Industrial-grade Fluoridation Chemicals
Cost Society $Billions in Arsenic-induced Cancers
NEW YORK– Industrial-grade fluoride chemicals added to US public water supplies contain arsenic that the EPA classifies as a human carcinogen. Switching to low-arsenic pharmaceutical-grade fluoride will save society $1 billion to $14 billion annually, according to research published in Environmental Science & Policy, led by former EPA senior scientists who are experts in chemical risk assessment, reports the Fluoride Action Network (FAN).
Although never studied for safety or efficacy, hydrofluorosilicic acid (HFSA) is added to public water supplies as a purported cavity preventive. The industry-funded group that regulates water additives, NSF International, allows several toxins in HFSA, including arsenic.
The Safe Drinking Water Act requires EPA to determine the level of certain contaminants in drinking water at which no adverse health effects are likely to occur. These health goals, based solely on possible health risks and exposure over a lifetime with an adequate margin of safety, are called maximum contaminant level goals (MCLG). The MCLG for arsenic is zero. The EPA also sets an enforceable maximum contaminant level (MCL), but concedes this level will not prevent cancers.
Senior researchers, Drs. William Hirzy and Robert Carton , write, “Arsenic levels in this HFSA product vary substantially but are typically about 30-35 mg/kg.” These levels would qualify it as toxic hazardous waste if not for a legal loophole because it is sold to fluoridate water. The study found HFSA raised the arsenic level of finished or tap water by anywhere from 0.078 to 0.43 parts per billion (ppb).
Ninety percent of arsenic showing up in tap water comes from fluoridation chemicals, according to a study in the American Water Works Association publication, Opflow, led by Dr. Cheng-nan Weng.
Hirzy and Carton found that industrial-grade HFSA contains from 100 to 500 times more arsenic than pharmaceutical grade sodium fluoride (NaF).
Using EPA’s calculation methods, HFSA would cause from 320 to 1800 arsenic-induced cancers per year. They calculated these cancers would cost society $1 billion to $6 billion per year.
The researchers conclude: “Our analysis shows that, if local governments that currently add HFSA to their drinking water wish to continue delivering fluoride to their citizens and at the same time reduce the number of lung and bladder cancers among their citizens, they could do so with a significant net benefit to society by switching to USP NaF [pharmaceutical grade Sodium Fluoride] for fluoridation.”
Paul Connett , PhD, FAN Director says, “This study provides additional scientific evidence that fluoridation should be stopped, as the purported benefits no longer outweigh the risks.”
Reference: Hirzy JW, Carton RJ, Bonanni CD, Montanero CM, Michael F. Nagle MF. 2013. Comparison of hydrofluorosilicic acid and pharmaceutical sodium fluoride as fluoridating agents—A cost–benefit analysis. Environmental Science & Policy 29: 81-86 (May).
Comparison of hydrofluorosilicic acid and pharmaceutical sodium fluoride as fluoridating agents—A cost–benefit analysis
- J. William Hirzy
- Robert J. Carton,
- Christina D. Bonanni,
- Carly M. Montanero,
- Michael F. Nagle
- American University, Department of Chemistry, 4400 Massachusetts Ave., N.W., Washington, DC,. USA
- 4 Glenwood Terrace, Averill Park, NY, USA
Water fluoridation programs in the United States and other countries which have them use either sodium fluoride (NaF), hydrofluorosilicic acid (HFSA) or the sodium salt of that acid (NaSF), all technical grade chemicals to adjust the fluoride level in drinking water to about 0.7–1 mg/L.
In this paper we estimate the comparative overall cost for U.S. society between using cheaper industrial grade HFSA as the principal fluoridating agent versus using more costly pharmaceutical grade (U.S. Pharmacopeia – USP) NaF.
USP NaF is used in toothpaste. HFSA, a liquid, contains significant amounts of arsenic (As). HFSA and NaSF have been shown to leach lead (Pb) from water delivery plumbing, while NaF has been shown not to do so. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) health-based drinking water standards for As and Pb are zero.
Our focus was on comparing the social costs associated with the difference in numbers of cancer cases arising from As during use of HFSA as fluoridating agent versus substitution of USP grade NaF. We calculated the amount of As delivered to fluoridated water systems using each agent, and used EPA Unit Risk values for As to estimate the number of lung and bladder cancer cases associated with each.
We used cost of cancer cases published by EPA to estimate cost of treating lung and bladder cancer cases. Commercial prices of HFSA and USP NaF were used to compare costs of using each to fluoridate. We then compared the total cost to our society for the use of HFSA versus USP NaF as fluoridating agent. The U.S. could save $1 billion to more than $5 billion/year by using USP NaF in place of HFSA while simultaneously mitigating the pain and suffering of citizens that result from use of the technical grade fluoridating agents.
Other countries, such as Ireland, New Zealand, Canada and Australia that use technical grade fluoridating agents may realize similar benefits by making this change. Policy makers would have to confront the uneven distribution of costs and benefits across societies if this change were made.
► Arsenic in current H2O fluoridating agents causes significant cancer treatment costs. ► Arsenic in USP NaF would result in 100–500-fold fewer cancers. ► USP NaF costs about 12 times as much as current fluoridating agents. ► U.S. savings as a society using USP NaF would be $1–5 billion annually. ► Costs and savings are not distributed evenly throughout society.
Read more about how arsenic and lead function as poisons.
Water Fluoridation May Be Placing Infants at Great Risk
Not only is there mounting evidence that fluoride poses grave health risks to infants and children—including reductions in IQ—arsenic exposure in utero and during early childhood is also particularly problematic, as it can cause lasting harm to children’s developing brains, and endocrine- and immune systems.
- A 2006 study8 found that Chileans exposed to high levels (peaking at 1,000 ppb) of naturally-occurring arsenic in drinking water in utero and during early childhood had a six times higher lung cancer death rate compared to Chileans living in areas with lower levels of arsenic in their water. And their mortality rate in their 30s and 40s from another form of lung disease was almost 50 times higher than for people without that arsenic exposure.
- A 2004 study9 showed children exposed to arsenic in drinking water at levels above 5 ppb had lower IQ scores. Earlier studies have linked chronic arsenic exposure to a range of cognitive dysfunctions, including learning disabilities, memory problems, poor concentration, and peripheral and central neuropathies.
- A study10 published in 2011 examined the long-term effects of low-level exposure on more than 300 rural Texans whose groundwater was estimated to have arsenic at median levels below the federal drinking-water standard. It also found that exposure was related to poor scores in language, memory, and other brain functions.
Is it Worth Increasing Cancer Risk for Minimal, if Any, Benefit to Teeth?
Some proponents of fluoridation believe that the large dilution of these fluoridating chemicals that takes place when they are added at the public water works ameliorates concerns about the known contaminants. However, arsenic is a known human carcinogen, for which there is no safe level.
Inevitably, the addition of contaminated hexafluorosilicic acid to the water supply by definition must increase the cancer rate in the US because of the arsenic it contains, and this is exactly what Hirzy’s research shows. Why would any rational government do that to reduce – at best – a miniscule amount of tooth decay? According to Hirzy11:
“We found that the United States as a society is spending, conservatively speaking, $1 billion to $6 billion treating the excess bladder and lung cancers caused by arsenic in the most commonly used fluoridation chemical, fluorosilicic acid… The switch [to pharmaceutical-grade sodium fluoride] would cost $100 million, but would save billions in reduced cancer costs.”
For people living in areas with fluoridated tap water, fluoride is a part of every glass of water, every bath and shower, and every meal cooked using that water. This makes absolutely no sense considering the carcinogenic nature of arsenic—especially in light of the epidemic of cancer.
Hirzy’s study is actually the first risk assessment of arsenic-contaminated fluoride in drinking water. This is particularly shocking considering the fact that fluorosilicic acids have been used since the early 1950’s12 (prior to that, sodium fluoride, a byproduct of the aluminum industry, was typically used). Incredibly, while the EPA performs risk assessments for most drinking water contaminants, the agency does NOT oversee the addition of fluoridation chemicals. As stated in the featured article, this policy makes no sense whatsoever.
“Under the Toxic Substances Control Act, the EPA has the authority to regulate or ban almost any substance — including fluorosilicic acid — that poses an “unreasonable risk” to public health, [Hirzy] said.”