By Alan Pryor
Today, our environment is assaulted with thousands of man-made toxins, from waste heavy metals and organic compounds in industrial air and water discharges; to pesticides released into our food, land and waterways; to airborne transportation-related pollutants.
In addition to damaging our health, these chemicals are damaging our environment in a variety of ways, including contaminated food chains, damaged ecosystems and species extinction. The current proposal to fluoridate Davis’ potable water also has the potential to cause serious local environmental harm.
Vast quantities of fluoride would be released into the environment
The average Davisite uses 168 gallons of water per day for all of his needs. 168 gallons of water per person per day times 68,500 people in Davis equals 11.508 million gallons per day of water delivered in Davis.
11.508 million gallons times 8.34 pounds of water per gallon times 365 days a year times the minimum proposed fluoride dosage of 0.7 ppm equals 24,522 pounds of fluoride that we would inject into our water supply each year. That is more than 12 tons!
Yet most people drink or consume only about two quarts of water per day. Two quarts of water divided by 168 gallons of water means that the average citizen actually consumes about one-third of 1 percent of all the water that is delivered to our homes each year. That means that of the 24,522 pounds of fluoride that is injected into Davis potable water each year, only about 77 pounds are actually consumed by humans.
Where does all the rest go? Well, it goes on our lawns and parks where our kids play, into our gardens where many of us grow our own food, and into our wetlands through our sewer system.
Fluorine is a highly reactive chemical and very toxic at the cellular level
Fluorine is the most strongly electronegative of the halogen species (which includes chlorine, bromine and iodine in decreasing order of reactivity).
The biological effects of this extremely reactive fluorine have long been known. Dr. James Sumner won the Nobel Prize for his work on enzyme chemistry in 1946 and was an early and vocal opponent of water fluoridation. He wrote, “We ought to go slowly. Everybody knows that fluorine and fluorides are very poisonous substances and we used them in enzyme chemistry to poison enzymes that are vital agents in the body. That is the reason living things are poisoned, because the enzymes are poisoned and that is why animals and plants die.”
A 2010 review article on fluoride toxicity came to the following conclusions: “This element interacts with cellular systems even at low doses. In recent years, several investigations demonstrated that ﬂuoride can induce oxidative stress and modulate intracellular redox homeostasis, lipid peroxidation and protein carbonyl content, as well as alter gene expression and cause apoptosis. Genes modulated by ﬂuoride include those related to the stress response, metabolic enzymes, the cell cycle, and cell-cell communications transduction.” (“Molecular mechanisms of fluoride toxicity,” Barbier O.. Chemico-Biological Interactions: 188, 2010).
Fluoride is bio-accumulative and particularly adversely affects aquatic flora and fauna
In addition to the proven and many suspected human health impacts of fluoride, discharge of fluoridated waters into Davis’ wetlands will have many adverse environmental impacts on microorganisms, marine species and vegetation (“Fluoride toxicity to aquatic organisms”, Camargo J., Chemosphere: 50, 2003).
Among the many known toxic and bio-accumulative effects, higher than natural levels of fluoride also have been shown to adversely affect migrating salmon in fresh water (“Impact of Artificial Fluoridation on Salmon Species,” Foulkes, R. and A. Anderson, Fluoride, 27-4, 1994).
If our water is fluoridated, all of our fluoride-containing waste water would enter our wetlands and into the Yolo Bypass through the discharge from the Davis wastewater treatment plant. Although there would be a dilutive effect as the fluoride dispersed through the wetlands, it would seem incongruous that we try to invite salmon back to spawn in our local creeks and rivers through proper water management in the Yolo Bypass but then make them fend of the toxicity of the additional fluoride presented in our discharged waste water before spawning.
Paradoxically, protection of our wetlands from unhealthy accumulations of contaminants in our waste water (e.g., selenium, copper) was one of the primary goals of the $100 million-plus surface water project approved by voters last March. It does not make sense to simply replace those contaminants with others causing environmental harm.
Fluoridated compounds added to potable water are otherwise classified as “hazardous wastes”
Finally, fluoride compounds used for fluoridation are classified by the state of California as “hazardous waste.” The California Code of Regulations, Title 22, Section 6626.126, lists 791 chemicals as “hazardous wastes.” Thirty-nine of these are fluoride compounds and three of these compounds are used for water fluoridation: No. 384a. hydrofluorosilicic acid (toxic and corrosive), No. 384b. fluorosilicic acid (toxic and corrosive) and No. 674. sodium fluoride (toxic).
Of particular concern is the fact that industrial grades of these chemicals are proposed for use in our potable water rather than the pharmaceutical-grade sodium fluoride used in toothpastes, mouthwashes and fluoride supplements prescribed by physicians and dentists.
Industrial grades of fluoridated compounds are produced as a waste byproduct of the phosphate fertilizer industry and have been shown to contain a variety of heavy metals with particular human toxicity and/or carcinogenicity, including arsenic, lead and beryllium among others.
If not for the fact that these fluoridated chemicals can be legally injected into our drinking water, they otherwise would have to be disposed of as hazardous waste at specially licensed hazardous waste treatment facilities.
In summary, even if fluoride were shown to be effective if ingested compared to the proven efficacy of topical applications as is otherwise recommended, it would be far less wasteful and environmentally harmful and far more cost-effective if pharmaceutical-grade fluoride were made available to at-risk populations through fluoride supplements such as drops or pills.
— Alan Pryor is a Davis resident.