The news that it appears some anti-fluoridation hens have come home to roost in Calgary has left me nostalgic for those old-school conspiracy theories.
Over the years, fluoride-in-the-water-as-government-plot has had everything. Fluoridation has been put forward as having been a method of prisoner control used by the Nazis – it most certainly was not – and then, during the late 1940s and well into the 1960s, fluoride in the water was posited as being a communist plot to undermine the West.
One school of thought had it that fluoridated water was a carefully crafted public-health initiative designed to reduce tooth decay; by its very nature and proven effectiveness, fluoride would thus normalize socialized medicine, which could not end well.
As early fluoride critics saw it, it was only a matter of time before Americans all had great teeth – but were living on communal farms.
Some in the anti-fluoride ranks famously argued that communists, having infiltrated America's government, were "poisoning" the water with fluoride because fluoride made the population stupid and, when peak stupid had been reached, the communist overlords would step in.
Other, more outlandish (yes, it's possible to be more outlandish than "communists are sapping and impurifying our precious bodily fluids") beliefs include the theory that water fluoridation is one big PR stunt perpetrated by the United States' nuclear program.
That's basically the fluoridation-origin story offered up in The Fluoride Deception, a book that, although fairly recent – it came out in 2004 – certainly has a retro-conspiracy theory feel.
The Fluoride Deception is pretty much a post-Red Scare reboot of the whole fluoride-conspiracy franchise.
According to author Christopher Bryson, during the Manhattan Project, workers became concerned about possible fluoride exposure. The U.S. government and industrial users of fluoride had to find some way to prevent these vital personnel from leaving, and stave off potential lawsuits.
Rather than improving safety or, pretending to improve safety, which – call me a sinister mastermind – strikes me as the most cost-effective method of managing the fussbudgets, the government decided that the best way to handle the situation was to convince these grumblers that fluoride was perfectly safe.
Not just a little bit safe, mind you, entirely safe, and clearly the best way of making the "nothing to see here" case was to invent fluoride's tooth-decay-fighting properties out of whole cloth, and then inject measured doses of it into the nation's drinking water, forever.
Imagine you worked at a job where ladders kept falling on your head. Naturally, you complain to your boss about the ladder situation and, after listening carefully, rather than buying you a hardhat and securing the ladders, your boss starts tossing tiny ladders out all the windows. Thousands of them. He tosses tiny ladders at everyone on the street and people he meets at parties, and has other people hurl tiny ladders out other buildings all across the land.
That, in an only slightly less crazy nutshell, is essentially the premise of The Fluoride Deception. If you've considered it, and feel that your hypothetical, tiny-ladder-chucking boss's actions would be a plausible response to your workplace dilemma and would reassure you about your constantly-hit-by-hardware situation, and you'd just go quietly back to work, you may be this book's target audience.
Now, that's a conspiracy theory. That is not yet another "It's a false flag!" post on Reddit after a mass shooting. That is not U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia found in bed with, of all things, a pillow! The Fluoride Deception is a yarn the people of Calgary can tell their children as they haul them in to get their teeth filled, again, provided they are fortunate enough to have the money to do that.
These children can be forgiven for wondering if someone is about to be bitten by a radioactive spider, and if perhaps daddy's not saving that particular yarn for the next trip to the dentist. There are so many of those appointments these days.
Five years ago, after one day of hearings, with no public vote or expert consultation, Calgary's city council voted to stop putting fluoride in the water. This week, a province-wide study of Grade 2 students conducted by the University of Calgary's Cumming School of Medicine, the University of Alberta and the Alberta Health Service showed that the number of tooth surfaces with signs of decay have increased an average of 3.8 for each Calgary child.
That is close to double the increase found among students in Edmonton, where the water still contains the minute amounts of fluoride needed to strengthen tooth enamel. The teeth of Edmonton children showed a decay increase of just 2.1 surfaces and, no doubt, these children are otherwise perfectly healthy because, as study after study has shown, year after year, fluoride is not bad for you, as sure as going to the dentist sucks.
Oral health is not merely a cosmetic issue, or about the odd toothache. Poor dental health can cause abscesses requiring hospitalization, and has been linked to everything from respiratory infections to pre-term or low-birth-weight babies – but for just pennies a day …
One of the more vocal advocates of discontinuing the fluoridation of Calgary's water has been a family doctor in that city, one Robert C. Dickson.
Dr. Dickson has spoken of an effort to "whitewash fluoride," which he says "was a major component of manufacturing atomic weapons during the 1940s," and going on from there.
He was represented, in the form of a letter read by someone else, for that one day of hearings in Calgary, that day that may well have launched a thousand dental drills. Dr. Dickson wrote of "volatile waste" that is "scrubbed out the industrial smokestacks of the fertilizer and aluminum industries," and then disposed of in our otherwise-pristine drinking water because they're not allowed to put it anywhere else! It would appear Calgary's city council listened.
Worth noting: In a letter to the editor of the Golden Star, a newspaper in Golden, B.C., Dr. Dickson heartily recommended the The Fluoride Deception.
He wasn't the only one with input at that meeting in Calgary, of course, and that was only one hearing in one city about one public-health issue.
But that hearing didn't happen in isolation. It was yet another instance, in these days of the rubella renaissance, of science being pitted against silliness, and silliness winning the day.
Now, everyone rinse and spit.