All but two lights glowed green at the historic moment on September 7, 2004 when 6 Joplin city councilmen voted in favor of an ordinance authorizing and directing the introduction of fluoride into the public water supply of the City and providing for the regulation of its introduction.
Apparently, it went unnoticed when Operation: Smiles, a well organized and well funded organization, contacted the Council regarding the introduction of fluoride. By the time the group in favor of clean water headed by Dr. Fred W. King received word that the Council had made fluoridation an official proposal, they had little time and less resources to prepare a rebuttal.
No council member considered the possibility of a forum bringing together both sides of the issue and allowing an interchange of information like lawyers do pre-trial. One might wonder what the words "justice to every member of our community" mouthed by the city clerk at the start of the council session actually meant.
City attorney Brian Head made a point of opening a bottle of water while I had my camera pointed in his direction. I don't believe that acting city manager Harold McCoy or the councilmen touched the bottles of water also placed in front of them.
Before the final vote, no one opposed to fluoridation checked out the contents of the two fat loose-leaf binders, currently available at the office of the Joplin city clerk, that Dr. Timothy O'Keefe previously brought before the Council. If they had, they would have been able to call attention to some of its discrepancies, contradictions and in some cases illegible documentation.
Never say "never," never say "none," but the Operation Smiles' website assures its readers that "Of the hundreds of credible studies on fluoridation, none have (sic) shown health problems." They are trying to convince you that any study not in support of fluoridation is not credible and conversely any study supporting fluoridation is credible. Under Smile's "Fluoridation Weblinks" is an article written several years ago entitled "Fluoridation: Don't Let the Poison-mongers Scare You!" It in part accuses anti-fluoridationists of using scare tactics or the "big lie," they say, "made famous by Hitler"--a scare tactic itself.
What impressed me the most were references in Smiles' own documentation to the dangers of professionally applied fluoride gels or foams, to inadequate data both to the amount of ingested fluoride which will be absorbed in children and its inherent danger, and to the physiological effects of small doses of fluoride on white women over 65 years of age in the U.S. and their incidence of hip fracture. [Dr. Joseph Lyon of the University of Utah who coauthored a study published in "The Journal of the American Medical Association in 1992 which found that water fluoridation was associated with an increased risk of hip fracture since has found it difficult to get money to continue his research.] The Smiles' books were replete with references to pro-fluoride studies conducted by or for agencies that benefited from government funding or who were authored by people on the boards of corporations like Alcoa Aluminum.
Jeff Johnson, a Joplin chiropractor, addresses the Council. He failed in convincing them to hold off on their decision to pass the ordinance allowing fluoridation until they could hear arguments presented by Dr.J. William Hirzy, the senior vice-president of the EPA's scientist union, who testified before a Senate sub-committee on the subject of fluoridation of public water supplies. Hirzy, a former Missourian, was willing to fly to Joplin from Washington to present his arguments.
Naturally, the studies made by Phyllis Mullenix were not included in the Smiles' documentation. Mullenix conducted studies on how fluoride affected the nervous system of rats and published the results in the scientific journal Neurotoxicology and Teratology in 1995.
In his book The Fluoride Deception, a must read for everyone published in May 2004, award-winning investigative reporter Christopher Bryson calls attention to research done by the Greater Boston chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility on attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Bryson writes how they concluded that the existing research on fluoride and its central-nervous-system effects were "provocative and of significant public health concern." But Mullenix could not continue her research. She lost her job after her study was published; her research funding dried up, not an unusual scenario for any scientist in the U.S. who has tried to raise concerns over the use of fluoride.
In referring to studies done comparing the New York towns of Newburgh (fluoridated) and Kingston (non-fluoridated), Bryson counters the claims by pro-fluoridation groups that there was significant reduction in cavities in Newburgh over Kingston. He mentions the research done by radiologist, Dr. John Caffey of Columbia University who suggested a link between fluoridation and osteogenic sarcoma (bone cancer) that developed in Newburgh's young male population and the government study 25 years later that concluded that maybe fluoride doesn't cause cancer but maybe it does. Nor would the group mention comments made by former Newburgh mayor Audrey Carey who is a nurse-practitioner entrusted with performing physical exams on a school population of 2500 children. Bryson quotes Carey as saying that the most visible effects from fluoridation are not fewer cavities but instead the high rates of speckled and mottled teeth caused by a condition known as dental fluorosis, or an external sign of internal distress. By the way, Kingston today still resists adding fluoride to their public water supply.
Ray Bollin, a dentist representing the Smiles group, reiterates the benefits of fluoridation to the Joplin Council. Both representatives of the group who spoke stressed the number of local and national agencies that supported the process of fluoridation.
Although no specific studies actually are listed to support their claim, Smiles wants you to believe that "persons in non-fluoridated communities continue to demonstrate higher tooth decay rates than their counterparts in communities with water fluoridation. They quote a former U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Luther Terry as comparing fluoridation "to other milestone public health measures such as the pasteurization of milk, purification of water and immunization against disease. And yet they really want to add a known toxin, however small a dose, to the purified water supply, a toxin that several recent studies currently underway are trying to link with an increase in the amount of arsenic in the water supply.
Internationally recognized scientists, including Arvid Carlsson, a 2000 Nobel Prize winner, are opponents of fluoridation. Carlsson's research and that of his associates unfortunately are hidden in the mire of information found on the Internet. Ridiculous assumptions, including those once made by the John Birch Society, as to the dangers of fluoridation cover up the legitimate data. The poorly funded and often poorly organized anti-fluoridation groups were and are faced with a monumental task in defending their cause.
Apparently, outside of the U.S. scientists have less trouble funding their studies. To name only a few, Anna Strunecka, a Prague researcher, has found that the synergistic action of fluoride and aluminum in the environment, water, and food can thus evoke multiple pathological symptoms; Mark Diesendorf, an Australian scientist, has written that "infants who are bottle fed with milk formula reconstituted with fluoridated water...receive 100 times the daily fluoride dose of breast-fed babies and at least 4-6 times that recommended by medical authorities for fluoride supplementation in non-fluoridated areas; and Dr. Hardy Limebach, the Canadian researcher, has shown that fluoride's benefits are topical not systemic.
Bruce McMath, a lawyer who ran aground trying to prove that workers had been hurt permanently by their chemical exposures at Reynold's Metals Hurricane Creek plant, pointed out that industry has manipulated the public debate to put a smiling face on what is otherwise a toxin, and thereby reduce their cost of doing business in those businesses where fluoride is a waste product. A wealth of data exists on the Internet linking promoting putting fluoride into the public water supply as a way of subsidizing disposal costs of recovered fluorine for firms, for example, like Cargill Fertilizer of central Florida.
The council vote
Citing that fluoridation of community water supplies was the single most effective public health measure to prevent tooth decay and improve oral health and that studies confirmed that water fluoridation was both safe and effective, the Council authorized the Missouri-American Water Company or any other future franchisee to introduce into their system a fluoride concentration of approximately one part fluoride per million parts of water. The type of fluoride to be introduced was left up to the water company which, according to city attorney Brian Head, already uses fluorosilicic acid [rather than the more expensive sodium fluoride].
Joining Councilman Jan Tupper in voting against the proposal was Councilman Gary Shaw (pictured). Both argued against passing the ordinance without first allowing the citizens to vote. Their decision was based upon a survey conducted by the City in 2003 in which 68% of the responders opted for an election to allow the voters to decide the issue rather than the Council acting on their behalf.
Shaw favored fluoridation calling attention to the perfect teeth of his 37-year old son to whom he and his wife, he said, gave fluoride supplements. But, he added, because he had been contacted by a number of people who voiced concerns about the health risks of the proposal, he believed he wasn't in a position to make the decision. He also said that fluoridating the water supply was not a life or death situation like the West Nile virus and in need of immediate health department and city council intervention.
After suggesting that every councilman devoted many hours in researching material in order to make a decision, Guy Palmieri said that they couldn't consider the personal problems of what-was-her-name? [He meant Dr. Anne Marlowe and her compromised immune system] and that she would have to figure out herself how to handle them. [Of course, without a vote it would be impossible to determine how many citizens disapproved of fluoridation for the same reason.] He also gave an example of street problems as a parallel issue where people voice contradictory opinions, and the Council is faced with having to make appropriate decisions. Palmieri admitted that in his research he hadn't read Bryson's newly published book, an unfortunate oversight.
Carlo P. Duncan holds up a map of Joplin's electoral districts. The sweet but naive man insisted that volunteers make sure that petition signers also put their voting districts next to their names to make verifying names easier for Barbara Hogelin, Joplin city clerk.
The Clean Water group passed out petitions last Thursday for signatures to voice disproval of the council's decision to fluoridate the water supply and to try to force a special election. A controversy arose when they found out that they had to get over 5,300 signatures, a figure based on "15% of the electors registered to vote at the last regular municipal election." Both city and county officials agreed that the number was too high based upon the total number of citizens over 18 who could vote if they wanted to. County officials even admitted that they had no system for removing names of people who either moved or passed away unless they directly were notified. It should be noted that only 371 names without addresses are on a list of pro-fluoride supporters on the Smiles website as of September 10, 2004.
Joe Cowen and his wife Susan live in an unincorporated area served by Missouri American Water Company. The EPA, he said, closed the wells in his area after finding that they had heavy metal contamination due to the shallowness of their construction. He believes that he and others in the area shouldn't be subjected to fluoridation without representation.
Although the Joplin Globe's name was on the list of fluoridation supporters, the newspaper ran an article which discussed the issues local towns had with being hooked into a fluoridated system without their approval. It is not clear whether Missouri American can set up a system whereby only those communities favoring fluoridation receive fluoridated water. If that is possible then no doubt the cost of setting up such a system would be born by those customers with newly approved fluoridation.
It is interesting that the council, in allowing the water company to select the type of fluoride used, is sanctioning the use of fluorosilicic acid, also known as hydrofluorosilicic acid. In Escondido, CA citizens have filed a lawsuit claiming that hydrofluorosilicic acid with traces of arsenic and lead causes greater incidences of cancer and that their council didn't look for other options. The trial is set for October 12, 2004.
Clyde Black addresses the Joplin Council for the second time. The Council at the start of the meeting had voted in favor of allowing Black to speak when he arrived, if only for five minutes. Black showed up after the Council vote. He had come from the meeting of the Carl Junction City Council where he successfully convinced the members to withhold their votes on fluoridation until they could do more research.
For a professional comment click here.
EDITOR'S NOTE: I have been accused of writing a biased article by Councilman Palmieri. While I had no initial intention of not supporting fluoridation (thinking that there were more harmful areas of environmental concern to bitch about), I did want to support an individual's right to decide what goes into his or her body. However, after researching the subject, I am convinced that there should be more research done to rule out the possibility that fluoridation causes harm.