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Ecologist p228

Fluoridation - Doctoring our water supplies.

Peter Bunyard

In October 1985, Parliament passed a Bill allowing water authorities in Britain to fluoridate water supplies. That bit of legislation, hastily rushed through Parliament, came in response to a successful court action in 1980 that declared illegal Strathclyde Regional council's intention to fluoridate its public water supply. One might have thought an issue as important as the doctoring of water would have brought a serious response from MPs in what was supposed to be a free vote. But, 420 MPs out of a total of 650 simply did not vote at all, thus allowing the fluoridation bill to pass practically by default.

In effect, the way is now clear for the legal medication of public water and the right to choose and take responsibility for what is healthy and safe for one's children and oneself has been fundamentally eroded. It might matter less were fluoride a completely harmless substance. Yet it is an extremely potent poison. Being an effective inhibitor of those enzymes associated with respiratory metabolism and the oxidation pathway in the cell. The notion too, inherent in mass medication, that what is good for one is good for all, is boiled by the facts. Individuals have very different sensitivities to different substances, fluoride being no exception. And where indeed is the evidence that fluoride added to water to give concentrations of up to one part per million is absolutely harmless? As we claim in this issue of The Ecologist the evidence is spurious and at best based on shoddy science.

Fluoride is found naturally in varying concentrations in the environment. But man, through his industrial activities, whether aluminium smelting, brick-making, oil refining or fertiliser producing, has added to the natural burden. The waste has to be disposed of somehow, and what better way for the industry than to find a socially acceptable disposal route. It was undoubtedly a godsend for industry, and particularly the aluminium industry when someone noticed that children's teeth in areas where fluoride levels were naturally high appeared to be marginally healthier than those of children in other areas. From being a poison associated with such an incapacitating disease for livestock and humans as fluorosis, fluoride was suddenly and miraculously elevated to the status of an essential element.

But had those early observers of the supposed benefits or fluoride on teeth taken all factors into account? Had they considered other elements such as calcium and magnesium with which fluoride is associated in the natural environment? Could high levels of those other minerals have been the main factors in conferring healthier teeth, especially since they are known to counteract the ill-effects associated with fluoride? Furthermore, as we show in the Ecologist, not only have all epidemiological studies to date on the putative benefits of fluoride in water been or dubious value but, irrespective of fluoridation, children's teeth appear to have improved in terms of dental caries, over the past 30 years.

Since fluoride is found naturally in the environment, advocates or fluoridation have been quick to assume that fluoride from whatever source is the same with regard to its effect on the living environment. Yet, in the natural state fluoride is usually bound to calcium, which through powerful electrostatic forces, keeps the fluoride ion close to it. Bound to calcium in that way, the fluoride ion is not 'free and cannot exert its toxic effects as an enzyme inhibitor.

Artificial fluoride, on the other hand, usually consists of sodium fluoride, sodium silicofluoride, hydrofluosilicic acid and hydrofluoric acid. In all those forms, the fluoride ion is far 'freer' than when bound to calcium. Sodium, for instance surrounds itself with water molecules when dissolved with its fluoride ion in water, and the electrostatic forces between sodium and fluoride are therefore considerably reduced given that the attraction between oppositely charged ions decreases by the square as the distance doubles between them.

Once in the body, fluoride can bond tightly with hydrogen, thus inactivating the active group of an enzyme, or it can replace a hydroxyl group on account or its similarity in size. It will also chelate calcium or magnesium thus removing essential components of enzyme proteins. Another possibility too is the formation within the tissues of fluorinated carbon compounds such as fluoracetic and fluorocitric acid, both of which are known to be intensely poisonous. Such compounds have been found in the urine of aluminium smelter workers and of cattle suffering from fluorosis.

Whereas the benefits of fluoridation have remained in question, even after 40 years of experience, the evidence increasingly points to fluoridation as being the cause of disease. Dr Dean Burk, former head of the Cytochemistry Division or the National Cancer institute and Dr John Yiamouyiannis Science Director of the National Health Federation, claim that fluoride added to drinking water in the United States results in as many as 35,000 cancer deaths each year. Others are now suggesting a link between cot deaths and excess fluoride in the diet. Recent research indicates that as many as 10 per cent of babies who die mysteriously in their cots may have a defective cytochrome oxidase system and so cannot properly obtain metabolic energy. That enzyme system is the one most affected by fluoride because of its propensity to chelate with magnesium and so destroy that element's role as co-enzyme in the cytochrome oxidase system. Although she made no link with fluoride at that time in 1977 Dr Joan Cadell suggested that magnesium deprivation, in the tissues, could be a cause of "sudden unexpected infant death" (Lancet, August 5, l977}. More recently it has been suggested that the problem of magnesium chelation may be exacerbated when fluoridated water is used to make up bottle feeds for infants, since then the intake of fluoride may be as much as 150 times greater than for breast fed infants.

Fluoridation has also been associated with arthritis and similar degenerative changes in the tissues, having been called the 'Ageing Factor' by Yiamouyiannis. The evidence against fluoridation can no longer be overlooked, and local authorities must resist any attempt by government to force them to treat water supplies with this potent poison.

Other countries seem to know better. Fluoridation has been banned in Holland and Sweden, discontinued in Yugoslavia, West Germany, Hungary and Belgium, and has never been practised Austria, Denmark, France, Italy, Greece or Norway. Just a few areas in Britain have fluoridated water, and it is time that they now abandon this medically dangerous and illegitimate practice.

Peter Bunyard


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