Kille departed the luncheon
convinced of the government's good faith.
Next day he wrote to the
general, expressing his wish that the other farmers could have been
present so that,
"they too could come away with the feeling that
their interests in this particular matter were being safeguarded by
men of the very highest type whose integrity they could not
A broader solution to the public relations problem was suggested by
Manhattan Project chief fluoride toxicologist Harold C. Hodge in a
second secret memo (1 May 1946) to Medical Section chief Colonel
"Would there be any use in making attempts to counteract the
local fear of fluoride on the part of residents of Salem and
Gloucester counties through lectures on F toxicology and perhaps the
usefulness of F in tooth health?"
Such lectures were indeed given,
not only to New Jersey citizens but to the rest of the nation
throughout the Cold War.
The New Jersey farmers' lawsuits were ultimately stymied by the
government's refusal to reveal the key piece of information that
would have settled the case: how much fluoride DuPont had vented
into the atmosphere during the war.
"Disclosure would be injurious
to the military security of the United States," Manhattan Project
Major C. A. Taney, Jr, had written in a memo soon after the war's
end (24 September 1945).
The farmers were pacified with token financial settlements,
according to interviews with descendants still living in the area.
"All we knew is that DuPont released some chemical that burned up
all the peach trees around here," recalled Angelo Giordano whose
father James was one of the original plaintiffs.
"The trees were no
good after that, so we had to give up on the peaches."
and cows acted and walked stiffly, recalled his sister Mildred.
"Could any of that have been the fluoride?" she asked.
she detailed are cardinal signs of fluoride toxicity, according to
The Giordano family has also been plagued
by bone and joint problems, Mildred added. Recalling the settlement
received by the family, Angelo Giordano told these reporters that
his father said he "got about $200".
The farmers were stonewalled in their search for information about
fluoride's effects on their health, and their complaints have long
since been forgotten.
But they unknowingly left their imprint on
history: their complaints of injury to their health reverberated
through the corridors of power in Washington and triggered
intensive, secret, bomb program research on the health effects of
"PROGRAM F" - SECRET FLUORIDE RESEARCH
A secret memo (2 May 1946) to General Groves from Manhattan Project
Lt Colonel Rhodes states:
"Because of complaints that animals and
humans have been injured by hydrogen fluoride fumes in [the New
Jersey] area, although there are no pending suits involving such
claims, the University of Rochester is conducting experiments to
determine the toxic effect of fluoride."
Much of the proof of fluoride's alleged safety in low doses rests on
the postwar work done at the University of Rochester in anticipation
of lawsuits against the bomb program for human injury.
For the top-secret Manhattan Project to delegate fluoride safety
studies to the University of Rochester was not surprising. During
WWII the US Federal Government became involved for the first time in
large-scale funding of scientific research at government-owned labs
and private colleges. Those early spending priorities were shaped by
the nation's often-secret military needs.
The prestigious upstate New York college in particular had housed a
key wartime division of the Manhattan Project to study the health
effects of the new "special materials" such as uranium, plutonium,
beryllium and fluoride which were being used in making the atomic
That work continued after the war, with millions of dollars
flowing from the Manhattan Project and its successor organization,
the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC).
Indeed, the bomb left an
indelible imprint on all of US science in the late 1940s and 1950s.
Up to 90 per cent of all federal funds for university research came
from either the Department of Defense or the AEC in this period,
according to Noam Chomsky in his 1997 book,
The Cold War and the
The University of Rochester Medical School became a revolving door
for senior bomb-program scientists. The postwar faculty included
Stafford Warren, the top medical officer of the Manhattan Project,
and Harold C. Hodge, chief of fluoride research for the bomb
But this marriage of military secrecy and medical science bore
deformed offspring. The University of Rochester's classified
fluoride studies, code-named "Program F", were started during the
war and continued up until the early 1950s. They were conducted at
its Atomic Energy Project (AEP), a top-secret facility funded by the
AEC and housed at Strong Memorial Hospital.
It was there that one of
the most notorious human radiation experiments of the Cold War took
place, in which unsuspecting hospital patients were injected with
toxic doses of radioactive plutonium. Revelation of this
experiment-in a Pulitzer Prize-winning account by Eileen Welsome - led
to a 1995 US presidential investigation and a multimillion-dollar
cash settlement for victims.
Program F was not about children's teeth. It grew directly out of
litigation against the bomb program, and its main purpose was to
furnish scientific ammunition which the government and its nuclear
contractors could use to defeat lawsuits for human injury. Program
F's director was none other than Dr Harold C. Hodge - who led the
Manhattan Project investigation of alleged human injury in the New
Jersey fluoride pollution incident.
Program F's purpose is spelled out in a classified 1948 report. It
"To supply evidence useful in the litigation arising from an
alleged loss of a fruit crop several years ago, a number of problems
have been opened. Since excessive blood-fluoride levels were
reported in human residents of the same area, our principal effort
has been devoted to describing the relationship of blood fluorides
to toxic effects."
The litigation referred to and the claims of human injury were of
course against the bomb program and its contractors.
purpose of Program F was to obtain evidence useful in litigation
against the bomb program. The research was being conducted by the
The potential conflict of interest is clear. If lower dose ranges
were found hazardous by Program F, this might have opened the bomb
program and its contractors to public outcry and lawsuits for injury
to human health.
Lawyer Jacqueline Kittrell commented further:
"This and other
documents indicate that the University of Rochester's fluoride
research grew out of the New Jersey lawsuits and was performed in
anticipation of lawsuits against the bomb program for human injury.
Studies undertaken for litigation purposes by the defendants would
not be considered scientifically acceptable today because of their
inherent bias to prove the chemical safe."
Unfortunately, much of the proof of fluoride's safety rests on the
work performed by Program F scientists at the University of
During the postwar period, that university emerged as the
leading academic centre for establishing the safety of fluoride as
well as its effectiveness in reducing tooth decay, according to
Rochester Dental School spokesperson William H. Bowen, MD.
figure in this research, Bowen said, was Dr Harold C. Hodge
- who also
became a leading national proponent of fluoridating public drinking
THE A-BOMB AND WATER FLUORIDATION
Program F's interest in water fluoridation was not just "to
counteract the local fear of fluoride on the part of residents", as
Hodge had earlier written to Colonel Warren.
The bomb program
required human studies of fluoride's effects, just as it needed
human studies of plutonium's effects. Adding fluoride to public
water supplies provided one opportunity.
Bomb-program scientists played a prominent, if
unpublicized, role in
the nation's first-planned water fluoridation experiment in
Newburgh, New York. The Newburgh Demonstration Project is considered
the most extensive study of the health effects of fluoridation,
supplying much of the evidence that low doses are allegedly safe for
children's bones and good for their teeth.
Planning began in 1943 with the appointment of a special New York
State Health Department committee to study the advisability of
adding fluoride to Newburgh's drinking water. The chairman of the
committee was, again, Dr Harold C. Hodge, then chief of fluoride
toxicity studies for the Manhattan Project.
Subsequent members of
the committee included Henry L. Barnett, a captain in the Project's
Medical Section, and John W. Fertig, in 1944 with the Office of
Scientific Research and Development-the super-secret Pentagon group
which sired the Manhattan Project.
Their military affiliations were
kept secret. Hodge was described as a pharmacologist, Barnett as a
Placed in charge of the Newburgh project was
David B. Ast, chief dental officer of the New York State Health Department.
Ast had participated in a key secret wartime conference on fluoride,
held by the Manhattan Project in January 1944, and later worked with
Dr Hodge on the Project's investigation of human injury in the New
Jersey incident, according to once-secret memos.
The committee recommended that Newburgh be fluoridated. It selected
the types of medical studies to be done, and it also "provided
expert guidance" for the duration of the experiment.
The key question to be answered was:
"Are there any cumulative
effects, beneficial or otherwise, on tissues and organs other than
the teeth, of long-continued ingestion of such small
According to the declassified documents, this was
also key information sought by the bomb program. In fact, the
program would require "long-continued" exposure of workers and
communities to fluoride throughout the Cold War.
In May 1945, Newburgh's water was fluoridated, and over the next 10
years its residents were studied by the New York State Health
In tandem, Program F conducted its own secret studies, focusing on
the amounts of fluoride Newburgh citizens retained in their blood
and tissues-information called for by the bomb program in connection
"Possible toxic effects of fluoride were in the
forefront of consideration," the advisory committee stated.
department personnel cooperated, shipping blood and placenta samples
to the Program F team at the University of Rochester. The samples
were collected by Dr David B. Overton, the department's chief of
pediatric studies at Newburgh.
The final report of the Newburgh Demonstration Project, published in
1956 in the Journal of the American Dental Association,5 concluded
that "small concentrations" of fluoride were safe for US citizens.
The biological proof, "based on work performed... at the University
of Rochester Atomic Energy Project", was delivered by Dr Hodge.
Today, news that scientists from the A-bomb program secretly shaped
and guided the Newburgh fluoridation experiment and studied the
citizens' blood and tissue samples is greeted with incredulity.
"I'm shocked...beyond words," said present-day Newburgh Mayor
Carey, commenting on these reporters' findings. "It reminds me of
the Tuskegee experiment that was done on syphilis patients down in
As a child in the early 1950s, Mayor Carey was taken to the old
Newburgh firehouse on Broadway which housed the public health
There, doctors from the Newburgh fluoridation project
studied her teeth, and a peculiar fusion of two finger-bones on her
left hand which she's had since birth. (Carey said that her
granddaughter has white dental-fluorosis marks on her front teeth.)
Mayor Carey wants answers from the government about the secret
history of fluoride and the Newburgh fluoridation experiment.
absolutely want to pursue it," she said. "It is appalling to do any
kind of experimentation and study without people's knowledge and
When contacted by these reporters, the now 95-year-old David B. Ast,
former director of the Newburgh experiment, said he was unaware that
Manhattan Project scientists were involved.
"If I had known, I would
have been certainly investigating why, and what the connection was,"
Did he know that blood and placenta samples from Newburgh
were being sent to bomb-program researchers at the University of
"I was not aware of it," Ast replied.
Did he recall
participating in the Manhattan Project's secret wartime conference
on fluoride in January 1944, or going to New Jersey with Dr Hodge to
investigate human injury in the DuPont case, as secret memos state?
He told these reporters he had no recollection of any such events.
Bob Loeb, a spokesperson for the University of Rochester Medical
Center, confirmed that blood and tissue samples from Newburgh had
been tested by the University's Dr Hodge. On the ethics of secretly
studying US citizens to obtain information useful in litigation
against the A-bomb program, he said: "That's a question we cannot
answer." He referred inquiries to the US Department of Energy (DOE),
successor to the Atomic Energy Commission.
Jayne Brady, a spokesperson for the Department of Energy in
Washington confirmed that a review of DOE files indicated that a
"significant reason" for fluoride experiments conducted at the
University of Rochester after the war was "impending litigation
between the DuPont company and residents of New Jersey areas".
However, she added:
"DOE has found no documents to indicate that
fluoride research was done to protect the Manhattan Project or its
contractors from lawsuits."
On Manhattan Project involvement in Newburgh, Brady stated:
that we have suggests that the DOE or predecessor
agencies - especially the Manhattan Project - authorized fluoride
experiments to be performed on children in the 1940s."
When told that these reporters have several documents that directly
tie the AEP-the Manhattan Project's successor agency at the
University of Rochester-to the Newburgh experiment, DOE spokesperson
Brady later conceded her study was confined to "the available
universe" of documents.
Two days later, Brady faxed a statement for clarification.
search only involved the documents that we collected as part of our
human radiation experiments project; fluoride was not part of our
"Most significantly," the statement continued, "relevant documents
may be in a classified collection at the DOE Oak Ridge National
Laboratory, known as the Records Holding Task Group. This collection
consists entirely of classified documents removed from other files
for the purpose of classified document accountability many years ago
[and was] a rich source of documents for the human radiation
SUPPRESSION OF ADVERSE HEALTH FINDINGS
The crucial question arising from the investigation is whether
adverse health findings from Newburgh and other bomb-program
fluoride studies were suppressed.
All AEC-funded studies had to be
declassified before publication in civilian medical and dental
journals. Where are the original classified versions?
The transcript of one of the major secret scientific conferences of
World War II - on "fluoride metabolism" - is missing from the files of
the US National Archives and is "probably still classified",
according to the librarian.
Participants in the January 1944
conference included key figures who promoted the safety of fluoride
and water fluoridation to the public after the war: Harold Hodge of
the Manhattan Project, David B. Ast of the Newburgh Demonstration
Project, and US Public Health Service dentist H. Trendley Dean,
popularly known as "the father of fluoridation".
A WWII Manhattan Project classified report (25 July 1944) on water
fluoridation is missing from the files of the University of
Rochester Atomic Energy Project, the US National Archives, and the
Nuclear Repository at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
next four numerically consecutive documents are also missing, while
the remainder of the "M-1500 series" is present.
"Either those documents are still classified, or they've been
'disappeared' by the government," said Clifford Honicker, Executive
Director of the American Environmental Health Studies Project in
Knoxville, Tennessee, which provided key evidence in the public
exposure and prosecution of US human radiation experiments.
Seven pages have been cut out of a 1947 Rochester bomb project
notebook entitled "DuPont Litigation". "Most unusual," commented the
medical school's chief archivist, Chris Hoolihan.
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests lodged by
these reporters over a year ago with the DOE for hundreds of
classified fluoride reports have failed to dislodge any. "We're
behind," explained Amy Rothrock, chief FOIA officer at Oak Ridge
So, has information been suppressed? These reporters made what
appears to be the first discovery of the original classified version
of a fluoride safety study by bomb program scientists. A censored
version of this study was later published in the August 1948 Journal
of the American Dental Association.6 Comparison of the secret
version with the published version indicates that the US AEC did
censor damaging information on fluoride-to the point of tragicomedy.
This was a study of the dental and physical health of workers in a
factory producing fluoride for the A-bomb program; it was conducted
by a team of dentists from the Manhattan Project.
The secret version reports that most of the men had no teeth left.
The published version reports only that the men had fewer cavities.
The secret version says the men had to wear rubber boots because the
fluoride fumes disintegrated the nails in their shoes. The published
version does not mention this.
The secret version says the fluoride may have acted similarly on the
men's teeth, contributing to their toothlessness.
version omits this statement and concludes that "the men were
unusually healthy, judged from both a medical and dental point of
After comparing the secret and published versions of the censored
study, toxicologist Phyllis Mullenix commented:
"This makes me
ashamed to be a scientist." Of other Cold War-era fluoride safety
studies, she asked: "Were they all done like this?"
Asked for comment on the early links of the Manhattan Project to
water fluoridation, Dr Harold Slavkin, Director of the National
Institute for Dental Research - the US agency which today funds
fluoride research - said:
"I wasn't aware of any input from the Atomic
Nevertheless, he insisted that fluoride's
efficacy and safety in the prevention of dental cavities over the
last 50 years is well proved.
"The motivation of a scientist is
often different from the outcome," he reflected. "I do not hold a
prejudice about where the knowledge comes from."
1. Dale, Peter P., and McCauley, H. B, "Dental Conditions in Workers
Chronically Exposed to Dilute and Anhydrous Hydrofluoric Acid",
Journal of the American Dental Association, vol. 37, no. 2, August
1948, pp. 131-140. Note that Dale and McCauley were both Manhattan
Project and, later, Program F personnel; they also authored the
secret Manhattan Project paper.
2. Mullenix, Phyllis et al., "Neurotoxicity of Sodium Fluoride in
Rats", Neurotoxicology and Teratology, vol. 17, no. 2, 1995, pp.
3. Lamont, Lansing, Day of Trinity, Atheneum, New York City, 1965.
4. Chomsky, Noam, The Cold War and the University, New Press, New
York City, 1997 (distributed by W.W. Norton & Co. Inc., NYC).
5. Hodge, H. C., "Fluoride metabolism: its significance in water
fluoridation", in "Newburgh-Kingston caries-fluorine study: final
report", Journal of the American Dental Association, vol. 52, March
6. Dale and McCauley, ibid.
Copies of 155 pages of supporting documents, including all the
declassified papers referred to in this article, can be obtained
from the following contacts for a small fee to cover copying and
Australia: Australian Fluoridation News, GPO Box 935G, Melbourne,
Victoria 3001, phone (03) 9592 5088, fax (03) 9592 4544.
New Zealand: New Zealand Pure Water Association, 278 Dickson Road,
Papamoa, Bay of Plenty, phone (07) 542 0499.
UK: National Pure Water Association of the UK, 12 Dennington Lane,
Crigglestone, Wakefield, WF4 3ET, phone 01924 254433, fax 01924
USA: Waste Not newsletter, 82 Judson Street, Canton, NY 13617, phone
(315) 379 9200, fax (315) 379 0448, e-mail