The Ethical and Scientific Case Against Public Water Fluoridation
Public health policies, which affect entire populations, should be taken seriously. Poor decisions made by public health officials may have detrimental consequences that are widespread and long lasting. As such, public health campaigns should be the most heavily evaluated and criticized of all medical practices. History has shown that some of the most well intentioned public health agendas have backfired and harmed the very people they were designed to help.
In the 1940’s, the United States Department of Agriculture commenced a program to eradicate malaria by reducing vector insect populations through the extensive use of DDT. Research touted by authorities at the time showed that DDT was nontoxic to humans and safe for widespread public use. DDT was extremely effective at killing insects and public health officials sprayed DDT everywhere. They sprayed every surface on which an insect could land, including forests, buildings, playgrounds, and even people themselves. The efforts were considered to be very successful as insect populations were greatly reduced and the threat of malaria drastically declined. The campaign was heralded by the Public Health Department and declared by authorities to be a great achievement in public health.
Years after the DDT frenzy however, it was realized by scientists (and later the public) that DDT is both harmful to humans and devastating to the ecosystem at large. Evidence of the potential harmful effects of DDT emerged early in the history of the chemical, yet authorities disturbingly continued their public campaign regardless of the potential risks. Public outcry eventually led to the end of the practice, but instead of simply ceasing their reckless use of DDT, the Federal Government banned public and private use of DDT altogether. Public health regulators seemed to have followed the totalitarian principle that “if it is not mandatory, then it is forbidden.”
In the late 1940’s, in parallel with the DDT/malaria affair, public health authorities launched a massive campaign of water fluoridation to fight widespread dental caries. Prior to the campaign, it had been known for decades that concentrated fluoride was toxic to both humans and the environment. It had only been recently discovered to potentially have short term health benefits when diluted. The long term risks of chronic exposure to diluted fluoride were unknown. Just like with DDT spraying, authorities felt that the potential risks justified the potential to help the “greater good.” Following the typical pattern, authorities instituted a propaganda crusade to convince the public of the benefits of water fluoridation and the supposed safety of chronic exposure in relatively low doses.
The DDT campaign was exposed as fallacious, unnecessary, and detrimental to public health and the campaign ended in 1970’s. Despite similar continuous, resounding opposition to the ethics and the science behind water fluoridation, the campaign has persisted for over fifty years. The goal of this article is to educate others on some of the ethical, scientific, and pragmatic reasons why public water fluoridation should be ended. The authors are not against responsible fluoride therapy and they do not want fluoride to go the way of DDT and be banned by the government.
The Ethical Case Against Public Water Fluoridation:
The strongest argument against community water fluoridation (CWF) stems directly from the Nuremberg Code. Most people are aware of the atrocious human experimentation and war crimes that were committed by Nazi medical researchers during WWII; yet there is alarming ignorance by the American public to the human rights violations that have occurred in the name of medical experimentation in the United States. There are some obvious and savage examples of human rights violating experiments such as the Statesville Penitentiary malaria study and the Tuskegee syphilis experiment, but there are also more subtle rights-violating experiments that are often marketed as beneficial for public health such as DDT spraying and water fluoridation.
Fortunately the Federal Government and many individual state governments have adopted the Nuremberg Code of research ethics as law. Unfortunately the Federal Government and individual states often refuse to abide by that ethic. The authors of this article consider human rights to be of paramount importance in medical ethics and therefore strongly support the principles of the Nuremberg Code.
Amazingly, despite the universal acceptance of individual liberty and human rights, the prevailing attitude about fluoridation among medical authorities in America for the last fifty years has been that of direct opposition to the Nuremberg Code, universal medical ethics, and logic. Portions of the Nuremberg Code are evaluated in the paragraphs below.
1. “The voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential. This means that the person involved should have legal capacity to give consent; should be so situated as to be able to exercise free power of choice, without the intervention of any element of force, fraud, deceit, duress, over-reaching, or other ulterior form of constraint or coercion; and should have sufficient knowledge and comprehension of the elements of the subject matter involved as to enable him to make an understanding and enlightened decision. This latter element requires that before the acceptance of an affirmative decision by the experimental subject there should be made known to him the nature, duration, and purpose of the experiment; the method and means by which it is to be conducted; all inconveniences and hazards reasonable to be expected; and the effects upon his health or person which may possibly come from his participation in the experiment.
The duty and responsibility for ascertaining the quality of the consent rests upon each individual who initiates, directs or engages in the experiment. It is a personal duty and responsibility which may not be delegated to another with impunity.”
Putting fluoride in the public water supply with the intention of medicating every single individual in a population is the exact opposite of informed consent. Even in the impossible situation in which uniform treatment works perfectly for everyone, this massive over-reach of medical authority is still a direct violation of human rights. In reality, of course, the consequences of water fluoridation are far from ideal. There is always a certain percentage of the population who react unfavorably to standard treatment. Every medication has side effects. Fluoride is certainly no exception. Over the last ten years, medical experts who are pro-water fluoridation have acknowledged that the fluoride standards recommended by the CDC and FDA were causing widespread fluorosis. Instead of sensibly discontinuing non-consensual administration of fluoride through the water supply, authorities have merely lowered the concentration. To the CDC and FDA, human rights seem to be not a concern.
In blatant disregard for the Nuremberg code, public health investigators have been treating entire populations as test subjects for over fifty years. Many people are not aware that they are subjects of ongoing government epidemiological experiments or that they are being medicated through the public water supply. Not only have they not given their consent, many people are unaware of the potential hazards to their health. Medical authorities are to blame for this lack of public awareness. There is, and has been for some time, a very effective and active propaganda campaign being conducted in order to keep the public indifferent and even ignorant to the public health decisions being made on their behalf. Instead of encouraging the public to take control of their own health and to make educated decisions about personal behaviors, medical authorities have taken it upon themselves to control the health of every individual.
2. "The experiment should be so designed and based on the results of animal experimentation and a knowledge of the natural history of the disease or other problem under study that the anticipated results will justify the performance of the experiment."
Today, our understanding of the long term systemic consequences of chronic fluoride exposure in humans is questionable at best. Over fifty years ago, when governments first forced water fluoridation on the people, knowledge of the long term health effects was practically nonexistent. Minimal experiments on animals were conducted prior to implementing water fluoridation on the public. To keep things in perspective, the FDA imposes strict requirements on pharmaceutical companies to abide by animal and clinical trials before the drug is introduced to the market. Often times it takes decades for reasonably safe and effective drugs to make it to the market. Yet the government began to recklessly entire populations in the United States as test subjects of fluoride treatment only a few years after fluoride was discovered to play a role in caries retardation.
3. "The experiment should be such as to yield fruitful results for the good of society, unprocurable by other methods or means of study, and not random and unnecessary in nature."
If we give water fluoridation advocates the benefit of the doubt and assume that the water supply is the best way of administering fluoride (despite overwhelming evidence that shows varnishes, toothpastes and rinses to be very effective modals), there is no reason to carry out uncontrolled experiments on the public when controlled experiments could easily be conducted on willing participants. The prevention and treatment of dental caries is a noble pursuit, but public water fluoridation is an unacceptable means to an end.
The Scientific Case Against Public Water Fluoridation:
A glaring medical problem that is routinely ignored by CWF-promoting scientific literature is that there is no fluorine found naturally in the human body. Many elements play a role in normal functioning biochemistry, even trace elements such as manganese, nickel, and molybdenum. Fluorine is just as abundant, if not more, than these trace elements, yet the human body evolved so that this element plays no role whatsoever biochemically. Even more strangely, all of the elements (except for the noble gases) surrounding fluorine in the periodic table, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorous, sulfur, chlorine, sodium, magnesium, and selenium are part of normal composition of the human body. Fluorine is not. Except for its role in hardening dental enamel, fluorine has no other known positive biological functions. Despite its absolutely unnecessary role in health, many CWF advocates are unrelenting in their quest to make sure every single person is chronically exposed to fluoride. This is, to say the least, a reckless practice of medicine.
Humans do not have an efficient mechanism for expelling fluorides from the body. Most fluorides are eventually excreted via the urinary system, but the rate is very slow, allowing for bioaccumulation. Fluoride is extremely reactive with other molecules in the body, most notably with concentrated hydrochloric acid in the stomach and calcium cations in bone. Fluoride interferes with various enzymes and multiple biological functions. The ion can react with just about any other molecule, making it potentially hazardous to the processes necessary for life. This is a likely reason why it doesn’t play a natural role in human biochemistry.
The most documented systemic disease caused by chronic fluoride exposure is skeletal fluorosis, a disease that affects tens of millions of people worldwide. There is also evidence suggesting that chronic fluoride toxicity affects renal function, liver function, DNA repair, and the pineal gland. Research on these topics, however, is shockingly scant. It seems logical that as long as over fifty percent of Americans are receiving fluoridated tap water, making fluoride one of the country’s most ingested medications, there should be intense research efforts devoted to learning everything possible about the long term systemic effects of chronic fluoride exposure.
Pro-water fluoridation propaganda teaches the public that fluoride is only dangerous at levels above the recommended dosage levels, but the recommended dosage seems to change rather frequently. Few significant studies have concentrated on the negative side effects of chronic fluoride exposure, as most studies have focused on the benefit of fluoride in caries retardation and the effects on human teeth. If low doses of fluoridated water are well documented to alter the function of tooth enamel, it is possible that low doses of fluoride can also affect the function of other tissues. Researchers cannot find what they are not looking for.
Research bias is a major problem in the scientific community regarding studies on the long term effects of chronic fluoride ingestion. All of the major medical governing bodies are heavily biased towards research that seeks to justify community water fluoridation. A simple JADA search of “water fluoridation” reveals that vast majority of literature openly promotes the practice. Opponents of CWF are rarely (if ever) given government grants for research and their dissent is often ridiculed or silenced by the governing medical authorities. It is far easier and politically safer to conduct a study that confirms already accepted medical beliefs and one’s own bias, than to conduct a genuine, non-biased, fair assessment of health risks. This is especially true when large amounts of grant money are at stake. Conformity is frustratingly common in the scientific community.
The Pragmatic Case Against Public Water Fluoridation:
If the ethical and scientific cases against fluoride aren’t convincing enough, there is also a strong pragmatic argument against community water fluoridation as well. If fluoride is indeed an important medication that should be available to as many people as possible, it does not make any sense to put it in the water supply. The United States Geological Survey estimates that the average American uses one hundred gallons of water every day. If a person drinks the recommended average of ten cups of water per day out of the 100 gallons of water he uses, only 0.5% of this water is orally consumed. This means that 99.5% of the fluoride put into the water supply is wasted into the environment. If fluoride is so important to human health, it is beyond foolish to flush 99.5% of it down the toilet.
Given that there are alternative means of fluoride administration that preserve both ethics and scientific integrity, fluoride administration through the public water supply should be phased out.