In the 1950’s and ‘60’s the fluoridation of the public water supply was a hotly debated subject in the public forum. Fluoridated water was supposed to prevent dental caries and I was in favor of it until I learned that a doctor friend of mine who was both a health commissioner and Professor of Preventive Medicine at Loyola University was against it. I proceeded to study the matter and learned that most people who opposed fluoridation knew a good deal more about it than those who favored it. I learned that among those who opposed it were Dr. James Sumner and Dr. Hugo Thiorel, both Nobel prize winners in the field of enzyme biochemistry.

As is my wont, when I get fired up I write,  and here is my subsequent letter to the editor:

There is at least one town in this country that boasts of the fluoride content of its water with a sign reading, “Water Fluoridated by God.” It is to towns like this that fluoridationists point when they maintain that people have been drinking naturally fluoridated water for years without harm–and with decreased dental decay. There are three things I would like to say about naturally fluoridated water.

First, the fact that a thing occurs naturally does not mean that it is desirable. There are areas, as in India, where people are hopelessly crippled with endemic fluorosis because of the high content of fluorides in their water and they are seeking ways to lessen the fluoride content of drinking water to below one part per million.  Perhaps they might appropriately put up a sign saying, “God Goofed.”

Secondly, fluorine is present in naturally fluoridated water as the relatively harmless salt, calcium fluoride, and, moreover, is accompanied by the minerals that are invariably presesnt in naturally fluoridated water which may affect the activity of the fluoridation. Sodium fluoride, which is used in artificial fluoridation, is a highly toxic chemical, a few grains constituting a lethal dose, and is 400 times more soluble and 400 times more easily picked up by body tissues. There are no lifetime studies of the effect of sodium fluoride added to soft water on the people who drink it.

Thirdly, whether fluoridation occurs naturally or artificially, even at the recommended optimum of 1 ppm, about one-sixth of the children examined show mottling of the teeth. This is a dental defect, and such mottling, according to the AMA, is “the first delicate criterion of excessive intake of fluorine.” When this occurs, the intake of fluorine should be decreased. How? By buying bottled water? The dosage of fluorides would be more satisfactorily controlled by administering them to individuals, not a whole city.

It should be clearly understood by everyone that fluoridation of a community’s water supply is a new frontier in compulsory mass medication. It is not in the same category as the addition of chlorine in the water to prevent the spread of water-borne diseases such as typhoid. Dental caries is not a water-borne disease. Nor is it in the same category as compulsory immunization to prevent the spread of contagious diseases. Caries is not a contagious disease. Neither of these comparisons can be used to justify the forced medication of 100 percent of the population for the possible benefit of 1 percent, especially when one man’s medication may be another man’s poison.

A recent issue of GP (quite a respectable medical journal for the general practitioner) contains an article on “The Prescription Use of Fluoride to Control Tooth Decay,” which quotes a study of Feltman showing “fluorine sensitivity caused a 1 percent incidence of eczema, urticaria, epigastric pain, vomiting and headaches. These symptoms disappear when a placebo was given.” To me, this alone is sufficient reason for vetoing the fluoridation of our water.     D. Vining

Later I also learned that in 1956 Dr. Ionel Rapaport of the Psychiatric Institute of the University of Wisconsin, upon observing that Mongoloid children (nowadays called Downs Syndrome) had less tooth decay than normal children, made statistical studies to determine whether there was any relationship between the amount of fluorine in the water and Mongoloid births. He compiled figures from the Boards of Health of Illinois, Wisconsin, North and South Dakota which seemed to indicate an increase of Mongolism with the amount of fluorine in the drinking water.

Mongolism (Down’s syndrome) is known to be associated with trisomy of the 21st chromosome, a genetic mutation. Fluorides have been proven to be enzyme inhibitors and to interfere with normal metabolism. It has been postulated that the increased number of Down’s births in women over 35 is due to impaired maternal metabolism with advancing age. As a sidelight, in tea-drinking England one child in 700 was Mongoloid as compared with one in 2925 in fluorine-free areas of Illinois. Tea is high in fluorine (over 161 mg/kg) and a chronic tea-drinker (like the English?) can ingest as much fluorine as is present in artificial fluoridation

All these data piqued my interest in the subject and I corresponded with the Editor of Prevention magazine (against fluoridation) and A.L. Russell, Chief, Epidemiology and Biometry Branch, National Institute of Dental Research (for fluoridation), as well as others.

I also bought two batches of mice, some of which I gave tap water to drink and the others got tea to drink, hoping to learn if they gave birth to defective babies. I soon concluded that my casual approach to this experiment was not scientific enough and I had other things to attend to (like seven children and a part-time job) so I abandoned the project. To this day, I wonder what such a study would reveal.


I had thought that after fifty years of paying no attention to the subject of fluoridation (all the while merrily drinking my fluoridated, chlorinated tap water), we would have learned a thing or two.   My first stop was Wikepedia where I learned that “In 2006, a 12-person U.S. National Research Council (NRC) committee reviewed the health risks associated with fluoride in the water[16] and unanimously concluded that the maximum contaminant level of 4 mg/L should be lowered. Although it did not comment on water fluoridation’s safety, three of the panel members, namely Robert Isaacson, Kathleen Thiessen and Hardy Limeback, expressed[citation needed] their opposition to water fluoridation after the study[17][18] and the chair, John Doull, suggested that the issue should be reexamined.[19]

Wikipedia also provided me with a list of countries which had begun water fluoridation and discontinued it (the latter date being the date of discontinuation.)

  • Federal Republic of Germany (1952–1971)
  • Sweden (1952–1971)
  • Netherlands (1953–1976)
  • Czechoslovakia (1955–1990)
  • German Democratic Republic (1959–1990)
  • Soviet Union (1960–1990)
  • Finland (1959–1993)
  • Japan (1952–1972)

I then came across Why I Changed My Mind about Water Fluoridation by John Colquhoun* © 1997 University of Chicago Press.

Most of the world has rejected fluoridation. Only America where it originated, and countries under strong American influence persist in the practice. Denmark banned fluoridation when its National Agency for Environmental Protection, after consulting the widest possible range of scientific sources, pointed out that the long-term effects of low fluoride intakes on certain groups in the population (for example, persons with reduced kidney function), were insufficiently known [70]. Sweden also rejected fluoridation on the recommendation of a special Fluoride Commission, which included among its reasons that: “The combined and long-term environmental effects of fluoride are insufficiently known” [71]. Holland banned fluoridation after a group of medical practitioners presented evidence that it caused reversible neuromuscular and gastrointestinal harm to some individuals in the population [72].

Environmental scientists, as well as many others, tend to doubt fluoridation. In the United States, scientists employed by the Environmental Protection Agency have publicly disavowed support for their employer’s pro-fluoridation policies [73]. The orthodox medical establishment, rather weak or even ignorant on environmental issues, persist in their support, as do most dentists, who tend to be almost fanatical about the subject. In English- speaking countries, unfortunately, the medical profession and its allied pharmaceutical lobby (the people who sell fluoride) seem to have more political influence than environmentalists.

It seems clear to me with just this very casual follow-up that the issue of safety of fluorides in the public water supply has not been settled.

As for the question of whether there is a relationship between the ingestion of fluorides by the mother and Down’s Syndrome in her children, I found this link, on Super Down Syndrome.

The presence of fluorides in tea is discussed here.

On mature reflection, I guess it was a good idea to discontinue my study of the tea-drinking mice vs. the water-drinking mice. If any of the tea drinkers had produced mice with Down’s syndrome, I don’t know how I would have recognized any of the markers of that disease in a mouse!

Are floridation and/or tea-drinking related to Down’s syndrome?  I pass the torch.