The Fluoridation Movement Loses a Great Warrior
By now you have probably heard the sad news that one of the rocks of the fluoridation opposition movement for over 40 years has passed away. On Saturday October 12 Albert W. Burgstahler died at the age of 85 (see obituary).
I first met Albert in person in 1998 at the International Society for Fluoride Research (ISFR) conference in Bellingham, Washington and many times since at other ISFR and FAN conferences and other fluoridation opposition events.
I remember when I was 12 years old my Latin teacher telling us what an educated person was. He said he or she was “someone who could entertain his or herself; entertain a friend and entertain a new idea.” That must make Albert one of the most educated people I have ever met.
I was amazed at how youthful he was. I remember traveling with him in New Zealand about 10 years ago in a one -week tour on the South Island, organized by his close friend and colleague Bruce Spittle. As we went around he filled every moment with questions – about everything, history, geography, plants, buildings, people (and of course, fluoride and Shakespeare!). He had the wide-eyed wonder and innocence of a child. And just a few months ago when we were campaigning together against the effort to fluoridate Wichita, Kansas I witnessed the same thing again: a non-stop pursuit of knowledge and truth.
He fought fluoridation like a tiger but only with the truth. He took no short cuts. For me he was the model of scientific integrity. That is why in 2006 FAN instituted the Albert Burgstahler Scientific Integrity Award to honor scientists who had demonstrated scientific integrity in their research and in their efforts to end this foolish practice. Albert was the first winner. Since then many others have won this prestigious award made in his name, including Bill Hirzy, Bob Carton, Phyllis Mullenix, Jennifer Luke, Kathy Thiessen, Hardy Limeback, Bill Osmunson, Bruce Spittle, Andrew Harms and Daniel Stockin.
In 2010 I was very pleased when Albert agreed to write the foreword to The Case Against Fluoride, which I co-authored with James Beck and Spedding Micklem. I was honored that he would link his life’s work with our own. His work on fluoride started with Dr. George Waldbott in the 1960s and resulted in the 1978 book Fluoridation: The Great Dilemma.
The saddest thing about Albert’s passing is that he did not live to see the end of fluoridation. However, I am sure that with so many recent victories (including Wichita) he sensed that the days of this practice are numbered. When the end does come to this most sorrowful chapter in misguided public health practices, his name will have a very proud place in the team that made it happen.
Thank you Albert.
A few weeks ago when we heard that his end was near we asked his friends and colleagues to write to him and let him know how special he was. Some have shared their thoughts with us. We have printed these below and we urge others who have their own memories to share them with us as well so we can add them to a special page on our website. Please send your memories or reflections to me at [email protected]
We love you and will miss you deeply Albert. Your youthful enthusiasm in all things lifted our spirits.”
-Ellen Connett, Binghamton, NY
I have been involved with fluoridation opposition since 1974 and I know that right from the start, I knew you were a respected scientist and leader in this difficult fight. I can still clearly see in my mind the photo of the young Albert B. in the wonderful National Fluoridation News. I still have copies of all of the issues in my home. Your articles were excellent in that fine little publication and you somehow had the perseverance and fortitude to stay with this fight for all of this time. Of course, taking over the Fluoride Journal was probably your most important contribution to the fight and we are all grateful to you for the hard work and countless hours that you gave to keep this important journal going since the passing of Dr. Waldbott.
My warmest good wishes and thanks to you, Albert. You are a man of courage, integrity and dedication to the truth.”
-Naomi Flack, West Palm Beach, Florida
I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for all that you have done to help the nation of Israel get rid of fluoridation. Thank you for giving me such wise counsel over many years from your wealth of knowledge.
I am sure that you would be happy to know that your work was honored in the 3/5/2013 Jerusalem Post article by your long term friend and colleague from the Netherlands, Dr. Hans Moolenburgh.”
Your work Fluoridation: the Great Dilemma was shared with the new Minister of Healthrecently and this and your enormous contribution to the journal Fluoride was no doubt part of the breakthrough to save the nation of Israel from Fluoridation's health hazards (The Minister announced that mandatory fluoridation will end in 2014, PC).
-Miriam Westerman, Israel
Though we have not met in person, I have admired you and fed on your work to end fluoridation wherever it is in effect. We are allies in an honorable struggle. It is a struggle that we are slowly winning, in no small part due to your efforts in the face of unprincipled and often nasty opposition.
I am saddened to hear from Paul that your part in the battle is coming to an end. I can only wish that the end is as good as it can be. It should comfort you to know that you have had the rare experience of lengthening and improving the lives of many, perhaps millions.
-Jim Beck, Calgary, Canada
You are missed already but your footprint will echo down the years by way of your huge contribution to the opposition to fluoridation movement.
I salute you for your integrity, tenacity and devotion.
-Ailsa Boyden, Australia
I first met you at the Kyoto ISFR conference in 1993, together with the late Dr. John Colquhorn . Since then for me you have been the most reliable leader in the movement against fluoridation.
Your two arms have reached across the oceans to our islands. First, as the co-author of the book Fluoridation: The Great Dilemma, which provided us with a basic handbook on the science of the issue and then as the editor of Fluoride which provided us with ALL the science on fluoride, not the self-serving selective science as practiced by the agencies promoting fluoridation.
-Kenji Akiniwa, Tokyo, Japan
I just want to write and thank you for your untiring work against the pernicious practice of water fluoridation. It has been a long series of battles, but I think it is clear that, thanks to you in concert with other distinguished researchers, not only have many battles been won, but the war itself seems close to victory.
Your 15 years of work as editor-in-chief of the journal "Fluoride" have been much appreciated by the many contributors and readers. Editing a journal is a significant amount of work, and often thankless, as I know from my own experience with a different journal, but such a contribution is both essential and productive.
-David Hill, Canada
It was not lightly that we at FAN instituted the Albert W. Burgstahler scientific integrity award. It was our little way of memorializing the contribution you have made to integrity in science. It can only be hoped that in future years integrity will be returned to public health science and if it is it will be partly due to your Herculean effort on the fluoridation front.
Many facing such odds would have given up years ago - but year after year you have kept yourself going and in the process have inspired many others to keep going as well.
-Paul Connett, Binghamton, NY
I am so glad I got to know you. You will always live on in my heart. Ten years ago at the first FAN conference you were wonderfully gracious, generous in sharing your knowledge, patient and supportive to me, a newcomer stumbling through the science on fluoridation for the first time. Ever since, I have continued to learn more from you, and because of you. I think you are the reason that I continue to commit my life to helping fluoride-poisoned people recover, and work to end fluoridation world-wide.
Thank you for everything you’ve done to give us the strong ethical and scientific foundation to do that.
Like you I was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan 1952 – one of the guinea pig children.”
-Aliss Terpstra, Toronto, Canada
I send you, for all your further journey and learning, all love and respect,
-Olemara Peters, Redmond, WA
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