Most Australians assume that fluoridation chemicals are pharmaceutical grade, especially produced to a quality suitable to add to our drinking water. Little do they know where our fluoride really comes from or what it might cost us and the environment.
A 70-year-old marketing strategy
It’s a clever tactic really; take an extremely toxic, highly-acidic and very dangerous industrial waste product that is a serious environmental hazard, difficult to dispose of anywhere, shroud it in misinformation and present it in a way that makes it look attractive not only to the public but even to science and health professionals.
In fact the word “fluoride” itself has been cunningly used for decades – nearly 70 years in the Unites States and more than 50 years in Australia – to represent a substance that is claimed to be very positive by a small minority of fluoridating governments. But apart from the substantial body of scientific evidence showing that fluoride is neither safe nor effective, the source of fluoridation chemicals should present a serious red flag that cannot be ignored or hidden any longer.
Major sources of fluoride
Most Australians assume, or are led to believe, the chemicals used to fluoridate our drinking water are pharmaceutical grade or are of the same quality and purity of dental products. They are often surprised to find that these chemicals are in fact a highly-toxic industrial waste product from the phosphate fertiliser industry.
As early as 1855, lawsuits in Germany awarded huge damages to local farmers and residents around metal smelting factories because of the severe damage they were causing to crops, livestock and human health from the toxic fluorine gasses the factories were emitting. These lawsuits continued in the United States with several industries, including phosphate fertiliser production, adding to the damage. The toxic gases emitted as by-products in these industrial processes were, and still are, hydrogen fluoride (HF) and silicon tetrafluoride (SiF4). Fortunately, a “scrubbing” process was developed, where fine jets of water are sprayed in the chimneys of the processing plants to capture these dangerous gases.
This scrubbing process is quite simple – when a tiny droplet of water strikes the molecules of gas, the gases dissolve in the water and the resulting chemical solution is hexafluorosilicic acid (H2SiF6). This process is very effective in preventing most of these gases from escaping into the atmosphere but the problem then is what to do with this resulting synthetic chemical that is so toxic it cannot be disposed of in any body of water and cannot be disposed of on any body of land without substantial and very expensive treatment.
This liquid chemical, often contaminated with traces of lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium, arsenic and sometimes even uranium, does not undergo any further treatment or processing. Instead, in its raw form, it is given the appealing name of “fluoride” and is transported directly to various water dosing plants around Australia to be added to our drinking water at a concentration of around 1mg per litre, or one part per million.
This low concentration is often cited by fluoride proponents as being harmless due to this dilution ratio, but they fail to understand or rather acknowledge that it is the total daily dosage, rather than the concentration, that is absolutely crucial. Proponents also claim that after the dilution process the contaminant levels are below our acceptable contaminant levels in Australia. That is debatable, especially for arsenic which is a recognised carcinogen.
In the United States, the maximum contaminant level (MCL) for arsenic is 10ppb, which is generally above the level of arsenic in our fluoridation chemicals; however the maximum contaminant level goal (MCLG) is zero. In Australia, according to Food Standards Australia and New Zealand, a Margin of Exposure (MOE) approach is most commonly applied to “genotoxic carcinogens” such as arsenic and lead. However FSANZ states, “As for all contaminants, it is always preferable to minimise exposure by trying to adhere to the ALARA (as low as reasonably achievable) principle.” In other words, we should also be aiming for zero arsenic and lead. But, of course fluoride – a substance slightly more neurotoxic than lead – is an obvious exception, along with its contaminants.
Other fluoridation chemicals used in Australia are in powdered form and are derived from this scrubbed liquid hexafluorosilicic acid. They are sodium fluoride, produced by neutralizing (or reducing the acidity of) the raw hexafluorosilicic acid with soda ash; and sodium fluorosilicate, produced by neutralising sodium fluorosilicic acid with sodium chloride or caustic soda.
Sodium fluoride (the form of fluoride used in toothpaste) is generally used in very small amounts for water fluoridation, simply because it is far too expensive for large-scale water fluoridation schemes. But even sodium fluoride, after extensive processing to reduce the pH level or acidity, is still a very toxic substance. That’s why toothpaste companies in Australia often say; “Use a rice grain or pea size amount of toothpaste” (a quantity that most children and adults exceed); “Do Not Swallow”; and “Not suitable for children under 6 years.”
The only reason adult toothpaste is not suitable for children under six years of age is because they are prone to swallowing the toothpaste and therefore ingesting toxic sodium fluoride. Toothpaste companies in the United States, on the other hand, provide a full warning: “a pea-size amount of toothpaste should only be used and if swallowed contact the Poisons Information Line immediately.”
It is interesting that a “pea-size amount” of toothpaste (an unusually small amount) contains around 0.25mg of sodium fluoride – about the same amount of fluoride contained is a normal glass of Australian fluoridated tap water. And yet our health authorities recommend drinking around six to eight glasses of this water every day!
Misleading tactics used to hide the facts
Because Australian health authorities are concerned about the public’s perception of adding a toxic industrial waste product to our drinking water, they go to extraordinary lengths, often using very misleading and even false statements to defend and reinforce this 70-year-old marketing strategy.
In 2009, the Department of Human Services in Victoria stated; “Fluoride is not a waste product of the fertiliser manufacturing process, but rather, a co-product. If fluoride is not actively collected during the refining process for water fluoridation purposes, it remains in the phosphate fertiliser. However, due to the widespread practice of water fluoridation in Australia, fluoride is commonly extracted during the refining process.” This is a misleading statement.
The Health Department of Victoria (Health.Vic), along with other state health departments, say that “Fluoride is a naturally occurring compound found in plants and rocks. Sea water has approximately the same level of fluoride as in community fluoridation programs. It is also found at very low levels in almost all fresh water. Naturally occurring fluoride can be found at a beneficial level in some local water supplies.” These statements are also just perpetrating a 70-year-old marketing myth.
Firstly, to suggest that because calcium fluoride (CaF2) is found naturally occurring in plants, rocks and seawater, that a synthetic, highly-toxic, industrial waste chemical is therefore safe, is simply an inaccurate and misleading marketing spiel. Secondly, just because a substance occurs naturally in water does not mean the water is safe to drink. Arsenic also occurs naturally in water but it is highly toxic and like fluoride, some communities are spending a lot of money removing it. There is also plenty of scientific evidence showing that even moderate levels of natural fluoride in water causes a range of health problems.
There are also other implications of synthetic fluoride. One study, by Masters et al, found the use of hexafluorosilicic acid resulted in an increased uptake of lead into children’s blood, but they did not find this association with naturally occurring calcium fluoride. This is a very serious finding given the well-documented neurotoxic effects of lead. It is also a finding that is furtively ignored by our National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and respective state health departments.
It is astounding that some of Australia’s health authorities have even stated that fluoride is an essential nutrient. This is ridiculous! Fluoride is not an essential nutrient under any circumstances and any statement to that effect is misleading if not deceptive. There is no disease – including and especially tooth decay – that is caused by a “fluoride deficiency” and not a single biological process requires fluoride. In fact there is a substantial body of scientific evidence showing that fluoride interferes with a number of crucial biological processes in the human body.
Actually there are many examples of deceptive marketing techniques used to promote fluoride and in particular, hide the unappealing derivation of fluoridation chemicals. One Australian health authority described fluoride as “a by-product achieved by the refining of gas from the residual material after the removal of phosphate from the mineral rock fluorapatite, this gas is converted into a liquid or powder specifically for the purpose of adding to drinking water.” (our emphasis)
This is another deliberately misleading statement. Artificial industrial sodium fluoride and its dark cousins, sodium fluorosilicate and hexafluorosilicic acid are in fact listed Schedule 6 poisons and they are only regarded as ‘by-products’ because a method was determined to sell a waste product that in any other context would be called a hazardous pollutant. These substances are officially very toxic to human health and they have never been extracted “specifically for the purpose of adding to drinking water“, but rather to prevent damage to humans, animals and the environment. And once again, the dilution of these chemicals to the ratios used for water fluoridation does not miraculously render them safe when they are consumed every day from various sources in addition to water.
It is also worth noting that most of the powdered sodium fluorosilicate and sodium fluoride used for fluoridation purposes in Australia are imported from China which has banned water fluoridation since 2003 due primarily to the toxicity of fluoridation chemicals and the adverse health effects. Instead of the costly treatment and processing of this waste product before disposal, China sells it to Australia and New Zealand for a significant profit. The Chinese and Indian governments are also investing substantial sums of money to remove natural fluoride from ground water due to the adverse health effects.
Fluoridation chemicals used in Australia and New Zealand
Each year approximately 6,300 tonnes of liquid hexafluorosilicic acid and about 1,600 tonnes of powdered fluoridation chemicals are added to our drinking water supplies around the country, with nearly all of the powder imported from China.
The largest water supplier in New South Wales, Sydney Water, uses both the liquid hexafluorosilicic acid and powdered sodium fluorosilicate for fluoridation purposes. In the financial year 2017-2018 alone, Sydney Water dosed 496 billion litres of water with 827 tonnes of powdered fluoridation chemicals. This entire supply of industrial waste chemical was imported directly from China. Sydney Water also dosed another 97 billion litres of water with 612 tonnes of the liquid hydrofluorosilicic acid industrial waste sourced directly from Incitec Pivot Fertiliser in Geelong, Victoria.
The Incitec Pivot plant in Geelong also supplies most of Victoria, along with South Australia, around half of Tasmania’s water and as mentioned some of Sydney’s water. This plant may also provide the Northern Territory with some of the liquid chemical, hexafluorosilicic acid.
In Queensland, SEQWATER, one of Australia’s largest water suppliers, acquires its powdered sodium fluorosilicate from a chemical company by the name of Axieo Pty Ltd (which acquired another supplier, Quantum Chemicals, in February 2016). Axieo in turn sources these chemicals from Hunan Heaven Material Co Ltd (part of the Shanghai Mintchem Development Group). In other words, all of SEQWATER’s fluoridation chemicals are imported directly from China.
In the financial year 2016-2017 alone, SEQWATER dosed its drinking water with 327 tonnes of sodium fluorosilicate and 11 tonnes of sodium fluoride.
In Western Australia, the WA Water Corporation uses liquid hexafluorosilicic acid for most fluoridated drinking water schemes in the state. Around 80 per cent of this liquid is sourced directly from the CSBP phosphate processing plant in Kwinana, with a smaller amount imported from China via New Zealand. Small amounts of sodium fluorosilicate and sodium fluoride are used for some smaller regional drinking water schemes in the state. The sodium fluorosilicate is obtained from Redox Pty Ltd in New South Wales and the sodium fluoride is obtained from Orica and Bisley and Co, also based on the east coast.
In New Zealand there are 46 water treatment plants that add fluoride to the drinking water. These plants supply around 2.2 million people or approximately 50 per cent of New Zealand’s population. All three major industrial-waste fluoridation chemicals are used, with hexafluorosilicic acid used predominantly. Sodium fluorosilicate and small amounts of sodium fluoride are imported from China to supplement dosing as required
The fiscal and environment cost of fluoridation
There are around 300 fluoride dosing plants in Australia, each costing between $500,000 and $1.7million to build and implement. The average cost nationally per dosing plant is estimated to be at least $700,000 before any synthetic fluoridation chemicals are added to our drinking water. This means an enormous amount of taxpayer’s funds have been invested in the conviction of fluoride being safe and effective, so naturally any suggestion contrary to this belief is going to be met with considerable resistance in order to defend such a substantial investment in infrastructure and ongoing operating costs.
In Queensland, SEQWATER, which supplies water to the south-east corner of the state, initially built 20 fluoride dosing plants at a total cost of $21.5 million. This included six large sodium fluorosilicate plants at a total cost of $10 million or an average $1.66 million each and an additional 14 smaller sodium fluoride plants at a total cost of $11.5 million or an average $820,000 each. The average cost of building fluoride dosing plants in Queensland outside of SEQWATER’s grid is $730,356.
As a general guide of the cost of ongoing fluoridation, in 2012, Queensland’s SEQWATER estimated the total cost of fluoridating approximately 300 billion litres of water it supplies each year to around 3.1 million people in the south-east corner of the state at around $20 per million litres or a total of about $6 million per annum. This amount includes the cost of chemicals and the total running costs of the dosing plants within its water grid. This figure however is likely to have increased since then.
Other states are very reluctant to publish data about the capital or running costs of their fluoride dosing plants, obviously because of the risk of public backlash. A lack of transparency regarding fluoridation is therefore endemic amongst our water suppliers. However as another guide, it was disclosed that for a new fluoride dosing system proposed for the Port Macquarie-Hastings Council, “Funding in the amount of $1.78 million would be provided by NSW Health for this project.” It was also stated that the plant would cost an estimated $250,000 to operate each year.
Before looking closer at the total estimated amount of industrial-waste chemicals that have effectively been dumped into our environment over the last 50 years for the process of fluoridation, it should be noted that the different chemicals used have varying strengths and therefore different qualities are required to attain the same resulting concentration level. Powdered sodium fluorosilicate is the most concentrated form of “fluoride” used in Australia so around 3.8 times the amount of the liquid hexafluorosilicic acid is required compared to the powder. This means approximately 630 tonnes of the liquid acid is needed to produce every 100 gigalitres of fluoridated water compared to around 167 tonnes of sodium fluorosilicate for every 100 gigalitres of water. This is why it’s difficult to compare the historical usage of fluoridation chemicals amongst Australian capital cities.
Nevertheless, the total estimated amount of toxic chemicals ‘disposed of’ in our environment since fluoridation began is disturbing. Since SEQWATER commenced fluoridation only 10 years ago (2009), more than 3,000 tonnes of toxic Chinese industrial waste chemicals, including contaminants, have entered the environment, with a large percentage entering the Moreton Bay Marine Park.
Sydney commenced fluoridation in 1968, just over 50 years ago. Since then an estimated 54,000 tonnes of industrial waste have effectively been dumped into greater Sydney’s environment, including Sydney Harbour and other waterways.
Melbourne began its fluoridation program in 1977, 41 years ago. Over that period an estimated 83,000 tonnes of industrial waste has been dumped into greater Melbourne’s environment including all contaminants. How much of this fluoride and accompanying contaminants end up in Port Phillip Bay?
Perth started fluoridating its water in 1968, 50 years ago. Since then an estimated 42,000 tonnes of industrial waste have been dumped into the Perth Environment. How much of this fluoride and contaminants goes into the Swan River?
This means that since fluoridation began around 50 years ago, more than 180,000 tonnes of toxic industrial waste chemicals have entered the Australian environment, despite a raft of science demonstrating that fluoride doesn’t even work.
Emphasis should also be made here that a fraction of one per cent of the water dosed with artificial fluoridation chemicals by water suppliers in Australia actually enters the mouths of the ratepayers; instead the overwhelming majority ends up in the environment. And of the tiny fraction of water that is actually consumed, more than 99 per cent of the fluoride doesn’t even touch the teeth, instead it is ingested through the organs, bones and tissues of every resident.
The control of dosing with fluoridation chemicals is also relevant. While water suppliers in Australia do maintain a reasonably accurate control of the concentration of fluoridation chemicals within a range of 0.6 to 1.1 milligrams per litre (a range set by NHMRC), they do not and cannot control the amount of water consumed, the total amount of fluoride ingested from all other sources; or the dosage of fluoride ingested by individuals who are more susceptible to adverse health effects. Nor do any of the water suppliers warn their users or ratepayers of the potential risks of ingesting fluoridation chemicals – a warning that is especially relevant for pregnant mothers, bottle-fed infants, the elderly, individuals diagnosed with diabetes or impaired kidney function and others with fluoride sensitivities. People with undiagnosed pre-diabetic and pre-renal-function impairment may also be more susceptible and therefore should also be warned.
As far as cost to individual ratepayers is concerned, it has been stated publicly by at least one Australian health official that fluoridation doesn’t cost end-users anything. This is yet another ridiculous and misleading statement. Although individual users are not charged directly for the capital and ongoing operating costs associated with fluoridating our public water supplies, the total costs are inevitably passed on transparently and are embedded in ratepayer’s water bills. Of course the end consumer or taxpayer effectively does pay for fluoridation indirectly.
Apart from the scientifically proven ineffectiveness of water fluoridation in reducing tooth decay, the potential harm it does to our health and the clear violation of medical ethics, the use of a Level 6 toxic industrial waste chemical for the purposes of fluoridating our drinking water is unacceptable. The substantial capital and operating costs of fluoride dosing plants is deplorable and the long-term dumping of hundreds of thousands of tonnes of toxic chemicals into our environment is outrageous.
With all this evidence, it is clear that using public drinking water to deliver “fluoride” as a medication is physiologically reckless, financially highly inefficient, environmentally irresponsible and ethically disgraceful.