Secrets: Fluoride and the A-Bomb Program
Extracted from Nexus Magazine,
Volume 5, #3
(April-May 1998). PO Box 30, Mapleton Qld 4560 Australia.
(Posted here: Nov 19,
During the ultra-secret
Manhattan Project, a report was commissioned to assess the effect of
fluoride on humans. That report was classified "secret" for reasons
of "national security".
* * *
50 years after United States authorities began adding fluoride
to public water supplies to reduce cavities in children's teeth,
recently discovered declassified government documents are shedding
new light on the roots of that still-controversial public health
measure, revealing a surprising connection between the use of
fluoride and the dawning of the nuclear age.
Today, two-thirds of US 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 the US prevailed by building the world's first atomic bomb, the
nation's public health leaders have maintained that low doses of
fluoride are safe for people and good for children's teeth.
That safety verdict should now
be re-examined in the light of hundreds of once-secret WWII-era
documents obtained by these reporters [authors Griffiths and
Bryson], including declassified papers of the Manhattan Project-the
ultra-secret US military program that produced the atomic bomb.
Fluoride was the key chemical
in atomic bomb production, according to the documents. Massive
quantities-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, fluoride emerged as
the leading chemical health hazard of the US atomic bomb program,
both for workers and for nearby communities, the documents reveal.
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
defence contractors for fluoride injury to citizens. The first
lawsuits against the American A-bomb program were not over
radiation, but over fluoride damage, the documents show.
€ Human studies were required. Bomb program researchers played a
leading role in the design and implementation of the most extensive
US study of the health effects of fluoridating public drinking
water, conducted in Newburgh, New York, from 1945 to 1955. 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 New York State Health Department
€ The original, secret version (obtained by these reporters) of a
study published by Program F scientists in the August 1948 Journal
of the American Dental Association1 shows that evidence of adverse
health effects from fluoride was censored by the US 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
mindset, in which "national security" was paramount.
EVIDENCE OF FLUORIDE'S ADVERSE
The US Government's conflict
of interest and its motive to prove fluoride safe in the furious
over water fluoridation since the 1950s has only now been made clear
to the general public, let alone to civilian researchers, health
professionals and 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
aluminium to pesticides, where fluoride is a critical industrial
chemical as well as a waste by-product.
The impact can be seen
literally in the smiles of our children. Large numbers (up to 80 per
cent in some cities) of young Americans now have dental fluorosis,
the first visible sign of excessive fluoride exposure according to
the US 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," explained Paul Connett, Professor of
Chemistry at St Lawrence University, New York, to these reporters.
In recent years, paediatric bone specialists have expressed alarm
about an increase in stress fractures among young people in the US.
Connett and other scientists are concerned that fluoride-linked to
bone damage in studies since the 1930s-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 US 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 concerning fluoride.
"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 which Mullenix and co-workers conducted at Forsyth in the
early 1990s 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 IQ in children.) Mullenix's results were
published in 1995 in a reputable peer-reviewed scientific journal.2
During her investigation,
Mullenix was astonished to discover there had been virtually no
previous US 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 US National Institutes of Health (NIH), when an NIH
panel flatly told her that "fluoride does not have central nervous
Declassified documents of the
US atomic bomb program indicate otherwise. A Manhattan Project
memorandum of 29 April 1944 states: "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, from a captain in the medical corps, is stamped
SECRET and is addressed to Colonel Stafford Warren, head of the
Manhattan Project's Medical Section. 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 World War II and the US 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 at the US National Archives. "If you find the memos but
the document they refer to is missing, it's probably still
classified," said Charles Reeves, chief librarian at the Atlanta
branch of the US 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". "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 she suggests that the results were buried because of
the difficult legal and public relations problems they might create
for the government.
The author of the 1944 CNS
research proposal attached to the 29 April memo was Dr Harold C.
Hodge-at the time, chief of fluoride toxicology studies for the
University of Rochester division of the Manhattan Project.
Nearly 50 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. This man was 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," said Mullenix,
"he never once mentioned the CNS work he had done for the Manhattan
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.
You can't just walk away from this."
Dr Antonio Noronha, an NIH
scientific review advisor familiar with Dr Mullenix's grant request,
told us that her proposal was rejected by a scientific peer-review
group. He termed her claim of institutional bias against fluoride
CNS research "far-fetched". He then added: "We strive very hard at
NIH to make sure politics does not enter the picture."
THE NEW JERSEY FLUORIDE
The documentary trail begins
at the height of World War II, in 1944, when a severe pollution
incident occurred downwind of the E.I. DuPont de Nemours Company
chemical factory in Deepwater, New Jersey. The factory was then
producing millions of pounds of fluoride for the Manhattan Project
whose scientists were racing to produce the world's first atomic
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 City; their tomatoes were bought up by Campbell's Soup.
But in the summer of 1944 the
farmers began reporting that their crops were blighted: "Something
is burning up the peach crops around here." They said that poultry
died after an all-night thunderstorm, and that farm workers who ate
produce they'd picked would sometimes vomit all night and into the
"I remember our horses looked
sick and were too stiff to work," Mildred Giordano, a teenager at
the time, told these reporters. Some cows were so crippled that they
could not stand up; they could only graze by crawling on their
The account was confirmed in
taped interviews with Philip Sadtler (shortly before he died), of
Sadtler Laboratories of Philadelphia, one of the nation's oldest
chemical consulting firms. Sadtler had personally conducted the
initial investigation of the damage.
Although the farmers did not
know it, the attention of the Manhattan Project and the federal
government was rivetted on the New Jersey incident, according to
once-secret documents obtained by these reporters.
A memo, dated 27 August 1945,
from Manhattan Project chief Major-General Leslie R. Groves to the
Commanding General of Army Service Forces at the Pentagon, concerns
the investigation of crop damage at Lower Penns Neck, New Jersey. It
states: "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."
After the war's end, Dr Harold
C. Hodge, the Manhattan Project's chief of fluoride toxicology
studies, worriedly wrote in a secret memo (1 March 1946) to his
boss, Colonel Stafford L. Warren, chief of the Medical Section,
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:
"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."
FLUORIDE DAMAGE: THE FIRST
The New Jersey farmers waited
until the war was over before suing DuPont and the Manhattan Project
for fluoride damage-reportedly the first lawsuits against the US
atomic bomb program. Although seemingly trivial, the lawsuits shook
the government, the secret documents reveal.
Under the personal direction
of Major-General Groves, secret meetings were convened in
Washington, with compulsory attendance by scores of scientists and
officials from the US War Department, the Manhattan Project, the
Food and Drug Administration, the Agriculture and Justice
departments, the US Army's Chemical Warfare Service and Edgewood
Arsenal, the Bureau of Standards, as well as lawyers from DuPont.
Declassified memos of the meetings reveal a secret mobilisation of
the full forces of the government to defeat the New Jersey farmers.
In a memo (2 May 1946) copied
to General Groves, Manhattan Project Lt Colonel Cooper B. Rhodes
notes that 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".
Regarding these lawsuits,
General Groves wrote to the Chairman of the Senate Special Committee
on Atomic Energy in a memo of 28 February 1946, advising that "the
Department of Justice is cooperating in the defense of these suits".
Why the national security
emergency over a few lawsuits by New Jersey farmers? In 1946 the
United States began full-scale production of atomic bombs. No other
nation had yet tested a nuclear weapon, and the A-bomb was seen as
crucial for US leadership of the postwar world. The New Jersey
fluoride lawsuits were a serious roadblock to that strategy. "The
specter of endless lawsuits haunted the military," wrote Lansing
Lamont in Day of Trinity, his acclaimed book about the first atomic
"If the farmers won, it would
open the door to further suits which might impede the bomb program's
ability to use fluoride," commented Jacqueline Kittrell, a Tennessee
public interest lawyer who examined the declassified fluoride
documents. (Kittrell specialises in nuclear-related litigation and
has represented plaintiffs in several human radiation experiment
cases.) "The reports of human injury were especially threatening
because of the potential for enormous settlements-not to mention the
PR problem," she added.
Indeed, DuPont was
particularly concerned about the "possible psychologic reaction" to
the New Jersey pollution incident, according to a secret Manhattan
Project memo of 1 March 1946. Facing a threat from the Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) to embargo the region's produce because of
"high fluoride content", DuPont dispatched its lawyers to the FDA
offices in Washington, DC, where an agitated meeting ensued.
According to a memo sent next day to General Groves, DuPont'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 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 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,
according to General Groves' memo of 27 August 1946, new tests for
fluoride in the New Jersey area were to be conducted not by the
Department of Agriculture but by the US Army's 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".
Meanwhile, the public
relations problem remained unresolved: local citizens were in a
panic about fluoride. The farmers' 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 26 March 1946. Although diagnosed by his doctor as having
fluoride poisoning, Kille departed the luncheon convinced of the
government's good faith. Next day he wrote to the general,
expressing his wish that the other farmers could have been present
so that "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".
A broader solution to the
public relations problem was suggested by Manhattan Project chief
fluoride toxicologist Harold C. Hodge in a second secret memo (1 May
1946) to Medical Section chief Colonel 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 DuPont had vented into the atmosphere during
the war. "Disclosure would be injurious to the military security of
the United States," Manhattan Project Major C. A. Taney, Jr, had
written in a memo soon after the war's end (24 September 1945).
The farmers were pacified with
token financial settlements, according to interviews with
descendants still living in the area.
"All we knew is that DuPont
released some chemical that burned up all the peach trees around
here," recalled 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 acted and walked
stiffly, recalled his sister Mildred. "Could any of that have been
the fluoride?" she asked. (The symptoms she detailed are cardinal
signs of fluoride toxicity, according to veterinary toxicologists.)
The Giordano family has also been plagued by bone and joint
problems, Mildred added. Recalling the settlement received by the
family, Angelo Giordano told these reporters that his father said he
"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.
"PROGRAM F": SECRET FLUORIDE
A secret memo (2 May 1946) to
General Groves from Manhattan Project Lt Colonel Rhodes states:
"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
Much of the proof of
fluoride's alleged safety in low doses rests on the postwar work
done at the University of Rochester in anticipation of lawsuits
against the bomb program for human injury.
For the top-secret Manhattan
Project to delegate fluoride safety studies to the University of
Rochester was not surprising. During WWII the US Federal Government
became 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 to study the health effects of the new "special
materials" such as uranium, plutonium, beryllium and fluoride which
were being used in making the atomic bomb. That work continued after
the war, with millions of dollars flowing from the Manhattan Project
and its successor organisation, the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC).
(Indeed, the bomb left an indelible imprint on all of US science in
the late 1940s and 1950s. Up to 90 per cent of all federal funds for
university research came from either the Department of Defense or
the AEC in this period, according to Noam Chomsky in his 1997 book,
The Cold War and the University.4)
The University of Rochester
Medical School became a revolving door for senior bomb-program
scientists. The postwar faculty included Stafford Warren, the top
medical officer of the Manhattan Project, and Harold C. 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",
were started during the war and continued up until the early 1950s.
They were conducted at its Atomic Energy Project (AEP), a top-secret
facility funded by the AEC and housed at 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&endash;winning
account by Eileen Welsome-led to a 1995 US presidential
investigation and a multimillion-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 Dr Harold C. Hodge- who led the Manhattan Project
investigation of alleged human injury in the New Jersey fluoride
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 and
the claims of human injury were of course 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, this might have opened the bomb program and its
contractors to public outcry and lawsuits for injury to human
Lawyer Jacqueline Kittrell
commented further: "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 because of their inherent bias to
prove the chemical safe."
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 centre for
establishing the safety of fluoride as well as its effectiveness in
reducing tooth decay, according to Rochester Dental School
spokesperson William H. Bowen, MD. The key figure in this research,
Bowen said, was Dr Harold C. Hodge-who also became a leading
national proponent of fluoridating public drinking water.
THE A-BOMB AND WATER
Program F's interest in water
fluoridation was not just "to counteract the local fear of fluoride
on the part of residents", as Hodge had earlier written to Colonel
Warren. The bomb program required human studies of fluoride's
effects, just as it needed human studies of plutonium's effects.
Adding fluoride to public water supplies provided one opportunity.
Bomb-program scientists played
a prominent, if unpublicised, 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 allegedly safe for children's bones and good for their
Planning began in 1943 with
the appointment of a special New York State Health Department
committee to study the advisability of adding fluoride to Newburgh's
drinking water. The chairman of the committee was, again, Dr Harold
C. Hodge, then chief of fluoride toxicity studies for the Manhattan
Project. Subsequent members of the committee 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 paediatrician.
Placed in charge of the Newburgh project was David B. Ast, chief
dental officer of the New York State Health Department. Ast had
participated in a key secret wartime conference on fluoride, held by
the Manhattan Project in January 1944, and later worked with Dr
Hodge on the Project's investigation of human injury in the New
Jersey incident, according to once-secret memos.
The committee recommended that
Newburgh be fluoridated. It selected the types of medical studies to
be done, and it also "provided expert guidance" for the duration of
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. In fact, the program 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 10 years its residents were
studied by the New York 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-information called for
by the bomb program in connection with litigation. "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 paediatric studies at Newburgh.
The final report of the
Newburgh Demonstration Project, published in 1956 in the Journal of
the American Dental Association,5 concluded that "small
concentrations" of fluoride were safe for US citizens. The
biological proof, "based on work performed...at the University of
Rochester Atomic Energy Project", was delivered by Dr Hodge.
Today, news that scientists
from the A-bomb program secretly shaped and guided the Newburgh
fluoridation experiment and studied the citizens' blood and tissue
samples is greeted with incredulity.
"I'm shocked...beyond words,"
said present-day Newburgh Mayor Audrey Carey, commenting on these
reporters' findings. "It reminds me of the Tuskegee experiment that
was done on syphilis patients down in Alabama."
As a child in the early 1950s,
Mayor Carey was taken to the old Newburgh firehouse on Broadway
which housed the public health clinic. There, doctors from the
Newburgh fluoridation project studied her teeth, and a peculiar
fusion of two fingerbones on her left hand which she's had since
birth. (Carey said that 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."
When contacted by these
reporters, the now 95-year-old David B. Ast, former director of the
Newburgh experiment, said he was unaware that 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 DuPont case, as secret memos state? He told
these reporters he had no recollection of any such events.
Bob Loeb, a spokesperson for
the University of Rochester Medical Center, confirmed that blood and
tissue samples from Newburgh had been tested by the University's Dr
Hodge. On the ethics of secretly studying US 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 US Department of Energy (DOE), successor to the Atomic Energy
Jayne Brady, a spokesperson
for the Department of Energy in Washington confirmed that a review
of DOE files indicated that a "significant reason" for fluoride
experiments conducted at the University of Rochester after the war
was "impending litigation between the DuPont 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, Brady stated: "Nothing that we have
suggests that the DOE or predecessor agencies-especially the
Manhattan Project-authorised fluoride experiments to be performed on
children in the 1940s."
When told that these reporters
have several documents that directly tie the AEP-the Manhattan
Project's successor agency at the University of Rochester-to the
Newburgh experiment, DOE spokesperson Brady later conceded her study
was confined to "the available universe" of documents.
Two days later, Brady faxed a
statement for clarification. "My search only involved the documents
that we collected as part of our human radiation experiments
project; 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. 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 projects."
SUPPRESSION OF ADVERSE HEALTH
The crucial question arising from the investigation is whether
adverse health findings from Newburgh and other bomb-program
fluoride studies were 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 World War II-on "fluoride
metabolism"-is missing from the files of the US National Archives
and is "probably still classified", according to the librarian.
Participants in the January 1944 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 Demonstration Project, and US Public Health Service
dentist H. Trendley Dean, popularly known as "the father of
A WWII Manhattan Project c
lassified report (25 July 1944) on water fluoridation is missing
from the files of the University of Rochester Atomic Energy Project,
the US 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
"M-1500 series" is present.
"Either those documents are
still classified, or they've been 'disappeared' by the government,"
said Clifford Honicker, Executive Director of the American
Environmental Health Studies Project in Knoxville, Tennessee, which
provided key evidence in the public exposure and prosecution of US
human radiation experiments.
Seven pages have been cut out
of a 1947 Rochester bomb project notebook entitled "DuPont
Litigation". "Most unusual," commented the medical school's chief
archivist, Chris Hoolihan.
Similarly, Freedom of
Information Act (FOIA) requests lodged by these reporters 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.
So, has information been
suppressed? These 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.6 Comparison of the secret version with the
published version indicates that the US 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; it was 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 and concludes that "the men were
unusually healthy, judged from both a medical and dental point of
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&endash;era fluoride safety studies, she asked: "Were
they all done like this?"
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
US agency which today funds fluoride research-said: "I wasn't aware
of any input from the Atomic Energy Commission." Nevertheless, he
insisted that fluoride's efficacy and safety in the prevention of
dental cavities over the last 50 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
1. Dale, Peter P., and McCauley, H. B, "Dental Conditions in Workers
Chronically Exposed to Dilute and Anhydrous Hydrofluoric Acid",
Journal of the American Dental Association, vol. 37, no. 2, August
1948, pp. 131-140. Note that Dale and McCauley were both Manhattan
Project and, later, Program F personnel; they also authored the
secret Manhattan Project paper.
2. Mullenix, Phyllis et al., "Neurotoxicity of Sodium Fluoride in
Rats", Neurotoxicology and Teratology, vol. 17, no. 2, 1995, pp.
3. Lamont, Lansing, Day of Trinity, Atheneum, New York City, 1965.
4. Chomsky, Noam, The Cold War and the University, New Press, New
York City, 1997 (distributed by W.W. Norton & Co. Inc., NYC).
5. Hodge, H. C., "Fluoride metabolism: its significance in water
fluoridation", in "Newburgh-Kingston caries-fluorine study: final
report", Journal of the American Dental Association, vol. 52, March
6. Dale and McCauley, ibid.
About the Authors:
Joel Griffiths is a medical writer based in New York City. He is the
author of a book on radiation hazards that included one of the first
revelations of human radiation experiments, and has contributed
numerous articles to medical journals and popular publications.
Chris Bryson, who holds a Master's degree in journalism, is an
independent reporter for BBC Radio, ABC-TV and public television in
New York City, and writes for a variety of publications.
The authors wish to thank Clifford Honicker, Executive Director of
the American Environmental Health Studies Project, Knoxville, TN,
for his indispensable archival research.
Copies of 155 pages of supporting documents, including all the
declassified papers referred to in this article, can be obtained
from the following contacts for a small fee to cover copying and
€ Australia: Australian Fluoridation News, GPO Box 935G, Melbourne,
Victoria 3001, phone (03) 9592 5088, fax (03) 9592 4544.
€ New Zealand: New Zealand Pure Water Association, 278 Dickson Road,
Papamoa, Bay of Plenty, phone (07) 542 0499.
€ UK: National Pure Water Association of the UK, 12 Dennington Lane,
Crigglestone, Wakefield, WF4 3ET, phone 01924 254433, fax 01924
€ USA: Waste Not newsletter, 82 Judson Street, Canton, NY 13617,
phone (315) 379 9200, fax (315) 379 0448, e-mail
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