Fluoridation Facts Short Answer
Fluoridation Facts Long Answer
There are only three basic compounds used to fluoridate community drinking water:
The three fluoride compounds are derived from the mineral apatite which is a mixture of calcium compounds. Apatite contains 3% to 7% fluoride and is the main source of fluorides used in water fluoridation at the present time. Apatite is also the raw material used for production of phosphate fertilizers;27, 203 however, standards and minimum requirements have been established for all three compounds used in water fluoridation.204
From time to time, opponents of water fluoridation allege that the three compounds used in water fluoridation are impure or contain impurities at a level that may be potentially harmful. To help ensure the public's safety, compounds used for water fluoridation conform to standards established by the American Water Works Association.204 The American Water Works Association (AWWA) is an international nonprofit scientific and educational society dedicated to the improvement of drinking water quality and supply. Regarding impurities, the AWWA Standards state, "The [fluoride compound] supplied under this standard shall contain no soluble materials or organic substances in quantities capable of producing deleterious or injurious effects on the health of those consuming water that has been properly treated with the [fluoride compound]." Certified analyses of the compounds must be furnished by the manufacturer or supplier.204
When added to community water supplies fluoride compounds become diluted to the recommended range of 0.7 to 1.2 parts per million. At 1 ppm, one part of fluoride is diluted in a million parts of water. Large numbers such as a million can be difficult to visualize. While not exact, the following comparisons can be of assistance in comprehending one part per million:
Additional discussion on this topic may be found in Question 21.
Fluoride compounds are added to the water supply as liquids, but are measured by two basic types of devices, dry feeders or solution feeders (metering pumps). By design, and with proper maintenance and testing, water systems limit the amount of fluoride that can be added to the system (i.e., the use of a day tank that only holds one day's supply of fluoride) so prolonged over-fluoridation becomes a mechanical impossibility.27 It is very important that the water treatment operators responsible for monitoring the addition of fluoride to the water supply be appropriately trained, and that the equipment used for this process is adequately maintained.203 As with any mechanical equipment, water fluoridation equipment should be tested, maintained and replaced as needed. State health departments can procure federal grant monies for these purposes.
While the optimal fluoride concentration found in drinking water has been proven safe, water plant operators and engineers may be exposed to much higher fluoride levels when handling fluoride compounds at the water treatment facility.27 In order to prevent overexposure to fluoride compounds by water plant operators, and ensure that fluoridated water systems provide optimal fluoride levels, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration provide guidelines/ recommendations for managers of fluoridated public water systems.203, 204 Adherence to these guidelines should assure continuous levels of optimally fluoridated drinking water while maintaining safe operation of all fluoridated water systems.
Allegations that fluoridation causes corrosion of water delivery systems are not supportable.27 Corrosion by drinking water is related primarily to dissolved oxygen concentration, pH, water temperature, alkalinity, hardness, salt concentration, hydrogen sulfide content and the presence of certain bacteria. Under some water quality conditions, a small increase in the corrosivity of drinking water that is already corrosive may be observed after treatment with alum, chlorine, fluorosilicic acid or sodium florosilicate. In such cases, further water treatment is indicated to adjust the pH upward. This is part of routine water plant operations.
There have been problems. One man died, and a woman was hospitalized "in critical condition near death," and at least 296 other citizens became ill as a result of "very high levels of fluoride" in a Hooper Bay, Alaska well on May 23, 1992. The symptoms nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue and tingling arms and hands "are compatible with acute fluoride poisoning." (Anchorage Daily News and The Anchorage Times, May 28-30, 1992.)
"An accidental leak of fluoride into the water supply of Annapolis caused the death ... of a 65-year-old man with kidney problems. ... Dr. Homez Guard said the death of Lawrence Blake on November 13 was caused by acute fluoride intoxication." ("Fluoride leak blamed for Annapolis death," San Jose Mercury, Nov. 29, 1979.)
See "Fluoridation Accidents and Poisonings" at www.fluoridealert.org for over twenty incidences, which includes the following (but with more details):
The toxicity and corrosiveness of fluoride compounds the risk of fluoridation equipment malfunction and operator error for all fluoridated water systems.
"When a city or village is fluoridated, no thought is given to the fact that there will be damage to the pipes of the water system, meters, hot water heaters and tanks and other equipment. Fluoride is extremely corrosive. The hard fact that this damage occurs comes as quite a shock a few years later." (See 33-1: "Fluoridation Damages Water Systems," by Harvey Petraborg, M.D., Oct. 7, 1964). To reduce some of this damage, the water companies are now required to add alkalizing agents when the acid level gets excessively high due to the added silicofluorides. This is just one more thing that is added to the water, but is never mentioned.
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