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Fluoride Vol.28 No.4 209-212 1995
Historical Piece

In the October 1992 issue of Fluoride, we published tributes to the late John Marier, of the National Research Council of Canada. One tribute mentioned the award to John, in 1985, of a Certificate of Merit from the American Society for Magnesium Research. The other, commenting on John's lack of formal scientific training, recalled his "remarkable ability to read scientific papers, to retain details of what he had read, to mull them over in his mind seeking the inter-relations of items from different authors and to formulate therefrom a suggestion for further research or even a new scientific hypothesis." In light of the subject of the current issue's guest editorial, and the continuing debate on fluoridation, it seemed appropriate to publish the following piece, written 29 years ago. - Editor


the late J R Marier

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

To many people, the above title might seem inappropriate, because many are of the opinion that fluoridation is beyond question. However, to one who has delved into the scientific aspects of the subject, fluoridation can remain as contentious and unresolved as ever before. This summary attempts to show, on the basis of scientific evidence, why the fluoridation topic should still remain a subject of much soul-searching, not only by scientists directly involved in fluoride research but by all scientists and interested (and informed) laymen. The main difficulty, in assessing the situation was touched upon recently by a world-famous researcher in a private letter to a fellow researcher. "I have carefully avoided getting into the controversy, which is a political and not a scientific one". During the past two decades, it has become fashionable to brand opponents of the fluoridation program as "cranks... sensation seekers... quacks... pseudo-scientists... misinformed... biased..." and other unflattering terms. Along with this, it has become customary, to give widespread publicity only to those scientific reports which supports the fluoridation program. Adverse findings are available, but they are scarcely (if ever) mentioned in the wide-circulation news media. Whatever the merits or demerits of the fluoridation program, the strict avoidance of negative findings is not healthy to the cause of fluoridation, nor of Science itself, because Science depends for its survival on the unrestricted dissemination of all scientific findings in its quest for truth. So, for the truth to be known about fluoridation, it is essential that all sides of the question be given close scrutiny and, also, that a sense of objectivity should prevail. Fluoridation should not be a matter of "faith", but a matter of "fact".

Space does not permit the re-telling of the entire history of the fluoridation program. Such information is readily available in the numerous books devoted to the subject, most of which have championed the advantages of the scheme. Because this summary has as its specific goal the bringing to light of little-known information, let us merely remember that 20 years ago, it was stated that no undesirable effects of fluoride would occur in regions using water containing less than 10 parts per million ("ppm") of fluoride. A few years later. this was as lowered to 8 ppm, then 4 ppm. Recently, Dr Bertram Sauerbrunn and his colleagues at the Washington DC Veterans Administration Hospital have reported a fatality in Texas. The man had advanced skeletal fluorosis, yet had never lived in a region where the fluoride content of the water was higher than 3.5 ppm (on a life time basis, the man had been exposed to an average concentration of only 2.5 ppm of fluoride in the water!). This revelation received no publicity. Instead, the public was bombarded with press-releases claiming that fluoride was "beneficial" to the bones of the aged, and the claim made that fluoride would eliminate osteoporosis (a rarefaction of bone which occurs in old age). Yet even this claim was incomplete, because no mention was made of the fact that when fluoride is used to combat osteoporosis, the new bone formed is abnormal, i.e., it is the same kind of pathological bone encountered in skeletal fluorosis! At least two diseases (or conditions) have been reported in which fluoride actually aggravates the condition: in (a kidney ailment) and post-parathyroidectomy patients.

Yet, despite the availability of many such reports, the concentration of fluoride recommended for fluoridation programs (the sacrosanct "1.0 part-per-million") is deemed to be entirely safe. An examination of the scientific literature reveals that this is not the case. Dr M A Roshal, in a 1965 issue of the journal issued by the Leningrad Medical Institute, reported that intake of fluoride--even at the apparently "safe" concentration of 1.0 ppm--caused derangements in blood sugar balance. The implications of these findings as regards those afflicted with diabetes should become a concern. The effect of fluoride on people afflicted with the reverse condition of hypoglycaemia should also be borne in mind. And yet, this is another finding that received no publicity; nor is it the subject of any general follow-up research--even though a case-history was recently described in a 1966 issue of the University of Ottawa Medical Journal.

Another finding of interest is the recommendation that fluoridated water (at 1.0 ppm) should be avoided for haemodialysis (i.e., artificial kidney) treatments. This is another case that terminated with a human fatality, yet still another that went unpublicized. Convulsive seizures were one of the symptoms, along with an abnormally-high serum phosphorus level. The same symptoms had been described by Detroit's Dr G L Waldbott in a 1957 report dealing with an adverse effect of water containing 1.0 ppm of fluoride. Strangely enough, the later haemodialysis report did not refer to the symptoms described by Waldbott. here we see a case where the failure to publicize adverse findings may well have hindered the fluoride researchers themselves. The recent increase in scientific output throughout the world has made it almost impossible for researchers to keep completely abreast of all developments in their field, unless all aspects of the field (even if they run counter to "established" beliefs) are given equal publicity in those periodicals devoted to scientific commentary. It was once deemed "heresy" to advocate that the earth travelled around the sun - yet we all know (or should know) what eventually happened.

There have been other revelations in connection with 1.0 ppm water. In a 1963 report, Dr H C Hodge of the University of Rochester described cortical defect in the long bones of children living in Newburgh NY (using artificially-fluoridated water containing 1.0 ppm of fluoride). Although, at the time, these bone changes were considered to be "normal variants", Dr Hodge suggested that the cases deserved "additional study". No report dealing with such "additional study" has yet appeared.

In the mid to late 1950s, Dr lonal Rapaport of Wisconsin University published a series of articles in which he warned that the incidence of mongoloid births would increase in districts using fluoridated water. His reports were scarcely referred to by advocates of the fluoridation program and, when they were, they were downgraded by recourse to the uncomplimentary terminology cited at the outset of this article. No follow-up study was ever undertaken to fully assess the merits of Rapaport's conclusion, even though he had suggested that the cause of the mongoloid disorder was a (fluoride-induced) interference with the metabolism of tryptophan (an essential amino-acid). Now, in 1967, an article in the British medical publication Lancet reveals that the administration of 5-hydroxytryptophan to mongoloid infants greatly improved the muscle-tone in such infants. So, it would seem that Dr Rapaport was not altogether crazy, even though the vital connection with fluoride still remains to be elucidated.

In 1963, a group of Canadian scientists caused a furore by publishing a review article asking that more thorough research be done on the fluoride subject. They were concerned about the crucial roles of minerals such as calcium and magnesium, and of Vitamins such as D and C. They feared the effect of fluoride on the solubility of bone mineral (since confirmed), the increasing infusion of fluoride into all our food products (the result of the use of fluoridated water for processing), and recommended the fluoridation of milk rather than water. They pointed out that, in North America, most of the "natural" fluoridated waters are hard waters, containing considerable amounts of calcium and magnesium. Thus they questioned the wisdom of fluoridating soft waters. The Canadian group has authored two subsequent articles, showing that many of their contentions have since been borne out by other workers, and have themselves shown that food items processed with fluoridated water contain from 0.6 to 1.0 ppm of fluoride, instead of the "normal" 0.2 to 0.3 ppm. The presence of so much more fluoride in our present-day food products calls for a critical examination of the baseline" on which the fluoridation program was founded 20 years ago, when the large metropolitan food and beverage processors were not using fluoridated water. The Canadian researchers had also stated that intake of fluoride by pregnant mothers was useless, in terms of conferring a dental benefit to the offspring. This has since been admitted by Schlesinger, who, however, questioned the economics of fluoridating milk, even though Switzerland's Dr Robert Wirz had shown that the dental benefits obtained with fluoridated milk "are comparable to those of water fluoridation with the advantage of considerable less cost".

In addition to the above reports, the Canadian researchers have been interested in the connection between magnesium deficiency and fluoride-induced ailments. There are many symptoms common to both conditions: unusual bone growth, soft-tissue calcification, muscular twitching, tetaniform convulsions with an increase in serum phosphorus level, etc. But, to date, no scientific study has been undertaken to correlate the two syndromes, although a few preliminary trials have been revealed that the result depends on the type of animal tested (note: the same observation was made during the recent "cobalt in beer" trials after the Quebec City fatalities).

Another condition deserves mention. Workers in Russia, India, Yugoslavia, and in the United States, have called attention to the close resemblance between skeletal fluorosis and scurvy. This deserves much closer study, especially when we remember that a Vitamin C deficiency is fairly common in the Western World. It would not be too surprising to find that people who are Vitamin C deficient are more susceptible to fluoride-induced ill-effects. Unfortunately, there seems to be little awareness of this in the Western World.

Leningrad's Dr G S Konikova has devoted two scientific articles to his results showing that fluoride intake increases the level of blood cholesterol, the so-called "killer" in heart disease. Another Leningrad worker, Dr Y A Federov may have suggested the ideal solution to the entire fluoride controversy: he has demonstrated that the compound calcium glycerophosphate is twice as effective as fluoride for the reduction of dental caries. The attractiveness of this finding is that calcium glycerophosphate is non-toxic, so would present none of the problems encountered with fluoride. Although the original Federov report came out in 1961, there is still no sign that follow-up research is being done anywhere in the Western World. Should we not make every effort to study this non-toxic alternative to fluoride?

In a 1966 article devoted to this general subject, Clair Nader asked: "If scientific evidence (eventually) should go against fluoridation, would scientists have the courage to retract, especially when the problem has generated so much emotion? And what would their retraction do to the public image of scientific prescience?"

In his last word, Clair Nader has hit upon the "nub" of fluoridation's biggest dilemma. Most of the basic concepts attending the "launching" of the fluoridation program, some 20 years ago, were based on prescience. At that time, there were almost no data regarding the comportment of fluoride in cases of specific illnesses. Lacking these data, the opinion prevailing at the time seems to have been motivated by a blissful wish that "all would go well". However, the time has now arrived for reckoning, for a "facing of facts", unpalatable though they may be. Although the world has not yet learned the lesson in the field of diplomacy, a loss of face should never be as important as a saving of lives. And yet, one cannot help but wonder just when this attitude will come about. In 1963, a large volume appeared bearing the title "Fluorine Chemistry, Volume 4". Although it is entirely devoted to the subject of fluorine (and fluoridation) it makes no mention of the cases cited in this summary, nor does it discuss any of the conditions presented here. This is so, even though the authors of the book have themselves presented some of this evidence in the past. Are these health problems to be conveniently buried and forgotten? Is the same lack of consideration to be accorded those human beings who react adversely to fluoride? If this is symptomatic of modern research, someone who has spent more than two decades in a research laboratory might well wonder just where Science is going.

This page was first uploaded to The Magnesium Web Site on September 4, 1996