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November 2, 2000
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Fluoride & the A-Bomb Program
During the ultra-secret Manhattan Project, a report was commissioned to assess the effect of fluoride on humans.
That report was classified "secret" for reasons of "national security".
Extracted from Nexus Magazine, Volume 5, #3 (April-May 1998).
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From our web page at: www.nexusmagazine.com
� Joel Griffiths and Chris Bryson 1997
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New York, NY 10025, USA
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 personnel.
€ 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 plutonium. 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 aluminum to pesticides, where fluoride is a critical industrial chemical as well as a waste by-product.
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 concerning fluoride.
"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 journal.2
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 otherwise. A 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.
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. 169-177.
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