When it comes to cell phone and wifi radiation, “electrosensitivity,” chemical sensitivity, depleted uranium, anti-vaccine movements and other fear-based and antiscientific trends, one might think that it’s only a matter of time before cooler heads prevail and eventually these wacky beliefs end up falling by the wayside. It does happen occasionally, as in the case of silicone breast and body implants, which are finally making a comeback after being accused of causing every medical condition in the book in the 1990’s. However, there might not be so much reason to be optimistic about the lifespan of anti-science movements.
Take the case of flouridiation of water. Although it does not get as much attention as at one time, there is still quite a following of the anti-fluoride movement and indeed the opposition to fluoride has managed to attach itself to other movements, such as vaccines, chemtrails and government conspiracies. The image to the right was taken from a real website. It seems completely over the top and downright offensive to imply that fluoride in water is a Nazi plot with a fluoride tank marked with a swastika. Survivors of the atrocities of the Nazis might not find the idea very palatable.
However to more than a few, the idea of adding fluoride to municipal water supplies is nothing but a massive conspiracy to pollute our precious bodily fluids. Just a few activism sites include: The Fluoride Action Network, Health Hazards of Fluoride, Fluoride is Poison, Washington State Citizens for Safe Water, The New York Coalition to Oppose Fluoride, The Conspiracy to Overdose America, Toxic Chemicals in Your Water, Fluoride: A Deadly Poison.
A little background…
Fluoride is the reduced form of the element fluorine. It’s an ion of fluorine which, in practice generally means a simple fluorine-based inorganic salt compound. The fluorine ion is therefore present in water where there are fluorine-salt based minerals which exist in the local water supply. Many areas naturally have a trace of fluorine in the water to begin with, but some areas do not have fluorine to begin with in the water supply. In areas which do not have fluoride in the water supply due to natural occurrence, it is often added in concentrations of about .7-1.2 parts per million. In the US all major cities add fluoride to the water supply and 70% of water systems are supplemented. In Canada it’s around half and in Europe it’s considerably less but many major cities have fluoride programs.
Fluoride is a necessary “trace mineral” which is necessary in order for the body to properly absorb and use calcium. A deficiency of fluoride is associated with poor bone health and especially with poor tooth formation and weak tooth enamel. In areas where fluoride is not avaliable in the environment, tooth formation can be impacted as can the general effeciency of calcium uptake into both teeth and bones. In some cases, fluoride therapy is called for in order to provide the necessary fluoride ions for proper tooth formation and dental health.
The controversy stems from the fact that fluoride is indeed toxic in large concentrations. Too much fluoride can also lead to an interruption of the body’s ability to absorb calcium and in very large doses it can be acutely toxic. Make no mistake: Fluoride is certainly not homeopathic, but like many trace minerals, such as iodine and cobalt, only a tiny amount is needed by the body in order for proper health. Potassium, for example of a nutrient which is necessary but can be deadly if administered in a single large concentration.
Fluoride was recognized as essential to dental health as far back as the early 1900’s and fluoride treatments were already common by the 1920’s and 1930’s. The first programs to supplement fluoride-deficiently water supplies began shortly after the Second World War. This is also when the controversy started. The contentions incuded that the fluoridation of water being a means to get rid of a “toxic waste of aluminum production that big aluminum companies have conspired to dispose of in water supplies.” (Some fluoride compounds are a byproduct of aluminum refining.) Others where that it was an attempt to reduce the world population, to eliminate the under classes, to control the minds of citizens, to make Americans or others weaker.
The conspirators included: the Nazi party, which was alleged to be operating from South America and planning to take over the world after fluoride killed everyone else; The Soviet Union; Corrupt factions of the US government; big companies; the medical profession; the United Nations and so on.
There have, of course, been plenty of studies done which show that the practice is safe and an effective way of insuring that the necessary levels of fluoride are provided, especially to children. The result of fluoridation has been general better dental health wherever it is used.
By 1959, it was becoming recognized that the anti-fluoride movement was not scientifically based and backed by a lot of really nutty conspiracy theorists. That was when Stanly Kubrick created the dark comedy “Dr. Strangelove.” If you have not seen it, you really should because it’s a great movie in general. In the movie, a nuclear attack is ordered on the Soviet Union by a paranoid US general who is convinced that fluoridation of water is a Soviet plot to pollute the precious bodily fluids of the world, without consent and with the intent of destroying all things good and decent. Nuclear war, therefore, is the only way of stopping humanity from being destroyed by fluoride.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, March 26th, 2008 at 10:38 am and is filed under Bad Science, Conspiracy Theories, Culture, History. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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