FLUORIDE, TEETH, AND THE ATOMIC
by Joel Griffiths and Chris Bryson ... copyright 1997 (Reprinted with Permission)
Fifty Years of Fluoridation (1945-1995)
Some fifty years after the United States began
adding fluoride to public water supplies to reduce cavitiesin children's teeth, declassified government
documents are shedding new light on the roots of that stillcontroversial public health measure, revealing
a surprising connection between fluoride and the dawningof the nuclear age.
Today, two thirds of U.S. public drinking water
is fluoridated. Many municipalities still resist the practice,disbelieving the government's assurances of
Since the days of World War II, when this nation
prevailed by building the world's first atomic bomb,U.S. public health leaders have maintained
that low doses of fluoride are safe for people, and good forchildren's teeth.
That safety verdict should now be re-examined
in the light of hundreds of once secret WWII documentsobtained by Griffiths and Bryson - including
declassified papers of the Manhattan Project, the U.S.military group that built the atomic bomb.
Fluoride was the key chemical in atomic bomb
production, according to the documents. Massivequantities of fluoride - millions of tons
- were essential for the manufacture of bomb-grade uranium and plutonium for nuclear weapons throughout the
Cold War. One of the most toxic chemicals known, thedocuments reveal that fluoride rapidly emerged
as the leading chemical health hazard of the U.S atomicbomb program - both for workers and for nearby
Other revelations include:
Much of the original proof that fluoride is
"safe" for humans in low doses was generated by A-bombprogram scientists, who had been secretly
ordered to provide "evidence useful in litigation" againstdefense contractors for fluoride injury to
citizens. The first lawsuits against the U.S. A-bomb programwere not over radiation, but over fluoride
damage, the documents reveal.
Human studies were required. Bomb program researchers
played a leading role in the design andimplementation of the most extensive U.S.
study of the health effects of fluoridating public drinking water- conducted in Newburgh, New York from 1945
to 1956. Then, in a classified operation code-named"Program F," they secretly gathered and analysed
blood and tissue samples from Newburgh citizens, withthe cooperation of State Health Department
The original "secret" version - obtained by
these reporters - of a 1948 study published by Program Fscientists in the Journal of the American
Dental Association shows that evidence of the adverse healtheffects from fluoride was censored by the
U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) - considered the mostpowerful of Cold War agencies - for reasons
of national security.
The bomb program's fluoride safety studies
were conducted at the University of Rochester, site of one ofthe most notorious human radiation experiments
of the Cold War, in which unsuspecting hospital patientswere injected with toxic doses of radioactive
plutonium. The fluoride studies were conducted with thesame ethical mind-set, in which "national
security" was paramount.
The U.S. government's conflict of interest
- and its motive to prove fluoride "safe" - has not until nowbeen made clear to the general public in the
furious debate over water fluoridation since the 1950's, nor tocivilian researchers and health professionals,
The declassified documents resonate with a
growing body of scientific evidence, and a chorus ofquestions, about the health effects of fluoride
in the environment.
Human exposure to fluoride has mushroomed since
World War II, due not only to fluoridated water andtoothpaste, but to environmental pollution
by major industries from aluminum to pesticides: Fluoride is acritical industrial chemical.
The impact can be seen, literally, in the smiles
of our children. Large numbers of U.S. young people - upto 80 percent in some cities - now have dental
fluorosis, the first visible sign of excessive fluorideexposure, according to the U.S. National Research
Council. (The signs are whitish flecks or spots,particularly on the front teeth, or dark spots
or stripes in more severe cases.)
Less known to the public is that fluoride also
accumulates in bones - "The teeth are windows to what'shappening in the bones," explains Paul Connett,
Professor of Chemistry at St. Lawrence (N.Y.)University. In recent years, pediatric bone
specialists have expressed alarm about an increase in stressfractures among U.S. young people. Connett
and other scientists are concerned that fluoride - linked tobone damage by studies since the 1930's -
may be a contributing factor. The declassified documents addurgency: Much of the original proof that low-dose
fluoride is safe for children's bones came from U.S.bomb program scientists, according to this
Now, researchers who have reviewed these declassified
documents fear that Cold War national securityconsiderations may have prevented objective
scientific evaluation of vital public health questionsconcerning fluoride.
"Information was buried," concludes Dr. Phyllis
Mullenix, former head of toxicology at Forsyth DentalCenter in Boston, and now a critic of fluoridation.
Animal studies Mullenix and co-workers conducted atForsyth in the early 1990's indicated that
fluoride was a powerful central nervous system (CNS) toxin,and might adversely affect human brain functioning,
even at low doses. (New epidemiological evidencefrom China adds support, showing a correlation
between low-dose fluoride exposure and diminished I.Q.in children.) Mullenix's results were published
in 1995, in a reputable peer-reviewed scientific journal.
During her investigation, Mullenix was astonished
to discover there had been virtually no previous U.S.studies of fluoride's effects on the human
brain. Then, her application for a grant to continue her CNSresearch was turned down by the U.S. National
Institutes of Health (NIH), where an NIH panel, shesays, flatly told her that "fluoride does
not have central nervous system effects."
Declassified documents of the U.S. atomic-bomb
program indicate otherwise. An April 29, 1944Manhattan Project memo reports: "Clinical
evidence suggests that uranium hexafluoride may have arather marked central nervous system effect....
It seems most likely that the F [code for fluoride]component rather than the T [code for uranium]
is the causative factor."
The memo - stamped "secret" - is addressed
to the head of the Manhattan Project's Medical Section, Col.Stafford Warren. Colonel Warren is asked to
approve a program of animal research on CNS effects:"Since work with these compounds is essential,
it will be necessary to know in advance what mentaleffects may occur after exposure... This is
important not only to protect a given individual, but also toprevent a confused workman from injuring others
by improperly performing his duties."
On the same day Colonel Warren approved the
CNS research program. This was in 1944, at the height ofthe Second World War and the nation's race
to build the world's first atomic bomb. For research onfluoride's CNS effects to be approved at such
a momentous time, the supporting evidence set forth in theproposal forwarded along with the memo, must
have been persuasive.
The proposal, however, is missing from the
files of the U.S. National Archives. "If you find the memos, but the document they refer to is missing,
its probably still classified," said Charles Reeves, chief librarianat the Atlanta branch of the U.S. National
Archives and Records Administration, where the memos werefound. Similarly, no results of the Manhattan
Project's fluoride CNS research could be found in the files.
After reviewing the memos, Mullenix declared
herself "flabbergasted." She went on, "how could I be toldby NIH that fluoride has no central nervous
system effects when these documents were sitting there allthe time?" She reasons that the Manhattan
Project did do fluoride CNS studies - "that kind of warning,that fluoride workers might be a danger to
the bomb program by improperly performing their duties - Ican't imagine that would be ignored" - but
that the results were buried because they might create adifficult legal and public relations problem
for the government.
The author of the 1944 CNS research proposal
was Dr. Harold C. Hodge, at the time chief of fluoridetoxicology studies for the University of Rochester
division of the Manhattan Project. Nearly fifty yearslater at the Forsyth Dental Center in Boston,
Dr. Mullenix was introduced to a gently ambling elderly manbrought in to serve as a consultant on her
CNS research - Harold C. Hodge. By then Hodge had achievedstatus emeritus as a world authority on fluoride
"But even though he was supposed to be helping
me," says Mullenix, "he never once mentioned the CNSwork he had done for the Manhattan Project."
The "black hole" in fluoride CNS research since
the days of the Manhattan Project is unacceptable toMullenix, who refuses to abandon the issue.
"There is so much fluoride exposure now, and we simply donot know what it is doing," she says. "You
can't just walk away from this."
Dr. Antonio Noronha, an NIH scientific review
advisor familiar with Dr. Mullenix's grant request, saysher proposal was rejected by a scientific
peer-review group. He terms her claim of institutional biasagainst fluoride CNS research "farfetched"
he adds, "We strive very hard at NIH to make sure politicsdoes not enter the picture."
Split Atoms and Split Peaches
A massive Manhattan Project pollution incident
in New Jersey sparks secret wartime U.S. research onfluoride safety. The documentary trail begins
at the height of WW2, in 1944, when a severe pollutionincident occurred downwind of the E.I. du
Pont de Nemours Company chemical factory in Deepwater,New Jersey. The factory was then producing
millions of pounds of fluoride for the Manhattan Project,the ultra-secret U.S military program then
racing to produce the world's first atomic bomb.
The farms downwind in Gloucester and Salem
counties were famous for their high quality produce - theirpeaches went directly to the Waldorf Astoria
Hotel in New York. Their tomatoes were bought up byCampbell's Soup. But in the summer of 1943,
the farmers began to report that their crops were blighted,and that "something is burning up the peach
crops around here."
Poultry died after an all night thunderstorm,
they reported. Farm workers who ate the produce they hadpicked sometimes vomited all night and into
the next day. "I remember our horses looked sick and weretoo stiff to work," these reporters were told
by Mildred Giordano, who was a teenager at the time. Somecows were so crippled that they could not
stand up, and grazed by crawling on their bellies.
The account was confirmed in taped interviews,
shortly before he died, with Philip Sadler of SadlerLaboratories of Philadelphia, one of the nation's
oldest chemical consulting firms. Sadler had personallyconducted the initial investigation of the
The attention of the Manhattan Project and
the federal government was riveted on the New Jerseyincident - although the farmers did not know
it - according to once secret documents obtained by thesereporters. After the war's end, in a secret
Manhattan Project memo, dated March 1, 1946, the ManhattanProject's chief of fluoride toxicology studies,
Harold C. Hodge, worriedly wrote to his boss ColonelStafford L. Warren, Chief of the Medical Division,
about "problems associated with the question offluoride contamination of the atmosphere in
a certain section of New Jersey. There seem to be fourdistinct (though related) problems," continued
"1. A question of
injury of the peach crop in 1944.
"2. A report of extraordinary
fluoride content of vegetables grown in this area.
"3. A report of abnormally
high fluoride content in the blood of human individuals residing in this area.
"4. A report raising
the question of serious poisoning of horses and cattle in this area."
The New Jersey farmers waited until the war
was over, then sued du Pont and the Manhattan Project forfluoride damage - reportedly the first law
suits against the U.S. A-bomb program.
Although seemingly trivial, the lawsuits shook
the government, the secret documents reveal. Under thepersonal direction of Manhattan Project chief
Major General Leslie R.Groves, secret meetings wereconvened in Washington, with compulsory attendance
by scores of scientists and officials from the U.SWar Department, the Manhattan Project, the
Food and Drug Administration, the Agriculture and JusticeDepartments, the U.S Army's Chemical Warfare
Service and Edgewood Arsenal, the Bureau ofStandards, and du Pont lawyers. Declassified
memos of the meetings reveal a secret mobilization of thefull forces of the government to defeat the
New Jersey farmers:
These agencies "are making scientific investigations
to obtain evidence which may be used to protect theinterest of the Government at the trial of
the suits brought by owners of peach orchards in ... NewJersey," stated Manhattan Project Lieutenant
Colonel Cooper B. Rhodes, in a memo c.c.'d to GeneralGroves.
"27 August 1945
of Crop Damage at Lower Penns Neck, New Jersey
To: The Commanding
General, Army Service Forces, Pentagon Building, Washington D.C.
"At the request of
the Secretary of War the Department of Agriculture has agreed to cooperate
in investigating complaints
of crop damage attributed... to fumes from a plant operated in connection with the Manhattan
Project." Signed L.R. Groves, Major General U.S.A
"The Department of Justice is cooperating in
the defense of these suits," wrote General Groves in a Feb28th 1946 memo to the Chairman of the Senate
Special Committee on Atomic Energy.
Why the national-security emergency over a
few lawsuits by New Jersey farmers? In 1946 the UnitedStates had begun full-scale production of
atomic bombs. No other nation had yet tested a nuclear weapon,and the A-bomb was seen as crucial for U.S
leadership of the post-war world. The New Jersey fluoridelawsuits were a serious roadblock to that
"The specter of endless lawsuits haunted the
military," writes Lansing Lamont in his acclaimed bookabout the first atomic bomb test, "Day of
In the case of fluoride, "If the farmers won,
it would open the door to further suits, which might impedethe bomb program's ability to use fluoride,"
said Jacqueline Kittrell, a Tennessee public interest lawyerspecializing in nuclear cases, who examined
the declassified fluoride documents. (Kittrell has representedplaintiffs in several human radiation experiment
cases.) She added, "The reports of human injury wereespecially threatening, because of the potential
for enormous settlements - not to mention the PRproblem."
Indeed, du Pont was particularly concerned
about the "possible psychologic reaction" to the New Jerseypollution incident, according to a secret
1946 Manhattan Project memo. Facing a threat from the Foodand Drug Administration (FDA) to embargo the
region's produce because of "high fluoride content," duPont dispatched its lawyers to the FDA offices
in Washington, where an agitated meeting ensued.According to a memo sent next day to General
Groves, Du Pont's lawyer argued "that in view of thepending suits... any action by the Food and
Drug Administration... would have a serious effect on the duPont Company and would create a bad public
relations situation." After the meeting adjourned,Manhattan Project Captain John Davies approached
the FDA's Food Division chief and "impressed uponDr. White the substantial interest which the
Government had in claims which might arise as a result ofaction which might be taken by the Food and
There was no embargo. Instead, new tests for
fluoride in the New Jersey area would be conducted - notby the Department of Agriculture - but by
the Chemical Warfare Service (CWS) because "work done bythe Chemical Warfare Service would carry the
greatest weight as evidence if... lawsuits are started by thecomplainants." The memo was signed by General
Groves. Meanwhile, the public relations problemremained unresolved - local citizens were
in a panic about fluoride.
The farmer's spokesman, Willard B. Kille, was
personally invited to dine with General Groves - thenknown as "the man who built the atomic bomb"
- at his office at the War Department on March 26 1946.Although he had been diagnosed with fluoride
poisoning by his doctor, Kille departed the luncheonconvinced of the government's good faith.
The next day he wrote to the general, wishing the otherfarmers could have been present, he said,
so "they too could come away with the feeling that theirinterests in this particular matter were being
safeguarded by men of the very highest type whose integritythey could not question."
In a subsequent secret government memo, a broader
solution to the public relations problem wassuggested by chief fluoride toxicologist Harold
C. Hodge. He wrote to the Medical Section chief, Col.Warren: "Would there be any use in making
attempts to counteract the local fear of fluoride on the part ofresidents of Salem and Gloucester counties
through lectures on F toxicology and perhaps the usefulness ofF in tooth health?" Such lectures were indeed
given, not only to New Jersey citizens but to the rest of thenation throughout the Cold War.
The New Jersey farmers' lawsuits were ultimately
stymied by the government's refusal to reveal the keypiece of information that would have settled
the case - how much fluoride du Pont had vented into theatmosphere during the war. "Disclosure...
would be injurious to the military security of the United States,"wrote Manhattan Project Major C.A Taney, Jr.
The farmers were pacified with token financialsettlements, according to interviews with
descendants still living in the area. "All we knew is that du Pontreleased some chemical that burned up all
the peach trees around here," recalls Angelo Giordano, whosefather James was one of the original plaintiffs.
"The trees were no good after that, so we had to give upon the peaches." Their horses and cows, too,
acted stiff and walked stiff, recalls his sister Mildred."Could any of that have been the fluoride
?" she asked. (The symptoms described are cardinal signs offluoride toxicity, according to veterinary
toxicologists.) The Giordano family, too, has been plagued bybone and joint problems, Mildred adds. Recalling
the settlement received by the Giordano family, Angelotold the reporters that "my father said got
The farmers were stonewalled in their search
for information about fluoride's effects on their health, andtheir complaints have long since been forgotten.
But they unknowingly left their imprint on history - theircomplaints of injury to their health reverberated
through the corridors of power in Washington, andtriggered intensive secret bomb-program research
on the health effects of fluoride. A secret 1945 memofrom Manhattan Project Lt Col. Rhodes, to
General Groves stated: "Because of complaints that animalsand humans have been injured by hydrogen fluoride
fumes in [the New Jersey] area, although there areno pending suits involving such claims, the
University of Rochester is conducting experiments todetermine the toxic effect of fluoride."
Much of the proof of fluoride's safety in low
doses rests on the postwar work performed by theUniversity of Rochester, in anticipation of
lawsuits against the bomb program for human injury.
Fluoride and the Cold War
Following the New Jersey industrial pollution
incident at a du Pont factory producing fluoride for thetop-secret Manhattan Project, the bomb program
urgently directed the University of Rochester to conductstudies on the biological toxicity of the
Delegating fluoride safety studies to the University
of Rochester was not surprising. During WWII thefederal government had become involved, for
the first time, in large scale funding of scientific research atgovernment-owned labs and private colleges.
Those early spending priorities were shaped by the nation'soften-secret military needs.
The prestigious upstate New York college, in
particular, had housed a key wartime division of theManhattan Project, studying the health effects
of the new "special materials," such as plutonium,beryllium and fluoride, being used to make
the atomic bomb. That work continued after the war, withmillions of dollars flowing from the Manhattan
Project and its successor organization, the Atomic EnergyCommission (AEC). (Indeed, the bomb left an
indelible imprint on all of U.S.science in the late 1940'sand 50's. Up to 90% of all federal funds for
university research came from either the DefenseDepartment or the AEC in this period, according
to Noam Chomsky's 1996 book "The Cold War and theUniversity.")
The University of Rochester medical school
became a revolving door for senior bomb program scientists.Postwar faculty included Stafford Warren,
the top medical officer of the Manhattan Project, and HaroldHodge, chief of fluoride research for the
But this marriage of military secrecy and medical
science bore deformed offspring. The University ofRochester's classified fluoride studies -
code named Program F - took place at its Atomic Energy Project(AEP), a top-secret facility funded by the
AEC and housed in Strong Memorial Hospital. It was there thatone of the most notorious human radiation
experiments of the Cold War took place in which unsuspectinghospital patients were injected with toxic
doses of radioactive plutonium. Revelation of this experiment ina Pulitzer prize-winning account by Eileen
Wellsome led to a 1995 U.S. Presidential investigation, and amulti-million dollar cash settlement for victims.
Program F was not about children's teeth. It
grew directly out of litigation against the bomb program andits main purpose was to furnish scientific
ammunition which the government and its nuclear contractorscould use to defeat lawsuits for human injury.
Program F's director was none other than Harold C.Hodge, who had led the Manhattan Project investigation
of alleged human injury in the New Jerseyfluoride-pollution incident.
Program F's purpose is spelled out in a classified
1948 report. It reads: "To supply evidence useful in thelitigation arising from an alleged loss of
a fruit crop several years ago, a number of problems have beenopened. Since excessive blood fluoride levels
were reported in human residents of the same area, ourprincipal effort has been devoted to describing
the relationship of blood fluorides to toxic effects."
The litigation referred to, of course, and
the claims of human injury were against the bomb program andits contractors. Thus the purpose of Program
F was to obtain evidence useful in litigation against thebomb program. The research was being conducted
by the defendants.
The potential conflict of interest is clear.
If lower dose ranges were found hazardous by Program F, itmight have opened the bomb program and its
contractors to lawsuits for injury to human health, as wellas public outcry.
Comments lawyer Kittrell: "this and other documents
indicate that the University of Rochester's fluorideresearch grew out of the New Jersey lawsuits
and was performed in anticipation of lawsuits against thebomb program for human injury. Studies undertaken
for litigation purposes by the defendants would notbe considered scientifically acceptable today,
" adds Kittrell, "because of their inherent bias to prove thechemical safe."
Unfortunately, much of the proof of fluoride's
safety rests on the work performed by Program FScientists at the University of Rochester.
During the postwar period that university emerged as the leadingacademic center for establishing the safety
of fluoride, as well as its effectiveness in reducing tooth decay,according to Dental School spokesperson William
H. Bowen, MD. The key figure in this research,Bowen said, was Harold C. Hodge - who also
became a leading national proponent of fluoridating publicwater supplies.
Program F's interest in water fluoridation
was directly connected to their work for the Manhattan Project.The bomb program needed human studies, as
they had needed human studies for plutonium, and addingfluoride to public water supplies provided
The A Bomb Program and Water Fluoridation
Program F needed human studies, and water fluoridation
provided one opportunity. Bomb-programscientists played a prominent - if unpublicized
- role in the nation's first-planned water fluoridationexperiment, in Newburgh, New York. The Newburgh
Demonstration Project is considered the mostextensive study of the health effects of fluoridation,
supplying much of the evidence that low doses aresafe for children's bones, and good for their
Planning began in 1943 with the appointment
of a special NY State Health Department committee tostudy the advisability of adding fluoride
to Newburgh's drinking water. The chairman of the committeewas Dr. Hodge, then chief of fluoride toxicity
studies for the Manhattan Project. Subsequent membersincluded Henry L. Barnett, a captain in the
Project's Medical section, and John W. Fertig, in 1944 withthe office of Scientific Research and Development,
the super secret Pentagon group which sired theManhattan Project. Their military affiliations
were kept secret: Hodge was described as a pharmacologist,Barnett as a pediatrician. Placed in charge
of the Newburgh project was David B. Ast, chief dental officerof the State Health Department. Ast had participated
in a key secret wartime conference on fluoride heldby the Manhattan Project, and later worked
with Dr. Hodge on the Project's investigation of humaninjury in the New Jersey incident, according
to a once secret memo.
The committee recommended that Newburgh be
fluoridated. It also selected the types of medical studiesto be done, and "provided expert guidance"
for the duration of the experiment. The key question to beanswered was: "Are there any cumulative effects
- beneficial or otherwise, on tissues and organs otherthan the teeth - of long-continued ingestion
of such small concentrations...?" According to the declassifieddocuments, this was also key information sought
by the bomb program, which would requirelong-continued exposure of workers and communities
to fluoride throughout the Cold War.In May 1945, Newburgh's water was fluoridated,
and over the next ten years its residents were studied bythe State Health Department. In tandem, Program
F conducted its own secret studies, focusing on theamounts of fluoride Newburgh citizens retained
in their blood and tissues - key information sought by thebomb program: "Possible toxic effects of fluoride
were in the forefront of consideration," the advisorycommittee stated. Health Department personnel
cooperated, shipping blood and placenta samples to theProgram F team at the University of Rochester.
The samples were collected by Dr. David B. Overton,the Department's chief of pediatric studies
The final report of the Newburgh Demonstration
Project, published in 1956 in the Journal of theAmerican Dental Association, concluded that
"small concentrations" of fluoride were safe forU.S.citizens. The scientific proof - "based
on work performed ... at the University of Rochester AtomicEnergy Project" - was delivered by Dr. Hodge.
Today, news that scientists from the atomic
bomb program secretly shaped and guided the Newburghfluoridation experiment, and studied the citizen's
blood and tissue samples, is greeted with incredulity.
"I'm shocked beyond words," said present-day
Newburgh Mayor Audrey Carey, commenting on thereporters findings. "It reminds me of the
Tuskeegee experiment that was done on syphilis patients downin Alabama."
As a child in the early 1950's, Mayor Carey
was taken to the old firehouse on Broadway in Newburgh,which housed the Public Health clinic. There,
doctors from the Newburgh fluoridation project studied herteeth, and a peculiar fusion of two finger
bones on her left hand she was born with. Today, Carey adds,her granddaughter has white dental-fluorosis
marks on her front teeth.
Mayor Carey wants answers from the government
about the secret history of fluoride, and the Newburghfluoridation experiment. "I absolutely want
to pursue it," she said. "It is appalling to do any kind ofexperimentation and study without people's
knowledge and permission."
Today, contacted by the reporters, the director
of the Newburgh experiment David B. Ast, 95, says hewas unaware Manhattan Project scientists were
involved. "If I had known, I would have been certainlyinvestigating why, and what the connection
was," he said. Did he know that blood and placenta samplesfrom Newburgh were being sent to bomb program
researchers at the University of Rochester? "I was notaware of it," Ast replied. Did he recall participating
in the Manhattan Project's secret wartime conferenceon fluoride in January 1944, or going to New
Jersey with Dr. Hodge to investigate human injury in the duPont cases as secret memos state? He told
the reporters he had no recollection of these events.
A spokesperson for the University of Rochester
Medical Center, Bob Loeb, confirmed that blood andtissue samples from Newburgh had been tested
by the University's Dr. Hodge. On the ethics of secretlystudying U.S citizens to obtain information
useful in litigation against the A-bomb program, he said, "that'sa question we cannot answer." He referred
inquiries to the U.S. Department of Energy, successor to theAtomic Energy Commission.
A spokesperson for the Department of Energy
in Washington, Jayne Brody, confirmed that a review ofDOE files indicated that a "significant reason"
for fluorine experiments conducted at the University ofRochester after the war was "impending litigation
between the du Pont company and residents of NewJersey areas." However, she added, "DOE has
found no documents to indicate that fluoride research wasdone to protect the Manhattan Project or its
contractors from lawsuits."
On Manhattan Project involvement in Newburgh,
the spokesperson stated, "Nothing that we have suggestthat the DOE or predecessor agencies- especially
the Manhattan Project authorized fluoride experimentsto be performed on children in the 1940's."
When told that the reporters had several documents
that directly tied the Manhattan Project's successoragency at the University of Rochester, the
AEP, to the Newburgh experiment, the DOE spokespersonlater conceded her study was confined to "the
available universe" of documents. Two days laterspokesperson Jayne Brady faxed a statement
for clarification, "My search only involved the documentsthat we collected as part of our human radiation
experiments project - fluorine/fluoride was not part ofour research effort." "Most significantly,"
the statement continued, "relevant documents may be in aclassified collection at the DOE Oak Ridge
National Laboratory, known as the Records Holding TaskGroup collection. "This collection consists
entirely of classified documents removed from other files forthe purpose of classified document accountability
many years ago," and was "a rich source of documentsfor the human radiation experiments project."The crucial question arising from the investigation
is, were adverse health findings from Newburgh andother bomb-program fluoride studies suppressed?
All AEC funded studies had to be declassified
before publication in civilian medical and dental journals.Where are the original classified versions?
The transcript of one of the major secret scientific
conferences of WW2 - on "fluoride metabolism" - ismissing from the files of the U.S. National
Archives. Participants in the conference included key figureswho promoted the safety of fluoride and water
fluoridation to the public after the war - Harold Hodge ofthe Manhattan Project, David B. Ast of the
Newburgh Project, and U.S. Public Health Service dentistH.Trendley Dean, popularly known as the "father
of fluoridation." "If it is missing from the files, it isprobably still classified," National Archive
librarians told the reporters.
A 1944 WW2 Manhattan Project classified report
on water fluoridation is missing from the files of theUniversity of Rochester AEP, the U.S. National
Archives, and the Nuclear Repository at the Universityof Tennessee, Knoxville. The next four numerically
consecutive documents are also missing, while theremainder of the "MP-1500 series" is present.
"Either those documents are still classified, or they've been"disappeared" by the government," says Clifford
Honnicker, Executive Director of the AmericanEnvironmental Health Studies Project, in Knoxville,
Tennessee, which provided key evidence in thepublic exposure and prosecution of U.S. human
Seven pages have been cut out of a 1947 Rochester
bomb-project notebook entitled "Du Pont litigation.""Most unusual," commented chief medical school
archivist Chris Hoolihan.
Similarly Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)
requests by these authors over a year ago with the DOEfor hundreds of classified fluoride reports
have failed to dislodge any. "We're behind," explained AmyRothrock, chief FOIA officer at Oak Ridge
Was information suppressed? The reporters made
what appears to be the first discovery of the originalclassified version of a fluoride safety study
by bomb program scientists. A censored version of this studywas later published in the August 1948 Journal
of the American Dental Association. Comparison of thesecret with the published version indicates
that the U.S. AEC did censor damaging information onfluoride, to the point of tragicomedy.
This was a study of the dental and physical
health of workers in a factory producing fluoride for theA-bomb program, conducted by a team of dentists
from the Manhattan Project.
The secret version reports that most of the
men had no teeth left. The published version reports only thatthe men had fewer cavities.
The secret version says the men had to wear
rubber boots because the fluoride fumes disintegrated thenails in their shoes. The published version
does not mention this.
The secret version says the fluoride may have
acted similarly on the men's teeth, contributing to theirtoothlessness. The published version omits
The published version concludes that "the men
were unusually healthy, judged from both a medical anddental point of view."
Asked for comment on the early links of the
Manhattan Project to water fluoridation, Dr Harold Slavkin, Director of the National Institute for Dental
Research, the U.S. agency which today funds fluoride research, said, "I wasn't aware of any input
from the Atomic Energy Commission," Nevertheless, he insisted, fluoride's efficacy and safety in
the prevention of dental cavities over the last fifty years is well-proved. "The motivation of a scientist
is often different from the outcome," he reflected. "I do not hold a prejudice about where the knowledge
After comparing the secret and published versions
of the censored study, toxicologist Phyllis Mullenix commented, "This makes me ashamed to be a
scientist." Of other Cold War era fluoride safety studies, she asks, "Were they all done like this?"
ABOUT THE AUTHORS:
Joel Griffiths is a medical writer who lives in New York. Author of a book on
human radiation experiments cited in Congressional Hearings and used as a basic reference in environmental
publications, Mr. Griffiths has also contributed hundreds of articles for Medical Tribune, as well as
numerous articles for Parent's Magazine, the Village Voice, Manhattan Tribune, Covert Action, etc.
Mr. Griffiths can be reached at 1-212-662-6695.
Chris Bryson, who holds a Masters degree in Journalism, is an independent
reporter with ten years professional experience. He has worked with BBC Radio and Public Television
in New York, plus numerous publications, including the Christian Science Monitor and the Mansfield Guardian.
Mr. Bryson can be reached at 1-212-665-3442.
Research by: Clifford Honicker
Fifty Years of Fluoridation (1945-1995)
More content available at: Fluoride Action Network
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