A Review of “The Fluoride Deception” by Paul Launchbury

05 Jul

I recently blogged about “Fluoride in Your Toothpaste…and the growing concerns about fluoride everywhere” and the book the Fluoride Deception.. I asked a gentleman I respect for his knowledge and understanding of the world of Chemistry for his comments after sending him a copy to read. Paul Launchbury was a pharmaceutical scientist for many years and I met him through our mutual connection to the British Parkinson’s Society..he as a sufferer in advanced stages of the disease and myself as a staunch supporter of the society having watched my grandfather be taken by the disease. Despite increasing debilitation Paul remains in the fight and quote “I’ve still got a few crusty old neurons to go into battle with”.

Paul’s excellent review of the book and his objective comments on fluorine and pharmaceuticals are posted below.

THANKS for taking the time to comment Paul!

To: Tony Williams, ACD/Labs

From: Paul Launchbury

Subject: Review of ‘The Fluoride Deception’

Dear Tony

I know it’s been a long time since you kindly sent me ‘The fluoride Deception’; by Christopher Bryson. I have read it (quite soon after it arrived) but have been mulling it over, dipping now and then into the book to check items; I feel I can give a reasonable comment now.

Overall, the awful truth is that it is so utterly believable! It is so true to life as we experience it that it makes the thoughtful reader uncomfortable – asking ‘Was I with the deceivers or with the deceived?’ If among the deceived, I would guess there’s a feeling of angry helplessness at what was so cold-bloodedly, even callously, thrust on the whole of the globe; {pollution, exploitation and denial of responsibility are global) continues. And all because profits and a few directors’ skins [and reputations!] were under threat! Perhaps I could summarise the points like this:

Right at the beginning, the Los Alamos project required enormous amounts of fluorine. This was a rather novel technology and, rather than ‘waste time’ checking toxicology the pressure to produce an atomic bomb as quickly as possible resulted in all waste being vented to the atmosphere or dumped in waterways. It must have been obvious that massive damage to environments and plant, animal and human toxicity would result – well, the bomb was designed to kill thousands of Japanese so who’s going to notice a few hundred casualties at home; the attention was focused on the enemy overseas.
The military callousness was copied by industry. The country needed aluminium and related products, and if the toxicity could be disowned and any claims rebutted, it could be very profitable. This, if I recall rightly, was the kind of attitude which Ted Heath (I think it was he) designated: “The unacceptable face of capitalism.”
The woeful inability of an adversarial legal system to deal justice to small litigants, and the manipulative propensity of some (many?) avaricious, highly placed/paid (!) lawyers is brought to light time and again in this book. However, we’ve seen it all before…
The civil service doesn’t come out of it any cleaner. Money can buy influence just as it always did. In particular, the trotting out of discredited papers as evidence to justify policy is still indulged in – even by HM civil servants in the UK! [I have witnessed ‘political blindness’ or putting down of persistent challengers of decisions by citing (un-named) higher authorities myself]. Several examples (this should possibly be ‘many’) relating to fluorine can be found in a very quick trawl of anti-fluoridation websites even now.

Towards the end of the book it becomes evident that the medical and dental professions particularly are impaled on the horns of a dilemma: do they admit that they were hoodwinked and gullible thirty or more years ago and take the resulting litigation on the chin and more-or-less bankrupt the professions, or do they deny the case and seek to perpetuate the (toxic) ‘fluoride myth’? Time, in any case will bring out the truth – and what then?
Governments are in an even less enviable position. Governments of all political colours have backed the fluoridation of drinking water, in many instances strong-arming local authorities to comply. Politicians may tolerate pink as a political colour but not on the face! How do they get this one sorted out? Mass class actions in the courts could severely damage even a country’s finances – bad enough in the UK, but in the USA it could (I suppose) just about bankrupt the country – unless, of course, legislation to limit awards be brought in, but then, where’s the justice?

The huge metals industries – especially the aluminium and similar production plants – are sitting on a time bomb of their own making. Having so deviously won actions in the past, when the chickens come home to roost they could be wiped out. What shareholding institution would or could stay and support corporations when they begin to lose billions in punitive damages? The Federal Administrations of both Republican and Democratic persuasions are, it would seem, up to the eyeballs in favouring one powerful industrial contributor after another, and using influence to steer both court decisions and legislative directions. The White House doesn’t look very white in this context!

The reason I’ve apparently accepted Bryson’s charges is that they tally so closely with what most people in an executive position in virtually any industry sees and hears in the course of his/her career. To many, ‘if we can get away with it, we’ll do it’ is the principle.

I suggest that the ‘Gulf War Syndrome’ will be found to follow a similar pattern to that of fluorine – with persistent denials of its existence or severity by governments (UK and USA anyway). Any subsequent retreat always seems grudging and minimal.

A brighter side?

There is, though, a positive in all this. I am sure that fluorine in drug molecules is a different matter. Take for example, fludrocortisol (9œ-fluorocortisol). Patients with Addison’s disease (natural or iatrogenic) lack the ability to synthesise mineralocorticoids e.g. aldosterone, in the cortices of their adrenal glands. They lose a key component in the salt-water regulating system. The glucocorticoids, cortisone and cortisol, have low potency in this area and to give sufficient for salt regulation leads to Cushing’s syndrome (excess glucocorticoid activity). Fludrocortisol has met the need nicely for almost fifty years now, replacing aldosterone successfully.

A fluorine atom, or trifluoromethyl group, has likewise shifted charge densities around drug molecules of many different classes, shifting emphasis in drug action in a manner similar to the fludrocortisol example above.

I suspect that the action of fluorine in modifying drug pharmacology is a separate field of study which, so to speak, would have happened whether or not the ‘Deception’ had happened. In the 1950-60s the ground work was done defining how drug pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics could be manipulated with the aid of e.g. methyl, tert.- butyl and similar radicals, the halogens fluoride, chlorine, bromine and even iodine – these are just sample citations – and there’s no end to the list of organic/inorganic groups which have the same action. Of possible interest here is isofluorophate (‘Dyflos’). The first mention of this anti-cholinesterase is its synthesis (1944) and US and British patents (1948) so it falls well into the Los Alamos era but calls for only moderate quantities of fluorine – that is, unless it was mass-produced for potential use by the military as a war gas. It was investigated for such use, though I believe that the medical uses were its field

I can see, in the use of fluorine in drug design, no connection with the ‘Deception’; it doesn’t have any relationship to the high ‘availability’ of fluorine which drove the scandal.

Paul Launchbury

30 October 2006


About tony

Antony (Tony) J. Williams received his BSc in 1985 from the University of Liverpool (UK) and PhD in 1988 from the University of London (UK). His PhD research interests were in studying the effects of high pressure on molecular motions within lubricant related systems using Nuclear Magnetic Resonance. He moved to Ottawa, Canada to work for the National Research Council performing fundamental research on the electron paramagnetic resonance of radicals trapped in single crystals. Following his postdoctoral position he became the NMR Facility Manager for Ottawa University. Tony joined the Eastman Kodak Company in Rochester, New York as their NMR Technology Leader. He led the laboratory to develop quality control across multiple spectroscopy labs and helped establish walk-up laboratories providing NMR, LC-MS and other forms of spectroscopy to hundreds of chemists across multiple sites. This included the delivery of spectroscopic data to the desktop, automated processing and his initial interests in computer-assisted structure elucidation (CASE) systems. He also worked with a team to develop the worlds’ first web-based LIMS system, WIMS, capable of allowing chemical structure searching and spectral display. With his developing cheminformatic skills and passion for data management he left corporate America to join a small start-up company working out of Toronto, Canada. He joined ACD/Labs as their NMR Product Manager and various roles, including Chief Science Officer, during his 10 years with the company. His responsibilities included managing over 50 products at one time prior to developing a product management team, managing sales, marketing, technical support and technical services. ACD/Labs was one of Canada’s Fast 50 Tech Companies, and Forbes Fast 500 companies in 2001. His primary passions during his tenure with ACD/Labs was the continued adoption of web-based technologies and developing automated structure verification and elucidation platforms. While at ACD/Labs he suggested the possibility of developing a public resource for chemists attempting to integrate internet available chemical data. He finally pursued this vision with some close friends as a hobby project in the evenings and the result was the ChemSpider database ( Even while running out of a basement on hand built servers the website developed a large community following that eventually culminated in the acquisition of the website by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) based in Cambridge, United Kingdom. Tony joined the organization, together with some of the other ChemSpider team, and became their Vice President of Strategic Development. At RSC he continued to develop cheminformatics tools, specifically ChemSpider, and was the technical lead for the chemistry aspects of the Open PHACTS project (, a project focused on the delivery of open data, open source and open systems to support the pharmaceutical sciences. He was also the technical lead for the UK National Chemical Database Service ( and the RSC lead for the PharmaSea project ( attempting to identify novel natural products from the ocean. He left RSC in 2015 to become a Computational Chemist in the National Center of Computational Toxicology at the Environmental Protection Agency where he is bringing his skills to bear working with a team on the delivery of a new software architecture for the management and delivery of data, algorithms and visualization tools. The “Chemistry Dashboard” was released on April 1st, no fooling, at, and provides access to over 700,000 chemicals, experimental and predicted properties and a developing link network to support the environmental sciences. Tony remains passionate about computer-assisted structure elucidation and verification approaches and continues to publish in this area. He is also passionate about teaching scientists to benefit from the developing array of social networking tools for scientists and is known as the ChemConnector on the networks. Over the years he has had adjunct roles at a number of institutions and presently enjoys working with scientists at both UNC Chapel Hill and NC State University. He is widely published with over 200 papers and book chapters and was the recipient of the Jim Gray Award for eScience in 2012. In 2016 he was awarded the North Carolina ACS Distinguished Speaker Award.
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