By Edwin D. Reilly, Jr.

For the Sunday Gazette


General Jack D. Ripper: Mandrake, do you recall what Clemenceau once said about war?
Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake: No, I don't think I do, sir, no.
Gen. Ripper: He said war was too important to be left to the generals. When he said that, 50 years ago, he might have been right. But today,

war is too important to be left to politicians. They have neither the time, the training, nor the inclination for strategic thought. I can no longer

sit back and allow Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, Communist subversion and the international Communist conspiracy to sap

and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids….Mandrake, do you realize that in addition to fluoridating water, there are studies underway to

fluoridate salt, flour, fruit juices, soup, sugar, milk... ice cream. Ice cream, Mandrake, children's ice cream!
Mandrake: Lord, Jack.

           Gen. Ripper: It's incredibly obvious, isn't it? Fluoridation is the most monstrously conceived and dangerous communist plot we have ever had to face.

               –Dr. Strangelove


Dr. Strangelove is certainly one of my favorite movies, but I don’t know whether to classify it as a comedy or a tragedy. Whatever, I couldn’t help but recall the famous dialogue quoted when I read with astonishment that Schenectady is considering abandoning the fluoridation of water. Not because of fear of Communists or Al Qaeda, of course, but because it costs about 75 cents per year per resident to do so. The very thought has prompted several Gazette letters and a cartoon already, but I haven’t yet seen a discussion of the implications to the other county municipalities that buy water from the city.

Niskayuna, for example, buys more water from the city than it can comfortably pump from its own wells. So, as Carl would say, today I hied myself up to Town Hall to refresh my memory of certain details about our water supply system. I had a nice chat with new Supervisor Joe Landry, and just before that, a more technical one with Superintendent of Engineering Rich Pollock, son of the late GE R&D scientist Herb Pollock, whom many readers will remember.

Right now, imported city water arrives with the proper dose of fluorides, about one part per million in accord with a standard first proposed by Edward L. Bernays (1891-1995) in 1946. Similarly, water pumped from Niskayuna wells is fed the same dosage. Some parts of the town receive the city water, some receive the Niskayuna water, but most of the town receives a blended mixture. If the city stops fluoridating and Niskayuna and Rotterdam want to continue fluoridating to the standard level needed to protect our children’s teeth, they will have to build a possibly costly interchange system that will intercept and treat the city water before it is blended with its own. I would hope that the temptation to take the simpler approach of abandoning fluoridation itself would be rejected.

Now, consider the economics of water production. A city such as Schenectady may operate its water system at a “profit” which can legally be used to augment general municipal revenues. Towns such as Niskayuna, Glenville, and Rotterdam that operate water systems cannot—state auditors make sure that their water rates generate no revenue in excess of the actual cost of operations. If the city remains concerned about the rising cost of fluoride, then all it need do is, at the next contract renewal with each client, raise the price by, I estimate, one or two cents per thousand gallons, about one percent. (Glenville does not have to buy city water.)

After taking a break from the keyboard to check primary results just after writing the above, I happened to surf to Channel 16 and—whoa! As it is wont to do (first amendment, you know), SACC TV was giving air time to yet another conspiratorialist “documentary,” this one hosted by narrator Christopher Bryson. Boy, did he give it to old Ed Bernays. Seems that that fellow was the nephew of Sigmund Freud. And before Bryson turned full force on the evils of fluoridation, he even took time to ridicule that classic exchange between General Ripper and Group Captain Mandrake with which I began this essay.

Well, there are reasons to be concerned about fluoridation. One is just the standard libertarian belief that government should not be trying to tell us what is good for us, or what they think might be good for us. Right away I had a hunch that Ron Paul must oppose fluoridation, and sure enough a check of his website indicates that he does. Other opponents feel that they must deny the efficacy of fluoride in reducing dental caries that ultimately lead to cavities.  After all, there is very little fluoridation in western Europe, and all but the English seem to still have teeth. But the scientific evidence in support of the ability of fluoridation to reduce caries is overwhelming. The remaining concern then is the possible side effect. Does fluoridation cause cancer? Does it reduce the IQ of children? (Oh dear, we all know how dumb Niskayuna children are.) All these claims and many more pollute the blogosphere.

It is tempting to write that our bodies are just bags of chemicals. OK, take out that “just”; surely the chemicals combine into molecules that combine into the miraculous structures that make us conscious, sentient, thinking, humans. Interestingly, 70% of our bodies consist of the very substance to which additional fluoride is often added—H2O, or water. That means that of the approximately sixty elements (of the naturally occurring 92) from which our bodies are built, oxygen is the most common and hydrogen is third, with carbon in between.


Then come nitrogen, calcium, phosphorus, and potassium, all of which we have been educated to know as beneficial. But next comes sulfur, chlorine, and sodium, which give us pause. Sulfur doesn’t smell very good. (And H2SO4 shaken, but not stirred, can break a chemical Bond.) Pure sodium and chlorine are the most potently dangerous elements of the 92, but when combined they produce a big flash and what remains is—table salt! Well, too much of that gives you high blood pressure. Go easy.

Now, are you ready for this? The 13th most common element in “us” is—fluorine! But despite that rank, fluorine was the last of the body’s elements to be identified. It was first isolated from its compounds in 1886 by the French chemist Frederick Henri Moissan (1852-1907), who won the 1906 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his discovery. Pure fluorine at room temperature is a gas, but inside us, it is bound into solid fluorides and distributed throughout the body in ways that do little or nothing to harden our teeth. But if it were liberated, cooled, liquefied, and kept at a temperature just below its boiling point, the mass would be the size of a cube about a half-inch on a side. Some bouillon cube! <>

Rubidium, 16
th in rank by weight, is the most abundant element in the body that has no known biological role. Vanadium, 54th, is the body's least abundant element that does have a biologic role, followed by cobalt, 39th, the latter being a constituent of vitamin B-12.

Oh, we have copper, gold, and silver in us too, all put to good use on our behalf. I owe all of these insights to Ed Uthman, MD, of Houston, Texas. Google him for confirmation. Dragging this information out of him was much easier than pulling the teeth of those unfortunates who live in communities that refuse to fluoridate. The closest one is Albany.


Edwin D. Reilly, Jr., who has all but two of his original teeth, lives in Niskayuna and is a regular contributor to the Sunday Gazette Opinion Page.