Some fifty years after the United States began
adding fluoride to public water supplies to reduce cavities
in children's teeth, declassified government documents are shedding new light on the roots of that still
controversial public health measure, revealing a surprising connection between fluoride and the dawning
of 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 safety.
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 for
That safety verdict should now be re-examined
in the light of hundreds of once secret WWII documents
obtained 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. Massive
quantities 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, the
documents reveal that fluoride rapidly emerged as the leading chemical health hazard of the U.S atomic
bomb program - both for workers and for nearby communities.
Other revelations include:
Much of the original proof that fluoride is
"safe" for humans in low doses was generated by A-bomb
program scientists, who had been secretly ordered to provide "evidence useful in litigation" against
defense contractors for fluoride injury to citizens. The first lawsuits against the U.S. A-bomb program
were not over radiation, but over fluoride damage, the documents reveal.
Human studies were required. Bomb program researchers
played a leading role in the design and
implementation 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, with
the cooperation of State Health Department personnel.
The original "secret" version - obtained by
these reporters - of a 1948 study published by Program F
scientists in the Journal of the American Dental Association shows that evidence of the adverse health
effects from fluoride was censored by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) - considered the most
powerful 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 of
the most notorious human radiation experiments of the Cold War, in which unsuspecting hospital patients
were injected with toxic doses of radioactive plutonium. The fluoride studies were conducted with the
same 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 now
been made clear to the general public in the furious debate over water fluoridation since the 1950's, nor to
civilian researchers and health professionals, or journalists.
The declassified documents resonate with a
growing body of scientific evidence, and a chorus of
questions, 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 and
toothpaste, but to environmental pollution by major industries from aluminum to pesticides: Fluoride is a
critical industrial chemical.
The impact can be seen, literally, in the smiles
of our children. Large numbers of U.S. young people - up
to 80 percent in some cities - now have dental fluorosis, the first visible sign of excessive fluoride
exposure, 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's
happening 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 stress
fractures among U.S. young people. Connett and other scientists are concerned that fluoride - linked to
bone damage by studies since the 1930's - may be a contributing factor. The declassified documents add
urgency: 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 investigation.
Now, researchers who have reviewed these declassified
documents fear that Cold War national security
considerations may have prevented objective scientific evaluation of vital public health questions
"Information was buried," concludes Dr. Phyllis
Mullenix, former head of toxicology at Forsyth Dental
Center in Boston, and now a critic of fluoridation. Animal studies Mullenix and co-workers conducted at
Forsyth 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 evidence
from 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 CNS
research was turned down by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), where an NIH panel, she
says, 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, 1944
Manhattan Project memo reports: "Clinical evidence suggests that uranium hexafluoride may have a
rather 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 mental
effects may occur after exposure... This is important not only to protect a given individual, but also to
prevent 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 of
the Second World War and the nation's race to build the world's first atomic bomb. For research on
fluoride's CNS effects to be approved at such a momentous time, the supporting evidence set forth in the
proposal 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 librarian
at the Atlanta branch of the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, where the memos were
found. 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 told
by NIH that fluoride has no central nervous system effects when these documents were sitting there all
the 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 - I
can't imagine that would be ignored" - but that the results were buried because they might create a
difficult 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 fluoride
toxicology studies for the University of Rochester division of the Manhattan Project. Nearly fifty years
later at the Forsyth Dental Center in Boston, Dr. Mullenix was introduced to a gently ambling elderly man
brought in to serve as a consultant on her CNS research - Harold C. Hodge. By then Hodge had achieved
status emeritus as a world authority on fluoride safety.
"But even though he was supposed to be helping
me," says Mullenix, "he never once mentioned the CNS
work he had done for the Manhattan Project."
The "black hole" in fluoride CNS research since
the days of the Manhattan Project is unacceptable to
Mullenix, who refuses to abandon the issue. "There is so much fluoride exposure now, and we simply do
not 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, says
her proposal was rejected by a scientific peer-review group. He terms her claim of institutional bias
against fluoride CNS research "farfetched" he adds, "We strive very hard at NIH to make sure politics
does not enter the picture."
Split Atoms and Split Peaches
A massive Manhattan Project pollution incident
in New Jersey sparks secret wartime U.S. research on
fluoride safety. The documentary trail begins at the height of WW2, in 1944, when a severe pollution
incident 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 - their
peaches went directly to the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York. Their tomatoes were bought up by
Campbell'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 had
picked sometimes vomited all night and into the next day. "I remember our horses looked sick and were
too stiff to work," these reporters were told by Mildred Giordano, who was a teenager at the time. Some
cows 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 Sadler
Laboratories of Philadelphia, one of the nation's oldest chemical consulting firms. Sadler had personally
conducted the initial investigation of the damage.
The attention of the Manhattan Project and
the federal government was riveted on the New Jersey
incident - although the farmers did not know it - according to once secret documents obtained by these
reporters. After the war's end, in a secret Manhattan Project memo, dated March 1, 1946, the Manhattan
Project's chief of fluoride toxicology studies, Harold C. Hodge, worriedly wrote to his boss Colonel
Stafford L. Warren, Chief of the Medical Division, about "problems associated with the question of
fluoride contamination of the atmosphere in a certain section of New Jersey. There seem to be four
distinct (though related) problems," continued Hodge;
"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
"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 for
fluoride 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 the
personal direction of Manhattan Project chief Major General Leslie R.Groves, secret meetings were
convened in Washington, with compulsory attendance by scores of scientists and officials from the U.S
War Department, the Manhattan Project, the Food and Drug Administration, the Agriculture and Justice
Departments, the U.S Army's Chemical Warfare Service and Edgewood Arsenal, the Bureau of
Standards, and du Pont lawyers. Declassified memos of the meetings reveal a secret mobilization of the
full 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 the
interest of the Government at the trial of the suits brought by owners of peach orchards in ... New
Jersey," stated Manhattan Project Lieutenant Colonel Cooper B. Rhodes, in a memo c.c.'d to General
"27 August 1945
"Subject: Investigation 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
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 Feb
28th 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 United
States 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 fluoride
lawsuits were a serious roadblock to that strategy.
"The specter of endless lawsuits haunted the
military," writes Lansing Lamont in his acclaimed book
about the first atomic bomb test, "Day of Trinity,"
In the case of fluoride, "If the farmers won,
it would open the door to further suits, which might impede
the bomb program's ability to use fluoride," said Jacqueline Kittrell, a Tennessee public interest lawyer
specializing in nuclear cases, who examined the declassified fluoride documents. (Kittrell has represented
plaintiffs in several human radiation experiment cases.) She added, "The reports of human injury were
especially threatening, because of the potential for enormous settlements - not to mention the PR
Indeed, du Pont was particularly concerned
about the "possible psychologic reaction" to the New Jersey
pollution incident, according to a secret 1946 Manhattan Project memo. Facing a threat from the Food
and Drug Administration (FDA) to embargo the region's produce because of "high fluoride content," du
Pont 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 the
pending suits... any action by the Food and Drug Administration... would have a serious effect on the du
Pont 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 upon
Dr. White the substantial interest which the Government had in claims which might arise as a result of
action which might be taken by the Food and Drug Administration."
There was no embargo. Instead, new tests for
fluoride in the New Jersey area would be conducted - not
by the Department of Agriculture - but by the Chemical Warfare Service (CWS) because "work done by
the Chemical Warfare Service would carry the greatest weight as evidence if... lawsuits are started by the
complainants." The memo was signed by General Groves. Meanwhile, the public relations problem
remained unresolved - local citizens were in a panic about fluoride.
The farmer's spokesman, Willard B. Kille, was
personally invited to dine with General Groves - then
known 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 luncheon
convinced of the government's good faith. The next day he wrote to the general, wishing the other
farmers could have been present, he said, so "they too could come away with the feeling that their
interests in this particular matter were being safeguarded by men of the very highest type whose integrity
they could not question."
In a subsequent secret government memo, a broader
solution to the public relations problem was
suggested 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 of
residents of Salem and Gloucester counties through lectures on F toxicology and perhaps the usefulness of
F in tooth health?" Such lectures were indeed given, not only to New Jersey citizens but to the rest of the
nation throughout the Cold War.
The New Jersey farmers' lawsuits were ultimately
stymied by the government's refusal to reveal the key
piece of information that would have settled the case - how much fluoride du Pont had vented into the
atmosphere 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 financial
settlements, according to interviews with descendants still living in the area. "All we knew is that du Pont
released some chemical that burned up all the peach trees around here," recalls Angelo Giordano, whose
father James was one of the original plaintiffs. "The trees were no good after that, so we had to give up
on 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 of
fluoride toxicity, according to veterinary toxicologists.) The Giordano family, too, has been plagued by
bone and joint problems, Mildred adds. Recalling the settlement received by the Giordano family, Angelo
told the reporters that "my father said got about $200."
The farmers were stonewalled in their search
for information about fluoride's effects on their health, and
their complaints have long since been forgotten. But they unknowingly left their imprint on history - their
complaints of injury to their health reverberated through the corridors of power in Washington, and
triggered intensive secret bomb-program research on the health effects of fluoride. A secret 1945 memo
from Manhattan Project Lt Col. Rhodes, to General Groves stated: "Because of complaints that animals
and humans have been injured by hydrogen fluoride fumes in [the New Jersey] area, although there are
no pending suits involving such claims, the University of Rochester is conducting experiments to
determine the toxic effect of fluoride."
Much of the proof of fluoride's safety in low
doses rests on the postwar work performed by the
University 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 the
top-secret Manhattan Project, the bomb program urgently directed the University of Rochester to conduct
studies on the biological toxicity of the chemical.
Delegating fluoride safety studies to the University
of Rochester was not surprising. During WWII the
federal government had become involved, for the first time, in large scale funding of scientific research at
government-owned labs and private colleges. Those early spending priorities were shaped by the nation's
often-secret military needs.
The prestigious upstate New York college, in
particular, had housed a key wartime division of the
Manhattan 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, with
millions of dollars flowing from the Manhattan Project and its successor organization, the Atomic Energy
Commission (AEC). (Indeed, the bomb left an indelible imprint on all of U.S.science in the late 1940's
and 50's. Up to 90% of all federal funds for university research came from either the Defense
Department or the AEC in this period, according to Noam Chomsky's 1996 book "The Cold War and the
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 Harold
Hodge, chief of fluoride research for the bomb program.
But this marriage of military secrecy and medical
science bore deformed offspring. The University of
Rochester'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 that
one of the most notorious human radiation experiments of the Cold War took place in which unsuspecting
hospital patients were injected with toxic doses of radioactive plutonium. Revelation of this experiment in
a Pulitzer prize-winning account by Eileen Wellsome led to a 1995 U.S. Presidential investigation, and a
multi-million dollar cash settlement for victims.
Program F was not about children's teeth. It
grew directly out of litigation against the bomb program and
its main purpose was to furnish scientific ammunition which the government and its nuclear contractors
could 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 Jersey
Program F's purpose is spelled out in a classified
1948 report. It reads: "To supply evidence useful in the
litigation arising from an alleged loss of a fruit crop several years ago, a number of problems have been
opened. Since excessive blood fluoride levels were reported in human residents of the same area, our
principal 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 and
its contractors. Thus the purpose of Program F was to obtain evidence useful in litigation against the
bomb 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, it
might have opened the bomb program and its contractors to lawsuits for injury to human health, as well
as public outcry.
Comments lawyer Kittrell: "this and other documents
indicate that the University of Rochester's fluoride
research grew out of the New Jersey lawsuits and was performed in anticipation of lawsuits against the
bomb program for human injury. Studies undertaken for litigation purposes by the defendants would not
be considered scientifically acceptable today, " adds Kittrell, "because of their inherent bias to prove the
Unfortunately, much of the proof of fluoride's
safety rests on the work performed by Program F
Scientists at the University of Rochester. During the postwar period that university emerged as the leading
academic 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 public
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 adding
fluoride to public water supplies provided one opportunity.
The A Bomb Program and Water Fluoridation
Program F needed human studies, and water fluoridation
provided one opportunity. Bomb-program
scientists played a prominent - if unpublicized - role in the nation's first-planned water fluoridation
experiment, in Newburgh, New York. The Newburgh Demonstration Project is considered the most
extensive study of the health effects of fluoridation, supplying much of the evidence that low doses are
safe for children's bones, and good for their teeth.
Planning began in 1943 with the appointment
of a special NY State Health Department committee to
study the advisability of adding fluoride to Newburgh's drinking water. The chairman of the committee
was Dr. Hodge, then chief of fluoride toxicity studies for the Manhattan Project. Subsequent members
included Henry L. Barnett, a captain in the Project's Medical section, and John W. Fertig, in 1944 with
the office of Scientific Research and Development, the super secret Pentagon group which sired the
Manhattan 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 officer
of the State Health Department. Ast had participated in a key secret wartime conference on fluoride held
by the Manhattan Project, and later worked with Dr. Hodge on the Project's investigation of human
injury 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 studies
to be done, and "provided expert guidance" for the duration of the experiment. The key question to be
answered was: "Are there any cumulative effects - beneficial or otherwise, on tissues and organs other
than the teeth - of long-continued ingestion of such small concentrations...?" According to the declassified
documents, this was also key information sought by the bomb program, which would require
long-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 by
the State Health Department. In tandem, Program F conducted its own secret studies, focusing on the
amounts of fluoride Newburgh citizens retained in their blood and tissues - key information sought by the
bomb program: "Possible toxic effects of fluoride were in the forefront of consideration," the advisory
committee stated. Health Department personnel cooperated, shipping blood and placenta samples to the
Program F team at the University of Rochester. The samples were collected by Dr. David B. Overton,
the Department's chief of pediatric studies at Newburgh.
The final report of the Newburgh Demonstration
Project, published in 1956 in the Journal of the
American Dental Association, concluded that "small concentrations" of fluoride were safe for
U.S.citizens. The scientific proof - "based on work performed ... at the University of Rochester Atomic
Energy Project" - was delivered by Dr. Hodge.
Today, news that scientists from the atomic
bomb program secretly shaped and guided the Newburgh
fluoridation 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 the
reporters findings. "It reminds me of the Tuskeegee experiment that was done on syphilis patients down
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 her
teeth, 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 Newburgh
fluoridation experiment. "I absolutely want to pursue it," she said. "It is appalling to do any kind of
experimentation and study without people's knowledge and permission."
Today, contacted by the reporters, the director
of the Newburgh experiment David B. Ast, 95, says he
was unaware Manhattan Project scientists were involved. "If I had known, I would have been certainly
investigating why, and what the connection was," he said. Did he know that blood and placenta samples
from Newburgh were being sent to bomb program researchers at the University of Rochester? "I was not
aware of it," Ast replied. Did he recall participating in the Manhattan Project's secret wartime conference
on fluoride in January 1944, or going to New Jersey with Dr. Hodge to investigate human injury in the du
Pont 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 and
tissue samples from Newburgh had been tested by the University's Dr. Hodge. On the ethics of secretly
studying U.S citizens to obtain information useful in litigation against the A-bomb program, he said, "that's
a question we cannot answer." He referred inquiries to the U.S. Department of Energy, successor to the
Atomic Energy Commission.
A spokesperson for the Department of Energy
in Washington, Jayne Brody, confirmed that a review of
DOE files indicated that a "significant reason" for fluorine experiments conducted at the University of
Rochester after the war was "impending litigation between the du Pont company and residents of New
Jersey areas." However, she added, "DOE has found no documents to indicate that fluoride research was
done to protect the Manhattan Project or its contractors from lawsuits."
On Manhattan Project involvement in Newburgh,
the spokesperson stated, "Nothing that we have suggest
that the DOE or predecessor agencies- especially the Manhattan Project authorized fluoride experiments
to be performed on children in the 1940's."
When told that the reporters had several documents
that directly tied the Manhattan Project's successor
agency at the University of Rochester, the AEP, to the Newburgh experiment, the DOE spokesperson
later conceded her study was confined to "the available universe" of documents. Two days later
spokesperson Jayne Brady faxed a statement for clarification, "My search only involved the documents
that we collected as part of our human radiation experiments project - fluorine/fluoride was not part of
our research effort." "Most significantly," the statement continued, "relevant documents may be in a
classified collection at the DOE Oak Ridge National Laboratory, known as the Records Holding Task
Group collection. "This collection consists entirely of classified documents removed from other files for
the purpose of classified document accountability many years ago," and was "a rich source of documents
for the human radiation experiments project."
The crucial question arising from the investigation is, were adverse health findings from Newburgh and
other 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" - is
missing from the files of the U.S. National Archives. Participants in the conference included key figures
who promoted the safety of fluoride and water fluoridation to the public after the war - Harold Hodge of
the Manhattan Project, David B. Ast of the Newburgh Project, and U.S. Public Health Service dentist
H.Trendley Dean, popularly known as the "father of fluoridation." "If it is missing from the files, it is
probably still classified," National Archive librarians told the reporters.
A 1944 WW2 Manhattan Project classified report
on water fluoridation is missing from the files of the
University of Rochester AEP, the U.S. National Archives, and the Nuclear Repository at the University
of Tennessee, Knoxville. The next four numerically consecutive documents are also missing, while the
remainder 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 American
Environmental Health Studies Project, in Knoxville, Tennessee, which provided key evidence in the
public exposure and prosecution of U.S. human radiation experiments.
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 DOE
for hundreds of classified fluoride reports have failed to dislodge any. "We're behind," explained Amy
Rothrock, chief FOIA officer at Oak Ridge National Laboratories.
Was information suppressed? The reporters made
what appears to be the first discovery of the original
classified version of a fluoride safety study by bomb program scientists. A censored version of this study
was later published in the August 1948 Journal of the American Dental Association. Comparison of the
secret with the published version indicates that the U.S. AEC did censor damaging information on
fluoride, to the point of tragicomedy.
This was a study of the dental and physical
health of workers in a factory producing fluoride for the
A-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 that
the men had fewer cavities.
The secret version says the men had to wear
rubber boots because the fluoride fumes disintegrated the
nails 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 their
toothlessness. The published version omits this statement.
The published version concludes that "the men
were unusually healthy, judged from both a medical and
dental 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 comes from."
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)