Fluoridation Opponent, Dead at 58
Stephen Barrett, M.D. http://www.quackwatch.org/11Ind/yiamouyiannis.html
John Yiamouyiannis, Ph.D. (1943–2000) liked to call himself "the world's leading authority on the biological effects of fluoride."  He was for more than 25 years the most active antifluoridationist in the United States. He was very bright—and determined. Had he chosen a positive direction, he might well have made a valuable contribution to science. But he did not. Despite training as a biochemist, he became obsessed with the idea that water fluoridation is dangerous. From 1974 through 1980, he served as "science director" of the National Health Federation, which hired him to "break the back of promoters' efforts to fluoridate more American cities."
I met Dr. Yiamouyiannis saw him in action several times. He was personable and appeared sincere. Though public health officials regarded him as a terrorist, to the uninformed he seemed credible. His activities have frightened many communities into opposing fluoridation. If he didn't appear in person, his presence—through his publications—was often felt where fluoridation was considered.
Fighting fluoridation is actually quite simple. Just claim that it causes cancer, damages the immune system, or causes dozens of other diseases. Or suggest that it is a form of pollution, will raise taxes, is undemocratic, or hasn't been studied enough. Or use dozens of other ploys and hope that at least one will work. It isn't necessary to convince people that all antifluoridation arguments are valid. A single doubt may be persuasive.
Yiamouyiannis used many such ploys, but his most persistent was that fluoridation causes cancer. Experts concluded that his reports were based on a misinterpretation of government statistics. In true "anti" fashion, he compared cancer death rates in fluoridated and nonfluoridated cities but failed to adjust for various factors in each city (such as industrial pollution) that are known to raise the cancer death rate . By 1977, independent investigations by eight of the leading medical and scientific organizations in the English-speaking world had refuted the cancer claims.
In 1978, Consumer Reports published a two-part series on fluoridation that criticized Yiamouyiannis's work and concluded:
The simple truth is that there's no "scientific controversy" over the safety of fluoridation. The practice is safe, economical, and beneficial. The survival of this fake controversy represents, in Consumers Union's opinion, one of the major triumphs of quackery over science in our generation .
A few months later, Yiamouyiannis filed suit for libel, charging that he had been defamed by Consumers Union's report. After a lower court dismissed the suit, Yiamouyiannis appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which upheld the dismissal. The appeals court's ruling, issued in 1980, stated:
It is clear that [Consumers Union] . . . made a thorough investigation of the facts. Scientific writings and authorities in the field were consulted; authoritative scientific bodies speaking for substantial segments of the medical and scientific community were investigated. The unquestioned methodology of the preparation of the article exemplifies the very highest order of responsible journalism: the entire article was checked and rechecked across a spectrum of knowledge and, where necessary, changes were made in the interests of accuracy.
At about this time, Yiamouyiannis had a falling out with other NHF officials, left NHF, and founded the National Health Action Committee, which he described in its brochure as "a union of virtually every effective antifluoridation group in the country." He also founded and operated the Safe Water Foundation. Without NHF support, however, Yiamouyiannis himself became much less effective.
In 1985, a prestigious group appointed by the British Department of Health and Social Security issued yet another review of the cancer charge plus more recent studies from a dozen countries. Agreeing that fluoridation does not cause cancer, the group said, "The only contrary conclusions are in our view attributable to errors in data, errors in analytical technique, and errors in scientific logic." 
During the same year, Yiamouyiannis's credibility was attacked further when a team of public health experts from the Ohio Department of Health published a book analyzing his eight-page pamphlet, "A Lifesaver's Guide to Fluoridation." This pamphlet, which was invariably distributed wherever community fluoridation was considered, cited 250 references that supposedly backed up Yiamouyiannis's claims that fluoridation is ineffective and dangerous . However, when the Ohio team traced the references, they found that almost half had no relevance to community water fluoridation and many others actually supported fluoridation but were selectively quoted and misrepresented. Eighty-six citations, for example, referred to studies conducted on plants or animals .
Yiamouyiannis also operated the Health Action Press, which produced three titles: Fluoride: the Aging Factor (1983, 1986, 1993), High Performance Health (1987), and AIDS: The Good News Is That HIV Doesn't Cause It (1995), which he co-authored by Peter Duesberg. The jacket of his 1983 book stated:
Dr. Yiamouyiannis lives with his wife and six children on a 35-acre farm just outside of Columbus, Ohio. Their lifestyle revolves around a total preventive health care program with emphasis on a virtually fluoride-free diet. The results: all of his children are excellent athletes in excellent health. For the last twenty years, their total medical bill has been less than $500.
Yiamouyiannis was also opposed to vaccination. In High Performance Health, he expressed concerns that when vaccinations are given during the first few months of life, "it is likely that at least a portion of those vaccinated suffer permanent damage to the immune system." He also speculated that vaccinated people would have a higher incidence of AIDS. There is no scientific evidence supporting either of these views.
In 1995, the British Dental Association published a critical summary of his activities .
In August 2000, the water district that serves Yiamouyiannis's home community (Delaware, Ohio) approved fluoridation. A few months later, the Columbus Dispatch reported that he had died "after a long and noble fight with cancer."  However, a subsequent report by Peter Barry Chowka indicates that Yiamouyiannis's death was probably hastened by neglect. In September 1999, Yiamouyiannis described to Chowka that about a year earlier, he had begun having bloody stools and went to several Mexican cancer clinics where he was diagnosed with rectal cancer, treated with "IV drips of laetrile, vitamin C, and a whole bunch of other stuff," and advised to have surgery and chemotherapy. However, he decided to reject conventional therapy and treat himself with what he considered to be nontoxic approaches . The prognosis for colorectal cancer depends upon its location at the time it is discovered . If there is no spread beyond the colon wall, the 5-year survival rates with treatment are about 95% for "Duke Stage 1" and 75% for "Duke Stage 2." It would be interesting to know whether Yiamouyannis's antipathy for standard medical care was indirectly responsible for his death.
- Yiamouyiannis J. Fluoride: The Aging Factor. Delaware, OH: Health Action Press, 1983, 1986.
- National Cancer Institute. Statement by the National Cancer Institute on fluoridation studies by the National Health Federation, April 25, 1975.
- Fluoridation. Consumer Reports 43:392-396, 480-482, 1978.
- (To be posted)
- Yiamouyiannis J. Lifesavers guide to fluoridation. Risks/benefits evaluated in the 1982 question and answer report. Delaware, OH: Safe Water Foundation, 1982.
- Wulf C and others. Abuse of the Scientific Literature in an Antifluoridation Pamphlet. Columbus, OH: American Oral Health Institute, 1985, 1988.
- Hunt J and others. Putting Yiamouyiannis into perspective British Dental Journal 179:121-123, 1995.
- Obituary: John Yiamouyiannis. Columbus Dispatch, Oct 10, 2000.
- Chowka PB. John Yiamouyiannis, PhD: A pioneering health researcher speaks out - Part two. Natural Health Village News, Oct 1, 1999.
- How is colorectal cancer staged? American Cancer Society Web site, Feb 1, 2005.
This article was revised on February 25, 2005.