The Fluoride Wars: How a Modest Public Health Measure Became America's Longest-Running Political Melodrama
A lively account of fluoridation and its discontents
Since its first implementation in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1945, public drinking water fluoridation and its attendant conflicts, controversies, and conspiracy theories serve as an object lesson in American science, public health, and policymaking. In addition to the arguments on the issue still raging today, the tale of fluoridation and its discontents also resonates with such present concerns as genetically modified foods, global warming response, nuclear power, and environmental regulation.
Offering the best current thinking on the issue, The Fluoride Wars presents a witty and detailed social history of the fluoridation debate in America, illuminating the intersection of science and politics in our recent past. This reader-friendly assessment explores the pro- and anti-fluoridation movements, key players, and important events. Full of amusing and vivid anecdotes and examples, this accessible recounting includes:
A careful and non-condescending look at the hard science, popular science, pseudo-science, and junk science involved
A look at fluoride issues including dosage, cost, financial and funding interests, fluorosis, and problems of risk-cost-benefit analysis
The back-and-forth drama between pro- and anti-fluoridation factions, with all its claims, counterclaims, insults, acrimony, and lawsuits
Case studies of various cities and their experiences with municipal water fluoridation initiatives
Fluorophobia and popular conspiracy theories involving fluoride
The colorful characters in the debate including activists, scientists, magicians, and politicians
A richly and considerately told tale of American science and public life, The Fluoride Wars offers an engrossing history to both interested general readers and specialists in public health, dentistry, policymaking, and related fields.
Grand Rapids, Michigan, Four O’Clock Eastern Wartime.
The Longest-Running Circus in Town.
Pro or Con?
CHAPTER 2: A CLASH OF ABSOLUTES.
The $100,000 Cash Offer.
As One Voice.
Who Drinks Fluoridated Water and Who Doesn’t.
Fear and Loathing.
Fluoridation Facts, Dr. Y, and the Lifesavers Guide.
What We Have Here Is a Failure to Communicate.
CHAPTER 3: A TALE OF TWO CITIES.
The Push for Statewide Mandates.
On the Phone and in the Booth.
The Early Studies: Social Dynamics and Pop Psychology.
The Later Studies: Just Plain Politics.
Spokane and Cumberland: Reprise.
CHAPTER 4: TWO WOMEN.
Darlene Sherrell: The Canary in the Mine.
Jackie Speier and the Legacy of Jonestown.
The California Mandate.
San Diego, Escondido and the Golden Fleece.
CHAPTER 5: THE ROAD TO FLUORIDATION.
Beautiful Women and Black Teeth.
Frederick McKay and the Mystery of Colorado Stain.
H. Trendley Dean and the Towns without Toothaches.
Lathered Up to Go.
Little Girls in Gingham Dresses.
Fluoride on Trial.
Blind Examiners and Confounding Factors.
The Mavericks Emerge.
CHAPTER 6: FLUOROPHOBIA.
The Donora Death Fog.
The Far Side.
Let There Be Light: An Assessment of Anti-Fluoridation Conspiracy Claims.
The Perils of Obsession.
CHAPTER 7: LOOK, MA. NO CAVITIES: FLUORIDE AND TEETH.
The People’s Disease.
Reversal of Misfortune.
The Fluoride Cycle: From Apatite to Apatite.
How Fluoride Works.
More Studies and Diminishing Returns.
The Halo Effect.
Flossers and Cheeseheads.
The Back of the Coin: The Observed Increase in Dental Fluorosis.
The Bottom Line on Fluoride and Teeth.
CHAPTER 8: FLUORIDE AND HEALTH.
Exposure, Intake, and Dose.
The Roots of Contention.
Acute Fluoride Poisoning.
Kaj Roholm’s Legacy.
The Tragedy of Crippling Skeletal Fluorosis.
Fluoride as Medicine: The Osteoporosis Experiments.
Bone Health and Hip Fractures: Legitimate Questions and Equivocal Answers.
The Special Case of Kidney Dialysis.
Allergic Reactions and Psychological Distress.
Affairs of the Heart.
Fluoride and Genetics.
Fluoride, Cancer, and Credibility.
The Osteosarcoma Controversy.
Alzheimers, Intelligence, Crime, and Addiction.
CHAPTER 9: EPA AND THE MCLs.
Fluoride as Jekyl and Hyde.
The Marcus Affair.
A Question of Allegiance.
A Question of Motive.
CHAPTER 10: RIDING THE TIGER: THE DOSAGE ISSUE.
The Concept of a Maximum Acceptable Daily Dose.
Fluoride Intake in Our Diet.
Do Not Swallow.
Contesting Conventional Wisdom.
Too Much of a Good Thing?
CHAPTER 11: SCIENCE AND NOT SCIENCE.
Junk Science: Values and Bias in Scientific Research.
Single-minded Science: The ISFR and the Journal Fluoride.
The Shunning of Phyllis Mullinex.
John Colquhoun Falls Off the Wagon.
Science, Funding, and Self-Interest.
Fluoridation in the Courts: The Anti-fluoridationists’ Last Stand.
The Congressional Pulpit.
CHAPTER 12: MONEY, MOTIVE, AND RISK.
The Uneasy Science of Risk-Cost-Benefit Analysis.
The Cost of Fluoridation.
The Wrangle Over Benefits.
The Ultimate Battleground.
Engineered Systems and Human Error.
The Concept of Acceptable Risk.
Public Health or Home Remedy?
The Bottom Line on the Economics of Fluoridation.
CHAPTER 13: THE LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL.
The Need for Civil Discourse.
“The authors should be commended for providing all of the facts of the controversy in one place. Their call for both sides to get together to study the health issues with reason and respect is also a worthwhile goal because, as they point out; perhaps then ‘this long-standing and somewhat silly dispute could finally he laid to rest.’” (Chemical and Engineering News, September 2009)