Tag Archives: public health

American Tap Water: A Toxic History

With the recent uproar over the amount of pharmaceuticals in America’s drinking water, the general public is paying more attention to the toxins lurking in their tap water. The report by the Associated Press National Investigation Team has raised many questions on the nation’s public health standards, but what about the toxins that are deliberately added to drinking water?

A well-known, toxic chemical called fluoride has been added to American tap water since 1945. Below are some excerpts explaining the history of fluoridated water and its dangers from Randall Fitzgerald’s The Hundred-Year Lie: How to Protect Yourself from the Chemicals That Are Destroying Your Health .

About 66 percent of public municipal water systems in the United States serving 170 million people had been fluoridated by the dawn of the 21st century, yet most of the countries in Western Europe – from France and Germany to Italy and Switzerland – continue to reject adding fluoride to their drinking water. Did they know something we refuse to accept?

It might be useful to recall how fluoridation came about in the first place. A scientist working under a grant from the Aluminum Company of America made the initial public proposal in 1939 to add fluoride to public water supplies in belief that it would help prevent tooth decay. In 1945 the first barrels of sodium fluoride were added to the drinking water in Grand Rapids, Michigan. When the United States Public Health Service endorsed fluoridation a few years later, many cities and entire states quickly followed that advice.

There was an ulterior motive for the aluminum industry and the fertilizer industry to promote the fluoridation idea. A by-product of factory smokestacks operated by both industries was a toxic waste called silicofluoride that contained lead, cadmium, arsenic and other toxins. Instead of these industries having to pay for the disposal of this waste (today at an estimated cost of $8,000 a truckload), fluoridation enabled both to make money by selling the waste for use in public water supplies.

Using public water as a vehicle to deliver a drug – and one that is among the most toxic substances on the planet, used as an active ingredient in many pesticides – was an idea that concerned some physicians and scientists at the time. It even initially drew opposition from the dental profession. A 1944 editorial in The Journal of the American Dental Association warned that water fluoridation’s prospects for harming human health “far outweigh those for the good.”

Once dentists came aboard the fluoridation bandwagon along with public health-minded politicians, and with backing from a public relations campaign funded by aluminum and fertilizer industry coffers, there was no stopping the fluoridation juggernaut. Industry-funded studies began to appear in dental and medical journals showing improvements in dental health apparently resulting from fluoridated water, and that was all the proof most people needed to accept fluoridation’s benefits as the gospel truth. Anyone who disagreed was branded a right-wing nut.

Periodically a courageous voice with impeccable scientific credentials spoke up to sound an alarm about fluoridation’s potential dangers, only to be dismissed as eccentric. In 1975, for instance, the chief chemist emeritus of the National Cancer Institute, Dean Burk, declared that fluoride in water “causes more human cancer, and causes it faster, than any other chemical.”

Two years later some members of Congress inquired about whether federal health authorities, after a quarter-century of experience with fluoridation, had ever tested fluoridated water as a cause of cancer. The answer was no. More than a decade passed before these tests were finally performed. The results caused a brief uproar. Young male rats exposed to fluoridated water developed both bone cancer and liver cancer.

These results were quickly attacked on a variety of grounds – flawed methodology, incomplete results, animal studies aren’t always reliable, etc. – and then ignored by the fluoridation establishment. But other researchers, emboldened by the precedent this study set, began conducting their own experiments into fluoride’s effects on health. In 1992, three U.S. scientists found evidence of Alzheimer’s-like symptoms in laboratory animals exposed to fluoridated water that had apparently carried traces of aluminum into the animals’ brains. That same year a study appeared in The Journal of the American Medical Association connecting water fluoridation to an increased risk of hip fractures.

The negative studies about fluoride’s effects on health built into a tsunami during the 1990s. Here are just a few examples: the medical journal Neurotoxicology and Teratology found evidence that fluoride accumulates in the human body and creates motor-skills dysfunction and learning disabilities; two separate studies in the journal Fluoride showed that in areas where water supplies were fluoridated, children’s Is were lower than normal. Other science papers in Fluoride drew connections between the chemical and thyroid abnormalities, arthritis, even Down’s syndrome in children.

Even the argument that put fluoride into drinking water in the first place – that it prevents tooth decay – came under a sustained challenge. A study in 1995 by the California Department of Health Services revealed that money spent on dental work actually increased in areas where water was fluoridated in that state, while dental costs declined in communities without fluoridated water. In a July 2000 issue of The Journal of the American Dental Association, John D.B. Featherstone of the University of California in San Francisco, concluded that ingesting fluoride from tap water does little to prevent tooth decay. Fluoride only works when directly applied to teeth in the form of toothpaste.

J. William Hirzy, senior vice president of chapter 280 of the National Treasury Employees Union, summed up the loony logic of injecting fluoride toxic wastes into our drinking water: “If this stuff gets out into the air, it’s a pollutant. If it gets into the river, it’s a pollutant. If it gets into the lake, it’s a pollutant. But if it goes right straight into your drinking water system, it’s not a pollutant. That’s amazing!”

[Image courtesy of Indymedia.org.uk]

A sea change in attitudes about the safety of adding fluoride to water seems to be under way in the United States. A major article on the growing opposition to fluoridation appeared in Time magazine (Oct. 24, 2005) and described how tooth decay “has plummeted even in regions where there is little or no fluoride in the water,” and warned that “fluoride is indisputably toxic; it was once commonly used in rat poison.” The article revealed that a Harvard University study had been suppressed because it “showed a sevenfold increased risk of osteosarcoma in preadolescent boys from fluoridated water.” Furthermore, “in Western Europe, where the drop in tooth decay in recent decades is as sharp as that in the U.S., seventeen of twenty-one countries have either refused or discontinued fluoridation” because of health safety concerns.

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The Truth About Cell Phone Radiation

Did you go over you minutes last month? Sure, those cell phone bills may be draining your wallet, but they are nothing when compared to the chemotherapy bills you’ll be paying down the road.

Every year, more and more conflicting research comes out on the health hazards of cell phones, linking and unlinking cell phone radiation to brain tumors. The result: widespread consumer confusion.

The truth is cell phone radiation levels are comparable to those emitted by microwaves, which some scientist deem safe, but, to put it in perspective, one of these products sits on our countertops and the other we put on our faces – for extended periods of time.

A recent article in Newsweek not only described the health hazards of cell phones, but also revealed the varying levels of radiation they produce when used in urban and rural areas.

“Experts say the concern over cell-phone use stems from a form of radiation that’s produced when the devices communicate with their base station. Wireless phones transmit via radio frequency (RF), a low-frequency form of radiation that is also used in microwave ovens and AM/FM radios. While high-frequency radiation (the kind used in X-rays) is known to cause cancer at high doses, the risks of this milder form remain unclear. A cell phone’s main source of RF is its antenna, from which it sends a signal to the nearest base-station antenna. The further a cell phone is from the base station, the more RF it needs to establish and maintain a connection. So, the theory is that any risks posed by RF would be greater for people who live and work in areas with fewer base stations. In fact, Israeli researchers reported earlier this month in the American Journal of Epidemiology that long-term cell-phone users living in rural areas faced a “consistently elevated risk” of developing tumors in the parotid gland (a salivary gland located just below the ear) compared with users who live in suburban or urban areas.”

In response to such research, the French Health Ministry issued a warning against excessive cell phone use, especially by children, on Jan.2, 2008. A recent marketing surge of cell phones specifically designed for children has raised concern since youngsters are particularly vulnerable to their possible health effects, the Ministry of Health, Youth and Sports said in a statement. Some researchers believe younger cell phone users may face a higher risk of developing tumors because their nervous systems are not fully developed and their skulls are not as thick as those of adults.

[image courtesy of www.royriggs.co.uk]

In a Reuters article on the Ministry’s warning, Brian Rohan explains the flaws of short-term research on the link between cell phone radiation and cancer:

“A November 2006 report from the World Health Organization (WHO) said available evidence suggests long-term exposure to radio-frequency and microwave radiation from mobile phones had no adverse health effects. However, the WHO said other studies pointed to an increased risk of tumors in people who have used an analogue mobile phone for more than 10 years.

A British study released in September 2007 said mobile phones did not pose short-term health risks, but scientists noted that studies to date included few participants who had used mobile phones for longer than ten years — the time many cancers take to appear.”

The main problem with all these studies is that cell phones have been widely available for about a decade, where as tumors can take up to twice as long to develop. Due to the rapid absorption of mobile phone technology, the majority of our nation is now carelessly handling these products without any conclusive evidence telling us they are safe.

[photo courtesy of memopisaellodo.blogspot.com]

If pregnant women are advised to stay away from microwaves, shouldn’t that tell you something about their effects on our health? If cell phones are not safe for children, why would they be safe for adults? Until the government puts some tougher standards on cell phone radiation, the best thing to do is be smart: use hands-free devices (not the wireless kind), keep cell phones away from your body as often as possible and always keep them away from children (what do they need them for, anyway?).

Also, the Federal Communications Commission requires manufacturers to report the relative amount of radio frequency absorbed into the head by any given cell phone. This number is known as the SAR, or specific absorption rate, you can find out how to check your phone’s SAR on this site.

If you still think cell phones are 100 percent safe, just think back to the downfall of cigarettes – only a few decades separate us from a time when Phillip Morris used to put out “scientific research” stating that tobacco and nicotine did not pose any serious health problems. Fast-Forward to 2008 and the profiteering liars are now Motorola, Samsung and LG – pridefully sponsoring your local newscasts, not only during commercial breaks, but also in their content.

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