September 23, 2010

Nick Licata and
Seattle City Council
PO Box 34025
Seattle, WA 98124-4025

Dear Nick,

You are the pro-consumer person on the Seattle City Council. So I am writing to you as vice-president of Washington Action for Safe Water to alert you to an important consumer issue.

I remember well our working together with Seattle Consumer Action Network many years ago. SCAN pushed the lemon law, new at the time. I got my start as a lemon law lawyer. Years have passed. I am back into doing pro-consumer legal work.

The consumer issue is this: There is a problem with lead in Seattle drinking water. All are impacted by this, but the poor are impacted most.

To make it easier to follow links in this letter, read this letter online at http://www.fluoride-class-action.com/districts/seattle/letter-to-licata.

To download a Word version of this letter go here: http://www.fluoride-class-action.com/districts/seattle/letter-to-licata-doc.

Federal law mandates that water districts give lead notices. A water district, as

owner or operator of a public water system … shall identify and provide notice to persons that may be affected by lead contamination of their drinking water where such contamination results from … lead content in the construction materials of the public water distribution system [or] corrosivity of the water supply sufficient to cause leaching of lead. … Notice under this paragraph shall be provided notwithstanding the absence of a violation of any national drinking water standard.[1]

The health issue is this: There is lead in Seattle drinking water. Raw water from the Tolt and Cedar rivers contain virtually no lead. Chemicals are being added to drinking water which contain lead, which leach lead from pipes, fittings, and solder, and which bind with lead and facilitate its uptake and retention by the human body. Washington is failing to notify citizens of these lead issues.

The EPA classifies lead[2] as a “probable human carcinogen” and adds:

Health effects associated with exposure to inorganic lead and compounds include, but are not limited to, neurotoxicity, developmental delays, hypertension, impaired hearing acuity, impaired hemoglobin synthesis, and male reproductive impairment. Importantly, many of lead’s health effects may occur without overt signs of toxicity. Lead has particularly significant effects in children, well before the usual term of chronic exposure can take place. Children under 6 years old have a high risk of exposure because of their more frequent hand-to-mouth behavior

There has long been lead in almost all brass water pipes and pipe fittings[3] and in the solder used to solder brass and copper pipe. Lead has long been added to brass to serve as a “flux,” that is to make metals in general melt at a lower temperature.[4]

In 1977 we made lead based paint illegal.[5] In 1986 we made lead based inks illegal.[6] Between 1976 and 1986 we phased out tetraethyl lead.[7] California has banned lead bullets[8] in areas where condors forage.

Newer water mains are lead free. However, many older pipes are exception is iron pipes,[9] generally soldered together with lead solder. Iron water mains are common in many cities.[10] You should inquire as to whether Seattle still has cast iron water mains.

Even if there is no lead in water mains, things change when water gets to homes and businesses, where water encounters brass plumbing and fittings which contain lead, and copper pipe soldered with lead solder. Until recently, it was standard procedure to solder copper pipes together with solder containing lead.[11]

In 1986 as part of the Safe Drinking Water Act,[12] the EPA required that all pipes and fittings that carry water be “lead free.” The term “lead free” allowed water pipes and fittings to contain up to 8.0% lead and allowed solder[13] for use in plumbing to contain up to 0.2% lead, a standard which Washington follows.[14] Before 1986 water pipes were sometimes up to 30% lead. This means that we should carefully check lead[15] in water in old buildings, including old schools.

In 2010  California limited lead content[16] in brass pipes and fittings to a maximum of 0.25%, and in solder to 0.20%.[17] It is unfortunate that the EPA did not do the same back in 1986. Many thousands have been harmed[18] in the last 24 years. We should hope that the EPA will follow California’s lead and do the same. We would hope that the Washington Board of Health would implement rule making which follows the California rule. Note, however, that even if state law puts greater limitations on lead in new construction, this will not remove the already existing lead in plumbing in tens of thousands of homes, schools, and businesses.

In 2004 the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported that lead was showing up in water fountains in old Seattle schools, at levels up to 1,600 ppb,[19] far above the EPA legally enforceable maximum contaminant level[20] (MCL) in effect at that time, which was 20 ppb. The MCL was recently reduced to 15 ppb.[21] More important is the recommended maximum contaminant level goal[22] (MCLG), which is zero. Lead is a carcinogen, so we should not do anything that adds lead to our water, causes lead to leach out of plumbing, or increases lead uptake or retention by the body.

Lead in pipes will often stay put relatively well and not dissolve into drinking water, particularly hard water which contains a lot of calcium carbonate, which binds with lead.

A problem arises when silicofluorides (SiFs) are added to water. SiFs dissolve lead and bind to lead[23] in such a way that lead which might otherwise pass through the body is absorbed.

This problem is more serious in cities which have soft water, that is water which is low in dissolved calcium and other minerals. Even the CDC admits that soft water is more prone[24] to be acidic and leach more lead because there is so little dissolved minerals in soft water to bind with the fluoride and reduce acidity. Thus, fluoride is freer to bind with lead in soft water. Seattle’s snow melt water is considered very soft.

Fluoride is the most acidic and electron negative of all elements. Fluoride aggressively seeks out lead and dissolves it, especially in acidic, soft water.

There is a custom of using pipes for electrical grounding. Many older houses are still grounded through water pipes. This accelerates lead corrosion and increases lead in drinking water.[25]

Further, silicofluorides attack PVC pipe,[26] causing release of ammonia, which combines with chlorine to form chloramine, which is more aggressive than chlorine in dissolving lead in brass pipes, fittings, and solder. Seattle uses chlorine as a disinfectant instead of chloramine, and we hope it will not follow the current trend of switching from chlorine to chloramine.

Take a look at what the scholars have to say about the subject. In 2000 Masters[27], Coplan, and others published an article in NeuroToxicology,[28] a peer reviewed journal.[29] This article was expanded on in a 2001 article[30] and summarized in Dartmouth News.[31] The article in Dartmouth News concludes that there is

evidence that public drinking water treated with sodium silicofluoride or fluosilicic acid, known as silicofluorides (SiFs), is linked to higher uptake of lead in children.

Sodium fluoride, first added to public drinking water in 1945, is now used in less than 10% of fluoridation systems nationwide…. Instead, [silicofluorides] are now used to treat drinking water delivered to 140 million people [including Seattle]. While sodium fluoride was tested on animals and approved for human consumption, the same cannot be said for [silicofluorides].

Masters and … Coplan … studied the blood lead levels in over 400,000 children in three different samples. In each case, they found a significant link between [silicofluoride]-treated water and elevated blood lead levels. [Masters said:] ‘We should stop using silicofluorides in our public water supply until we know what they do.’ … The researchers found that the greatest likelihood of children having elevated blood lead levels occurs when they are exposed both to known risk factors, such as old house paint and lead in soil or water, and to [silicofluoride]-treated drinking water. [Masters said:] ‘[O]ur preliminary findings show correlations between SiF use and more behavior problems due to known effects of lead on brain chemistry.’ Also requiring further examination is German research that shows [silicofluorides] inhibit cholinesterase, an enzyme that plays an important role in regulating neurotransmitters. [Masters said:] ‘If [silicofluorides] are cholinesterase inhibitors, this means that [silicofluorides] have effects like the chemical agents linked to Gulf War Syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome and other puzzling conditions that plague millions of Americans….’ [Masters said:] ‘[T]his may well be the worst environmental poison since leaded gasoline.’

Masters added more detail in a letter he wrote June 17, 2001.[32]

In 2007 Masters, Coplan, and others published another article in NeuroToxicology,[33] which cites numerous other supporting scientific journal articles, in which they concluded:[34]

Silicofluorides … are used to fluoridate over 90% of US fluoridated municipal water supplies [including Seattle’s]. Living in communities with silicofluoride treated water… is associated with two neurotoxic effects:

(1)      Prevalence of children with elevated blood lead … is about double that in non-fluoridated communities …. [silicofluoride treated water] is associated with serious corrosion of lead-bearing brass plumbing, producing elevated water lead … at the faucet. New data refute the long-prevailing belief that [lead in water] contributes little to children’s blood lead…. [I]t it is likely to contribute 50% or more.

(2)      [Silicofluoride treated water] has been shown to interfere with cholinergic function. … [Silicofluoride treated water] is a more powerful inhibitor of acetylcholinesterase than [water fluoridated with sodium fluoride, which was used when fluoridation first began in the 1950s].

There is another problem. Silicofluorides not only attach to and deliver lead. They actually contain lead. Silicofluorides come from super-phosphate fertilizer plants in Florida, Louisiana, and increasingly from China. To make super-phosphate fertilizer, processors cook rock phosphate with sulfuric acid. Sulfuric acid contains lead because the sulfuric acid is produced in gigantic lead pots, and part of the lead remains in the sulfuric acid, as NSF International[35] admits.

In making your analysis, remember that lead is a carcinogen and neurotoxin and that the MCLG,[36] maximum contaminant level goal for lead is zero. That means none at all should be added to drinking water.

A mother’s placental barrier does not prevent the passage of lead or fluoride to her fetus.[37] Babies are being born in Seattle with reduced IQ as a direct result our “just a little lead” in our drinking water policy.

We quote[38] from Fluoride and Lead by Frances Frech:

Let us tell you a tale of two cities–Tacoma, Washington, and Thurmont, Maryland. Both of them saw significant decline in [blood] lead levels only six months after fluoridation was stopped. (In Tacoma, that was due to equipment problems, in Thurmont, it was a temporary ban by the city council.) Tacoma registered a drop of nearly 50% …; in Thurmont it was 78%. To the best of our knowledge, no other explanations were offered. In Thurmont the ban is now permanent.”

Unfortunately, Tacoma returned to fluoridating its drinking water and a battle continues over whether to reverse this policy.

Super-phosphate fertilizer is used to grow corn, soybeans, wheat, and other industrial food crops. As sulfuric acid is mixed with rock phosphate, clouds of fluoride-rich[39] vapor go up the stacks. Before EPA intervention in the 1970s, the toxic smoke poisoned plants, animals, and people for miles around. The EPA required fertilizer plants to begin using wet scrubbers to filter out the fluoride along with the lead, arsenic, and many other contaminants. The silicofluorides are the unfiltered and unprocessed scrubber liquor from the fertilizer production process. Silicofluoride scrubber liquor goes directly into tanker trucks and is delivered to Seattle in tanker trucks to the headwaters of our rivers where it is poured into our drinking water. NSF International admits in its 2008 Fact Sheet that some loads of silicofluoride fluoridation materials contain lead and arsenic at up to .6 ppb.[40] Heavy metals are heavier and sink to the bottom of storage tanks at the fertilizer factory. Depending on how well the scrubber liquor is mixed and whether scrubber liquor is drawn off the top of the storage tank or drawn after the top layer has been drawn off, different tanker loads shipped to Seattle can contain different levels of lead, arsenic, and other heavy metals.

The toxic smoke had been illegal as air pollution. It was transformed into scrubber liquor, which was illegal to dump in rivers, lakes, or oceans. The greatest irony of all this is that is being dumped into our drinking water. No government agency has ever approved silicofluorides to be safe for human ingestion.[41]

Thus, Seattle is not only adding chemicals which leach lead from pipes and not only facilitate lead uptake but which also contain lead.

The EPA has granted primacy to the state of Washington to implement the SDWA. See 40 CFR 42.10. In each state there is a lead agency which is empowered to administer the SDWA, and in Washington that agency is the Department of Health. RCW  70.119A.080, RCW 43.21A.445. In RCW 43.21A.445 several Washington agencies led by the Department of Health are “… authorized to participate fully in and are empowered to administer …” the SDWA.

The SDWA requires that state “… drinking water regulations” be “no less stringent than the national primary drinking water regulations.”[42]

Seattle, like all other water districts, is required by federal law to disseminate notice regarding lead to all who drink Seattle water.[43] This is what the SDWA says regarding lead notice:

Public notice requirements

(A)     In general

Each owner or operator of a public water system shall identify and provide notice to persons that may be affected by lead contamination of their drinking water where such contamination results from either or both of the following:

(i)       The lead content in the construction materials of the public water distribution system.

(ii)      Corrosivity of the water supply sufficient to cause leaching of lead.

The notice shall be provided in such manner and form as may be reasonably required by the Administrator. Notice under this paragraph shall be provided notwithstanding the absence of a violation of any national drinking water standard.

(B)     Contents of notice

Notice under this paragraph shall provide a clear and readily understandable explanation of—

(i)       the potential sources of lead in the drinking water,

(ii)      potential adverse health effects,

(iii)     reasonably available methods of mitigating known or potential lead content in drinking water,

(iv)     any steps the system is taking to mitigate lead content in drinking water, and

(v)      the necessity for seeking alternative water supplies, if any.

The law is very clear on this point: Water systems must give an honest notice to water drinkers regarding lead. Seattle is failing to give notice regarding the hazards involved in drinking local tap water. Said notice should include the following warning:

Those who drink Seattle water should be aware that Seattle injects silicofluorides into drinking water. Tanker loads of silicofluorides contain lead in varying amounts. Silicofluorides dissolve lead in brass pipe, brass fittings, the solder used to solder together brass and copper pipe, and the lead solder used to solder cast iron water main pipes. Silicofluorides bind to lead and facilitate absorption of lead by the body. Lead causes brain impairment, particularly in young children. Those who wish to avoid consuming lead should not drink Seattle tap water or use it for cooking and should seek an alternate source of drinking and cooking water.

Further, because silicofluorides contain more lead than sodium fluoride, because silicofluorides cause more lead to be leached from brass pipe and fittings and from lead solder used to solder copper pipe and cast iron water mains than does sodium fluoride, Seattle should cease using silicofluorides as fluoridation materials and – if it chooses to continue fluoridating – should only use sodium fluoride.

In closing, we want to make it clear that Fluoride Class Action does not support any kind of water fluoridation. All fluoridation is highly unwise for many reasons. However, silicofluorides do appear to be more harmful than sodium fluoride and to contain lead, leach lead, and facilitate lead uptake to a greater degree than sodium fluoride. Further, laws regarding lead notice are not being followed.

A similar version of this letter has been submitted to the Washington Board of Health with a copy sent to Governor Christine Gregoire.[44]

Additional problems with fluoridation have been brought to the attention of the Washington Board of Health as part of a proposal for rulemaking and are part of an appeal to the Governor.[45]


James Robert Deal, Attorney at Law

President, Fluoride Class Action

425-771-1110 telephone

425-776-8081 fax


Copies to:

Richard Conlin, richard.conlin@seattle.gov

Sally Bagshaw, sally.bagshaw@seattle.gov

Tim Burgess, tim.burgess@seattle.gov

Sally J. Clark, sally.clark@seattle.gov

Jean Godden, jean.godden@seattle.gov

Bruce A. Harrell, bruce.harrell@seattle.gov

Mike O’Brien, mike.obrien@seattle.gov

Tom Rasmussen, tom.rasmussen@seattle.gov

Mike McGinn, mike.mcginn@seattle.gov

[1] 42 USC 300g-1(b)(11)

[2] EPA, “Lead and compounds (inorganic) (CASRN 7439-92-1)”http://www.epa.gov/iris/subst/0277.htm.

[3] Wikipedia, “Brass,” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brass.

[4] DKL, “FACT AND FICTION IN LEAD FREE SOLDERING,” http://www.dklmetals.co.uk/PDF%20Files/Factorfiction.pdf.

[5] Wikipedia, “Lead Paint,” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lead_paint.

[6] Shopfloor, “Tag: Lead-Based Ink,” http://www.shopfloor.org/tag/lead-based-ink/.

[7] Wikipedia, “Tetraethyllead,” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tetraethyllead.

[8] California Bill Analysis, “California Condors:  Non-lead Ammunition,” April 10, 2007, http://info.sen.ca.gov/pub/07-08/bill/asm/ab_0801-0850/ab_821_cfa_20070409_160734_asm_comm.html.

[9] Plumbing-Basics, “Cast Iron Pipes for Plumbing,” http://www.plumbing-basics.com/pipes/pipes-cast-iron.htm.

[10] ACIPCO International, “Cast Iron Pipe through the Ages,” http://www.acipco.com/international/pipeandfittings/ductileiron/history.cfm.

[11] Wikipedia, “Soldering,” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soldering.

[12] 42 USC 300g-1(b)(11), http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/42/usc_sec_42_00000300—g006-.html.

[13] Wikipedia, “Soldering,” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soldering.

[14] WAC 246-290-220, http://apps.leg.wa.gov/wac/default.aspx?cite=246-290-220.

[15] Seattle Public Utilities, “Lead,” http://www.seattle.gov/util/Services/Water/Water_Quality/LEAD_200312011625223.asp.

[16] NSF, “Low Lead Plumbing Products Guide,” http://www.nsf.org/business/mechanical_plumbing/annexg.asp?program=MechanicalPluSysCom.

[17] California Senate Bill AB1953, “Lead Plumbing,” http://info.sen.ca.gov/pub/05-06/bill/asm/ab_1951-2000/ab_1953_cfa_20060818_134053_sen_floor.html.

[18] Roger Masters, “Silicofluorides and Higher Blood Lead: A National Problem that Particularly Harms Blacks,” November 15, 2001, http://www.fluoride-class-action.com/wp-content/uploads/Masters-Coplan-Silicofluorides-and-higher-blood-lead-sif-PbinBlacks14-2001.doc.

[19] Seattle Post-Inteligencer, “Lead-tainted Water in Seattle Schools Stuns Parents,” July 2, 2004, http://www.seattlepi.com/health/180495_leadwater02.html.

[20] Wikipedia, “Maximum Contaminant Level,” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maximum_contaminant_level.

[21] EPA, “Drinking Water Contaminants,” http://water.epa.gov/drink/contaminants/index.cfm.

[22] Wikipedia, “Safe Drinking Water Act,” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Safe_Drinking_Water_Act.

[23] Dartmouth News, “Dartmouth researcher Warns of Chemicals Added to Drinking Water,” March 15, 2001, http://www.dartmouth.edu/~news/releases/2001/mar01/flouride.html.

[24] CDC, “Fluoridation of Drinking Water and Corrosion of Pipes in Distribution Systems,” August 24, 2009, http://www.cdc.gov/print.do?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Ffluoridation%2Ffact_sheets%2Fengineering%2Fcorrosion.htm.

[25] Wikipedia, “Brass,” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brass.

[26] Santa Clara Valley Signal, “Pipes May Leak Lead,” August 29, 2009, http://www.the-signal.com/archives/17365/.

[27] List of published works by Roger D. Masters, http://www.dartmouth.edu/~rmasters/

[28] Masters, Coplan, et al., NeuroToxicology, 2000 Dec;21(6):1091-100, “Association of silicofluoride treated water with elevated blood lead,” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11233755?dopt=Abstract.

[29] Elsevier, “NeuroToxicology,” http://www.elsevier.com/wps/find/journaldescription.cws_home/621355/description#description.

[30] Dartmouth University, June 17, 2001, “Silicofluorides & Higher Blood Lead: Statement from Dr. Roger Masters,” http://www.fluoridealert.org/sf-masters.htm.

[31] Dartmouth News, “Dartmouth researcher Warns of Chemicals Added to Drinking Water,” March 15, 2001, http://www.dartmouth.edu/~news/releases/2001/mar01/flouride.html.

[32] Roger D. Masters, “Silicofluorides and Higher Blood Lead,” June17, 2001, http://www.fluoridealert.org/sf-masters.htm.

[33] Coplan, Masters, et al., “Confirmation of and explanations for elevated blood lead and other disorders in children exposed to water disinfection and fluoridation chemicals,” NeuroToxicology, Volume 28, Issue 5, September 2007, Pages 1032-1042, http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6W81-4N5CX5D-1&_user=10&_coverDate=09%2F30%2F2007&_rdoc=1&_fmt=high&_orig=browse&_sort=d&view=c&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=30f0dafe13d27af44fac90b8a8d39b82.

[34] Ibid., complete article, http://www.fluoride-class-action.com/wp-content/uploads/coplan-masters-confirmation-of-and-explanations-for-elevated-blood-lead-and-other-disorders-in-children-exposed-to-water-disinfection-and-fluoride-chemicals-neurotoxicology-28-2007-1032.pdf.

[35] NSF Fact Sheet on Fluoridation Chemicals, 2008, http://www.nsf.org/business/water_distribution/pdf/NSF_Fact_Sheet.pdf.

[36] EPA, “Drinking Water Contaminants,” http://water.epa.gov/drink/contaminants/index.cfm#1.

[37] Newsweek, “Lead and Your Kids,” July 15, 1991, http://www.newsweek.com/1991/07/14/lead-and-your-kids.html.

[38] Frances Frech, “Fluoride and Lead,” http://sonic.net/kryptox/environ/lead/lead.htm.

[39] H.F.J. Denzinger, H.J. Konig and G.E.W. Kruger, “Fluorine recovery in the fertilizer industry – a review,” Phosphorous & Potassium, September/October 1979, No. 103, pp. 33-39,  http://www.fluoridealert.org/phosphate/denzinger.htm.

[40] NSF International 2008 Fluoridation Fact Sheet. http://www.fluoride-class-action.com/wp-content/uploads/NSF-fact-sheet-on-fluoride-2008.pdf

[41] September 13, 2010, letter to Governor Christine Gregoire. http://washingtonsafewater.com/bd-of-health/appeal-to-governor-9-13-10/

[42] 40 C.F.R. § 142.10   Requirements for a determination of primary enforcement responsibility, http://law.justia.com/us/cfr/title40/40-

[43] 42 USC 300g-1(b)(11)

[44] September 13, 2010, Proposal for rulemaking submitted to the Washington Board of Health. http://washingtonsafewater.com/bd-of-health/rulemaking-lead-9-13-10

[45] September 13, 2010, appeal to Governor Christine Gregoire. http://washingtonsafewater.com/bd-of-health/appeal-to-governor-9-13-10.