REFLECTIONS ON AN UNFLUORIDATED CHILDHOOD

I vividly rcall the day my mother took me for my fluoride treatment.  I was barely seven years old.  The dentist, a roly-poly man named Dr. Kramer, with the endearing though odd habit of handing every child a piece of candy the minute we stepped out of the chair, soaked some cotton cylinders in a clear liquid, stuffed them into the four corners of my mouth against my teeth, and ordered me to keep them there for what seemed forever.  It was uncomfortable but not painful – nothing especially noteworthy.  Afterward, though, as I stood nibbling at my treat, I overheard the dentist and my mother talking.  He was extolling the virtues of fluoride to her, telling her how wonderful a cavity-fighter it was.  So wonderful, in fact, that they were going to put it in the drinking water. 

In the water!  Now that got my attention.  They were going to put something in the water that would keep us kids from getting cavities.  I’d already had a baby tooth filled and didn’t want to repeat that experience.  It sounded great to me.  At the time, I assumed it was going to happen right away.   

Three or four years later, the school dentist paid my class a visit.  We lined up for our five minutes with him, and when he came to me, he exclaimed in a booming voice, “Where’d you get those healthy teeth?”  I blushed, tongue-tied.  Yet I knew the answer.  I inherited them.  And I took good care of my inheritance:  ate healthy foods, avoided excessive sweets, brushed regularly. It struck me, at that moment, that this fluoride stuff, whatever it was, didn’t amount to much.  My classmates ran the full spectrum of dental health from “Look, Ma, no cavities!” to extremely poor.  Clearly, diet, hygiene and inheritance were the predominant factors – just as my parents always told me.  As it turned out, I was wrong about one thing.  Fluoridation was not implemented in St. Louis, my hometown, until several years after my memorable dental appointment, and by that time we had moved to the suburbs.  By the time it arrived at the suburbs, I was an adult, and gone.  I grew up without drinking fluoride, for which I count myself fortunate.  And I still have all my teeth. 

Recently I asked my mother, who’s 90 – and still has her own teeth – whether she remembered that long-ago visit to Dr. Kramer’s office.  She did not.  She did, however, well remember the controversy surrounding water fluoridation in the 1950’s.  “I couldn’t believe that they actually went ahead with it,” she told me.  “Everyone knew it was bad.”  

How things change!  Today, everyone “knows” it’s good, and the pro-fluoridation juggernaut steamrolls on, relentlessly bent on making our nation’s public water systems 100% fluoridated (the current figure stands at around 70%).  This highly organized alliance of beauracrats, coporate types and politicians with an agenda to push and enormous money behind it is largely responsible for our present predicament.  Meanwhile, rates of osteoporosis and bone cancer skyrocket, and dental fluorosis is now endemic among American schoolchildren. 

Fluorosis is a permanent structural defect of the teeth caused by early exposure to too much fluoride.  At the upper right of this blog is a photograph showing it in the “mild” form likely to result from fluoridation adjusted to a level of 0.8 parts per million, as in Austin.  Those beautifully-shaped teeth were intended by Nature to be perfect.  Instead, the white flecks betray a subsurface porosity that renders them susceptible to future brittleness and decay-proneness.  The condition can be treated cosmetically, but the underlying damage will remain. 

Watchdog organizations like the Fluoride Action Network (www.fluoridealert.org) and Citizens for Safe Drinking Water (www.keepersofthewell.org)  do an excellent job of keeping the public informed on fluoride-related issues, particularly the latest research.  Unfortunately, the profit-motivated pro-fluoride lobby cares little for scientific facts:  this has been shown time and time again.  But fortunately, fluoridation programs are carried out at the local level.  That’s why it’s important to help our local officials understand water fluoridation for the very personal threat it is.  There is no hiding from fluoride behind bottled water.  We bathe in it; we risk exposure to it every time we eat away from home; we consume it in sodas, beer, wine, juices, even health drinks bottled in fluoridated areas.  To endorse fluoridation – once the facts are known – is to consciously endorse lifelong unnecessary health problems for ourselves and our children.   And who would ever want to make a choice like that?




The Fluoride-Date Lectures: Educating People 3 Minutes at a Time

October 16, 2008 was a big day in my life:  it was the day I first spoke before the Austin City Council on the subject of water fluoridation.  My desire to speak out, to reach out to others on this extremely important topic had been building for some time.  Not that I wasn’t aware of the dangers of fluoride much earlier; the highly toxic nature of fluorine and its chemical compounds has been known for over a century.  But it wasn’t really on my radar – just one of a myriad of bad-for-us additives that have found their way into our food and water supplies in recent decades.  I purchased bottled spring water and shrugged it off.

Things changed a few years ago when my husband was diagnosed with osteopenia, the precursor to osteoporosis.  This development was a stunner:  the ailment was, as far as we knew, overwhelmingly one of post-menopausal women.  But, we reasoned, as our bodies age things are bound to go wrong, and if it took a quirky turn in his case, them’s the breaks.   Then, a year or so later, we were relaxing with two other couples at a backyard event when the subject of health came up, and we learned to our amazement that both of those men suffered from bone loss too.  It was a surreal moment:  three rugged, vigorous middle-aged outdoorsmen swapping tales of their adventures with Fosamax.  What struck me was the particularly healthy lifestyle all three enjoyed.  They were physically active nonsmokers, healthy eaters, lacking in what are generally termed “bad habits.”  What special vulnerability could they have in common?  Then I remembered.  All of them worked in construction, putting in long hours of heavy manual labor under a hot Texas sun.  In an effort to keep hydrated, all consumed exceptionally large quantities of  liquid (in my husband’s case, fruit juices).  Bingo. 

I began to research the subject and my hunch was quickly confirmed.  In the years since water fluoridation was introduced – different from place to place –  osteoporosis in men and bone cancer in young boys have both skyrocketed.  Many children’s teeth now bear the telltale white flecks of fluorosis, an early sign of structural damage that the EPA impudently dismisses as “only cosmetic.”  The dire effects of fluoride on bones and teeth have, in fact, been known for a very long time.  The Fluoride Deception, a superbly-documented book by Christopher Bryson, does a great job of laying out the historical circumstances, financial interests and cast of characters that intersected, during the 1950’s, to press the pernicious agenda of water fluoridation that is in effect in the United States today.  A search of the Austin City Council’s own archives
http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/cityclerk/edims/archive/edims_minutes_archive.htm shows that fluoridation was voted in here in 1972 with relatively little fanfare and nowhere near the amount of public discussion such a vital issue merits. 

It”s time to revisit water fluoridation with a view to undoing the wrong that was foisted on Austinites – albeit well-intentionedly – more than 35 years ago.  Any such project must begin with an education campaign, and to that purpose I’ve developed what I call the Fluoride-Date lecture series.  Based right here in Austin we have a popular nationally-syndicated radio mini-program, Star Date, which serves up a daily 2-minute slice of astronomy lore.  A great deal of information can be packed into two minutes.   If you listen to just one segment, you’ll learn something; if you follow ithe show over a period of time, you’ll end up knowing quite a lot about astronomy.  The Fluoride-Date Lectures are conceived in a similar spirit.  The difference is that they are 3 minutes long and their target audience is the Austin City Council.  I’ll be presenting them during the noontime “General Citizen Communication” portion of the Council meetings as often as possible, and posting them on this blog.  If the Council pays attention, it will gain a new understanding of the fluoride situation and why we need to change it.  Councilmembers, are you listening?