GATEKEEPER: WHO IS PHILIP HUANG?

Huang for BlogPhilip Huang, Civil Engineer, MD, MPH

When the Austin City Council seeks to justify its policy of ignoring Austin citizens’ anti-water fluoridation input in favor of its own relentlessly pro-fluoride stance it turns for support to a man with no toxicology expertise, no dental background, and strong ties to the federal Centers for Disease Control – promoter-in-chief since Day One of fluoridated water for every man, woman and child in the USA from cradle to grave.

Philip P. Huang (rhymes with “wrong”), MD, MPH, medical director of the Austin Travis County Health and Human Services Department, is the slender reed to whom these so-called public servants cling to validate their increasingly non-tenable position. It’s best to let Huang’s own CV tell the story. Having received a BA in civil engineering from Rice University in 1982, he decided to become a doctor instead. He then enrolled at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School at Dallas, graduating with an MD degree in 1986. From 1986-89 he served his internship/residency at Austin’s Brackenridge Hospital, emerging with a specialization in family practice: an area whose subject matter is comparable to that of a general practitioner. Although he held the position of Chief Resident during 1989, it appears he never hung out his own shingle. Instead, he was soon off to Boston for a year of polishing at the Harvard School of Public Health, whose mission is “to advance the public’s health through learning, discovery and communication.” Though that august institution claims to post descriptions of the courses, the links all appear to be broken: from their titles, few if any seem to deal with the actual science and art of medicine. At any rate, Huang received his MPH in 1989, then lingered for an additional year as a work/study intern with the Harvard Center for Health Communication.

In 1990, he moved on to the big time at the CDC in Atlanta, where he remained for two very important years in the title of epidemic intelligence service officer. Undoubtedly, he forged important contacts at the agency during that time. It would seem he also discovered the wellspring of federal grant money freely available for anti-tobacco projects. During 1991, the year he gave his first anti-smoking presentations—on tobacco advertisements and children—at professional meetings, he also presented on disease-causing blue-green algae-like bacteria. But from that time forward to today the lion’s share of his professional presentations, as well as his mile-long list of publications, have trod the safe and well-funded terrain of smoking prevention. 1992 brought him to the Texas Department of Health (reorganized as the Texas Department of State Health Services in 2004), where he remained in several positions until his jump, in 2008 to the Austin Travis County Health Department—an agency which itself has since suffered a renaming, to its present Austin Travis County Public Health and Human Services Department. The title of Huang’s current position: Medical Director/Health Authority is revealing in itself. Health Authority has that perfect ring. A look at his resume over the years suggests a tirelessly active, politically-skilled individual, adept at attracting honors, committee posts and money from early on. The kinds of career-enhancing awards and Who’s Who listings and high level appointments he’s racked rarely come unbidden even to the well-qualified, but require a certain level of self-promotion. One particularly interesting appointment is his membership between 1992 and 2008 on the Texas Diabetes Council. Diabetes is a chronic medical condition—extremely common in our population—well-known to be aggravated by fluoride. What emerges, without fanfare, is an outstanding talent for getting major CDC grants for anti-cigarette-related activities. Huang’s long-cultivated reputation for expertise in tobacco matters (though not the hard-science aspects) begins in the early 1990’s. Of the 17 post-1992 publications his CV lists, 16 pertain to smoking and over a third of those are specifically CDC-sponsored. His papers tend to be of a statistical/ sociological nature. None involve any hands-on biological or toxicological research.

So what qualifies him to be the arbiter of fluoride safety for the masses? Nothing. Watching Huang’s recent performance before the City Council and its satellite Public Health and Human Services Committee, as he glowingly reported on his latest multi-million dollar CDC grants before a rapt, appreciative audience, one cannot resist speculating that this is the principal raison d’etre for his placement in his current position. Here, his record is indeed impressive. In 2009, he snagged a 2-year $7.5 million grant exclusively for anti-smoking programs: an achievement which spawned an explosion of flashy public relations campaigns (including a 30-second TV spot that cost a cool $250,000) as the grant period drew to a close.

This cost $250,000 to make and air. . .Not to disparage the very real importance of smoking-related health issues: imagine what that same amount – $7.5 million – or a half, or a third, or even a quarter of it, could buy in terms of dental care for the economically disadvantaged children the toxic placebo called fluoride is supposed to be “helping.” Mobile dental clinics…vouchers…toothpaste and toothbrushes…dental hygiene education for parents and children…But that’s not how things operate in the upside-down world of grant-seeking, where projects are driven by infusions of outside money and priorities based more on available funding than need. The Centers for Disease Control pushes water fluoridation in place of real dental care. The same agency that invests millions to keep us away from the tobacco poison wants us to consume the fluoride poison. This fall, the expired $7.5 million anti-tobacco grant was superseded by a more modest but longer-running one. The latest CDC funding provides just over $1 million per year over the next five years, to address smoking and other issues, including childhood obesity (an important health problem but dealt with as if in a vacuum). Studies, spawning programs spawning partnerships, spawning endless seminars: it’s a self-perpetuating bureaucracy’s dream come true. One has to wonder then: what would happen if the Prince of Grants, as I think of Huang, were to be undermined in any way? Even on the unrelated subject of water fluoridation? I suspect the Council members have had this in mind too as they’ve sat through his several cut-and-paste CDC talking point presentations delivered with smug assurance that his title of authority, however hollow, would always prevail. Is it possible – were he seriously challenged, even opposed – that the CDC’s beneficence might fade along with his authority? t’s a question worth pondering and I presume the Council has done their share and drawn their own conclusions. I myself can’t answer it. But this I do know: if the Council members wouldn’t turn to family practitioner Huang for open heart surgery or a kidney transplant, they shouldn’t turn to him for advice on toxicology: another specialty in which he lacks the appropriate training. And leave the whole city at his mercy too.

FLUORIDE DATE LECTURE #44 – TWO MORE NATIONAL BLACK LEADERS JOIN FIGHT AGAINST FLUORIDATION

Good afternoon, Mayor and councilmembers. Next Wednesday morning, May 18, the Council’s Committee on Public Health and Human services will meet here in City Hall with representatives on both sides of the fluoridation debate for a “work session” That event could prove a historic turning point, if only you are willing to think outside the box and carefully consider the scientific information our experts will provide.

I urge you to place scientific evidence above cut-and-paste dogma. When you hear “safe and effective” ask yourselves how that can be so in the light of today’s evidence. When you hear “CDC best practices,” remember that those are the same “best practices” that have resulted in fluorosis-disfigured teeth for approaching half of our young people today.

True, endorsement by the CDC sounds impressive—at first. When we think of CDC, we picture its grandiose Atlanta headquarters and army of 15,000 employees. Well, scratch that. The CDC’s Division of Oral Health comprises about 28 dentist-bureaucrats without medical or toxological training, well rewarded to promote community fluoridation. They’re PR people, basically. That’s it.

And there’s strong resistance brewing in Atlanta, the CDC’s backyard. Atlanta is city of 540,000, 58% black. There, the African-American community is mobilizing against what was sold as a social entitlement but is now recognized as environmental racism.

Last month, Andrew Young—iconic MLK-era civil rights leader, former Atlanta mayor, former UN Ambassador, 3-time member of the U.S. House of Representative—and a dentist’s son—came out forcefully against fluoridation. Noting that cavities are rampant in inner cities that have been fluoridated for decades and that both cavity and fluorosis rates are higher among blacks, he said: —quote— “I am most deeply concerned for poor families who have babies: if they cannot afford unfluoridated water for their babies’ milk formula, do their babies not count?… This is an issue of fairness, civil rights, and compassion.”

Two days ago, Martin Luther King’s daughter Bernice King issued an equally forthright statement calling for an end to the practice and for “Fluoridegate” investigations into the deception which has always surrounded it.

The cat’s out of the bag on this one, Council. People are waking up to the fact that fluoride is bad for you. It needs to go the way of the dodo, and soon. Thank you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ONE FOR THE HALL OF SHAME – GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN: FIRST TO BE GULLED

 

Steel Water

(Where’d the hotel go? I don’t see it…)

THE WAVY BLUE STEEL SCULPTURE THRUSTING SKYWARD AGAINST THE BACKDROP OF GRAND RAPIDS’ SWANK MARRIOTT HOTEL CELEBRATES ONE OF MODERN MAN’S MONUMENTAL STUPIDITIES: COMMUNITY WATER FLUORIDATION

The year was 1944. In the fever of wartime activity, top-level government and industry personnel, nervous about suspected harmful effects of the fluoride compounds essential to metal smelting and enriched uranium production, boldly planned a massive human experiment, using the populations of the paired towns of Newburgh and Kingston, NY as guinea pigs. They would spike Newburgh’s drinking water with fluoride ion at a one part per million concentration, leaving Kingston to serve as a control. The long range study of potential health damage from fluoride exposure was presented to Newburgh residents as a chance to receive a free new health benefit. Standing in the way of the scheme was Trendley Dean, the U.S. Public Health Service’s top fluoridation scientist, who years earlier had been sent forth by his bosses to “discover” a positive correlation between fluoride and decay-resistant teeth. Dean had obliged. But now he expressed concerns over toxicity. He opposed the experiment, citing cumulative effects such as bone changes and cataracts he had observed in people who consumed large amounts of fluoride naturally-present in their drinking water sources. The pro-fluoridationists retreated in frustration. Three months later, Dean abruptly flip-flopped.  He now supported water fluoridation unreservedly — not for Newburgh but for Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he would be a principal investigator in a 10-year study comparing Grand Rapids schoolchildren’s teeth with neighboring, unfluoridated Muskegon. The investigation commenced in 1945. In 1951, however, with preliminary results showing no appreciable difference in oral health between the two communities, Muskegon fluoridated its water supply too, removing the control and rendering the data valueless. Trendley Dean fared very well professionally following his spectacular about-face.  In 1948, he was named the first director of the newly-established National Institute of Dental Health, and he headed up the American Dental Association for many years. He’s a hero in Grand Rapids, where his name is invoked in reverential tones. ‘ By 1995, thanks to the ADA’s and CDC’s slick, lavishly funded campaigns, sixty percent of our nation’s municipal water systems were fluoridated. Fluorosis had become widespread nd bone diseases and thyroid problems were skyrocketing – with no corresponding dental benefits to show.  In Grand Rapids where it all began, the town fathers sought an appropriate way to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the debacle. Rejecting as too expensive and too showy a proposal to raise a giant molar on a pole in the Grand River, they settled instead for a simple, tasteful marble slab bearing pro-fluoride text and donors’ names, and boasting its own built-in drinking fountain, It was placed downtown in a public space. Over the next decade, both weather and vandalism took their toll on the monument. When, in 1995, plans were announced to build a tony new Marriott virtually on top of it, the city’s dental community decided to replace rather than relocate it. They gathered sponsors to create a more “artistic” tribute and commissioned Cyril Lixenberg, an affable citizen of Amsterdam, to design and carry it out. “Steel Water,” a 33-foot high, 10,000 pound twisted mass of sky-blue painted steel, was dedicated on September 14, 2007. Though the cost of the work—a gift to the city from the donors—hasn’t been publicized, the sponsorship list reads like a Who’s Who of well-heeled fluoride pushers: the ADA, the Michigan Dental Association, the West Michigan District Dental Society, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the Michigan Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the Grand Rapids Dental Hygienists’ Society, the Kent County Dental Society, the Muskegon District Dental Society, and individual dentists. Dr. Raymond Gist, a local trustee of the American Dental Association, praised the citizens of Grand Rapids—and their parents, the original guinea pigs—-for their approval and participation in the city’s historic fluoridation trials. “. . .But our work is not finished. I hope this magnificent sculpture dedicated today will stand as a visible reminder not only of the historic event that occurred in Grand Rapids, but inspire others to continue efforts to bring the benefits of fluoridation to the rest of the nation,” he gushed.   Mayor George Heartwell concurred in praising the fluoridation pioneers’ “bold move.” Fast forward eight months. On May 6, 2008, Cortland (“Corky”) Overmyer, Grand Rapids’ Environmental Sustainability Director, publicly revealed that he was working with scientists at Grand Valley State University and other water quality specialists to evaluate fluoride’s safety and determine whether it should continue to be added to the city’s water supply. Overmyer’s concern arose from recent scientific studies linking fluoride to potential thyroid and kidney problems. “Because we’re trying to eliminate toxins in our community, I thought we should study this issue,” he said, as reported by the Grand Rapids Press. His remarks came at Brownfields 2008, a national redevelopment conference held in Detroit. Fluoridation opponents everywhere cheered the news. Dr. Paul Connett , founder of the Fluoride Action Network (FAN) noted the development with approval in the May 12 FAN Bulletin. The Chicago Tribune took the story farther in a June 23 article by Tim Jones. “This has been on my radar screen for a while,” the Trib quoted Overmyer. And, declared an optimistic Paul Connett: “If Grand Rapids falls, that could be the beginning of the end of fluoride.” But the piece also indicated that Overmyer was taking heat I’m just trying to be honest and open, and I’ve become a lightning rod,” he complained to the paper, noting that he had “teeth marks in his backside” from fluoridationists ferociously defending their turf. “I had no idea [fluoride] was that sensitive an issue.” Mayor Heartwell and Overmyer’s own dentist—both of whom refused to talk to the reporter—had attacked him, as did large dental and medical groups like the West Michigan District Dental Associatio Nonetheless, he expressed his determination to press on with a review of fluoride’s impact on the 11 communities served by the city’s water system. Natural News carried a short rehash the Tribune article containing nothing new. That was the last mention I could find in the mainstream press. In April, 2009, just shy of the one-year anniversary of Corky Overmyer’s startling announcement, I became curious about the status of his investigation, so I fired off the following email: “Last spring I read that your department is looking at abandoning the practice of water fluoridation in Grand Rapids. However, with the exception of one minor update in November, I’ve heard nothing further on the subject. Can you please tell me where the situation currently stands? Thank you.” His reply was prompt and to the point: “The City is not looking at abandoning fluoridation at this time.” I couldn’t resist a followup: (the devil made me do it): “Is the scientific review that led to that conclusion of public record? I’d like to read it if it’s available. Thank you again.” This time the response was a tad irritable: “There is no political, administrative, medical or technical interest in pursuing this at this time as instructed by the Mayor, City Manager, Water Department Manager, or Dental community. The matter is not negotiable and is not being considered any longer.” I let him be after that. Poor Mr. Overmye:  unaware of a deeper agenda, he had probably believed that eliminating toxins from the community was central to his job description. He certainly couldn’t have expected old friends and colleagues to turn on him..And I’m sure he values his job. Musing on the collective fluoride fantasy of Grand Rapids’ ruling elite, it occurred to me that if water fluoridation worked as claimed, the city’s entire population should enjoy extraordinarily good dental health after more than 60 years, which in turn should be reflected in a relative lack of need for dentists. So how many dentists are practicing in Grand Rapids today? For the answer to that question, I turned to the online  Yellow Pages and punched in “Dentists” – “Grand Rapids, MI Up popped a raw number: 924. Next, I consulted the U.S. Census Bureau’s Population Finder page and pulled up 193,627 in 2007, the most recent year for which statistics are available. That’s about one dentist for every 210 people. By way of comparison, I looked up Portland, Oregon, which bills itself as the largest unfluoridated city in the U.S. Portland’s 2007 population was 550,396, yet it had only 629 dentists listed. Somehow, Portland manages to get by on a ratio of one dentist per 875 people. So why does Grand Rapids need so many dentists?We know that workers go where there’s a demand, and dentists are no exception.  It would seem there’s considerably more of a demand in long-fluoridated Grand Rapids than in never-fluoridated Portland. Perhaps they’re kept busy treating teeth disfigured by fluorosis. Perhaps it’s the difference in socioeconomic status:  Grand Rapids has a per capita income of $19,593 as opposed to Portland’s $27,941. Any observant perso knows that good dental health comes not from fluoridated water but from proper diet and oral hygiene; factors which correlate positively with income level. Rather than spend money on raising monuments to a toxic placebo, a community might be better served by investing in toothpaste and programs to teach adults and children about the basics of regular brushing and flossing – perhaps even in local dental clinics. But that’s not how they see it in Grand Rapids, Michigan, first to swallow the fluoride myth; first to be gulled, and proud of it. Western Gull