Fluoridation – are we dumping toxic metals into our water supplies?

Opponents of fluoridation usually use a raft of arguments – this sometimes make discussions difficult because it leads to Gish Galloping which prevents proper discussion of any one issue. So in this blog post I want to restrict myself to just one of the anti-fluoridationist claims – one I have always been cynical about.

This is the assertion that the fluorides used for fluoridation of public water supplies is contaminated with toxic elements – heavy metals and radioactive elements.

Problem is – about 10 years ago I was using a commercial batch of hydrofluorosilicic acid – FSA (the chemical used for fluoridating Hamilton’s water supply) for our research. We analysed our material – and the results show definitely that it was not contaminated with toxic elements. The amounts present were extremely low

As (ppm) Cd (ppm) Cr (ppm) Hg (ppm) Ni (ppm) Pb (ppm) Cu (ppm) Zn (ppm)
2 <1 5 < 0.1 < 1 0.3 < 0.2 2.1

So what’s going on? Is my data (admittedly anecdotal evidence for one batch) an outlier? Or is somebody telling porkies?

The claim

Here I quote from the 7 objections to fluoridation listed by the Fluoride Action Network – FANNZ (the activist group leading the current activist mobilisation against fluoridation). See Our objections to fluoridation.

6. Fluoride used in fluoridation is contaminated with heavy metals including lead

Fluoridation was originally a corporate promoted solution for the aluminium industry to sell their toxic waste product for profit. Today fluoride for drinking water comes from the chimneys of the phosphate fertilizer industry. The fluoride used is contaminated with heavy metals (including lead a known neuro toxin) and sometimes radioactive material, posing added health risks (NZ Water and Wastes Association Standard for “Water Treatment Grade” fluoride, 1997). The phosphate industry use “scrubbers” to capture fluoride gases produced in the production of commercial fertilizer. This is because if they allowed too much of it to escape into the atmosphere they would be liable for being major polluters. If the fluoride acid was placed in a barrel with holes in it, and dumped in our rivers they would face heavy fines and criminal prosecution.

However a solution has been found whereby the fluoride acid (hydrofluorosilicic acid), a classified hazardous waste, is barrelled up and sold, unrefined, to communities across the world for the purpose of adding it to public water supply to mass medicate populations to prevent tooth decay in forming teeth. Mysteriously the substance becomes safe for the environment and humans once it’s sold in this regard. Even if you don’t live in a community where fluoride is added to water, you’ll still be getting a dose of it through cereal, soda, juice, beer and any other processed food and drink manufactured with fluoridated water. If it is illegal for these corporations to dump the waste in our rivers it certainly should be illegal for them to sell fluoride for the purpose of adding it to our drinking water.

Of course, this sort of claim gets copied and pasted when activists make submissions  to local bodies on the fluoridation issues. Here’s one made to a Palmerston North hearing by “a concerned citizen and grandmother” who is “appalled at the documented adverse health effects associated with water fluoridation. . . . .  After much research on the subject” she “discovered some sobering and disturbing facts (and I emphasise that these are facts and not just my opinion).” 


Notice the claims, and the confidence with which they are made. Also notice  how a citation to NZ Water and Wastes Association Standards is used to give the claims an air of “sciency” authority.

The citation.

Unfortunately no link to the actual publication was provided by FANNZ – perhaps because it doesn’t actually say what they claim it does. I’ll give the link here – NZ Water and Wastes Association Standard for “Water Treatment Grade” fluoride, 1997.  Download the pdf and read it for your self. Check it out.

Here’s a comparision of the anti-fluoridationist claim with what the document says about the fluoridation chemicals used for public water treament in New Zealand.



The fluoride used is contaminated with heavy metals (including lead a known neuro toxin) and sometimes radioactive material, posing added health risks (NZ Water and Wastes Association Standard for “Water Treatment Grade” fluoride, 1997). Commercially available hydrofluosilicic acid, sodium fluoride and sodium silicofluoride are not known to contribute significant quantities of contaminants that adversely affect the potability of drinking water.

The claim is completely wrong and is not supported by the citation.

That is the only comment the document mnakes about actual levels of contaminants in the  commercial chemicals on the market. Why should such a publication go into further details?  The standards are aimed at protecting the health of the people. Preventing chemicals from being used if they are contaminated by toxic elements, for example. It’s not their job to go into the history, manufacture and composition of commercial chemicals – only to consider these issues when they come to select material for use.

The publication describes, for example, standard for maximum levels of heavy metals in fluoridation agents:

“ Hydrofluosilicic acid shall not contain more than 0.02% w/w heavy metals expressed as lead (Pb).”

It describes standard procedures for handling the chemicals used. (Yes, many chemicals in their concentrated forms a dangerous and must be handled correctly, even though they are harmless when diluted to the concentration they are used. Just think about chlorine – really dangerous in the form purchased commercially – but no one is complaining about the levels in our water supply).

The publication describes requirements for chemical analysis of supplied materials, and the responsibility of the supplier to provide materials which comply with the standards and certificates guaranteeing compliance.

So FANZZ is being rather disingenuous using this publication to support their erroneous claim. If anything the publication shows that authorities have a regime in place to make sure the material they use is not contaminated.

What are the concentrations in our drinking water?

The Greater Wellington Region uses Hydrofluorosilicic acid (HFA) at their Gear Island treatment plant. Their web site say that “the HFA we use is tested to ensure that any other chemical elements of health significance that it contains are at safe levels in relation to the Drinking Water Standards for New Zealand.” And they provide a chemical analsis of the water supplied to their citizens. Here are some typical results:

As (ppm) Cd (ppm) Cr (ppm) Hg (ppm) Ni (ppm) Pb (ppm) Cu (ppm) Zn (ppm)
<0.002 <0.001 <0.001 <0.001 <0.001 <0.001 <0.013 <0.013

The Fluoridation Action Network (FANZZ) is simply fear mongering with this claim. They are capitalising on a naive fear of “chemicals.” They are making false claims about contamination of the fluoridating agents used. And they are using a citation dishonestly – to support a claim the publication does not support.

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