FLUORIDE, TEETH, AND THE ATOMIC BOMB
by Joel Griffiths and Chris Bryson ... copyright 1997 (Reprinted with Permission)
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 children's teeth.
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
"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."
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
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
"27 August 1945
"Subject: Investigation of Crop Damage at Lower Penns Neck, New Jersey
To: The Commanding General, Army Service Forces, Pentagon Building,
"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." 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
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 problem."
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 University.")
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 fluoride-pollution
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
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 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 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 water
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
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 in Alabama."
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
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
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
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
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
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
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?"
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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