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Why EPA'S headquarters professionals' union oppose fluoridation: Dr. William Hirzy provides the real truth behind the fluoride controversy in this first part of a two part article.

Why did a labor unto that represents professional employees at the headquarters of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency vote to oppose putting fluoride in drinking water? What's the connection What's the point? This exclusive New Life Journal article by William Hirzy, who is an officer in that union as well as a senior scientist in the Risk Assessment Division and who holds a doctorate in chemistry, answers these questions.

Every new employee I've talked to who comes to work for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says he or she wants to "do something" to help the environment. None of them say that their first reason for seeking a job here is to get a cushy federal job, to jump on the U.S. Government gravy train

Each employee here takes the Civil Service oath of office. It's the same oath new recruits in the military take and the new President takes on Inauguration Day. The key phrase in the oath binds the person taking it "... to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic ..." What that means to us is that when the Congress passes a law, and when the President signs it, and when the courts have settled its constitutionality, then we Civil Service employees are sworn to carry it out to the letter. It means that we are sworn to oppose any attempt to subvert that law, even it! the attempt is by our EPA bosses.

The union first became interested in the fluoride issue in connection with this principle of sworn duty. Like most Americans, including many physicians and dentists, most of our members had the rather naive notion that fluoride's only effects were beneficial. We naively believed assurances of safety and effectiveness of water fluoridation (1) that came from the U.S. Public Health Service and the American Dental Association.

When the EPA began to revise its drinking water standard for fluoride in 1985, an employee came to the union with a complaint. He said he was being forced to write into the regulation a statement to the effect that EPA thought it was all right for children to have "funky' teeth. It was OK, EPA said, because it considered that condition to be only a cosmetic effect, not ma adverse health effect, We found that the reason for EPA's position was that it was under political pressure to set its health-based standard for fluoride at 4 mg/liter (2). At that level, EPA knew that a significant number of children develop moderate to severe dental fluorosis, but since it had decided to call the effect cosmetic, EPA didn't have to set its health-based standard at a lower level to prevent it. (3) In the face of this obvious attempt to subvert the Safe Drinking Water Act, our Civil Service oath of office required us to act (citation 1).

We tried to settle the issue quietly, within the family, but EPA management stonewalled p.s. We took the fight public with a union amicus curiae brief (4) in a lawsuit filed against EPA by a public interest group over the issue.

Since then, our opposition to drinking water fluoridation has grown, based on the scientific literature documenting the increasingly out-of-control exposures to fluoride, the lack of benefit to dental health from ingestion of fluoride and the hazards to human health from such ingestion. These hazards include acute toxic hazard, such as to people with impaired kidney function, as well as chronic toxic hazards of gene mutations, cancer, reproductive effects, neurotoxicity, bone pathology and dental fluorosis. In this article (the first of a two part series) a review of recent neurotoxicity research results is examined. *

In 1995, P. Mullenix, Toxicology Department Head at the Forsyth Research Institute in Boston, and co-workers (citation 2) showed that vats given fluoride in drinking water at levels that give rise to plasma fluoride concentrations in the range seen in humans suffer neurotoxic effects that vary according to when the rats were given the fluoride--as adult animals, as young animals, or through the placenta before birth. Those exposed before birth were born hyperactive and remained so throughout their lives. Those exposed as young or adult animals displayed depressed activity. Z. Guan, of Guiyang Medical College in Guizhou, China's Pathology Department, and co-workers subsequently (citation 3) gave doses similar to those used by the Mullenix research group to try to understand the mechanism(s) underlying the effects seen by the Mullenix group. Guan's group found that several key chemicals in the brain--those that form the membrane of brain cells--were substantially depleted in rats given fluoride, as compared to those who did not get fluoride.

In 1998, J. Varner of Binham University, NY's Psychology Department, and co-workers (citation 4) reported on the brain and kidney damaging effects in rats that were given fluoride in drinking water at the same level deemed "optimal" by pro-fluoridation groups, namely 1 ppm. Even more pronounced damage was seen in animals that got the fluoride in conjunction with aluminum. These results are especially disturbing because of the low dose level of fluoride that shows the toxic effect in rats. Rats are more resistant to fluoride than humans. This latter statement is based on Mullenix's finding that it takes substantially more fluoride in the drinking water of rats than of humans to reach the same fluoride level in plasma. It is the level in plasma that determines how much fluoride is "seen" by particular tissues in the body. So when rats get 1 ppm in drinking water, their brains and kidneys are exposed to much less fluoride than humans getting 1 ppm, yet they are experiencing toxic effects. Thus we are compelled to consider the likelihood that humans are experiencing subtle damage to their brains and kidneys at the "optimal" level of 1 ppm.

In support of this concern are results from two epidemiology studies from China (citation 5 and 6) that show decreases in I.Q. in children who get more fluoride than the control groups of children in each study. These decreases are about 5 to 10 I.Q. points in children aged 8 to 13 years.

Another troubling brain effect has recently surfaced: fluoride's interference with the function of the brain's pineal gland. The pineal gland produces melatonin which, among other roles, mediates the body's internal dock, doing such things as governing the onset of puberty. Luke (citation 7) has shown that fluoride accumulates in the pineal gland and inhibits its production of melatonin. She showed in test animals that this inhibition causes an earlier onset of sexual maturity. This effect was reported in humans as well in 1956, as part of the Kingston/Newburgh study, which is discussed below. In fluoridated Newburgh, young girls experienced earlier onset of menstruation (on average, by six months) than girls in non-fluoridated Kingston (citation 8).

From a risk assessment perspective, these brain effect data are particularly compelling and disturbing. The data all points in the same direction. It is a direction in which we want further investigation. It is a direction that the American public should be aware of so that they can know where they may be headed.

(* In the next issue of NLJ, the author presents research on drinking water fluoridation in relation to cancer, bone pathology and dental health. He also includes a review of political issues and what individuals can do to protect their health.)


(1.) For a history of government involvement in water fluoridation, see "Fluoride, Toxic Secrets and the A-Bomb", by investigative reporters Joel Griffiths and Chris Bryson, available on-line at

(2.) Also known as "parts per million" or "ppm."

(3.) The Safe Drinking Water Act requires that the health-based standard be set at a level to prevent any known or anticipated adverse health effect, with an adequate margin of safety.

(4.) The Safe Drinking Water Act requires that the health-based standard be set at a level to prevent any known or anticipated adverse health effect, with an adequate margin of safety.

(5.) Online at


(1.) Applying the NAEP code of ethics to the Environmental Protection Agency and the fluoride in drinking water standard. Carton, R.J. and Hirzy, J.W. Proceedings of the 23rd Ann. Conf. of the National Association of Environmental Professionals. 20-24 June, 1998. GEN 51-61. Online at URL http//

(2.) Neurotoxicity of sodium fluoride in rats. Mullenix, P.J., Denbesten, P.K., Schunior, A. and Kernan, W.J. Neurotoxicol. Teratol. 17 169-177 (1995)

(3.) Influence of chronic fluorosis on membrane lipids in rat brain. Z.Z. Guan, Y.N. Wang, K.Q. Xiao, D.Y. Dai, Y.H. Chen, J.L. Liu, P. Sindelar and G. Dallner, Neurotoxicology and Teratology 20 537-542 (1998). 4. Chronic administration of aluminum-fluoride or sodium-fluoride to rats in drinking water: alterations in neuronal and cerebrovascular integrity. Varner, J.A., Jensen, K.F., Horvath, W. And Isaacson, R.L. Brain Research 784 284-298 (1998).

(5.) Effect of high fluoride water supply on children_s intelligence. Zhao, L.B., Liang, G.H., Zhang, D.N., and Wu, X.R. Fluoride 29 190-192 (1996)

(6.) Effect of fluoride exposure on intelligence in children. Li, X.S., Zhi, J.L., and Gao, R.O. Fluoride 28 (1995).

(7.) Effect of fluoride on the physiology of the pineal gland. Luke, J.A. Caries Research 28 204 (1994). 8. Newburgh-Kingston caries-fluorine study XIII. Pediatric findings after ten years. Schlesinger, E.R., Overton, D.E., Chase, N.C., and Cantwell, K.T. JADA 52 296-306 (1956).

Dr. Hirzy can be contacted at
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Title Annotation:Environmental Protection Agency
Author:Hirzy, William
Publication:New Life Journal
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2002
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