– Fluoride: A Chronological History (Must-read!)
Earlier drafts of this essay had a several page chemistry narrative at its beginning, which presented some germane aspects of chemistry, to make this essay more understandable. Early readers felt it was too much technical information for those in the lay audience, particularly as they begin their reading experience.
The original chemistry prelude was designed to help the reader understand the nature of fluoride, why it is used in industry how it is, why it is a waste product of certain industrial processes, and lays the groundwork for understanding why it was so important in the nuclear industry. To make it easier on readers, that prelude is now an addendum to this essay. Reading the prelude is not imperative to understanding this essay, but might make some things clearer.
In short, fluorine is the most reactive element known to science (“reactive” means its affinity to bonding with other elements). In nature, fluorine is found bonded to other elements, never floating around by itself, and is rarely found in its ionic state. The industrial processes of the nineteenth century created the most toxic pollutants that humanity had seen to that time. Taking ore from the earth and removing the metal, especially in aluminum refining, created hazardous waste.
In its ionic state, fluorine is highly toxic. Fluorine bonded to metallic ore in the earth was liberated during the refining process and is difficult-to-impossible to safely dispose. The aluminum refining industry was the biggest and most influential fluoride polluter around 1930, and in America only one company was in the aluminum business: ALCOA.
Fluorine is also useful in producing artificial chemicals such as Teflon and Freon, because of its unique properties. Those unique properties also made fluorine indispensable in refining uranium to extract its most radioactive isotope, which made the nuclear age possible.
Compulsory Fluoridation: An Industrial Tale
The increasing industrialization of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries saw an explosion in aluminum use. Aluminum is a ubiquitous substance in industrialized societies. It is everywhere, from electrical wiring to food and beverage cans to cookware to automobiles to airplanes. As the Industrial Revolution was hitting its stride a century ago, the aluminum refiners had a major problem with the fluorides attending aluminum production: they are deadly poisons. Fluorine once safely bound with aluminum, copper and iron in the earth’s crust was reintroduced into the environment in its ionic state. The fluorides were not only being buried in the ground and put into the water, they were also being released into the air by industrial processes. Fluoride pollution was a major industrial problem.
John Yiamouyiannis, in his influential Fluoride and the Aging Factor, described how the fluorine ion disrupts enzyme activity and attacks DNA and protein. In his theories, backed up by research, the fluorine ion particularly disrupts hydrogen bonds. When chemicals are dumped together, the elements that have a higher bonding affinity will “steal” the bonds from other elements. Because it holds its electrons more tightly than any other element, fluorine forms the smallest negatively charged ions of all the elements, and that small size allows them to go where larger ions cannot. Those fluorine ions can get into the nooks and crannies of larger molecules, such as enzymes and DNA, and wreak biological havoc. Those fluorine ions disrupt weaker bonds in those larger molecules, damaging or destroying the original substance, disabling its biochemical usefulness. The fluorine ion acts similarly to “free radicals” in the body, with its net electrical charge interfering with biochemical reactions. That is how the fluorine ion harms or kills people.
Another common industrial element, chlorine, behaves similarly, and the chlorine issue is another one where chlorine is undoubtedly carcinogenic, among other health hazards, but industrial propaganda and criminal activity keeps the heat off chlorine. Chlorine is the other element compulsorily added to the water supply, to kill microorganisms.
There is no arguing that fluorides are deadly poisons. No scientist will argue the point, as it is universally accepted. Among the hazards of fluoride are dental fluorosis, skeletal fluorosis, sterility, birth defects, cancer and brain damage.