Meet a Fluoride Poisoning Survivor

water stop motion effect on splashing water from tap
Creative Commons License photo credit: Vanessa Pike-Russell

The Associated Press reported last week that the U.S. government is recommending reduced fluoride levels in our drinking water for the first time in 50 years. They are citing “a fresh review of the science.”

Today, we begin a series of articles on fluoride by Sylvia Onusic, a frequent contributor for Hartke is Online!

Introducing Aliss Terpstra, Fluoride Poisoning Survivor

Part 1 of 4

By Sylvia P. Onusic, PhD, with contributions by Aliss Terpstra, CNP

Aliss Terpstra is a slim, vibrant woman, self assured, sporting a page boy streaked with grey.  She radiates an air of confidence; her smile is warming and kind. But the truth is that now, in her late fifties, Aliss cannot take her health for granted; she can become ill very quickly, like a person with celiac disease for whom wheat gluten is toxic. In her case, the toxin is fluoride.

Aliss has become a fluoride barometer.  If there is increased fluoride in the air, the food, a vitamin pill or even the glass of water she is drinking, her body lets her know it, with unpleasant and sometimes debilitating symptoms.  Aliss was chronically poisoned by fluoride that accumulated in her body since conception and childhood in Grand Rapids, Michigan, America’s first city to have artificial water fluoridation. This affected her bones and endocrine system in adulthood. Today her body’s calcium reserves are low; she can’t cope well with a sudden increase in fluoride intake, and she must be very careful about choosing medications, what she eats, drinks, and even breathes.

Even Small Amounts Have Severe Effects on Aliss

When she encounters a sudden increase of even half a milligram of fluoride, such as from three glasses of her Toronto tap water or a cup of tea, her thyroid function is immediately affected and blood calcium levels get depleted, triggering the release of bone-dissolving parathyroid hormone. Then the symptoms begin.  She suffers from headaches, fuzzy vision, muscle tremor and weakness, joint and muscle pain, low body temperature, brain fog, gastric pain and diarrhea, insomnia, raging thirst, frequent urination with diluted urine, and dehydration that defies correction no matter how much water is consumed. If the exposure is high or continues for a time, red welts appear on the skin of her arms and legs.  One of the biggest challenges for her is coping with accidental overdose from food and water when traveling.


Aliss Terpstra

Aliss talks about fluoride’s effects on her thyroid, and how it impacted her life in Toronto after the premature birth of her first child: “Breastfeeding makes you thirsty, and I drank two to three times more water than usual (and two to three times more fluoride). The hormones usually make new mothers feel warm and perspire easily, but I was always chilled and dry.  I drank hot tea (more fluoride) a few times a day to keep my energy up, but I was so tired, cold and depressed that if I walked five minutes to the grocery store, I would have to rest under a blanket for half an hour. And that would be it for the day. I was a mess. I descended into hell – that’s the only way I can put it. I developed irritable bowel, allergies to perfume and exhaust, chronic yeast infections, recurrent bronchitis and pneumonia, and fibromyalgia pain so severe that at times I thought I should die. Medication didn’t help. Weaning the baby did not help at all.  Following a vegetarian diet (higher in fluoride), and then Macrobiotics (lower in calcium), didn’t either. I just got skinnier.  I was tired, I had fibrocystic breasts, disturbed sleep, lots of allergies, asthma, cold all the time but felt suffocated by summer heat, had heart palpitations and panic attacks, terrible PMS, migraines, joint pain, frequent urination with terrible thirst (actually it was diabetes insipidus).  I was experiencing what I now know as the symptoms of chronic fluoride poisoning. For three years we tried to have another baby but I seemed to be infertile.”

Medical Professionals Didn’t Recognize the Symptoms

She did not have the stamina to work or hold down a job.  Doctors could find nothing wrong; medications (some containing fluoride) made things worse. They began to tell Aliss it was all in her head or “normal” for a busy mom who had “waited too long” to start her family.  But after learning that fluoride was toxic to the thyroid and bones, she began to avoid fluoride toothpaste, tap water and tea with immediate improvement.

Aliss developed a non-genetic type of breast cancer at age 47, as did her grandmother before her in Grand Rapids.  Surgery to remove the tumor under general anesthetic provided a large dose of fluoride her body was unable to tolerate.  Aliss developed life-threatening consequences of fluoride poisoning, the early stage of osteoporosis, thyroid disease, damage to kidneys, and extreme hypersensitivity to fluoride as a result.

Aliss’ sister was born two months premature in 1950 and Aliss was born a month premature in 1952. Their mother had evidence of low thyroid function and vitamin D deficiency, not uncommon in the Great Lakes area with long winters and low iodine and selenium in the soil. The increased fluoride intake made these deficiencies worse and more harmful during pregnancy. Bottle feeding with boiled tap water and partly skimmed milk formula powder was the norm, increasing the fluoride intake of babies more than 200 times above what breastfeeding would supply.

Aliss Seeks Help from Abroad

Aliss wanted confirmation that she was fluoride poisoned but no North American doctors could help her. Most doctors in Canada and the US belong to professional governing bodies that endorse water fluoridation as safe and beneficial, even essential for public health – not as the preventable cause of serious chronic disease in millions of people! Scientists at Toronto’s Mt. Sinai hospital derided her when she asked for fluoride testing and clinical diagnosis at their internationally known bone research clinic.

She had to travel to the Netherlands to see Hans Moolenburgh, MD who confirmed her symptoms as chronic fluoride poisoning.  Dr. Moolenburgh had designed the only double blind crossover study ever conducted on the health effects of fluoridated water. The results showing health harm to 6% of the controls were enough to cause the Dutch parliament to reinforce their constitution to prevent public drinking water from ever being used as a vehicle for adding health-altering substances, no matter how seemingly pure the motives of public health officials.

Sylvia P. Onusic, Ph.D

Sylvia P. Onusic, Ph.D

Sylvia P. Onusic holds a BS in foods and nutrition, and a PhD in Health Education and Wellness, and has completed studies to qualify for RD (Registered Dietitian). She was a home economics teacher for many years.  Her concentration is in holistic nutrition with a focus on the evolution of food and the human body in relation to food allergies and disease.  Sylvia is the mother of two teenage sons, one on whom has celiac disease. She has several food allergies as well.


Aliss Terpstra

Aliss Terpstra, the subject of this story, contributed to and edited this article. Today, she is a nutritionist (CNP) and member of Weston A. Price Foundation in Toronto teaching clients how to find real food, prepare it and eat it to improve health.

For more information, see the Fluoride Action Network website.

See also, Fluoride: Worse Than We Thought on the the Weston A. Price Foundation website.

In part 2, Sylvia delves into the history of Aliss’s case, in The Grand Rapids Fluoride Study.


  1. Jackie Stowers says:

    Thank you Sylvia for this excellent article and Aliss for sharing your story. Toxic poisoning from whatever source has such long term effects and there are few around the world that have the knowledge and resources to help people experiencing this. I would suggest to Aliss and others who suffer with this to consider contacting a Heilkunstler. One who practices as a Heillkunst has the knowledge and means to sequentially work through these issues and move a person through this process within a system of dynamic medicine that is safe, individualized, and based on various drainage and detoxification therapies developed by physicians worldwide over the years. You can find more information at

    Aliss, you are sharing the story that has plagued so many people who are aware and others not even aware of what it is that they are dealing with. I hope your courage bears much fruit and opens the door for many others like you, who have suffered tremendously over the years and still have not found the answer. Thank you.

  2. Audrey Adams says:

    I also have a few stories of fluoride poisoning. For starters, my autistic son is hypersensitive to fluoride, so much so that a shower in fluoridated water will cause a headache or migraine. The headache has him screaming like Tarzan, the migraine instead lays him out flat and he can’t move for hours. He cannot drink fluoridated water nor eat any food prepared or cooked with fluoridated water without suffering much pain. He has to eat all organic foods to avoid the fluoride in post-harvest fumigants. (Thankfully, the EPA just announced that this will be phased out over the next couple of years.)

    I had no idea for the first 14 years of his life that he was suffering so terribly from fluoride exposures, partly because he didn’t talk and partly because his symptoms were generally considered “normal for autism”. Also complicating the issue was that he has so many food allergies and sensitivities to other chemicals. When I discovered the reactivity to his showers, I started heating bottled water on the stove so he could sponge bathe. After trying many useless filtration products, I found one at that enables him to shower finally in our tap water.

    Myself and my daughter are affected by rashes, we discovered, because after installing the Mercola shower filter our rashes that we had been enduring for a very long time just disappeared. We don’t get headaches, fortunately.

    I have spoken to many mothers of children and adults with autism whose children also react to fluoridated water. The most common reaction is the red, itchy, bumpy rash that my daughter and I get. Of course, their doctors NEVER correctly diagnose the problem.

    A woman who contacted me because of something I wrote a few years back about fluoride and autism told me about her son’s hyperactivity from fluoridated water and her own much more tragic story which nearly rivals Aliss’ sad tale. She was poisoned when the public water system had a fluoride spill of an unknown amout of toxic fluoride due to a corroded pipe. Like Aliss, her whole life was profoundly altered and now, many years later, she remains so hypersensitive to fluoride that she cannot eat food grown using fluoridated water. If she drinks one glass of fluoridated water, her very intelligent brain turns to mush and even her language is severely impaired. Like Aliss she has very serious thyroid problems and chronic arthritic-like pain. Being a chronically ill single parent with an autistic child and no help from the state whatsoever, she must work through the pain to keep a roof over their heads.

    Thank you so much for posting this article. There are so many fluoride hypersensitive folks out there and they are being completely ignored. To our boards of health, their lives aren’t worth a fraction of one tooth surface (the “benefit” if there is any of fluoridation).

    And there are so many other fluoride exposures that most are totally unaware of such as antibiotics and antidepressants, cereal, bread, oatmeal, tea, mechanically deboned chicken (even organic), dental products and procedures, dried eggs (horrific levels of F!) and all sorts of produce. I have plenty of friends who have spent countless trips to the doctor to try to figure out their gut pain or other mysterious symptoms—I believe much of it is fluoride poisoning.

    Aliss, thank you for sharing your story. I know it’s hard to go public, but you have helped many by doing so.

  3. Anita Knight says:

    My son nearly died at one year old in 1962 from Infant formula Neo-Mulsoy that was found to be as high as 7.34 ppm. “Charlie’s Story” written by my brother, George Glasser, has many important references that show how much has been covered up on this subject. He has severe dental fluorosis and bone and muscle problems as well. Please note the Journal of Dental Research’s International Symposium on Fluorides, Special Issue, Vol. 69, Feb. 1990, is usually in college libraries, and you have to note “Special Issue” as they also published another journal on the same date.
    Here’s the online site:

    Aug 31, 2009 … George wrote “Charlie’s Story” and it is in the Weston A. Price …. Organic Consumers Association – 6771 South Silver Hill Drive, … – Cached –

  4. Wow. Scary stories, thanks for sharing.

    It’s great to hear that the EPA is considering changing their position. We shouldn’t have to buy expensive devices to filter our water if we disagree with the official government position on whether certain chemicals are “good for our health -” and we really shouldn’t have to buy bottled water!

    Thank you so much for mentioning my blog on the WAPF facebook page! I came home and found my inbox full with subscription requests – how wonderful! Knowing you and all those new readers are watching will keep me under pressure to keep posting interesting material. Looking forward to talking more in the future!

  5. Aliss is tough, smart and unceasing, like Alecto, the Greek Fury. Her fluoride hypersensitivity story compelled me to help. Since June 2007, we’ve worked with others to get the artificial fluoridation message out. With education programs we’ve raised awareness of fluoridation’s wider carnage to human health, ecosystems and infrastructure assets. In three years, through public speaking, writing and political action, Niagara Region, Dryden, Quebec City, Thunder Bay, Gatineau, Chicoutimi and Waterloo now enjoy healthier drinking water, in part due to Aliss’ effort. She continues to fight for Toronto’s drinking water to be fluoride free. In fighting for her right to health, she fights for us all.

    Peter Van Caulart, Director
    Environmental Training Institute
    Ridgeville (Niagara), ON

  6. Joseph Heckman says:

    Unless one has read enough history of science to know otherwise, one might naively think that if one just brought enough science to bear on a subject like water fluoridation (or pasteurization), that one could move public policy in another direction. Having good science to support an argument is useful but is rarely enough to move policy. A book I found useful on this social problem is CONFRONTING THE EXPERTS edited by Brian Martin. Or in understanding the social challenges of the pasteurization versus raw milk debate, this web link:

  7. This reinforces what I have known for years. I do have a drinking water filter, expensive for me, but not expensive enough to filter fluoride. So every glass of water, every cup of tea, feels as if I am deliberately assaulting my body and health. *sigh*

  8. This is a subject close to my heart as i have struggled with chronic fatigue for most of my life. Three and a half years ago – before i put together the fluoride connection – i was given Cipro for an infection, and my life has never been the same. I had had trouble sleeping and fatigue for many years (“You’re just depressed. Take this (fluoride-based) antidepressant.”), but i was unprepared for what that Cipro would do to me.

    I know that it could be much, much worse than what i have currently (and fortunately we live in an area that does not fluoridate water), but i find it very difficult to face the life i now have. I know that it is said that removing fluoride (in water, toothpaste, food, etc.) is helpful, but some of us are damaged beyond much improvement, at least from what i can tell thus far. I still am hopeful that if i’m careful and stick to natural medicine, i will improve.

    What i find scary is that most docs aren’t even aware of the chemical composition of the drugs they prescribe. A year ago, fighting a chronic rash i was having trouble healing, a doc wanted to prescribe Diflucan. I explained i could not take that med because i’m so fluoride sensitive, and he did not know what i was talking about. He checked his mini PDR, and it did not tell him either. I don’t trust doctors much these days as so few have a really good grasp on what they are actually doing with their Rx pads (and very little else).

    • Karen Ramey says:

      Kathryn, I was poisoned by Ciprofloxacin at the end of January of this year. I have gone to five different “alternative” healers, three in New York and two in California, spending a fortune and accumulating a lot of vitamin products. I’ve also been purchasing reverse osmosis bottled water. I learned on line that adding 1/8 teaspoon of borax to filtered water and mixing this well will take fluoride out of the water. I want to get some other opinions on this. Luckily, you don’ t have fluoridated water. Are you in Oregon?
      I’m discouraged to hear that you are continuing to suffer from Cipro toxicity. Are you any better and what has helped? My life has been changed drastically from having treated a UTI.
      Karen – Brooklyn

  9. Kimberly Hartke says:

    Kathryn, thanks for sharing your cautionary tale. Tomorrow in part 3 Sylvia will share on nutritional changes that helped Aliss heal.

  10. Sarah Lovett says:

    Does the class include any of the cultures, Keffir grains, for instance?


  1. […] Hartke Is Online! blog about homemaking, food and health Skip to content HomeAboutPrivacy PolicyTestimonialsComment PolicyContactSubscribeRecipesNews ClipsFarmsWellnessResourcesFood Safety Bill Opinion EditorialsUSDA Dietary Guidelines ControversyBest BlogsTop Guest Blogs 2009Most Googled Blogs 2009Guest BloggersMark McAfeeSylvia Onusic, Ph.D.Sir Julian RoseVictoria Cortes « Meet a Fluoride Poisoning Survivor […]

  2. […] See Part 1 of this series, Meet a Fluoride Poisoning Survivor. […]

  3. […] drinking water as a child. Her story was chronicled in a four part series on this blog last week: Meet a Fluoride Poisoning Survivor. Today, she is a nutritionist (CNP) and member of Weston A. Price Foundation in Toronto teaching […]

  4. […] See part one of this series, Meet a Fluoride Poisoning Survivor […]

Speak Your Mind