New York – October 15, 2014 — Government health authorities knew over 50 years ago that black Americans suffered greater harm from fluoridation, yet failed to warn the black community about their disproportionate risk, according to documents obtained by the Fluoride Action Network (FAN).
In 1945, Grand Rapids, Michigan, experimentally added fluoride chemicals into the water supply anticipating that children’s tooth decay would decline without causing fluoride’s unwanted toxic effects – dental fluorosis (white spotted, yellow, brown and/or pitted teeth).
Prior to Grand Rapids, government fluorosis studies focused exclusively on white children. But little publicized results from Grand Rapids showed that black children were more susceptible to fluorosis than whites.
A January 10, 1962 internal memorandum, from a U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) official, F.J. Maier, revealed that “negroes in Grand Rapids had twice as much fluorosis than others.”
Based on this, Maier asked, “In a community with a larger number of negroes (say in Dekalb County, Georgia) would this tend to change our optimum fluoride levels?”
No change was made. Worse, government officials have taken no steps to educate the black community about their heightened fluoridation risk.
A FAN team led by attorney Michael Connett uncovered the 1962 memorandum and a trove of other soon-to-be released documents that shed light on how political pressures have stymied open discussion from government and industrial authorities on the hazards of fluoride.
In 2005, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) acknowledged for the first time that the black community has higher rates of dental fluorosis. It took a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, however, to learn the full extent of this disparity. According to recently released FOIA documents, 58% of black children were diagnosed with dental fluorosis in CDC’s 1999-2004 national survey, versus 36% of white children.
“The epidemic of fluorosis now seen in the black community,” says Connett, “is the visible legacy of the government’s failure to act on what it knew.”
When the PHS first endorsed fluoridation in the early 1950s, the NRC estimated that the “safe level” of fluoride is exceeded when “more than 10 to 15 percent of children” have “the mildest” type of fluorosis.
Black children now far exceed the NRC’s safety threshold. One study from fluoridated Augusta, Georgia found 17% of black children suffering from advanced forms (moderate and severe) of fluorosis, the kind of fluorosis that was once only seen in high-fluoride communities. (Williams 1990).
Despite being fluoride-overdosed, blacks still suffer from higher rates of tooth decay, with many low-income minority communities suffering from what health officials have called a “silent epidemic” of untreated tooth decay.
Not only are fluorosis and cavity rates higher in the black community, but so too are various health conditions, such as diabetes and kidney disease, that increase susceptibility to fluoride’s harmful effects.
Because of this, a number of civil rights advocates have begun calling for an end to fluoridation, including former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, the Reverend Dr. Gerald Durley, the Reverend Bernice King (daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King), and LULAC (the largest Hispanic civil rights organization).
“Dental fluorosis is only the most obvious effect of fluoride, because you can see it,” says Connett. Fluoride is an “endocrine disrupter” that can affect thyroid function according to a 2006 report from the National Research Council, and a neurotoxin that can damage the developing brain, according to a 2014 paper in The Lancet.
More about Racial Disparities in Dental Fluorosis