What was the Halloween Death Smog Disaster?

and other questions related to the fluoridation chemicals being added to U.S. water supplies

1. Why would anyone be opposed to water fluoridation? Doesn’t fluoride occur in the water naturally anyway?

The fluoride products used in water fluoridation (sodium fluoride or fluorosilicic acid) are classified as hazardous waste products of the fertilizer, aluminum, and nuclear industries. They are even more toxic than naturally-occurring fluoride, since they contain other components, such as arsenic, lead, barium, and/or aluminum.

Water fluoridation also causes more lead to be leached from pipes into the water supply.

However, even naturally-occurring fluoride, in areas with high concentrations (over 1 ppm) has been found to have extremely adverse health effects. Even before additional fluoride is added, the level of natural fluoride in the water in many areas in the U.S. is already equal to the amount of naturally-occurring fluoride that has been found to cause skeletal fluorosis in other countries.

Studies done in India and China found skeletal fluorosis in areas containing naturally occurring fluoride as low as 0.7 ppm. (Gupta R, Kumar AN, Bandhu S, Gupta S. (2007) Skeletal fluorosis mimicking seronegative arthritis. Scandanavian Journal of Rheumatology 36(2):154–5.) That same amount, 0.7 ppm is the current amount recommended by the CDC to be added to community water supplies.

In addition to the natural fluoride in groundwater, most people are exposed to multiple sources of fluoride (pesticides in wine and food, tea, some ceramics, anti-depressants, anti-biotics, pollution from manufacturing, soft drinks, Teflon pans, waterproof items, dental gels, mouthwash, toothpaste etc.). They presumably are being exposed to well over the equivalent of 1 ppm before any fluoride is added to the water, however no industry or government testing has ever been done to find out how much fluoride the public is absorbing from all sources. This massive exposure to fluoride did not exist in the 1950’s, when fluoride was first introduced.

2. Don’t all advanced countries fluoridate their water? And hasn’t it been proven that countries that do fluoridate their water have better dental health than countries that don’t?

No. Fluoridation has been almost completely abolished in Europe. You can read statements from government officials in those countries about why they don’t add fluoridation chemicals to water.

Statistics gathered by the World Health Organization do not show any difference in rates of dental caries in fluoridated vs. non fluoridated countries. (WHO Collaborating Center for Education, Training, and Research in Oral Health, Malmo Univ., Sweden, 2012.) Where fluoridation has been discontinued in communities like Canada, the former East Germany, Cuba and Finland, dental decay has not increased but rather has continued to decrease (Maupomé 2001; Kunzel & Fischer, 1997, 2000; Kunzel 2000; Seppa 2000).

In the U.S., the state of Kentucky, which has been fluoridating the longest, and has achieved almost complete fluoridation of its water supply, has the worst dental health of any state in the country. From an article appearing in the Lexington Herald Leader (10/14/09): “Governor Beshear said Kentucky led the nation in 2004 in terms of the number of people age 65 or older who had lost teeth. About 27 percent of Kentuckians of all ages had lost six or more teeth to decay or gum disease, compared with 18 percent in the rest of the nation.”

Yet, ‘In 2004, 99.6% of Kentucky’s public water systems were providing fluoridated water to their customers. This ranked Kentucky first among all states.” (Kentucky Epidemiologic Notes and Reports, Vol. 40. ?8, Dept. of Public Health.)

Similar results were reported in Texas: “After 9 years and $3 million of adding fluoride, research shows tooth decay hasn’t dropped among the poorest of Bexar County’s children, it has only increased — up 13 percent this year.” (Conger J., 2011, San Antonio: Added to our drinking water: a chemical ‘more toxic than lead?’ KENS 5 News.)

A study of children in Canada comparing fluoridated vs. non-fluoridated communities showed dental caries decreased in non-fluoridated areas, stayed the same in fluoridated communities.

Levels of tooth decay continued to decrease after Cuba ended fluoridation.

These studies found no increase in tooth decay after fluoride was discontinued.

In all countries listed in the links below, as in the U.S., dental disease continued to decline, whether or not the countries were fluoridated. These non-fluoridated countries had rates of dental problems lower than the U.S.—The Netherlands, the UK (10% of the country is fluoridated), Belgium, Sweden, Switzerland. These non-fluoridated countries had rates that were about the same as the US—Italy, Finland, Iceland, France. See here and here.

For the best article analyzing the research on fluoridation worldwide, see the article by John Colquhoun, DDS, Phd (former Chief Dental Officer of Auckland, NZ): Why I changed my mind about water fluoridation (Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 41 29–44 1997, University of Chicago Press). Colquhoun studied the effects of fluoridation around the world, with the intention of proving how beneficial it was, but discovered, to his astonishment, that people in countries using fluoridation had the worst teeth. He then began crusading to put an end to the practice.

Since 2010, over 240 communities in North America have abolished (or voted to prevent) the practice of fluoridation. (See www.fluoridealert.org for a constantly updated list).

3. Where did the idea of fluoridating the water come from?

Industrialists in the aluminum and nuclear industries were under fire because of the harmful effects of the fluoride waste products being emitted from their plants — animals and people were being sickened for miles around.

They hired Edward Bernays, who was the inventor of mass public relations campaigns (Bernays also happened to be the nephew of Sigmund Freud) to convince the American people that putting toxic waste in our water supply was good for us.

Bernays had organized a successful campaign, on behalf of Lucky Strike cigarettes, to convince American women that smoking was both glamorous and liberating. He hired models to pose as debutantes in a march for women’s rights. When Bernays gave the signal, all the women lit up their cigarettes. Another successful propaganda campaign that he orchestrated was the overthrow of a democratically-elected government in Guatemala on behalf of United Fruit. The Nazis studied and made use of Bernays’ techniques for their propaganda programs. (A more in-depth discussion of Bernays’ role in the campaign to convince the public to accept fluoridation can be found in the video The Fluoride Deception, and the book with the same name by Christopher Bryson, Seven Stories Press).

For information describing the origin of water fluoridation as a way of disposing of industrial waste, see here.

4. OK, so maybe fluoridation hasn’t been proven to be effective in improving dental health, and its origins are sketchy, but what harm can it do to add it to our water supply?

First there is the cost factor. At a time when there is not enough money for schools, dental treatment for kids, support for the homeless and other basic community services, counties are spending millions of dollars to fluoridate the water. Even worse, fluoridation has been associated with increased rates of bone cancer, cardiac problems, diabetes, immune disorders, damage to the thyroid, increased bone fractures, hyperactivity, neurotoxicity, and decreased IQ:

Study showing higher rates of bone cancer in male children exposed to higher levels of fluoride.

Study showing higher rate of bone fractures in women living in high fluoride areas compared to low fluoride areas.

Study showing increased hyperactivity in children in fluoridated vs. non-fluoridated areas.

Harvard meta-study showing significantly lower IQ in children living in high fluoride areas as opposed to low fluoride areas in China.

NIH/EPA study finding significantly lower IQ in children of mothers exposed to higher levels of fluoride.

Survey of scientific literature indicated a causal connection between fluoridation and bone damage (fluorosis, bone cancer, skeletal fluorosis).

UK study which found the rate of hypothyroidism was double the rate in a fluoridated city as compared to non-fluoridated city.
Study finding patients with kidney problems cannot properly excrete fluoride.

This comprehensive review of the medical literature (including documentation) indicates a long list of harmful health effects of fluoride and discussion of ethical concerns regarding its use.

In 2016, a number of health, consumer, and environmental organizations (including Fluoride Action Network and Food and Water Watch) petitioned the EPA under the Toxic Substances Control Act, to eliminate fluoridation in drinking water due its neurotoxic effects at the level currently designated as safe by the U.S. government. The petition identified 76 (out of a total of 85) human studies that found an association between cognitive decline and higher levels of fluoride in the water supply.

After the EPA rejected their petition, the groups sued the EPA in federal court in 2017. A seven day trial was held in 2020, but the court has yet to issue a decision, as of Oct. 2022. The next hearing on the case, after much re-scheduling, is scheduled for Oct. 26, 2022 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. You can find a list of all the studies showing neurotoxic effects, and the groups’ arguments—that adding fluoridation chemicals to our water must be discontinued—here.

While adding hazardous waste to our water is not beneficial to anyone, it is particularly harmful to people with kidney disease (who can’t excrete it properly), infants (when mixed with formula it far exceeds the safe amount of fluoride), farmworkers (already exposed to fluoride in pesticides), tea drinkers, people taking anti-depressants, people with low thyroid, industrial workers who are exposed to high levels of fluoride at work, and those who have chemical sensitivities. Also adversely affected are people who drink lots of water such as diabetics, athletes, and manual laborers. The Environmental Working Group has gone on record as opposing as unsafe for many population groups the current maximum levels of fluoride set by the U.S. government.

In addition to the previously listed ailments, fluoride in the water supply can cause a disfiguring condition called fluorosis or mottling of the teeth. Because black and Hispanic children are more susceptible to fluorosis, some civil rights organizations and leaders have come out against the practice.

On July 1, 2011, The League of Latin American Citizens, the largest Hispanic organization in the U.S. passed a resolution strongly opposing the practice of fluoridating water supplies, in part because of the disproportionate harmful effects on Hispanic members of the community. See here.

Numerous studies, including a national survey by the CDC, have found that black children suffer significantly higher rates of dental fluorosis than white children. (Martinez-Mier 2010; Beltran-Aguilar 2005; Kumar 2000, 1999; Williams 1990; Butler 1985; Russell 1962).

Not only do black children suffer higher rates of fluorosis, they suffer the most severe forms of the condition, which are marked by dark brown staining and deterioration of the enamel. Black civil rights leaders in Georgia campaigned against water fluoridation due its harmful effects on black children. (See Letter from Andrew Young to Chip Rogers, Senate Majority Leader, Georgia State Capitol, March 29, 2011.)

The Journal of the American Dental Association noted increased detrimental effects of fluoridation on low-income and/or malnourished children.

5. Shouldn’t we leave it to the experts? Don’t they support water fluoridation?

Experts in many countries around the world concluded that the practice is harmful and supported its elimination. When the top water toxicologist in the Environmental Protection Agency, William Marcus, disclosed that the reports showing the safety of fluoridation had been doctored to hide its harmful effects, he was immediately fired. A judge later ordered him to be reinstated, since there was no basis for the firing other than his refusal to hide the facts.

Marcus’ union, which represents 1500 scientists and professionals who work for the EPA, came out with a strong position against fluoride as well, as have numerous other leading scientific, medical, judicial, and government experts. (You can find a large number of these extraordinary statements criticizing fluoridation here.) The story of William Marcus’ firing from, and re-instatement to, the EPA is documented in the movie Fluoridegate, which includes video interviews with him.

In Sept. 2017, an NIH/EPA 12-year study was released which validated the findings of previous human studies concerning the effects of fluoridation on children’s IQ. This study found that when the exposure was prenatal, even very low doses of fluoride (e.g. that found in “optimally fluoridated communities”) resulted in lowered IQ. (Bashash et al 2017).

Although dentists have been slow to keep up with the research on harmful effects of fluoridation, in 2017 the US-based International Association of Oral Medicine and Toxicology came out with a position opposing water fluoridation, with included 500 citations. Their position paper has quotes from a long list of experts which discuss the dangers of fluoridation.

6. It’s not like fluoride is actually poisonous is it?

The FDA requires a warning on all tubes of fluoride toothpaste — to immediately call Poison Control — in the event even a small amount of FL is swallowed. Fluoride is one of the main poisonous ingredients in Sarin nerve gas. As evidence, see this excerpt from The Independent, Sept. 3, 2013: “The Business Secretary… will today be asked by MPs to explain why a British company was granted export licenses for the dual-use substances for six months in 2012 while Syria’s civil war was raging and concern was rife that the regime could use chemical weapons….the disclosure of the licenses for potassium fluoride and sodium fluoride, which can both be used as precursor chemicals in the manufacture of nerve gas….”

According to the Material Safety Data Sheet for Mallinkrodt Chemicals, sodium fluoride is classified under “extreme danger,” and can be fatal if ingested.

Bizarrely, bottled “Nursery Water” for babies, which was being sold in grocery stores everywhere, has sodium fluoride added. Even the proponents of fluoridation acknowledge that it is toxic to give babies infant formula that has been mixed with fluoridated water. See, for example, the Journal of American Dental Association recommendation to not use fluoridated water for infants receiving formula.

The state of New Hampshire is unusual in that it specifically requires warnings about mixing fluoridated water with infant formula to be included in every water department statement sent to customers. In the unlikely event that all mothers nationwide were to be educated about the danger of giving fluoridated tap water mixed with formula to their babies, and they were able to afford buying cases of bottled water, this would add greatly to environmental pollution as a result of all the plastic being discarded in the landfill.

Until fluoridation of the water supply was introduced, the main use for fluoride was as a rat poison.

7. What was the “Halloween Death Smog Disaster”?

During the Halloween weekend in 1948, twenty people in and around Donora, PA died, and an estimated 6,000 were sickened, as a result of an accidental release of fumes from the Donora Zinc works. As Christopher Bryson describes in his book The Fluoride Deception, independent scientists who investigated concluded that fluoride emissions were the cause of the deaths. An almost identical industrial accident occurred in the Meuse Valley in Belgium, where 63 people died after a high release of fluoride emissions.

A Public Health Service report — heavily influenced by industry and cold war government leaders, who required the products of fluoride-producing industrial and nuclear plants — concluded that the deaths in Donora had been caused by the weather. The families of the dead were compensated less than $3000 each by U.S. Steel, the owner of the zinc plant, which did not admit any responsibility for the injuries and fatalities.

The head of the Public Health Service, Oscar Ewing, was a former lawyer for Alcoa Aluminum, an industry that would greatly profit as a result of selling its toxic waste for purposes of community fluoridation. It was he who wrote the introduction to the PHS report on Donora that attributed the deaths to weather conditions. Ewing announced nine months after the deadly disaster that the Public Health Service was reversing a long-held position and now was supporting adding fluoride to drinking water across the U.S.

Jenny Miller is an activist and writer who lives in Northern CA. She has worked as a lobbyist, legislative assistant, editor, dog walker, and patient advocate. Her articles and op-eds have appeared in numerous publications, including Berkeley's Grassroots Community Newspaper, Z Magazine, Utne Reader, Terrain, Science for the People, The Oakland Tribune, Chico News and Review, The Daily Californian, and online at OpEdNews, Indybay, and Natural Blaze. Read other articles by Jenny.