[Update: I got one comment: “What does this have to with low carb??? Do NOT send this crap. And… I disagree with your logic.”]
I am old enough to remember the 60s when crackpots were labeled as such because they thought water fluoridation was some sort of government conspiracy. I don’t consider myself a crackpot, though your opinion might differ.
What I AM doing is taking the tack that modern science, particularly when it comes to our complex biological processes, really has little clue what is good for us and what only appears to be good for us, so my only defense is to minimize the number of ‘modern marvels’ – processed foods, man-made chemicals and the like, and try to eat as little of them as possible. For me, that means eating organic as much as I can afford it, avoiding the household cleaner aisle – or at least staying away from the nastier stuff that lies there and using more old-fashioned cleaners, using glass containers for food rather than plastic, not drinking bottled water that comes in plastic, and putting a water filter on my tap water to remove the God-Knows-What that is contained therein.
It is not that I am convinced beyond a doubt that these things matter – it more that I believe the jury is still out on, say, if the plastic in plastic water bottles leaches into the water and screws up our internal chemistry.
I don’t know – so I’ll avoid it as much as I can.
So I went to purchase a new replacement cartridge for my Pur water filter the other day. When I got it home, I just happened to read the box, which listed it’s features. One jumped out at me (here it is on their website – search for ‘fluoride’):
- Removes 95% of mercury, while leaving beneficial fluoride in the water.
In the first half of the 20th century, fluoride was prescribed by a number of European doctors to reduce the activity of the thyroid gland for those suffering from hyperthyroidism (over active thyroid) (Stecher 1960; Waldbott 1978). With water fluoridation, we are forcing people to drink a thyroid-depressing medication which could, in turn, serve to promote higher levels of hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) in the population, and all the subsequent problems related to this disorder. Such problems include depression, fatigue, weight gain, muscle and joint pains, increased cholesterol levels, and heart disease. It bears noting that according to the Department of Health and Human Services (1991) fluoride exposure in fluoridated communities is estimated to range from 1.6 to 6.6 mg/day, which is a range that actually overlaps the dose (2.3 – 4.5 mg/day) shown to decrease the functioning of the human thyroid (Galletti & Joyet 1958). This is a remarkable fact, particularly considering the rampant and increasing problem of hypothyroidism in the United States (in 1999, the second most prescribed drug of the year was Synthroid, which is a hormone replacement drug used to treat an underactive thyroid). In Russia, Bachinskii (1985) found a lowering of thyroid function, among otherwise healthy people, at 2.3 ppm fluoride in water.
The above was written by a Paul Connett, PhD – a Professor of Chemistry at St. Lawrence University. He appears to be a legitimate professor (at least he was when I first wrote this 6 years ago – it appears he has since retired).
Oh, Jeez – here’s another thing I know nothing about. Another thing to make me seem even crackpottier than I already am. There is a huge crackpot element that opposes fluoridation. Here’s a comment from Yahoo Answers that shows the kind of nuttiness that gravitates to this subject:
Fluoride is accumulated in your pineal gland. This gland absorbs more fluoride than any body part and in very large quantities; it is now thought it has a lot to do with many of our health problems like early onset puberty in girls. As i have been able to awaken my pineal gland in the past thus access the crown chakra I will use my own self for the control. I do not know another person who has accessed the crown chakra or achieved christos. The feeling of oneness with the Creator and of travelling as if in deep space is gorgeous. The feeling of unconditional love and of peace makes me want to be able to do it or go there more often. Once awoken it is always awoken but you can fine tune it.
After the first two sentences, utter and complete New Age nonsense. But because whack-jobs gravitate to it, does that mean that it’s untrue? So now I’m led to the question: how did the notion that fluoride was so good for us that it should be put in most water supplies in the US come about? Think about it – that’s a massive health experiment – making everyone, young and old, with a vast spectrum of health concerns, all take a mandatory medication – that’s essentially what it is, isn’t it? So a visit to Wikipedia gave me an answer:
Community water fluoridation in the United States is partly due to the research of Dr. Frederick McKay, who pressed the dental community for an investigation into what was then known as “Colorado Brown Stain.” The condition, now known as dental fluorosis, when in its severe form is characterized by cracking and pitting of the teeth. Of 2,945 children examined in 1909 by Dr. McKay, 87.5% had some degree of stain or mottling. All the affected children were from the Pikes Peak region. Despite the negative impact on the physical appearance of their teeth, the children with stained, mottled and pitted teeth also had fewer cavities than other children. McKay brought this to the attention of Dr. G.V. Black, and Black’s interest was followed by greater interest within the dental profession. Initial hypotheses for the staining included poor nutrition, overconsumption of pork or milk, radium exposure, childhood diseases, or a calcium deficiency in the local drinking water. In 1931, researchers from the Aluminum Company of America (ALCOA) concluded that the cause of the Colorado stain was a high concentration of fluoride ions in the region’s drinking water (ranging from 2 to 13.7 mg/L) and areas with lower concentrations had no staining (1 mg/L or less). Pikes Peak’s rock formations contained the mineral cryolite, one of whose constituents is fluorine. As the rain and snow fell, the resulting runoff water dissolved fluoride which made its way into the water supply. Dental and aluminum researchers then moved toward determining a relatively safe level of fluoride chemicals to be added to water supplies. The research had two goals: (1) to warn communities with a high concentration of fluoride of the danger, initiating a reduction of the fluoride levels in order to reduce incidences of fluorosis, and (2) to encourage communities with a low concentration of fluoride in drinking water to add fluoride chemicals in order to help prevent tooth decay. By 2006, 69.2% of the U.S. population on public water systems were receiving fluoridated water, amounting to 61.5% of the total U.S. population; 3.0% of the population on public water systems were receiving naturally occurring fluoride.
So it seems that dentists and an aluminum company thought it would be a good idea for everyone to take unmeasured and varying amounts of a toxic element because it appeared to prevent tooth decay. I have nothing against dentists, but they are tooth-centric, and aren’t exactly the health professionals I want to advise me about a substance that might impact other parts of my body. And why ALCOA, the aluminum company, would be involved is beyond me. This question puzzled me, so I thought to look at who supplies the fluoride. I found this page on the CDC website, which talks about shortages of fluoride, though it mentions. If you read the CDC page, it makes it appear that lack of fluoride is an immediate health crisis – enough to make you panic:
Adjusting the fluoride content of water is a safe and healthy practice that provides significant oral health benefits for a community. For the greatest benefits to occur, it is important to consistently maintain optimum fluoride levels. The three fluoride additives used for water fluoridation are derived principally from phosphate fertilizer production. Although shortages of fluoride additives for water fluoridation are infrequent, they do sometimes occur.
[You will note that some of the links referenced above don’t lead anywhere. Perhaps the CDC has quietly had a change of heart on the ‘safe and healthy’ practice?]
I wrote the above maybe six years ago and never published it. I thought it a bit too crackpot – but during that time I’ve eliminated as much fluoride as possible from my diet and my family’s diet. We still get dosed with the stuff – I still use the water filter that lets through the ‘beneficial fluoride’ but I don’t get fluoride treatments from the dentist for my kids and don’t buy fluoride toothpaste.
Then an article hit the news cycle about common everyday chemicals that are affecting our brains – and fluoride was one of them.
I don’t consider The Atlantic to be a crackpot site, so I thought maybe I can be comfortable in letting this post see the light of day.
Here’s a link to the article – The Toxins That Threaten Our Brains.
And here is a recent bit of writing I did on the topic. It interweaves with the first part and a good writer would integrate the two to craft a single, coherent article.
But since I don’t have the time nor inclination to do so – nor do I feel the burden of wanting to be seen as a ‘good writer’ – I’m just going to put this out there:
Imagine this. Allergists, in conjunction with a technology company, find that a poisonous industrial waste, when given in very very small quantity, prevent people from developing allergies. Sometimes even severe allergies. What these groups decide to do is lobby the government to have this chemical put into the water supply so that everyone can benefit from the allergy eliminating effects of this substance. Now it is known that it does not work 100% of the time. It is also known to have some side effects. Additionally, depending on how much water you drink you might get a lot or a little so dosing would vary across different people. Children, adults the elderly, the very big, the very petite would all be getting essentially random doses of this chemical. It is also known that not everyone has allergies and so people who have no need for this chemical would also be getting it.
Would you think this is a good idea?
Believe it or not this more or less has already happened. The only difference is instead of allergies its cavities and the chemical is fluoride. Fluoride has a bizarre story. In the early 1900s a group of people were discovered to have spots on their teeth. These people also had no cavities. Investigations show that the water that they drank had a very high level of fluoride. This caused the speckles on their teeth as well as their lack of cavities. Then the story seems to get a bit murky. Somehow we went from a situation where it was found that a particular chemical could prevent cavities to putting a unregulated dose of a chemical that essentially is like a medicine with side effects and indications and potentially contraindications for people who shouldn’t be taking it and putting it into the water supply. How the hell did that happen?
My understanding of the events in so far as I feel like researching it at the moment has to do with World War II. During the draft of World War II so many potential soldiers were rejected for service because of bad teeth that a decision was made to add fluoride to the water.
This is also a time where we decided to take American citizens of Japanese nationality and lock them up in prison camps. Not every decision that we made because of World War II was a smart one.
The problem with labeling fluoride as somehow bad for you or the results of poor thinking suffers from one big problem: crackpots love this. Dissing fluoride has become a sure fire way to label yourself a crackpot fool. You can’t even question this without people immediately labeling you as slightly unhinged. Why is that? Why can’t we revisit this without being labeled a crockpot? We know a lot more now than we did then and we even know things now that were known then that but weren’t brought up as part of the discussion.
Remember: World War II was a war like no other. Hitler’s plans for America was to essentially turn us into a slave colony. There was a real potential that this could happen. We haven’t had a war since that mobilized the entire country to focus like we did then. We can be excused for the excesses of that war because it truly was a war of good and evil. Studs Terkel the famous author wrote a wonderful book about World War II with that exact thesis: The Good War.
Perhaps almost 70 years later it’s time for us to revisit some of the assumptions without being labeled a crackpot.