Journalist Christopher Bryson claims in his new book "The Fluoride Deception" that the post-war campaign to fluoridate drinking water was less a public health innovation than a public relations ploy sponsored by industrial users of fluoride–including the government’s nuclear weapons program.[includes transcript]
Hailed as a harmless chemical that would prevent tooth decay, new evidence shows how fluoride could be linked to serious health problems.
Fluoridation was first advanced in the US at the end of the second World War. Proponents argued that fluoride in water and toothpaste would help to protect teeth and prevent decay. Over the following decades, fluoride was added to public water supplies across the country.
While the benefits of fluoridation have been held to be unquestionable, accumulating evidence points to a frightening prospect: that fluoride may have serious adverse health effects, including infant mortality, congenital defects and IQ.
Now a new book, titled "The Fluoride Deception" by Christopher Bryson examines the background of the fluoridation debate. According to Bryson, research challenging fluoride’s safety was either suppressed or not conducted in the first place. He says fluoridation is a triumph not of medical science but of US government spin.
- Christopher Bryson, has reported science news stories for many media outlets including the BBC, Christian Science Monitor and the Discovery Channel. He was part of an investigative team at Public Television that won a George Polk Award for "The Kwitny Report."
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: Today we will talk about this new book "The Fluoride Deception" by Christopher Bryson. It looks at the background of the fluoride debate. According to Chris, research search changing fluoride safety was either suppressed or not conducted in the first place. He says it is a triumph not of medical science, but of U.S. Government spin. He joins us in the studio. Welcome to Democracy Now!
CHRISTOPHER BRYSON: Thank you for having me.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you just give us the history? Is it all over this country and why is it there?
CHRISTOPHER BRYSON: It’s in about two thirds of the water supply in the united states. However, the united states is virtually alone in the addition of fluoride to its water supplies and 98% of western Europe, for example, don’t add fluoride to the water supplies in many communities. Country there is who have fluoride in the water have taken it out. The theory behind fluoride is that the addition of fluorides to water supplies will give you less cavities in your mouth. And that’s been the prevailing wisdom of the public health establishment since 1950 when they signed off on that. My book "The Fluoride Deception," challenges you or requires you to think of fluoride differently. The book under the secret history of this book is premised on 10 years of investigative work going into the archives of the United States Manhattan Project, going into —
AMY GOODMAN: The making of the atomic bomb.
CHRISTOPHER BRYSON: Yes, the Manhattan Project with the World War II, very secret project to make the atomic bomb. I went to industry archives, a very large, significant industry archive out at the University of Cincinnati and found that the very same health researcher , Dr. Robert Kehoe who headed up the laboratory at the University Of Cincinnati, he spent his entire career telling the United States 'S public health community that adding lead to gasoline was safe. That's now being discredited. He was also one of two leading public health scientists saying that adding fluoride to water was safe and good for children. So, that’s the — some of the material that this book gets into.
JUAN GONZALEZ: The common understanding that many of us have in this country is that there’s been sort of a persistent, anti-fluoridation move independent this country, but it has been considered like the fringes of American society. Could you talk a little bit about how the development of the atomic bomb would involve in the whole fluoride campaign?
CHRISTOPHER BRYSON: Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, that’s — it’s a media swirl, Juan, as the grassroots citizen movement against water fluoridation of t hat fact came into being almost immediately .... the public health service had been against adding fluoride to water for years. In 1950, they did a complete about-face, a flip flop. And the citizens across the country were outraged that this rat poison was going to be added to the water supplies. Today the fluorides that goes in our drinking water is almost exclusively raw industrial pollution from the Florida Phosphate Industry. It’s a waste that’s scrubbed from the smokestacks and trucked in tankers and dumped into reservoirs. That is a raw industrial poison.
AMY GOODMAN: Wait a second. Rat poison?
CHRISTOPHER BRYSON: Yes. Sodium fluoride is used as a rat poison for a long time.
JUAN GONZALEZ: But, again, the connection to the atom bomb.
CHRISTOPHER BRYSON: Sure. Atom bomb. Yeah. Sure. Let me get back to the — in fact, the movement against fluoridation is a precursor to the movement of today. It has many political hues, many different groups, conservatives, liberals, republicans across the board and it was led not by nut cases, but by scientists and doctors with long-established pedigrees safe guarding public health . The leading scientist opposing water fluoridation was a man by the name of Dr. George Waldbott. He warned the United States about the dangers of cigarette smoking and the allergic reaction to penicillin. This is the background. It is not a fringe movement. It is being marginalized by the media and hasn’t been well reported on. My book attempts to address that. The Manhattan Project, I mentioned one leading fluoride researcher, scientist, Robert Kehoe, the second was the name, a fellow a scientist by the name of Dr. Harold Hodge. For most of the Cold War , Dr. Hodge was the leading scientist assuring the nation of the safety and effectiveness of adding fluoride e to water supplies. Dr. Hodge had his public hat, he had his private hat. He was the senior toxicologist for the Manhattan Project to build the world’s first atomic bomb. Fluoride is a key ingredient in industry used for making aluminum. It’s used for making steel. It is used for producing high-octane gasoline, to name a few industries the dental story is a minor story. The real issue is pollution outside these industrial plants and pollution inside the plants. Industries are on the hook for millions and millions of dollars for potential damage for injuries to workers. There’s a medical study commissioned by industry at the University Of Cincinnati . In the 1950’s which shows that fluoride is profoundly injurious to lungs and lymph nodes in experimental animals. That study was buried. The significance of that study, had it been shown to the standard setters, the fluoride that men and women workers in these industrial plants breathe, the threshold levels would have been set much lower. That is a crime. What that means is that tens of thousands of workers in factories have been injured as a result of this suppression of this medical information. Anyway, to return to your question. The Manhattan Project needed fluoride to enrich uranium . That’s how they did it. The biggest industrial building in the world, for a time, was the fluoride gaseous diffusion plant in Tennessee the Manhattan Project and Dr. Hodge as the senior toxicologist for the Manhattan Project, were scared stiff less that workers would realize that the fluoride they were going to be breathing inside these plants was going to injury them and that the Manhattan Project, the key — the key of U.S. Strategic power in the Cold War Era, would be jeopardized because the Manhattan Project and the industrial contractors making the atomic bomb would be facing all these l lawsuits from workers, all these lawsuits from farmers living around these industrial plants and so Harold Hodge assures us that fluoride is safe and good for children. Very hard to get a public doctor, an expert witness in a court to say if it’s good for children. How can it be harmful for workers?
JUAN GONZALEZ: In essence, the uranium and fluoride that was necessary for enriching of the uranium and produced this by-product and obviously this waste of fluoride in my mind it sounds very similar to the issue of depleted uranium , again, being a by-product of the nuclear industry and the need then to sanitize these waste products from our nuclear industry, for the public to get rid of them in other words , right? So, it’s — could you talk a little bit about the role of Edward Bernays, ,the father of propaganda or public relations in America in convincing the public about this?
CHRISTOPHER BRYSON: Yeah. Edward Bernays is a legendary figure in the 20th century. He was Sigmund Freud’s nephew and Bernays, he was married to a feminist and he was very attune to the liberal currents in the 20th century and he was a Machiavellian genius. He is the father of public relations. He understood that you could harness that liberal sentiment for commercial gain and he had women march in 1916, he had Suffragettes march in The 1916 Easter Parade In New York City holding cigarettes as torches of liberty. He was working for the American Tobacco Company and George Hill. He was — so, my book "The Fluoride Deception," uncovers for the first time correspondence between Bernays and the New York City Health Commissioner, Dr. Leona Baumgartner in which he says that helping out on the fluoride campaign in New York in the early 1960’s interested him because it related to problems of engineering consent. So he was the Wizards of Oz behind the curtain.
AMY GOODMAN: We only have a minute to go. I wanted to ask how fluorides ended up in the water of each community where did the decision get made and how did those debates play out?
CHRISTOPHER BRYSON: The public health service endorsed it in 1950 and by and large, it is not given over to referendum. This is a democracy issue. When it is submitted to the votes, far more often than not, voters give it the thumbs down. Mostly it is by fiat or dictate. In New York City, for example r it was the board of estimates that signed up for it, that gave it the green light. So, that’s —
AMY GOODMAN: Where does it come from?
CHRISTOPHER BRYSON: Fluoride?
AMY GOODMAN: Where do they ship it in from? Do they have to dump it on a regular basis in the reservoirs?
CHRISTOPHER BRYSON: Yeah the fluoride comes up — we were talking about 9/11. Since 9/11, there has been a lot of concern about the safety of these fluoride tankers. So toxic are the contents of the fluoride tankers coming from the Florida Phosphate Industry to New York City or all over the country that there is a fear that the tankers high jacked.
AMY GOODMAN: Christopher Bryson, we have to leave it there. Author of "The Fluoride Deception." This is Democracy Now!