Fluoride Information

Fluoride is a poison. Fluoride was poison yesterday. Fluoride is poison today. Fluoride will be poison tomorrow. When in doubt, get it out.

An American Affidavit

Friday, August 21, 2015

Ch. 6. How the Manhattan Project Sold Us Fluoride: the fluoride deception by Christopher Bryson from archive.org

How the Manhattan 
Project Sold Us Fluoride 

Newburgh, Harshaw, and Jim Conant's Ruse 

For half a century assurances from the Public Health Service that water 
fluoridation is safe have rested on the results of the 1945 
New-burgh-Kingston Fluorine-Caries Trial, in which the health of 
children from the fluoridated town of Newburgh, New York, were 
compared for ten years with children from neighboring nonfluoridated 
Kingston. But recently declassified documents link the wartime Public 
Health Service's interest in fluoride to the Manhattan Project. And a trail 
of papers showing how bomb-program scientists from the University of 
Rochester secretly monitored the Newburgh experiment, studying 
biological samples from local citizens — and crudely manipulating at least 
one other wartime study of fluoride's dental and toxic effects — suggests 
that Newburgh was simply another cold war human experiment, serving 
the interests of the nuclear industrial state. 

THE VIEW FROM the Old Firehouse on Broadway in the city of 
Newburgh, New York, is one of the more majestic in the Empire State. 
The boulevard climbs purpose-straight through the center of town from 
the valley below, and whipped by a January wind, a lone pedestrian can 
see east across the mighty Hudson River to a spine of rolling hills in the 
Connecticut distance. In the spring of 1945 the wind carried the laughter 
of hundreds of excited school children as they chattered their way to a 
free public-health clinic inside the Old Firehouse. Doctors wanted to 
examine the children. 



Newburgh had become only the second place in the United States to 
artificially add fluoride to public water supplies. 

Last week came news that fluorine is to be tried out with whole towns as 
guinea pigs, Time announced approvingly in April '944 The magazine 
suggested that, where fluoride was found naturally in the groundwater, 
"dentists' chief occupation is holding citizens' mouths open to display their 
perfect teeth. ' 

It wasn't just teeth the doctors were interested in. The 
New-burgh-Kingston Fluorine-Caries Trial, as it was formally known, was 
considered the most extensive of the several fluoride experiments then 
being planned around the United States. Over a period of ten years a team 
from the New York State Department of Health would conduct a battery of 
psychological exams and X-rays on the Newburgh children, plus 
measuring their blood, urine, height, and weight. The information would be 
compared with data from children in the neighboring fluoride-free town of 
Kingston, New York. The news that Newburgh would host the experiment 
created a buzz among local citizens. The gritty, blue-collar industrial town 
was home to a large population of immigrant Italian Americans as well as 
African Americans who had come from the South. Most considered 
themselves fortunate to be early recipients of a new public-health measure. 

"I can remember a lot of excitement as a young child," remembered a 
lifelong Newburgh resident and former Mayor, Audrey Carey, who 
regularly attended the Broadway clinic in 1945 as a child. Careys parents 
were poor, she explained. Her father became only the second African 
American on the Newburgh police force, and the family was grateful for 
the daughters free health checkups. 

In the front room there was a dental chair and someone would check 
your teeth and you would see the nurse," Carey recalled. "You would have 
your height, your weight [measured, and] they would do some urine. I can 
remember that occurring every month of the year for a very long time. 

The tests were designed to answer a simple safety question — whether 
the chemical produced nondental health problems (a medi cal agenda that, 
of course, was not publicized to local citizens). Are there any cumulative 
effects — beneficial or otherwise, on tissues and organs other than the 
teeth — of long-continued ingestion of 



such small concentrations ... [of fluoride]? the doctors explained to their 
colleagues in various academic publications and conferences on the topic' 

Some of the most powerful voices in the nation were asking similar 
questions about fluoride's toxicity — with wartime urgency. Earlier in the 
fall of 1943 President Roosevelt s science adviser, James Conant, had 
organized a major Conference on Fluoride Metabolism, secretly convened 
on behalf of the Manhattan Project. 

The conference was held on January 6, 1944, in New York City, and 
conference transcripts and letters from Conant are among the first 
documents that connect the atomic -bomb program to water fluoridation 
and to the Public Health Service (PHS).' Weapon makers wanted to use the 
health service as a wartime camouflage, a fig leaf for the atomic bomb. In 
a letter dated September 25, 1943, Conant explained to the chief of the 
Division of Industrial Hygiene, J. J. Townsend, that a "consultant" Dr. 
Stafford Warren would secretly provide the conference financing. This 
consultant, of course, was none other than Colonel Stafford Warren, the 
Manhattan Projects Medical Director. 

It is sincerely hoped that the Public Health Service will be willing to 
sponsor the conference and to send out the invitations to the contributors 
under its own letterhead, Conant wrote to Townsend. All the 
arrangements such as the selection of the speakers will be taken care of by 
Dr. Warren. The purpose of this letter," Conant added, "is to assure you of 
the importance of this symposium and of the real need for the information 
in connection with the war effort. However, this picture of the purpose of 
the meeting is for your information only, and it is desirable that the 
impression be given that the interest is in industrial hazards only." 

Dr. Townsend replied that if the Public Health service could review the 
agenda and "the qualifications of the individuals who might be invited to 
attend ... the Surgeon General would be very glad to call such a 
conference. 4 

On January 6, 1944, a Whos Who of the wartime fluoride industry 
passed through the doors of New York's Hotel Pennsylvania. Mingling 
were the top medical men from the army and from the companies and 
universities building the atomic bomb, including DuPont, Union Carbide, 
Columbia, and Johns Hopkins. Also 


attending were Alcoa s top fluoride expert, Francis Frary; Helmuth Schrenk 
from the Bureau of Mines; the biochemist Wallace Armstrong from the 
University of Minnesota; and Edward J. Largent from the Kettering 

Dr. Paul A. Neal of the National Institutes of Health outlined the critical 
importance of fluoride to the war economy — and emphasized how little 
doctors knew about health effects on workers. Aluminum, magnesium, 
refrigerants, aerosol propellants, insecticides, phosphates for animal feeds, 
hydrofluoric acid ("especially its use as a catalyst in oil refining ), and the 
employment of fluoride fluxes among an estimated 150,000 welders were 
just some of the burgeon ing uses for fluoride in the war effort, Neal 
reported. There was a " definite need," he added, "for careful, thorough 
investigation on workmen who have been exposed for many years to 
fluorides. However, it has been postponed until after the war since such an 
investigation could hardly be made at this time without undue interruption 
of the output of these industries." 5 

The conference organizers had made what seemed to be a surprising 
addition to the guest list: Dr. David B. Ast, chief dental officer of the New 
York State Health Department. Dr. Ast was then preparing to add sodium 
fluoride to the drinking water of Newburgh, New York, in a stated bid to 
improve dental health in children. Although the conference had been 
secretly arranged by the Manhattan Project — whose industrial contractors 
were concerned that workers in bomb factories would be poisoned by 
fluoride — the dental researcher quickly justified his attendance at the 
conference. Military officials and industrial contractors heard a conference 
report that animal tests were of doubtful value" in studying fluoride 
toxicity in humans, and that there was confusion over amounts that "may 
cause deleterious effects in adults." Dr. Ast then boldly volunteered a 
solution.' He suggested that researchers could examine whether fluoride in 
drinking water was harmful to people, and thereby help to determine 
whether the chemical posed a risk to workers in factories. The 
"accumulated effects of small doses of fluoride in drinking water [could] 
be studied in the U.S.... [and that] evidence of the effects of consumption of 
fluoride over that period of time might [ become apparent], Ast told the 

Until such human fluoride studies could be done, however, a 



temporary workplace standard had to be fixed. Following the morning 
conference session, the Manhattan Project had arranged a luncheon for ten 
persons who will meet to set standards." It is not clear if the ten men who 
met for lunch that day — including the Public Health Services H. Trendley 
Dean, the researcher who had reported that fluoride found naturally in 
water in some areas of the country was associated with fewer 
cavities — knew that their meal was paid for by the Manhattan Project. But 
Harold Hodge knew: he paid the tab with bomb-program funds. "It would 
be convenient if cash can be provided and delivered here by Dr. Harold 
Hodge," the Manhattan Projects Captain Ferry had ordered.' 

A sacrifice was needed from war workers, the lunch team decided. 
Although earlier that morning DuPonts Dr. A. N. Benning had described 
how i part per million of hydrogen fluoride in air etched glass in two hours, 
the diners determined that 6 parts per million of fluoride breathed in factory 
air would be the wartime fluoride standard for an 8-hour workday, six days 
a week. The existing 3-ppm threshold in several states was an arbitrary 
figure not based on any specific evidence, stated Dr. Carl Voegtlin of the 
University of Rochester, who chaired the lunch session. We do not want to 
set up standards that are so extreme on the lower side that it makes it hard to 
operate the plants, Voegtlin added, We can say that in the absence of 
definite evidence, we feel... [emphasis in original]. 

Francis Frary of the Aluminum Company of America doubted whether 
standards were even necessary. "The best guide is the individual response," 
suggested Frary, explaining that "I doubt in the case of man whether there 
is enough hydrofluoric acid in the air that is comfortable to breathe that 
would cause any damage." 

Hodge finessed the problem, suggesting that We can also say that men 
working in plants where we know the atmosphere is varied at all times, 
should by certain screening methods, be protected. 

A lone dissent drifted across the lunch table. "I should think that 
someone is going to be hurt by the long exposure to the irritant," interposed 
Dr. Wallace Armstrong from the University of Minnesota.' 

Following the New York conference, as the giant gaseous diffusion 
plant secretly rose amid the virgin woodland at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, 
planning for the public-water-fluoridation experiment 



in Newburgh also proceeded apace. A Technical Advisory Committee was 
selected to guide the New York Health Department. The chairman of that 
expert committee, it was announced, would be a pharmacologist from the 
University of Rochester, Dr. Harold Hodge. "Possible toxic effects of 
fluoride were in the forefront of consideration, the Advisory Committee 

On May 2, 1945, the Hudson River city became the second community 
in the world to be artificially fluoridated. Over the next ten years its 
residents were studied by the New York State Health Department. Secretly, 
in tandem with the states public investigation, Hodge's classified 
"Program F" at the University of Rochester conducted its own studies, 
measuring how much fluoride Newburgh citizens retained in their blood 
and tissues — key information sought by the atomic bomb program." 
Health Department personnel cooperated, shipping blood and placenta 
samples to the Rochester scientists. The samples were collected by Dr. 
David B. Overton, the Department's chief of pediatric studies at 

Hodge was not the only scientist associated with the Newburgh 
experiment who had ties to the bomb program. Dr. Henry L. Barnett, who 
joined the Technical Advisory Committee after the war, was described as a 
pediatrician. But Barnett had also been a Manhattan Project medical 
captain, sent to Japan following the nuclear bomb ings as a leading 
member of the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commis-sion. 13 And Dr. Joe 
Howland, who drew control samples of blood from residents of Rochester, 
New York, where no fluoride had been added to water supplies — for 
comparison with fluoride levels in the blood of Newburgh citizens — was 
an especially practiced human experimenter.' On April 10, 1945, for 
example, as chief of Manhattan Project medical investigations searching 
for information on the health effects of bomb program materials, Captain 
Howland had driven a plutonium-laden needle into the arm of Ebb Cade, 
an unsuspecting victim of a Tennessee car accident, who had the simple 
misfortune of landing in the Oak Ridge hospital.' 

Although Dr. David Ast of the New York State Health Department 
clearly realized that water fluoridation could give industry useful 
information about fluoride s health effects on humans — as evinced by his 
testimony at the Manhattan Projects 1943 Conference on Fluoride 
Metabolism (above) — today he maintains that he 



did not know about the Manhattan Projects involvement at New-burgh. If 
I had known, I would have been certainly investigating why, and what the 
connection was, Dr. Ast told me.' 

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 
biological proof — based on work performed ... at the University of 
Rochester Atomic Energy Project — was delivered by Dr. Hodge." 

Publicly the safety verdict boosted federal efforts to promote water 
fluoridation. Privately the data was also helpful to the nuclear weapons 
industry, explained Hymer L. Friedell, the Manhattan Project's first 
medical director. Workers alleging harmful exposure to fluoride would 
now find it more difficult to sue the government or its industrial contractors, 
Friedell stated.' "Any claim about fluorides — here was the evidence that it 
was of no consequence," 
said Friedell. 19 

"Anything that was evidence of a no-effect' level was important 
information," agreed the former Rochester scientist and historian, 
J. Newell Stannard. 20 

Although he claimed no knowledge of the Medical Section's role in the 
Newburgh experiment, Hymer Friedell was not surprised that 
bomb-program scientists had been involved. "There may have been some 
things done that were not ever in the record," he admitted. 

But there were records. In the once-secret archives of the Manhattan 
Projects Medical Section, there exists an entire file on New-burgh. Inside 
the file — coded "G-lo by the U.S. Army — is a startling revelation: The top 
fluoride scientist for the U.S. Public Health Service, Dr. H. Trendley Dean, 
the man who later became famous as "the father of fluoridation," had 
secretly opposed the Newburgh fluoridation experiment, fearing fluoride's 
toxicity. 21 

Dean's opposition was a potential disaster. News that the leading 
fluoride scientist from the PHS was against adding fluoride to Newburgh's 
water — on the grounds of toxicity — would certainly have frightened the 
Newburgh citizens, perhaps aborted the nations water-fluoridation 
program entirely, and eventually have alerted nuclear workers to the 
danger of handling fluorides. 

But Deans dissent was never made public. Instead, Harold 
Hodge passed the troubling news on to Colonel Stafford Warren at Oak 

Dear Staff: Hodge wrote on September 15, 1944. Here is a copy of the 
current file relating to the Kingston-Newburgh study. If desired, I would be 
glad to come down to your place and talk this problem over. Sincerely, 
Harold. (Scrawled on the letter in what may be Warrens handwriting is a 
note: Return to Medical Section files.")" 

Enclosed with Hodge s letter are key documents detailing the planning 
and protocol for the Newburgh experiment. The Manhattan Project was, 
indeed, deeply interested in public water fluoridation. The papers include 
letters from Hodge to Newburgh planners requesting additional "bone" 
studies — key information sought by the bomb program — and an agenda for 
a meeting of the Newburgh Technical Advisory Committee, with the word 
Warren scrawled across the top. 23 

The G-io file also records Dean's opposition to water fluoridation. His 
showdown with the Newburgh planners occurred at 2:00 PM on April 24, 
1944, at the Department of Healths offices at 80 Centre Street in New York 
City, according to the Advisory Committee meeting minutes sent to 
Colonel Warren.- Dr. Harold Hodge chaired the meeting. Almost 
immediately, a question of cumulative poisoning was raised. This is the 
crux of the whole problem of toxicity as it relates to this study," meeting 
minutes record. 

Dr. Dean took the floor. The PHS expert explained that in parts of the 
country with high levels of groundwater fluoride (8 ppm) he had seen 
evidence of "toxic effects" in local residents, including " bone changes" 
and "cataracts." He wanted more time "to study lower concentrations to see 
at what level the effects disappear," he told the committee. Dean worried 
that fluoride posed a special risk to the elderly; he told the committee that 
he feared Newburgh's citizens might experience "cumulative effects past 
middle age." The govern ment expert explained that if, for example, a 
persons kidneys did not work well, that person would be at greater risk for 
poisoning as more fluoride accumulated in their body. According to the 
Technical Advisory Committee meeting minutes, an unanswered question 
about the pending experiment was what to look for in the way of 



evidences of early intoxication. Dr. Dean recommended that both the 
child and the past middle age groups be considered. With the renal 
impairment common to older age groups, fluorine intake and output even 
in small concentrations may not be balanced." 

But Hodge and his Newburgh team were anxious to proceed. Much 
publicity had already been given to the proposed experiment, recalled Dr. 
Edward S. Rogers of the New York State Department of Health. Similarly, 
another Advisory Committee member, Dr. Philip Jay from the University 
of Michigan, felt this was the propitious time for such a study from a 
psychological standpoint. Another Committee member alluded to 
pressure from Washington policy makers. While her own feeling 
was conservative, noted Dr. Katherine Bain of the U.S. Department of 
Labor's Children's Bureau, "the project had the approval of the Children s 
Bureau. (The Children s Bureau was financing the Newburgh experiment.) 

Chairman Hodge called a final Advisory Committee vote at 4: 15 PM, 
on whether to proceed with the experiment. Dean was the lone voice in 
opposition. Dr. Dean did not agree that the proposed program could be 
considered a perfectly safe procedure from a public health point of view," 
the meeting minutes record. Nevertheless, the committee voted in favor of 
the experiment to fluoridate Newburgh's water. 

Shortly afterwards, as wartime pressures mounted in that summer of 1944 
Dean performed an unreported but spectacular flip-flop, transforming 
himself from foe to friend of water fluoridation. Just three months after 
giving Newburgh the thumbs-down, Dean announced that he now favored 
adding fluoride to public drinking water in the city of Grand Rapids, 
Michigan. He would be one of the lead investigators, comparing children's 
teeth for ten years with another neighboring nonfluoridated city, Muskegon. 
Six months later, on January 25, 1945, America's great fluoride experiment 
began. One hundred and seven barrels of sodium fluoride were delivered to 
Grand Rapids, where, at 4:00 PM city technicians gingerly began tipping it 
into the citys drinking water supply. 

Dean's wartime gyration was well rewarded. In 1948 he was appointed 
the first director of the National Institute of Dental Research, and in 1953 
he took a senior position with the American Dental Association. Until now 
Deans dissent on Newburgh has 

how the Manhattan project sold us fluoride 87 never been 

made public. The government has long dismissed 
claims that any of its scientists ever endorsed water fluoridation despite 
reservations regarding its safety.' 

When the scientist and historian Newell Stannard was told of the 
once-classified correspondence between Hodge and his Manhattan Project 
bosses on Newburgh — as well as the military s involvement in the public 
water fluoridation experiment — he was surprised but saw the logic. I 
dont think [the military] was really interested in water fluoridation. I think 
they were looking for information on toxicity on fluorine, and fluorides," 
he said. 

But former Newburgh Mayor Audrey Carey is appalled at the news that 
medical officials from the atomic weapons establishment secretly 
monitored and studied her fellow citizens during the cold war. "It is 
reprehensible; it is shocking; it reminds me of the experiments that were 
done regarding syphilis down in Alabama [in which African Americans 
were not told that they had the venereal disease, so government doctors 
could study them]," she said in an interview.' Now Carey wants answers 
from the government about the secret history of fluoride and about 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." 

Did Harold Hodge and the Rochester bomb scientists suppress or censor 
adverse health findings from the Newburgh study? There is some 
indication that they did; however, as we shall see, prying information from 
the University of Rochester's cold war archive is no easy task, confounding 
the best efforts of a Presidential Commission in 1994. (For a further 
discussion of censorship and of Newburgh health effects today, see 
chapters 7 and 17.) 

Evidence that military censors did remove information about fluoride's 
harmful effects can be seen in another study performed by Rochester 
bomb-program scientists, published in the August 1 948 issue of the Journal 
of the American Dental Association. A comparison with the original, 
unpublished secret version found by the medical writer Joel Griffiths in the 
files of the Manhattan Projects Medical Section illustrates the ways cold 
war authorities censored damaging information on fluoride, to the point of 



In these files Manhattan Project Captain Peter Dale at the University of 
Rochester reported in the second half of 1943 on the preliminary results of 
two dental investigations, a study of oral conditions among laboratory 
fluoride workers at Columbia University, and a study of dental conditions 
among workers exposed to dilute and anhydrous hydrofluoric acid in 

The results from Columbia, where scientists at the War Research 
Laboratories were using fluoride to enrich uranium, were disappointing, 
even worrying. Fluoride did not prevent cavities, Captain Dale suggested. 
Of the ninety-five laboratory workers examined, "the total number of tooth 
surfaces filled and attacked by caries was not significantly altered by 
exposure to hydrofluoric acid vapor," Dale reported. 29 The fluoride might 
have been producing a harmful effect. Dr. Homer Priest, a leading fluorine 
scientist, reported that his "teeth seemed to be deteriorating rapidly." Dr. 
Priest also told the Medical Section that his gums bled more freely and that 
there has been a progressive increase in the degree of slowness of healing 
and of pain in the period he has been doing 
this work. 30 

The Columbia data were never published in the scientific literature. But 
the results of the second dental study, on the laborers at the Harshaw 
Chemical Company in Cleveland, became an important piece of evidence 
for the idea that fluoride reduced cavities. 31 The study is particularly 
illustrative. As we saw earlier, work conditions at Harshaw Chemical 
Company were appalling. Two workers had been killed by fluoride acid in 
1945. So much fluoride and uranium was escaping from the plant that the 
FBI had been called in. And the Atomic Energy Commission proposed 
secretly tracking former workers, to discover the incidence of lung 
cancer. 32 None of that was made public, however. All that the medical 
community learned about Harshaw and fluoride was from a study 
published in the 1948 issue of the Journal of the American Dental 
Association — a study "based on work performed ... for the Manhattan 
Project at the Uni versity of Rochester at the suggestion of Harold C. 
Hodge" — that reported that the men had better teeth. When compared with 
the original secret study, the published version reveals crude censorship 
and data distortion, according to the toxicologist Phyllis Mullenix, who 
read both versions. 33 


• The secret version states that most of the men had few or no teeth; they 

were "in large proportion edentulous [toothless] or nearly edentulous. 
This information, however, was left out of the published version. The 
published study merely notes that the fluoride workers had fewer 
cavities than did unexposed workers. 

• The published version omits the suggestion that fluoride was 
actually harming the mens teeth. While the secret version states, " 
There was some indication [teeth] may have been etched and pol 
ished by [the acid], and that exposure of the teeth to the acid 
may have contributed to the attrition observed, the public version, 
instead, concocts an observation seen nowhere in the original. It 
states that strangely enough, dental erosion or decalcification of 
enamel and dentin commonly seen in workers exposed to inor 
ganic acids [fluoride] was not seen. The published version omits 
information about the harmful effect that fluoride may have had 
on teeth, ignoring physical evidence that indicated otherwise. 

A lie, commented Mullenix. The published version had simply 
reversed the original medical observation that fluoride may have corroded 
and consumed the men's teeth, she said. 

• The published version implies that the men were at fault for refusing to 
wear protective masks, instead preferring to chew tobacco or gum for 
protection." The secret study makes no mention of masks (and a later 
Ohio State study criticized Harshaw for not giving its workers protective 

• The published study states that men "with clean mouths" had good teeth. 
Men "with neglected mouths" had "a peculiar brownish deposit which 
seemed to cover the enamel of the anterior teeth in large quantities." The 
secret version, however, makes no distinction in the mens oral hygiene, 
noting that all men, as a group, neglected their mouths." The published 
report therefore makes the bad, or discolored, teeth appear to be the 
workers fault. The dirty brown teeth were now a function of the mens 
hygiene, Mullenix remarked. In other words, [the censored study is] 
blaming the victim for not having a clean mouth. 



The published Harshaw study helped to shift the national medical debate 
over exposure to industrial fluoride. Several studies during the 1940S had 
already shown that acid in an industrial environment hurt workers teeth, 
and Dr. Priests experience at Columbia University suggested that the same 
was happening with wartime fluoride workers. Now, said Phyllis Mullenix, 
instead of blaming fluoride for eroding teeth, with the help of "a clever 
editing job" the published study became a piece of dental propaganda that 
buries the American fluoride worker. 

It totally changes the viewpoint, Mullenix told me. This makes me 
ashamed to be a scientist." Of other cold war-era fluoride safety studies, 
she asks, Were they all done like this? 

Recently, in Cleveland, a roomful of surviving Harshaw fluoride 
workers erupted in grim laughter when told about Harold Hodges censored 
dental study. I showed Allen Hurt the once-secret results of the long-ago 
measurements of fluoride in his urine, analyzed by AEC doctors at the 
University of Rochester; the fluoride was recorded at the extraordinarily 
high levels of 17.8 mg/liter." Today he is plagued with arthritis, he says, 
while many of his Harshaw friends died young of cancer. Nevertheless, 
smiling a largely toothless grin, Hurt commented on the published dental 
study: They had to come up with something." 


A Subterranean Channel of 

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