EPA’s Union of Scientists’ “WHITE PAPER”
Why Union Opposes Fluoridation
May 1, 1999
The following documents why our union, formerly National Federation of Federal Employees Local 2050 and since April 1998 Chapter 280 of the National Treasury Employees Union, took the stand it did opposing fluoridation of drinking water supplies. Our union is comprised of and represents the approximately 1500 scientists, lawyers, engineers and other professional employees at EPA Headquarters here in Washington, D.C.
The union first became interested in this issue rather by accident. Like most Americans, including many physicians and dentists, most of our members had thought that fluoride’s only effects were beneficial – reductions in tooth decay, etc. We too believed assurances of safety and effectiveness of water fluoridation.
Then, as EPA was engaged in revising its drinking water standard for fluoride in 1985, an employee came to the union with a complaint: he said he was being forced to write into the regulation a statement to the effect that EPA thought it was alright for children to have “funky” teeth. It was OK, EPA said, because it considered that condition to be only a cosmetic effect, not an adverse health effect. The reason for this EPA position was that it was under political pressure to set its health-based standard for fluoride at 4 mg/liter. At that level, EPA knew that a significant number of children develop moderate to severe dental fluorosis, but since it had deemed the effect as only cosmetic, EPA didn’t have to set its health-based standard at a lower level to prevent it.
We tried to settle this ethics issue quietly, within the family, but EPA was unable or unwilling to resist external political pressure, and we took the fight public with a union amicus curiae brief in a lawsuit filed against EPA by a public interest group. The union has published on this initial involvement period in detail.1
Since then our opposition to drinking water fluoridation has grown, based on the scientific literature documenting the increasingly out-of-control exposures to fluoride, the lack of benefit to dental health from ingestion of fluoride and the hazards to human health from such ingestion. These hazards include acute toxic hazard, such as to people with impaired kidney function, as well as chronic toxic hazards of gene mutations, cancer, reproductive effects, neurotoxicity, bone pathology and dental fluorosis. First, a review of recent neurotoxicity research results.
In 1995, Mullenix and co-workers 2 showed that rats given fluoride in drinking water at levels that give rise to plasma fluoride concentrations in the range seen in humans suffer neurotoxic effects that vary according to when the rats were given the fluoride – as adult animals, as young animals, or through the placenta before birth. Those exposed before birth were born hyperactive and remained so throughout their lives. Those exposed as young or adult animals displayed depressed activity. Then in 1998, Guan and co-workers 3 gave doses similar to those used by the Mullenix research group to try to understand the mechanism(s) underlying the effects seen by the Mullenix group. Guan’s group found that several key chemicals in the brain – those that form the membrane of brain cells – were substantially depleted in rats given fluoride, as compared to those who did not get fluoride.
Another 1998 publication by Varner, Jensen and others 4 reported on the brain- and kidney damaging effects in rats that were given fluoride in drinking water at the same level deemed “optimal” by pro-fluoridation groups, namely 1 part per million (1 ppm). Even more pronounced damage was seen in animals that got the fluoride in conjunction with aluminum. These results are especially disturbing because of the low dose level of fluoride that shows the toxic effect in rats – rats are more resistant to fluoride than humans. This latter statement is based on Mullenix’s finding that it takes substantially more fluoride in the drinking water of rats than of humans to reach the same fluoride level in plasma. It is the level in plasma that determines how much fluoride is “seen” by particular tissues in the body. So when rats get 1 ppm in drinking water, their brains and kidneys are exposed to much less fluoride than humans getting 1 ppm, yet they are experiencing toxic effects. Thus we are compelled to consider the likelihood that humans are experiencing damage to their brains and kidneys at the “optimal” level of 1 ppm.
In support of this concern are results from two epidemiology studies from China5,6 that show decreases in I.Q. in children who get more fluoride than the control groups of children in each study. These decreases are about 5 to 10 I.Q. points in children aged 8 to 13 years.
Another troubling brain effect has recently surfaced: fluoride’s interference with the function of the brain’s pineal gland. The pineal gland produces melatonin which, among other roles, mediates the body’s internal clock, doing such things as governing the onset of puberty. Jennifer Luke7 has shown that fluoride accumulates in the pineal gland and inhibits its production of melatonin. She showed in test animals that this inhibition causes an earlier onset of sexual maturity, an effect reported in humans as well in 1956, as part of the Kingston/Newburgh study, which is discussed below. In fluoridated Newburgh, young girls experienced earlier onset of menstruation (on average, by six months) than girls in non-fluoridated Kingston 8.
From a risk assessment perspective, all these brain effect data are particularly compelling and disturbing because they are convergent.
We looked at the cancer data with alarm as well. There are epidemiology studies that are convergent with whole-animal and single-cell studies (dealing with the cancer hazard), just as the neurotoxicity research just mentioned all points in the same direction. EPA fired the Office of Drinking Water’s chief toxicologist, Dr. William Marcus, who also was our local union’s treasurer at the time, for refusing to remain silent on the cancer risk issue9 . The judge who heard the lawsuit he brought against EPA over the firing made that finding – that EPA fired him over his fluoride work and not for the phony reason put forward by EPA management at his dismissal. Dr. Marcus won his lawsuit and is again at work at EPA. Documentation is available on request.
The type of cancer of particular concern with fluoride, although not the only type, is osteosarcoma, especially in males. The National Toxicology Program conducted a two-year study 10 in which rats and mice were given sodium fluoride in drinking water. The positive result of that study (in which malignancies in tissues other than bone were also observed), particularly in male rats, is convergent with a host of data from tests showing fluoride’s ability to cause mutations (a principal “trigger” mechanism for inducing a cell to become cancerous) e.g.11a, b, c, d and data showing increases in osteosarcomas in young men in New Jersey 12 , Washington and Iowa 13 based on their drinking fluoridated water. It was his analysis, repeated statements about all these and other incriminating cancer data, and his requests for an independent, unbiased evaluation of them that got Dr. Marcus fired.
Bone pathology other than cancer is a concern as well. An excellent review of this issue was published by Diesendorf et al. in 1997 14. Five epidemiology studies have shown a higher rate of hip fractures in fluoridated vs. non-fluoridated communities. 15a, b, c, d, e. Crippling skeletal fluorosis was the endpoint used by EPA to set its primary drinking water standard in 1986, and the ethical deficiencies in that standard setting process prompted our union to join the Natural Resources Defense Council in opposing the standard in court, as mentioned above.