Fluoride Information

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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Ch. 10. The Public Health Service Investigation: the fluoride deception by Christopher Bryson from archive.org

Ch. 10. The Public Health Service Investigation: the fluoride deception by Christopher Bryson from archive.org
The Public Health Service Investigation     The big federal investigation now shifted noisily into gear. From  November 1948 and through the following spring Donora residents were  bombarded with door-to-door surveys and endless questionnaires from the  Washington investigators. Public Health Service air sampling vans  criss-crossed the steel bridge between Webster and Donora. The town hall  sprouted an air monitor.   Donora residents were elated. They were confident that Harry Truman s  Public Health Service would deliver fair deal answers about the Donora  smog. They also hoped that the federal investigation would help resolve  thirty years of community conflict with U.S. Steel. Many residents saw the  disaster of 1948 as simply the most recent and violent insult the  community had suffered from industry. https://www.blogger.com/null  When the Donora zinc works opened in 1916 it was the biggest of its  kind in the world, and one of the dirtiest. The plant used coal and gas to  roast the zinc ore and drive impurities into the air. Ironically, and too late  for Donora, that technology was almost immediately superceded in newer  plants by much cleaner technology, which used electricity to melt the ore.'  But U.S. Steel was not
prepared to abandon its expensive Donora  investment. Zinc was fetching high prices as a vital ingredient in munitions  for World War I, which was then raging in Europe.   Each day the Donora works billowed out giant clouds of oily and  foul-smelling smoke that drifted on the winds west across Donora or east  into the town of Webster. Local families were outraged by their  foul-breathed neighbor. Webster's farmers and small holders     134     CHAPTER TEN     had chosen the pristine river valley for its natural beauty and the rich soils  long before the zinc works had arrived. Some farmers had been on the same  land since the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794. Now toxic smoke filled their  homes and they watched in horror as the farmland above their town grew  barren, rutted gullies slicing at the balding hillsides.   The children of Donora and Webster were born into a near-eternal  darkness of smoke and fumes, frolicking on land defoliated by chemical  poisons.' Even the dead could not rest. Industry's fumes laid waste to  Donora's lovely Civil War-era Gilmore cemetery. As the rootless earth  eroded down the side of the valley, gravestones toppled and observers  reported seeing dogs make off with human bones.' A 1941 novel by a  former Donora steelworker, Thomas Bell, recalls a view of the zinc works  from the Webster side of the river:   Freshly charged, the zinc smelting furnaces, crawling with  thousands of small flames, yellow, blue, green, filled the valley  with smoke. Acrid and poisonous, worse than anything a steel  mill belched forth, it penetrated everywhere, making  automobile headlights necessary in Webster's streets, setting the  river boat pilots to cursing God, and destroying every living  thing on  the hills. 4   Webster families and some Donora supporters began to organize. The  first health-damage suits against the zinc plant were filed in 1918. Marie  Burkhardt, a Donora resident since 1904, told a jury that since the plant's  opening she had suffered chest pains, a hacking cough, the loss of her voice,  and headaches. The jury found her complaints plausible, and so did an  appeals court judge. Burkhardt won a judgment of $500 against the zinc  plant. Suits like Burkhardt's would continue, angry and unabated, until the  plant closed some forty years later. Although claims in the name of 659  plaintiffs had totaled $4.5 million in 1935, court victories were rare and  settlements were usually tiny; residents faced an uphill battle against the  richest steel company in the world, armed with legions of lawyers to defeat  and delay the protests.'     THE PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICE INVESTIGATION     135     Suits did not get very far, noted a lifelong Webster resident, Allen  Kline. He remembered two or three small victories like Burkhardts. In  one case they got an award of $500. Another won $2500. Mostly people  got tired of fighting.   The children of Webster were some of America's earliest environmental  protesters. Allen Klines name was listed on a lawsuit against U.S. Steel by  his grandfather when Kline was eight years old. His grandfather, an  immigrant from Italy, had built their family home in Webster in 1914. He  owned farmland in the hills above the town. Two years after he constructed  the family s home, the zinc plant was built. For almost fifty years the Kline  s home sat directly downwind from the zinc works. Kline remembers a  1938 visit from distant cousins who lived in Allentown, Pennsylvania, on  the other side of the state. They were supposed to stay for a week, but  instead, "They were here for two days," he recalled. "They didn't know  how we lived under these conditions. . . . We didnt know what it was to  breathe clean air.   After the 1948 disaster in Donora a protest group called the Society for  Better Living took root in Websters treeless soil. The twenty-two-year-old  Kline became the secretary of the Society, which eventually had about 200  members. Its slogan: Clean Air and Green Grass.   For the next decade the Society waged a David-and-Goliath struggle  with U.S. Steel. Tensions ran high in the community. Many Donora  workers saw the Society as a threat to their jobs. Several Society officers  received death threats, reported Kline. "A lot of people made a good living  at the mill, he added. But the tiny group persisted. Its members held rallies,  issued Kline's press releases, and even traveled to Washington, DC. Years  later Kline remembered this Quixotic lobbying trip to the nation s capital.  The self-described "idealistic" young newspaperman and his band of  Webster residents had a fantastic notion: why didn't Congress enact  nationwide laws against air pollution to protect communities such as their  own? Their Washington pleas fell on deaf ears: "I don't think anybody ever  knew we were there," said Kline.   The president of the Society for Better Living, Abe Salapino, and deputy  Kline grew anxious that spring of 1949. They watched as U.S. Steel  public -relations men squired federal health officials around     136     CHAPTER TEN     town, wining and dining them at local restaurants. We were concerned that  they were winning the battle on this gastronomical front, said Kline. But  Salapino owned a local restaurant. Guests came from Pittsburgh for his  delicious meats and pastries, calling first to make sure that the wind was  not blowing zinc fumes into the restaurant windows. Salapino and Kline  now organized a sumptuous meal for the Public Health Service men on  their final night in Donora, courtesy of the Society for Better Living. You  couldnt believe this party," said Kline. "We had most of them drunk. We  decided there is no way we are not going to get a favorable report out of this  group.   That summer, shortly before the much-anticipated PHS report was  released, Allen Kline and other members of the Society for Better Living  got their own surprise invitation. The president of the American Steel and  Wire Division of U.S. Steel, Clifford Hood, wanted them to come to  Pittsburgh for a friendly meeting. Kline was stunned. He had spent the last  year issuing press releases blaming the company for the Donora deaths and  complaining about pollution. At the meeting Hood denied that the zinc  works had caused the disaster, but he conceded that U.S. Steel fumes may  have damaged some vegetation in the valley. The admission was an  about-face from the aggressive position the company had long taken in  court. The meeting then became almost a love session between the two  adversaries, Kline recalled. President Hood gave the twenty-two-year-old a  couple of his Havana cigars. I was terribly impressed by him," said Kline.   The following day the Donora papers reported the goodwill meeting and  the steel company's promises to reduce smoke from the mills. The Society  for Better Living was "perfectly convinced" of U.S. Steel's sincerity, the  newspaper wrote. Kline realized that the meeting had been a  public -relations stunt, a carrot for his group to improve U.S. Steels image  in Donora. For the remaining decade of the zinc plants operation, no air  scrubbers were installed, according to the Society for Better Living.'   While Clifford Hood was passing out cigars to the Webster envi-  ronmentalists, behind the scenes his company had hired the powerful  Pittsburgh law firm of Reed, Smith, Shaw, and McClay, which was  headquartered in Andrew Mellon s Union Trust bank build-     THE PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICE INVESTIGATION     1 37     ing. For much of the century the firm had been fighting citizens in court  who claimed that their health and property had been hurt by industrial  pollution. The well-heeled Pittsburgh lawyers were given new marching  orders after the disaster: defeat the families of the Donora victims in court  and escape any legal requirement to clean up the smelter operation.   Robert Kehoes scientists became the secret weapon of the Pittsburgh  lawyers, serving as U.S. Steels Trojan horse in Donora, nuz zling close to  the official PHS investigation, and prying access to the government  investigation and its confidential data. As a result PHS investigators gave  Kettering officials samples of autopsy mate rial they had gathered  immediately after the disaster — information they should not have given out.  And when two of the Donora dead were exhumed for additional studies in  March 1949, once again Ket-tering officials joined the PHS doctors around  the autopsy table.' A former PHS historian, Lynn Page Snyder, calls this  manipulation of the public trust by Kehoe the "underbelly" of the Donora  investigation. While gaining broad access to the government investigation,  Kehoe was privately working with U.S. Steel to shoot down citizen  lawsuits.   "Ethically, what was problematic to me was that Kettering officials were  given slides with lung tissue, and permission was not requested from the  next of kin of the people who passed away," Snyder remarked. "Some of  the autopsies were done on people who were dug up after they had been  interred. And the PHS and the Borough council and the Board of Health  locally worked carefully with the families of the deceased to convince them  to dig the bodies back up." Kehoe's access to all this medical data was  granted, "without informing area residents of the purpose of Ket-tering  efforts," Snyder added.   Snyder wrote a detailed study of the Donora disaster as a graduate  student, and she grew concerned that the federal government's  investigation had focused on the weather in Donora that weekend, rather  than on the "incredibly filthy" metal-smelting industries. "I am disturbed  by the way it is remembered," she said. "I would like to see more  discussion of the industrial nature of this disaster."   According to Snyder, PHS officials were willing collaborators in efforts  to suppress information about industry s role in the deaths.     138     CHAPTER TEN     When Kehoe prepared U.S. Steels medicolegal defense against the Donora  survivors, for example, he asked his government connections for  information on the exact sequence of deaths and the time and location in  which they occurred. The chief of the PHS s Division of Industrial Hygiene,  J. G. Townsend, wrote back two weeks later giving Kehoe the government  data that plotted the onset of the sickness in Donora during the disaster.  And a second special table of data, correlating smog affliction with  preexisting illness, was sent to Kettering and marked by the PHS "This  information is CONFIDENTIAL and is submitted to Doctor Ashe for his  personal use only.'"   Snyder says that those statistics, which were reworked by Kehoe s team  to narrowly define a so-called smog syndrome, helped to discount the role  of the disaster in the many hundreds of chronic illnesses or deaths in the  smog's long medical aftermath. Many of the lawsuits filed against U.S.  Steel involved such cases. That particular information was helpful to  William Ashe, Snyder pointed out, so that the Kettering people could  construct a legal argument that ruled out a number of claims as being  unrelated to the smog.   The evidence that the federal government had secretly cooperated with  Kehoe disturbed Snyder. It is collusion, she remarked. " I read that memo  [the one marked "confidential"] as evidence of a public health service  person collaborating in the case being prepared by Kettering against the  plaintiffs — the citizens in Donora and in Webster — without their  knowledge." Snyder added, "The information about the illnesses and the  times of onset belonged to the citizens, just like the autopsy material. It was  not information that ought to have been given to a private interest preparing  [to defend a lawsuit] against them."   In October 1949 the PHS report on Donora was finally released. It was  an enormous disappointment to the victims families. They had hoped it  would explain what poison killed their relatives that night and where it had  come from. The 173-page government document, Public Health Service  Bulletin 306, did neither. "They produced a report which looks the size of  the Holy Bible," said Allen Kline, and came to virtually no conclusions.   The government verdict that no single substance was responsible for  the Donora deaths, however, was a triumph for the U.S.     THE PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICE INVESTIGATION     Steel Company. The reports emphasis on the bad weather effectively  endorsed the same argument made by the U.S. Steel lawyers, that the  disaster was not foreseeable and therefore an act of god. Blaming the  weather had opened the door for a legal escape act. The reports failure to  identify which factory or chemical had caused the deaths completed the  corporate getaway. The report did not improve the prospects of the town  one whit, noted Lynne Snyder.   Oscar Ewing — Alcoa s former chief counsel, friend of President Truman,  and head of the Federal Security Agency — wrote the intro duction to the  official final report of the Donora investigation. He was silent about his  past corporate loyalty to Alcoa. He was silent about the fact that the  international aluminum industry had been fighting lawsuits alleging  fluoride damage from air pollution for forty years. And he was silent about  the sixty-three people who had been killed in 1930 in the Meuse Valley air  pollution disaster in Belgium. Instead, Ewing fatuously declared that air  pollution was "a new and heretofore unsuspected source of danger."  Donora had revealed the almost completely unknown effects on health of  many types of air pollution existing today, he added.   It was a rank Washington smokescreen. Alcoa had spent much of World  War II and its aftermath grappling with massive lawsuits and citizen  protests over fluoride air pollution from aluminum plants.' Oscar Ewing s  legal colleague Frank B. Ingersoll was a partner in the Pittsburgh law firm  of Smith, Buchanan, Ingersoll, Rodewald, and Eckert that had fought many  of those lawsuits on behalf of Alcoa; Frank L. Seamans of the same firm  would coordinate a national corporate legal defense strategy in the 1950s as  chairman of the Fluorine Lawyers Committee.   The PHS report itself, "Air Pollution in Donora, Pa — Epidemiology of  the Unusual Smog Episode of October 1948, was written by the  Manhattan Projects wartime fluoride consultant, Helmuth Schrenk. He  was particularly adamant in his efforts to disqualify fluoride as the killer  agent. The possibility is slight that toxic concentrations of fluoride  accumulated during the October 1948 episode," Schrenk wrote.   The PHS report, however, made no mention of the high fluoride levels  in Donora vegetation that Kettering researcher Edward Lar-gent had  gathered during a cloak-and-dagger trip to Donora in the     140     CHAPTER TEN     summer of 1949. Kettering s Dr. William Ashe had written a letter of  introduction for Largent on July it, to the Director of Industrial Relations at  the Donora Works, Mr. E. Soles: Largent ... will be around Donora for a  day or two, looking into the problem of the effects of particulate fluorides  upon foliage and crops. There is no direct relationship between this matter  and the smog disaster, but there may be an additional problem which could  cause the company considerable embarrassment. ... I suggest that the  purpose of his mission be kept entirely to yourself.'   Philip Sadtler had blamed fluoride for defoliating Donora's trees and  grass. Largent confirmed high fluoride levels in local vegeta-tion. 12 Why  the need for Largent's secrecy?   "It sounds like there was a problem with fluorine emissions and it was  clandestine because Kettering did not want other people to know about  it — clear as that," believes Lynn Snyder. "The clandestine part fits in with  the rest of their activities. If they told people like a plant manager, word  would get out, and Phil Sadtler's theory would get more credence.   Schrenks PHS report also dismissed the numerous medical accounts of  long-term health problems caused by air pollution in Donora and the  common experience of the residents who invariably became sicker when  the smelter fumes were trapped in the valley. And critics found the  government report to be laden with mathematical errors, especially when it  came to determining fluoride emissions. The report guessed that 210 tons  of coal burned in homes emitted 30 pounds of fluoride, but 213 tons burned  in the mills gave off only 4 pounds. "No possible reason for the difference  is offered," said the physician and researcher Dr. Frederick B. Exner. On  page 104 of the report, Exner pointed out, waste gas from the blast furnace  contains 4.6 mg of fluoride per cubic meter; on page 108 it contains  one-tenth as much. "An elaborate piece of hocus-pocus," concluded Exner.  "Incompetent, irrelevant and immaterial to prove anything except how  easily people — and I mean those who call themselves scientists — can be  duped.'   The report made no effort to explain why Donora residents were so  terribly injured that weekend while the nearby town of Mones-sen, which  had a steel works and the same bad weather, had been relatively unscathed.  But Monessen had no zinc works, residents noted. A local newspaper  editorialized that the relationship between     THE PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICE INVESTIGATION     141     the Donora Zinc Works and the smog was something that no  investigation is necessary to prove. All you need is a reasonably good  pair of eyes.'   Allen Kline agreed. We thought it was common sense that it was  the zinc works. That is what was different in Donora.   Sadtler knew he could not compete with the Pubic Health Service.  "When the US government says that something is sulfur dioxide and  not fluorine, he said, then people are taking their word and not my  word."   Scientist Kathleen Thiessen is an expert on risk analysis and has  written about the health effects of fluoride for the U.S. Environmental  Protection Agency. For this book she reviewed many of the  confidential and unpublished Kettering documents and compared  them with the official published conclusion by the Public Health  Service on the Donora disaster.' Unlike the PHS report, Thiessen  concluded that, judging from the information included in the  Ket-tering documents, fatal quantities of fluoride could have certainly  have been present in the valley during the disaster weekend, posing a  lethal risk to the elderly and the infirm.   To come to this conclusion, Thiessen first made a rough estimate  of how much air blanketed Donora that weekend. If the Donora valley  was about 2.5 miles long, between 0.5 and 1 .5 miles wide, and some  340 feet deep, then between 320 and 96o million cubic meters of air  lay over the town, trapped by a temperature inversion. The Donora  steel plant had a daily production capacity of 1,450 tons of steel.  Thiessen then calculated that, if each ton of steel requires 2 kg of  fluoride, then as much as 2,900 kg (6,380 pounds) of fluoride could  have been released per day without emission controls. Trapped by the  stagnant weather conditions and suspended over Donora, these  airborne fluoride concentrations could have soared well above the  concentrations set as industry standard for an 8 hour day. (Addition-  ally, of course, the zinc plant was belching out fluoride. But without  surviving data on that plant's daily production capacity, Thiessen was  not able to make an equivalent calculation for how much fluoride it  may also have contributed during the disaster.)   It is not possible, with just the existing documents, to know with  certainty whether fluoride killed Donora s citizens, concluded  Thies-sen. Nevertheless, she indicated, her series of calculations show  that there is the potential that routine releases of fluorine or fluoride,     142     CHAPTER TEN     under conditions of little or no air dispersion, could result in air  concentrations high enough to be dangerous to some individuals in the  general public.   Thiessen was unimpressed with the science behind the official PHS  report. She likened it to similar reports written today, where the intent is to  obscure the truth, not reveal it. My take was that they did a very fine job  of writing lots of words in the hopes that nobody would see through to the  fact that there was not much information there," she said.   Thiessen was especially skeptical of the governments scientific  methodology in exonerating fluoride. Months after the disaster the PHS  investigators measured urine samples in Donora children. The fluoride  levels were low, and the investigators concluded that fluoride had therefore  not been a problem during the disaster. It was a ludicrous argument,  Thiessen explained. "They made a point in their report to say there is  clearly no evidence of chronic fluoride exposure, but you cannot from that  say there was no acute exposure on a given weekend six months ago. But  they tried to do that. You  cant.   Today investigators who want to examine how the PHS reached its  conclusions are stymied. The raw data and records of the governments  Donora investigation are missing from the U.S. National Archives and  cannot be found. It is a shameful omission and a shocking breach of public  trust, particularly as the Donora study was the first federal investigation of  air pollution. "They may have been thrown out, suggested Snyder, who  spent five years looking for these federal records. "Someone may have  decided they were too hot to handle and got rid of them. You have to  suspect the worst."   Philip Sadder confirms the worst. 16 Six months after the disaster, U.S.  Steel and the Public Health Service ran a test in Donora to simulate and  measure the air pollutants that had been present in the atmosphere at the  time. Sadtler was in town that day as the zinc and steel plants fired up and  began billowing their smoke and fumes. He stepped into the mobile  laboratory where government scientists were monitoring the "test smog."  "I looked in and the chemist said, "Phil, come on in.' Very friendly," Sadtler  remembered. "He says, Phil, I know that you are right, but I am not  allowed to say so.   The government conclusion — that no single pollutant had caused the  Donora deaths — helped to checkmate the Donora families who were suing  U.S. Steel. A more grotesque spectacle quickly followed.     THE PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICE INVESTIGATION     As soon as the report was published, Helmuth Schrenk, the fluoride expert  who had led the governments investigation, switched sides. He literally  crossed the street from the U.S. Bureau of Mines in Pittsburgh, joined the  private Mellon Institute as a research director, and signed up as an expert  courtroom witness for U.S. Steel, ready to testify against the very Donora  citizens whose devastated city he had just investigated for the U.S.  government.   It still makes me angry, said historian Lynne Snyder. For the chief of  the investigation to immediately make himself avail-able to be an expert  witness against the plaintiffs of the town is something I would like to have  information about. Did he receive money from U.S. Steel? Did he receive  it after he left the employ of PHS?"   Schrenk joined Robert Kehoe and Harvard University air pollution  expert Professor Philip Drinker as expert witnesses for U.S. Steel.' The  one -two punch of a flaccid official investigation and the defection of its  chief investigator to the side of industry crippled the victims' court case. In  April 1951, on the eve of the first "test case" trial of smog victim Suzanne  Gnora, the plaintiffs' lawyer — the former Pennsylvania attorney general,  Charles Margiotti — settled with U.S. Steel. Facing 160 victim claims  totaling $4.5 million, U.S. Steel settled for a one-time payment of a quarter  of a million dollars to be disbursed among families of the dead and injured.  One-third of the money went to Margiotti. The biggest, richest steel  corporation in the world admitted no guilt nor accepted any obligation to  reduce air pollution.   Allen Kline received a check for $500. Families of the dead garnered  about $4,000 apiece, less Margiotti's third, Kline remembered. There was  much anger at the courtroom deal. "We were furious," Kline said. "We  weren't interested in the suits for money, we were interested in the suits to  publicize what we considered a very serious health hazard."   After the settlement the Donora disaster slipped from public attention.  Philip Sadder s report of fluoride poisoning was almost forgotten. Even  the Society for Better Living grew tired and gave up fighting the zinc  works. The whole thing just seemed to fade away," Kline said. I was  weary of getting nowhere.   Allen Kline never found out what chemical made him sick that  weekend nor what killed so many of his fellow townsfolk. Despite     1 44     CHAPTER TEN     the fumes, Allen Kline remained in the Webster home that his grandfather  had built. The newspaperman developed a whole raft of illnesses, including  a heart problem, diabetes, and a case of arthritis so crippling that he was  forced into retirement, where an electric elevator chair carried him on rails  each night upstairs to bed. Kline's daughter, born in the same Webster  home, died of cancer. When the zinc mill finally closed in 1957 and the air  over Webster cleared, to Allen Kline it was an epiphany. "I didn't know life  could be that grand," he said.   It Was Murder   NINE YEARS AFTER the disaster, two officials from the U.S. Public  Health Service, Antonio Ciocco and D. J. Thompson, returned to Donora,  to work with an air-pollution consultant from the University of Pittsburgh,  John Rumford. Ciocco and Thompson published data showing that Donora  citizens who had been sick during the disaster remained at greater risk of  illness and early death." 1 But John Rumford's explosive findings — of  fluoride poisoning in Donora — were never published. The suppression of  the fluoride findings by the government health experts mirrored perfectly  the evasions and omissions of their PHS colleagues a decade earlier.  Without alerting the public, Rumford had taken soil measurements from  eight locations in Donora, including downwind from the steelwork's blast  furnace. In six of his readings, he found 200-800 parts per million of  fluoride in soil. Downwind from the blast furnace, however, his two  readings were 1,600 and 2,500 ppm respectively. Rumford next studied  health data from the disaster, gathering more firsthand information on  Donora health complaints and inquiring whether reported illnesses were  more severe when temperature inversions trapped pollutants in the valley.  His conclusions were simple. According to a PHS official who examined  his data, Rumford's basic findings were:   1 . That there is a relation between month-to-month variation in   sickness and month-to-month variation in . . . air pollution.   2. That there is more illness in an area over which fluorides are   blown from the factory.     THE PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICE INVESTIGATION     The suspected fluorosis occurred in the same five -block radius  downwind from the Donora steel works where half of the disaster dead had  lived, Rumford reported. His data also showed that cardiovascular  problems grew worse when the smog gathered in the Donora Valley and  that former open-hearth steel workers who handled raw fluoride were  especially affected by arthritis and  rheumatism.   At first the new generation of PHS officials seemed excited by  Rumford's work. The Donora disaster might have a silver lining, they even  suggested. The health data might offer a road map for a nation struggling to  chart new policies to combat air pollution and to determine the health  effects of the most dangerous poisons in the atmosphere. The grim health  effects of fluoride air pollution were very clear in John Rumford s data, the  PHS officials saw. Dr. Ciocco liked this part about the fluoride findings,  reported one of the reviewers of Rumford s work, Nicholas E. Manos, who  was the Chief Statistician of the PHS s Air Pollution Medical Program. In  the case of suspected fluorosis, that is, cases of arthritis and rheuma tism,  Dr. Manos explained, you have a correlation with a specific agent, a  correlation with the wind trajectory, and also a correlation with the  presence of those whose occupation places them near the open hearth using  raw fluoride.   Similar health problems associated with fluoride air pollution had been  seen elsewhere in the country, noted Manos. And Dr. Leon O. Emik, the  Chief of Laboratory Investigations for the PHS Air Pollution Medical  Program, contemplated initiating a bold nationwide study on fluoride's  health effects. "Dr. Emik suggested we study mortality from arthritis and  rheumatism from various cities for possible relation with the frequency of  fluoride air pollution. We must remember in this connection Mrs.  Gleeson's findings of an increase in cardiovascular deaths in Florida after  the influx of plants using fluoride," Manos wrote. (Philip S adder had gone  to Donora, of course, at the request of Florida farmers battling the  fluoride-polluting phosphate industry.)   Instead of pointing a fresh finger at an especially dangerous air pollutant,  however, John Rumford s fluoride findings remained unpublished. And for  more than forty years the 1949 Public Health Service report on Donora  exonerating fluoride has stood as the     146     CHAPTER TEN     established account of the most famous air pollution disaster in U.S.  history. Its critics were largely forgotten, and fluoride slipped almost  entirely from most public discussion of air pollution. When the fiftieth  anniversary of the disaster was marked in 1998, no newspaper even  mentioned fluoride. Philip Sadtler had died two years earlier. At a  municipal church ceremony in Donora an EPA official mentioned only that  the long-ago Halloween disaster had shown that pollution can kill people.  A second EPA official blamed the deaths on "a mix" of sulfur dioxide,  carbon monoxide, and metal dust.   The shabby treatment Donora citizens received from their government  can be attributed, perhaps, to national-security concerns — a consequence  of the urgency seizing the United States as it stared down the barrel of a  fast-approaching global confrontation with Soviet Russia. Fluoride was  critical to the U.S. economy and military defense, and industry's freedom to  use it could not be seriously hampered during the cold war. Maybe it is  because it happened in the late 1940s when the U.S. attention was really  turned to other issues. During the Donora investigation the Soviets  exploded Little Joe and the cold war got underway. Berlin was blockaded.  A lot of big things in foreign policy were going on at that time, says Lynn  Snyder. Or maybe this treatment was simply due to the fact that it affected  a working-class community," she added.   Scientist Kathleen Thiessen also gives a cold-war interpretation to the  shunning of Philip Sadtler and the governments histrionic disavowal of  fluoride as Donora s killer chemical. There certainly was a vested interest  on the part of the government not to get the public upset about  fluoride — after all if we are spewing out thousands of pounds a month or a  day or whatever at Oak Ridge, and probably Portsmouth and Paducah [two  other fluoride gaseous diffusion plants] and some other places, we don't  want the public to get concerned. We don't want to suddenly say, "Hey,  twenty people died because of a fluoride release last weekend.' This would  not be good. We might get somebody upset. The aluminum industry of  course was part of the cold war effort too."   Philip Sadtler held a more basic view. Until his death he remained clear  about what had happened at Donora and who was responsible for these  events. It was murder, he said. I thought that the directors of U.S. Steel  should have gone to jail for killing people.     THE PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICE INVESTIGATION     Although the Donora disaster faded from public view, Federal Security  administrator Oscar Ewing was soon back in the nations headlines. Nine  months after his Public Health Service exonerated fluoride of the  Halloween tragedy in western Pennsylvania, Ewing had a surprise  announcement for the nation: the U.S. Public Health Service was reversing  a long-held position. The ex-Alcoa lawyer declared that his agency now  favored adding fluoride to drinking water supplies across the United States.     11     As Vital to Our National Life  As a Spark Plug to a Motor Car   

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