FLUORIDE AIR POLLUTION
A runaway technology, whose only law is profit has for years poisoned our air,
ravaged our soil, stripped our forests bare, and corrupted our water resources."
- Vance Hartke, US Senator for Indiana
Perhaps its time to consider what fluoride air pollution can do to the
environment and human health.
First, the major industries with fluoride pollution problems include:
coal-burning power stations, petro-chemical refineries, aluminium, zinc, copper,
beryllium and magnesium producing factories, steel mills, fertilizer works,
plastics manufacturers, glass factories, cement works, pottery and tile makers,
brick works, chemical factories and nuclear processing plants.
The most common and dangerous air pollutant produced by these industries and
many others, is hydrogen fluoride.
Workers in the following occupations may be exposed to hydrogen fluoride in the
Alkylation plant workers
Alloy steel cleaners
Alloy steel makers
Aluminium fluoride makers
Crystal glass polishers
Electric arc welders
Filter paper makers
Fluoride compound makers
Hydrogen fluoride makers
Neon sign makers
Oil well acidizers
Petrol refinery workers
Phosphate rock workers
Power station workers
Quartz crystal makers
Rocket fuel handlers
Rocket fuel makers
Silicon chip makers
Stainless steel cleaners
Stainless steel makers
Steel casting picklers
Fluoride air pollution can have a devastating effect on the total environment.
Angus Lazores is a Mohawk Indian. For centuries before the white-man reached
Canada and the United States, the Mohawks hunted, fished, trapped, and farmed
the islands of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, now known as the St. Regis Akwesasne
Angus Lazores, along with 1,500 other Mohawks, lives on Cornwall Island, a part
of the reserve straddling the borders of Quebec, Ontario, and Upper New York
State. The St. Regis Mohawk Band settled Cornwall Island just over a hundred
years ago; they soon became known as an efficient and self-sufficient
agricultural community. In 1959, there were 45 farmers, forty cattle barns and
364 dairy cattle on the Island.
Twenty years later, only eight farmers and eight cattle barns were left. During
the twenty years the cattle population was decimated; all the bees on the Island
had disappeared; crop yields had fallen; partridges, after which the Akwesasne
Reserve is named, had declined drastically; and the white pine trees on the
Island were dying.
In 1959, Reynolds Metals Company had built an aluminium smelter on the south
bank of the St. Lawrence River near Massena, New York State. Cornwall Island is
downwind of the smelter at least 60 per cent of the time.
Angus Lazores dates his problems on the Island to 1962, just three years after
the smelter became operational.
In that year, cattle became lame and developed swellings on their legs,
eventually the lameness became so severe that the animals could no longer graze
normally. They laid down to eat on pasture and then crawled to the next place to
eat. With increasing age the cows had difficulty drinking cold water, and
chewing was obviously painful. The animals would grab hay but let it go after
unsuccessful attempts at mastication.
The first pregnancy and calving were usually uneventful, but the cows had small
udders and too little milk for the calf. At the third pregnancy and delivery,
the native cows had usually deteriorated, being unable to drink or chew
properly. Cows died during delivery and neonatal calf mortality was high. If
cows survived the third pregnancy they were sold for slaughter.
By 1971, the majority of farmers had switched from dairy to beef cattle and by
November 1977, there were only 177 cattle on the Island compared with 364 in
The cause of the cattle disease was admitted only after many years. In 1969,
officials of the Canadian Ministry of the Environment had expressed concern to
Reynolds Metals about fluoride emissions impacting on the Island. Four years
later, the St. Regis Local Council authorised an investigation into pollutants
emitted by the smelter. In July 1973, the Council were advised that damage to
the pine trees on the Island was due to fluoride gases.
Two years later, urine samples from Cornwall Island cattle showed abnormal
levels of fluoride.
In November 1975, Angus Lazore's cattle were examined by a veterinarian called
Abbey, sent by Reynolds Metals. He claimed that internal and external parasites
were responsible for the condition of the cattle - fluoride
wasn't even mentioned.
The Mohawk elders were disturbed by Abbey's diagnosis and approached Professor
Lennart Krook, an eminent veterinary scientist at Cornell University.
Krook ran extensive diagnostic and pathological tests on the St. Regis cattle,
then announced his findings:
"Owing to extensive and serious chronic fluoride poisoning no cattle born on
Cornwall Island were going to live for more than five years."
During 1977 and 1978, the situation which had developed on the Island was
investigated by a team of scientists from the New York State College of
Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University. Leaders of the team were Professor
Krook and Dr George Maylin. In the introduction to their published report, they
"Of all pollutants that affect farm animals, fluorine has caused the most severe
and widespread damage. The object of the present study is to record yet another
man-made fluorine pollution disaster and to interpret the pathogenesis of the
osseous changes in view of recent advances in the understanding of bone
While Krook and Maylin focused on the cattle, Dr Clancy Gordon of the University
of Montana, examined 2,600 plant samples from Cornwall Island and found very
high levels of fluoride in all the vegetation tested.
University of Illinois scientists were then recruited to see if the Islanders
themselves were suffering health problems resulting from excessive exposure to
fluoride. Doctors Bertram Carnow and Shirley Conibear reported:
"Significant numbers of people with abnormalities of the muscular, skeletal,
nervous and blood systems."
In addition, Cornwall Island physicians had noted high rates of anaemia, rashes,
irritability, diabetes, high blood pressure and thyroid disease.
Carnow and Conibear concluded that there had been;
"Unquestionably heavy exposure to fluorine compounds that has affected all the
They recommended an immediate reduction in smelter fluoride emissions. Chief
Francis of the Mohawk Indian Band put it more dramatically, he advised anyone
living in areas where smelters might be built, to:
"Block the project. Block them with everything you have. If you fail then move.
Move as quickly as you can because there's no money that can buy your health
Reynolds Metals spent its first ten years of operation spewing over 130 kilos of
fluoride emissions an hour, directly downstream to Cornwall Island. Even after
New York State regulations forced the company to reduce its emissions to 30
kilos an hour by 1975, Reynolds' "gift" to the Mohawks had been an appalling 12
MILLION KILOS OF AIRBORNE FLUORIDE CONTAMINANTS OVER TWENTY YEARS.
The Mohawk way of life became a victim of a preventable man-made
plague. And you don't have to go to Canada to find fluoride pollution problems.
For more than a century, the Hunter Valley Region of New South Wales has
produced some of Australia's finest wines.
On Tuesday July 8 1980, the Tyrrell's and the Tulloch's, Reg Drayton and Dr Max
Lake together with Chris Barnes, who, as President of the Hunter Valley Vineyard
Association represented virtually all the other wine-makers, held a press
conference at the Hilton Hotel, Sydney.
Their message was simple - they could foresee the day when the Hunter Valley was
finished as a wine-growing area. And the reason? For the past ten years the
ALCAN aluminium smelter at Kurri-Kurri had rained 600 to 700 tonnes of fluoride
pollutants onto the surrounding landscape annually. The wine-makers said they
had known nothing about these fluoride emissions until 10 months previously, yet
fluoride pollutants have, in the past, reduced grape yield and decimated
vineyards in Spain, Greece, Bulgaria and the Rhone Valley.
Ever since the beginning of the industrial revolution but particularly in the
second half of this century, wholesale pollution of air and of the countryside
with fluoride fumes and fall-out has taken place; and the most common and most
dangerous fluoride air pollutant is HYDROGEN FLUORIDE.
As mentioned previously, Dr Jag Cook, from Britain's National Chemical Emergency
Group - which is responsible for mopping up any major toxic spills in the UK -
has said: "Hydrogen fluoride is about the only chemical that really scares me."
Hardly surprising since amongst other things, hydrogen fluoride (HF) eats up
glass and dissolves most metals.
Alright, you say, its dangerous, but I don't live near a factory that releases
HF into the atmosphere, nor do I work in an environment where HF is present. But
consider this. Demand for lead-free petrol is growing quickly and the processes
for making it involve the use of HF to achieve high octane ratings without using
lead. In fact, between 1.26 and 3.14 kilos of HF are used in the production of
every six barrels of alkylate.
As a result HF is present in the exhaust gases from vehicles using lead-free
petrol. The levels of HF, three inches from the exhaust outlet measure 30 parts
per billion, and remember at that concentration, HF can impair reflex activity
in rats by acting as a CNS depressant - in other words, a mind-dulling drug.
HYDROGEN FLUORIDE, aka: Hydrofluosilicic
is used by an increasing number of industries, and it is also
produced as a pollutant by an increasing number of industries.
A series of accidents in the United States have recently demonstrated that
industrial HF sites are a major threat to public safety.
For instance, an HF leak on 30 October 1987 at the Marathon refinery in Texas
City left 700 people in need of urgent medical treatment. Dr Fred Millar, of the
Environmental Policy Institute, said that only luck had prevented the accident
from becoming the major industrial catastrophe of the year. He pointed out:
"The release was from the vapour space of a storage tank. If the same release
had been of HF liquid thousands would likely have died in the ensuing gas cloud.
It would have been our Bhopal."
A few months later, another HF leak occurred at Mobil's refinery in Torrance,
California. This caused a raging 41-hour fire and millions of dollars worth of
damage. An official report of the accident suggested:
"The consequences may have been so great as to warrant regulations to direct
industry to phase out its use or substitute processes with less environmental
In March 1988, there was another HF leak, this time in Tulsa, Oklahoma. There,
an accident at the Sun refinery produced a three-mile-long cloud which engulfed
the town Only a prompt evacuation limited the casualties to 36 persons (none
A recent test by the US Government showed that relatively small amounts of HF
liquid will release a dense, ground-hugging gas cloud which remains lethal for
In Britain, the location of HF manufacturing plants are, according to the Health
and Safety Executive, officially secret - to prevent them becoming targets for
Many people, particularly those working in the pot-rooms of aluminium smelters,
are exposed to relatively high concentrations of hydrogen fluoride. What can it
do to them? Well, lets see.
In the spring of 1986, one of the most modern aluminium smelters in the world
went into production in Portland, Victoria. The smelter had been built by the
Aluminum Company of America (ALCOA), who also owned a much older smelter at
Point Henry, Geelong.
Two years later, on December 2 1988, the Melbourne
"SMELTER WORKERS CLAIM FOR ASTHMA."
"Twelve workers from the 35 per cent State-owned Portland aluminium smelter have
issued common-law claims against the joint-venture seeking damages for
The chairman of the Aluminium Development Council, Mr. Bruce Heister, said the
incidence of occupational asthma varied from smelter to smelter but the reasons
for this were not clear.
Damages for a case of occupational asthma were claimed against another big
aluminium producer, Comalco, at its Queensland smelter a few months ago.
The cause of pot room asthma is suspected to be an agent, or agents, in
emissions from smelter pot lines.
Since production started in Portland in October 1986, 65 workers have been
diagnosed as having occupational asthma."
In other words, after just 25 months in operation, 65 workers at one of the most
modern aluminium smelters in the world had been affected by mysterious agents in
the pot room.
Worse was to follow. On 27 April 1989, the Melbourne Herald reported:
"ALUMINIUM IS LATEST WORKER HEALTH SCARE."
"A senior Victorian union official claims workers at Geelong's ALCOA smelter are
suffering respiratory ailments potentially as deadly as those found in the
Mr. Royre Bird, slate secretary of the Federated Iron-workers Association, has
called for a national inquiry into respiratory disease in aluminium smelter
workers after a report by New South Wales researchers found evidence of
long-term irreversible lung damage.
The report, by a team from Newcastle University medical school, found workers at
Alcan Aluminium's Kurri-Kurri smelter suffered reduced lung function equivalent
to smoking a packet of cigarettes a day.
Mr. Bird, who has worked in the industry for 18 years, claimed the findings had
serious implications for the aluminium industry world-wide and for workers at
Geelong. He said he believed that apart from respiratory diseases, aluminium
workers were at risk of contracting cancer.
He claimed to have observed a "slow but gradually developing history of cancers"
at the Point Henry Plant in Geelong.
He also claimed workers at the Portland smelter, partly owned by the State
Government, were suffering higher rates of pot room asthma than at Point Henry.
Union solicitors had confirmed 176 cases of pot room asthma at Point Henry since
1964, compared with 76 at Portland. At least 20 more cases were being processed
by other solicitors, he said."
A few days later, a cancer specialist supported Mr Bird's claim when the Melbourne
Sun published the following
article on May 1 1989:
"CANCER RISK AT SMELTERS: DOCTOR".
"Workers at aluminium smelters are at risk of developing cancer as well as
chronic asthma, according to a leading cancer specialist. At least 39 smelter
workers across Australia are believed to have already died from work-related
Dr Cyril Minty, a specialist at the Peter McCallum cancer hospital, said fumes
emitted from the smelters' pot rooms ccould contain cancer-causing chemicals as
well as irritants that produced the respiratory condition known as 'pot room
Dr Minty said more than six sufferers of industrial asthma from Portland and
ALCOA's Geelong smelter had been referred to him during the past year."
Now, there is no mystery at all. The major pollutants in the pot room are
gaseous and particulate fluorides; and HYDROGEN FLUORIDE is the most common
HYDROGEN FLUORIDE IS THE MAJOR CAUSE OF POT ROOM ASTHMA AND A CONTRIBUTING
FACTOR IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF LUNG CANCER IN SOME ALUMINIUM WORKERS.
But, industrialists live in fear of conclusive evidence linking a pollutant to
'new' occupational or Neighbourhood diseases. The reason is obvious. Employers
and their insurers will face claims for compensation.
(Note: a "Neighborhood disease" is one affecting people living in the vicinity
of a pollutant producing factory.)
Industries with major fluoride pollution problems are amongst the most powerful
interest groups in society. Fluoride emissions are amongst the most difficult of
all pollutants to control effectively, and in a highly competitive economic
system, many companies will fight for their very lives to avoid spending large
amounts of money to control pollution since this will, almost inevitably,
increase the price of the end-product.
Certain sections of industry will go to great lengths to suppress stories about
fluoride pollution. Such reports might encourage people to sue for damages or,
result in pressures for tougher anti-pollution laws.
The first symptoms of exposure to trace amounts of hydrogen fluoride are NOT
physiological but psychological, and include such symptoms as confusion,
fatigue, partial loss of memory and mental dullness. To put it another way,
behaviour is exquisitely sensitive to minute traces of hydrogen fluoride (and
other pollutants) in the environment.
Unfortunately, the tests to which chemical substances are usually subjected in
efforts to determine their so-called"maximum
permissible doses or concentration" do
not take into account possible changes in mental function, and also would often
fail to pick up long-term or chronic effects on the organism.
Minute concentrations of hydrogen fluoride inhaled over lengthy periods of time
CAN DAMAGE VITAL COMPONENTS OF THE IMMUNE SYSTEM - this leaves the individual
vulnerable to opportunistic diseases.
Last century, canaries were taken down coal mines because of the presence of
trace amounts of deadly gases in the mines. The gases were undetectable by smell
but if the canary died, the miners got out - quickly!
Some scientists suspect that FROGS have become analogous to the coal-mine
canaries. All over the world frogs are disappearing and no-one knows why. The
best guess so far is that pollution of the environment is responsible. I'd like
to tell you about an experiment I recently completed.
In the adult human the immune system weighs about two pounds and consists of
around a trillion lymphocytes and about 100 million trillion molecules called
antibodies that are produced and secreted by the lymphocytes.
In a mouse, the immune system consists of about 300 million lymphocytes and
around a trillion antibodies.
The smallest known immune system, that of a tadpole, is estimated to have a
million lymphocytes and an antibody repertoire of about 10 million. Smaller
immune systems do not exist presumably because such systems would recognise
antigen so infrequently that they would provide little, if any, protective
I exposed tadpoles to a number of increasingly common environmental pollutants,
including mercury, cadmium and hydrofluoric acid - which is hydrogen fluoride in
water, and both gas and acid have the same formula, HF.
Incredibly low concentrations of these chemicals proved lethal to the tadpoles.
But technically speaking, the tadpoles didn't die of "mercury poisoning" or
"cadmium poisoning," or "hydrofluoric acid" poisoning. They died because the
chemicals 'wrecked' their immune systems leaving the tadpoles vulnerable to all
the germs and parasites in their environment.
The significance of this is that scientists still evaluate the toxicity of a
chemical by determining what amount of the chemical causes obvious damage or
For instance, lets look at a common chemical - sodium fluoride.
It would take at least 3 grams of sodium fluoride to kill a healthy adult.
That's the amount in 3,000 litres of fluoridated water. Hydrofluosilicic
If you ingested about 8 milligrams of sodium fluoride daily for ten years or
more, you would develop a well-defined disease called skeletal fluorosis, which
affects bones, tendons and secondarily, the nervous system. If an infant
ingested 2 milligrams of fluoride daily, they would develop dental fluorosis or
Apparently therefore, the only problems that low doses of sodium fluoride can
cause are either dental fluorosis or skeletal fluorosis. The CLINICAL symptoms
of these conditions are easily detected - 'mottled' teeth and 'bony outgrowths'
and the calcification of tendons in skeletal fluorosis.
BUT WHAT ABOUT SUB-CLINICAL SYMPTOMS - THOSE THAT WE CAN'T SEE?
Experiments have shown water containing 1 to 4 parts per million can have an
effect on the Central Nervous System - a mind-dulling effect! Experiments have
also demonstrated that fluoride at a concentration of just 0.6 parts per million
can disturb antibody production, and thus interfere with the functioning of the
And many experiments have shown that concentrations of fluoride of about 4 parts
per million can damage DNA - the vital core of every living cell.
In other words, at very low concentrations, fluoride can cause subtle changes in
enzyme activities, nerve action potentials, altered behavioural reaction, and
the immune system.
AND YOU WERE TOLD FLUORIDE WAS SAFE ?
About Dr. Smith
Dr Geoffrey Ernest Smith, L.D.S., R.C.S. (Eng.)
Dental Surgeon, (retired)
1 November 1932, Married, 5 children, 4 grandchildren.
Lawrence House School, St. Annes on Sea, Lancashire. Rossall School, Fleetwood,
Lancashire. University of Manchester, Turner Dental School.
Qualified L.D.S., R.C.S. Royal College of Surgeons. (England).
Post-Graduate Studies. Queens University, Belfast.
Travelling Fellowship, UK Medical Research Council; WHO Regional Office,
Brazzaville. Based University of Ibaden W. Nigeria. Field work: Nigeria, Ghana,
Sierra Leone, Gambia and Liberia.
General Dental Practice, London and Dublin.
Consultant, Aspro-Nicholas, Ireland, Ltd., Dublin.
Consultant, Glaxo Group Ltd., London.
Consultant, PIA Ltd., Lopex Group, London, New York.
Consultant, Nicholas International, Slough & Melbourne.
General Dental Practice and School Dentistry, Melbourne.
Hospital Dentist, Proserpine, North Queensland.
Anthropology and Archaeology, University of Melbourne.
- Consultant, Environmental and Public Health.
Some relevant papers in the scientific literature:
Med.J. 1983;96, 1067-1068.
Biol.Med. 1986 29, 560-
Scientist 1983;5 May 286-287
1983, Editorial, Autumn.
1987, 63, 1-11.
1984, 29, 199-200.
1987, 11, 16-
Gen.Pract.1984, 34, 350-351.
1987, 71, 23
1985, 15, 177-186.
Scientist, 1987, 1, 24.
1985, 69, 429-442.
1988, 68, 79-86.
1985, 43, 41-61.
Med.J. 1985, 90, 556-557.
Med.J. 1985, 98, 454-455.
1988, 31, 440-45
Med.J. 1988, 100, 669-670.
1988, 76, 167-
Scientist, 1985, 1467-, 50-51.
Med.J. 1988, 101, 802.
Med.l. 1985, 30, 232-233.
1986, 19, 139-
1985, 143, 283-286.
1990, 241, 339-
1986, 144, 152.
Kenkyo, 1990, 11, 38-48
1986, 4(3), 6. (Japanese)
1986, 19, 105-107.
1989, 31, 1-2.
1986; 323, 198.
Dent.J., 1985, 30, 232-233
Note: The Secret War was originally prepared as a personal submission to the
Brisbane City Council's Task Force on Fluoridation, in March 1997.