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According to this CC Pure Water article, Dr. Phyllis Mullenix was fired from her research position three days after it was announced that her research into the neurotoxicity of fluoride was to be published.

This is a quote from the article:

Then in 1994, after refining her research and findings, Dr. Mullenix presented her results to the Journal of Neurotoxicology and Teratology [5], considered probably the world's most respected publication in that field. Three days after she joyfully announced to the Forsyth Institute that she had been accepted for publication by the journal, she was dismissed from her position.

This is the research publication in question:

  • Phyllis J. Mullenix, Pamela K. Denbesten, Ann Schunior, William J. Kernan, Neurotoxicity of sodium fluoride in rats, Neurotoxicology and Teratology, Volume 17, Issue 2, March–April 1995, Pages 169–177, DOI: 10.1016/0892-0362(94)00070-T

Is the claim about her losing her position after publication true?

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    The claim is not that she was dismissed "for" her research, but "after" her research. Big difference. I have corrected your question accordingly.
    – Sklivvz
    Dec 27 '12 at 3:10
  • Yes you're right, thanks for your edit. Good pick up.
    – Kenshin
    Dec 27 '12 at 3:11
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    Here is Dr Mullenix's side of the story.. (I am assuming faithful reporting.)
    – Oddthinking
    Dec 27 '12 at 3:43
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    The problem I have with questions like this is that they are full of the implication that the person was unjustly fired because of some essential truth-value in their paper, and not that they were unjustly fired because the organization didn't want to be associated with (in this instance) fluoride conspiracy crackpots. It's very much a leading question in the worst sense of the term.
    – Tacroy
    Jan 4 '13 at 19:06
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    Think logically Tacroy. I wish to assess the underlying claim of whether or not she was fired for fluoride research. If I were to ask that question, people will call it speculative, so I must therefore break my quest into objective components. The first part is of course to determine whether or not she was even fired in the first place, or if that was just a lie.
    – Kenshin
    Jan 5 '13 at 3:19
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Mullenix's experience was described in a recent book by Freeze and Lehr called The Fluoride Wars. This book claims to take a neutral position on the controversy.

Three days after telling her superiors that her 1995 paper [20] had been accepted, she was dismissed from her position. She sued for wrongful dismissal and received an out-of-court settlement.[21]

Sorry, I don't know the original references [20] and [21] since I don't have the full book. The out-of-court settlement would appear to be evidence that wrongful dismissal did occur. I don't know whether it is possible to obtain court records for cases that are dismissed out-of-court.

A rigorously researched book also discusses Mullenix's experience. The Fluoride Deception by Chris Bryson is meticulously documented, and the author interviewed many of the principal people. Here is the description of the firing in Bryson's book:

On May 18,1994—Just days after the paper had been accepted— Forsyth fired Mullenix. The termination letter merely stated that her contract would not be renewed. There was no mention of fluoride." [p. 23]

Although both these accounts probably rely on Mullenix's own account for some details, they have both been vetted by the respective authors.

Reading either book should convince almost anyone that career problems following reporting adverse health effects of fluoride is not uncommon.

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    "The out-of-court settlement would appear to be evidence that wrongful dismissal did occur." I agree that it would appear that way, but it isn't definitive. People have been known to settle out of court for commercial reasons, despite feeling that they have the morally right position.
    – Oddthinking
    Jan 4 '13 at 13:10
  • This answer ignores whether the "wrongful dismissal" was because she published, or because of other reasons such as sexual discrimination.
    – Oddthinking
    Jul 19 '17 at 6:27
  • @Oddthinking - I was thinking that, if one is going to market oneself to the lunatic conspiracy fringe, taking a $10 "settlement," with confidentiality agreements written in, would be a very lucrative settlement to take. The defending institution would also be eager to take it and dispose of the matter so easily, without pointing to any legitimacy of the original claim. The plaintiff gets to make vague references to the university settling for an undisclosed amount, bolstering the "bona fides" as a truth-crusader that the status-quo defenders tried to crush, but couldn't. Jul 27 '17 at 15:16
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The answer to the question about Mullenix losing her position after the publication of the article is that it is true per Christopher Bryson's book:

On May 18,1994 -- just days after the paper had been accepted -- Forsyth fired Mullenix (23).

Concerning the wrongful termination suit that she filed against her former employer which was settled out of court, we don't have data on what went on as it came up for legal review, i. e. whether the defense was on the verge of losing, etc. What we do know is that the judge did not rule against her before the company paid up, and she agreed to drop it after that point. However, for more information, you can read more about the background of the suit and Mullenix's employment from her point of view.

Also, having read the Christopher Bryson book, The Fluoride Conspiracy, which is extremely well-documented to the point of being dry, I can tell you that the gist of the story is that the lab she worked for got new equipment which could study rat behavior using cameras connected to motion-tracking software. The idea suggested to her by her boss was that they do the first study on a toxin and see how it affected the rats' movements. Mullenix agreed but was shocked when he suggested that they use fluoride as the toxin since she didn't consider it to be dangerous and had no other interest or history in researching it. She went along with his suggestion anyway and was further shocked to see that fluoride did in fact impair the rats' behavior considerably. Shock number three is that the old guy who was her boss, suggesting these experiments, had actually worked on pre-public fluoridation toxicity studies which had showed the same results back in the 1940s, so he pretty much knew all along what they were going to find, believe it or not. You can see a condensed, video version of the findings featuring interviews with some of the key players here.

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  • Note: I removed some off-topic defence of the anti-fluoridation position from this answer, which was in response to a comment. I also removed the comment. This was purely because the topics raised have already been addressed in separate fluoridation questions here, and any debate about their validity is better served in those questions.
    – Oddthinking
    May 27 '14 at 1:12
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    The claim that fluoride might be toxic in some dosage isn't particularly interesting. Many things are toxic at high enough dosage. Water is toxic if you ingest enough of it, but this doesn't imply that we should avoid drinking water. Mullenix's research or these documentaries might address dosage, but none of the answers here mention whether the rat dosage is at all comparable to what a normal human would ingest. A complete answer would do this.
    – KAI
    Jul 20 '17 at 20:12
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She was dismissed, or her contract not renewed, because she was not successful in winning grant money. The substance of her challenge to that decision was based on discrimination as a female. Fluoride didn't come into the legal proceedings.

The document describing the legal action: MULLENIX v. FORSYTH DENTAL INFIRMARY FOR CHILDREN

As you can see from this her dismissal or non-renewal of contract was related to her inability to obtain funding grants and questions about the alignment of her work with the company.

She alleged discrimination and unreasonable comments from supervisors.

Fluoride is only mentioned in the context of the work she had done (she argued her studies on rats were relevant). She seems to have interpreted some criticism of her work as sexual harassment.

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  • Welcome to Skeptics! If you click on the "edited" link at the bottom of the answer, it will show you the history, so you can see who edited your answer (hint: It was me!) and a comment explaining why.
    – Oddthinking
    Jul 20 '17 at 1:59

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