Chemophobic scaremongering: Much ado about absolutely nothing

much-ado

Sometimes anti-fluoride propagandists end up shooting themselves in the foot. This always seems to happen when they produce “evidence’ that fluoridating chemicals are loaded with toxic heavy metals.

It feels like shooting fish in a barrel to debunk their use of analytical figures because the data they produce always shows them to be completely wrong. I wrote about this before in Fluoridation: emotionally misrepresenting contamination. So, I am effectively repeating myself by discussing the meme image below that Fluoride Free NZ is currently circulating in social media.

Hill lab

Still, this time, I will show how insignificant these analytical figures by comparing the calculated final concentrations in tap water – due to addition of the chemical – with measured concentrations for these contaminants in Hamilton tap water.

Added contaminants as percentage of MAVs

But first – what contribution would this sample of fluorosilicic acid make to the contaminant levels in Hamilton’s tap water – and how do these levels compare with the maximum acceptable values (MAVs) defined in New Zealand’s Drinking Water Standards? The values for the MAVs are published in:

Ministry of Health. (2008). Drinking-water Standards for New Zealand 2005 ( Revised 2008 ) (Vol. 2005). Wellington.

In this table, the “Tap water (mg/L)” data are the calculated final concentrations after addition of the fluoridating agent in the meme. The “%age of MAV” data are these values expressed as a percentage of the maximum acceptable values (MAVs) for the contaminants.

Impurity MAV (mg/L) Tap water calculated (mg/L) %age of MAV
Aluminium 0.1 8.69E-05 0.0869
Antimony 0.02 < 3.56E-07 <0.0018
Arsenic 0.01 1.26E-05 0.1264
Barium 0.7 4.27E-06 0.0006
Cadmium 0.004 2.37E-07 0.0059
Chromium 0.05 4.74E-06 0.0095
Copper 1 1.19E-06 0.0001
Iron 0.2 1.62E-04 0.0810
Lead 0.01 2.37E-07 0.0024
Manganese 0.04 3.56E-06 0.0089
Mercury 0.007 < 1.98E-07 <0.0028
Molybdenum 0.07 < 3.56E-07 <0.0005
Nickel 0.08 3.95E-06 0.0049
Selenium 0.01 < 1.98E-07 <0.0020
Uranium 0.02 2.05E-06 0.0103

Sorry, I have had to use scientific formating for some numbers because the final calculated concentrations in tap water are so low. On average, the calculated concentration  of these contaminants due to the fluoridating agent is about 0.02% of the MAV.  The largest relative contribution is for arsenic – just over 0.1%.

Regulations require that the contribution of contaminants from fluoridating agents should always be less than 10% of the MAV . The actual level of contaminants in this particular sample is well below those regulated maxima.

The Fluoride Free NZ meme is just promoting naive chemophobic scaremongering about absolutely nothing. These activists just haven’t bothered calculating what the analytical data means for the final concentrations in tap water. Or even bothered comparing the data with the regulated maximum amounts allowed for fluoridating chemicals. These values are available in Standard for the Supply of Fluoride for Use in Water Treatment.

Added contaminants as a percentage of concentrations in inlet water and treated water.

Let’s now compare the estimated contribution from contaminants in this sample of fluorosilicic acid to the levels of the very same contaminants in the Hamilton water. I have taken data from this document issued by the Hamilton City Council:

Waikato River and Treated Drinking Water Comprehensive Analysis Report 2013/14

The next table is for samples taken on 18th July 2013 at the intake to the treatment plant (that is the source water before treatment). The “Added FSA%” is the calculated level of impurity resulting from fluoridation expressed as a percentage of the impurity naturally present in the source water.

Impurity Intake (mg/L) Added FSA%
Aluminium 1.68E-01 0.05
Antimony 8.50E-04 <0.04
Arsenic 1.96E-02 0.06
Barium 1.88E-02 0.02
Berylium <1.10E-04 0.18
Cadmium <5.30E-05 0.45
Chromium <5.30E-04 0.89
Copper <5.30E-04 0.22
Iron 2.94E-01 0.06
Lead 1.18E-04 0.20
Manganese 2.15E-02 0.02
Mercury <8.00E-05 <0.25
Molybdenum 3.80E-04 <0.09
Nickel <5.30E-04 0.75
Selenium <1.10E-03 <0.02
Tin <5.30E-04 0.22
Uranium <2.10E-05 9.78
Zinc 8.13E-01 0.00

Now, a similar calculation and comparison – this time “Added FSA%” is the calculated level of impurity resulting from fluoridation expressed as a percentage of the impurity already present in the “treated water” – which is the final tap water. (At this time the Hamilton water supply was not fluoridated).

Impurity Treated (mg/L) Added FSA%
Aluminium 2.04E-02 0.43
Antimony 8.00E-04 <0.04
Arsenic <1.10E-03 1.15
Barium 1.26E-02 0.03
Berylium <1.10E-04 <0.18
Cadmium <5.30E-05 0.45
Chromium <5.30E-04 0.89
Copper 8.00E-04 0.15
Iron <2.10E-02 0.77
Lead 4.82E-04 0.05
Manganese 1.75E-03 0.20
Mercury <8.00E-05 <0.25
Molybdenum 3.70E-04 <0.10
Nickel 3.52E-03 0.11
Selenium <1.10E-03 <0.02
Tin <5.30E-04 0.22
Uranium <2.10E-05 9.78
Zinc 4.82E-03 0.14

The extremely low levels of contaminants – both calculated and already in the intake water and final treated water – mean some of the calculations are rather meaningless. Especially as some of the analysed values are given as less than the detection limit.

However, the very low calculated contribution of contaminants from this fluorosilicic acid sample – usually < 1% of that naturally present – shows how ridiculous the Fluoride Free NZ claims about contamination introduced by fluoridating agents is.

Never trust anti-fluoride campaigners

Fluoride Free NZ is simply scaremongering – relying on naive chemophobia where just the chemical name and analytical data (even where the “<” symbol indicates below the level of detection) seem to scare people.

This example illustrates, once again, that the claims made by anti-fluoride and similar activists should never be accepted at face value. They should always be checked against reliable sources.

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16 responses to “Chemophobic scaremongering: Much ado about absolutely nothing

  1. From http://www.nap.edu/download/10194
    (I have added the per 100,000 figures)
    TABLE S-1 Theoretical Maximum-Likelihood Estimates of Excess Lifetime Risk
    (Incidence per 10,000 People) of Lung Cancer and Bladder Cancer for U.S.
    Populations Exposed at Various Concentrations of Arsenic in Drinking Water
    Arsenic Concentration (μg/L)
    ——————————Bladder Cancer Lung Cancer
    —————————–Females Males Females Males Total per 100,000
    3 —————————4————– 7——-5———-4——-200
    5 —————————6 ————-11——9———-7——–330
    10 ————————12————-23—–18——–14——–670
    20 ————————24———— 45 —–36——- 27——–1320

    That’s a fairly straight line graph, so at 1 ppb (μg/L) it would be some 70 cases.

    They think it is cheaper to treat the cancers rather than reduce the arsenic better. Waikato river is naturally high in arsenic so it requires removal. Then they increase it again by 1% when adding fluoride, which must only be over 1 cancer case for Hamilton’s 150,000 people.

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  2. They think it is cheaper to treat the cancers rather than reduce the arsenic better.

    Have you any evidence for this assertion?

    (now watch Brian Sandle stretch this thread out for essentially forever, without answering this question.)

    Like

  3. Brian, only a very naive person would, today, climb on to Bill Hirzy’s petition as evidence.

    He was forced to withdraw his paper on which this petition was based because of a simple arithmetic mistake – the correction showed exactly the opposite to what he claimed.

    Very embarrassing!

    The poor guy does not have much in the way of scientific publications – all I have been able to find are 2 papers – the first making his claim, the second (the same year) correcting his mistake.

    See Anti-fluoridation study flawed – petition rejected

    Here is Hirzy’s scientific publication record:

    Hirzy, J. W., Carton, R. J., Bonanni, C. D., Montanero, C. M., & Nagle, M. F. (2013). Comparison of hydrofluorosilicic acid and pharmaceutical sodium fluoride as fluoridating agents—A cost–benefit analysis. Environmental Science & Policy, 29, 81–86. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.envsci.2013.01.007

    Hirzy, J. W., Carton, R. J., Bonanni, C. D., Montanero, C. M., & Nagle, M. F. (2013). Corrigendum to “Comparison of hydrofluorosilicic acid and pharmaceutical sodium fluoride as fluoridating agents—A cost–benefit analysis” [Environ. Sci. Policy 29 (2013) 81–86]. Environmental Science & Policy, 29, 10–12. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.envsci.2013.11.002

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  4. I suspect that the natural water is the main source of arsenic contamination in most areas (although Waikato River water may be higher because of its geothermal inputs).

    Fior example, the recent Canadian research I discussed in Another defeat for anti-fuoridation claims about arsenic.

    Only a fool would want to overcome this problem by stopping fluoridation. Improvement of water treatment (better flocculation chemicals, or extra steps) would provide far bigger returns.

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  5. Ken: “Brian, only a very naive person would, today, climb on to Bill Hirzy’s petition as evidence.”
    Which you know I didn’t.
    It is the editor’s words I offer, who is correcting Hirzy but still admitting economic considerations: “Thus, arsenic from fluorosilicic acid may be linked to as many as 25 cancers per year, not 1,800 (arrived at by dividing 1,800 by 70, the average lifespan). Similarly, costs of switching were calculated across a lifetime. For that reason, switching to pharmaceutical-grade sodium fluoride would be too costly, and would not make economic sense, according to the EPA.”

    I also cited this one in case people hadn’t noticed at the top of my table, ‘Excess Lifetime Risk.’ (Not per year as is the main criticism against Hirzy.)

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  6. Ken: “Only a fool would want to overcome this problem by stopping fluoridation. Improvement of water treatment (better flocculation chemicals, or extra steps) would provide far bigger returns.”

    If Waikato River water averages 0.2 to 0.4 mg/L already, how much dental improvement is brought out by going to 0.7?

    And with the current cheaper fluoridation chemical it would be a greater percentage of the treated water arsenic if more were removed from the river water.

    The point is that cancer is being traded off against teeth even if one case per year seems small.

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  7. Brian, the As concentration of the river water and the fluoridating chemicals vary from sampling to sampling and batch to batch. The previous certificate of analysis I used found a concentration of 0.4 mg/L. (see Fluoridation: putting chemical contamination in context.

    The maximum acceptable value for the fluorosilicic acid is 132 mg/L. So these material are pretty pure.

    No, if anything possible (theoretically estimated) cases of cancer are traded off against the cost of removal of natural As from the source water.

    In the end, it comes down to the regulated MAV for As.

    But I see you are going to (typically) troll about the fraction of 0.1% and ignore the 99.9%.

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  8. So Ken you are saying there has been a misinterpretation of EPA words by Douglas Main’s Editor?

    And I see you have changed your figure from 1% to 0.1%.

    As usual I do think about minorities. And indeed in some places/times bottke-feeding has not been a minority act.

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  9. (facepalm)

    The link doesn’t offer evidence for your claim Brian, all it does is make the same claim, which you have then repeated here.

    So please present some evidence.

    Additionally, if you believe your claim then you obviously don’t even understand Ken’s article.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Ken, have you any estimate of the error margins involved in measuring contaminants? Do the percentage of contaminants due fluoridation approach these margins.

    I would not be surprised (in fact I expect) that the % due to fluoridation compounds are actually inside the error margins when assaying treated water.

    Moreover, in the real world these chemicals are added to water by council employees by the barrel and shovelful. The volumes of water being treated also fluctuate. The amounts are not calculated anywhere near the nearest 0.5 %

    All of which make Brian and Hirzy’s nit picking of concentrations that are sometimes two orders of magnitude below the MAV a farcical exercise.

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  11. Bill Osmunson DDS, MPH

    I agree with you Ken, the concentration of the contaminants is very low.

    Please provide any studies you have on the safety of these low concentrations.

    Please provide any studies you have on the synergistic effects of these low concentrations on health.

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  12. Great, Bill. By agreeing with me you are also indicating agreement with my criticisms of the way your mates in FAN and FFNZ tell lies about the level of contamination in fluoridating chemicals.

    Now, as a board member of FAN will you do something about this? Will you encourage FAN and FFNZ to stop telling these lies?

    The question you raise about the safety of such low concentration has, of course, nothing to do with the issue of fluoridation. It has to do with the process whereby MAVs are established. Such MAVs apply to drinking water – regardless of fluoridation or not.

    All I have shown is that if we are to be concerned about these contaminants at such low concentrations we must be concerned about the natural levels in our drinking water as these are very much higher than anything contributed by fluoridating chemicals.

    Do you not understand this?

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  13. Bill,

    “Please provide any studies you have on the safety of these low concentration.”

    http://www.health.govt.nz/nz-health-statistics/health-statistics-and-data-sets/mortality-data-and-stats
    – mortality figures from New Zealand. First item on a Google search. These low concentration contaminants you are worried about have been present for a long time. You can look for any differences in mortality caused by long term ingestion of low concentration contaminants yourself. You can even do a comparison between fluoridated and non-fluoridated areas.

    Once you have accounted for other differences between areas (ethnic, age, deprivation, source of treated water, smoking, alcohol consumption, atmospheric (geothermal atmospheric discharge), food intake, food source, education, etc.) you will have evidence for the safety of these low concentration water contaminants.

    You are the one who is interested in the figures – don’t expect someone else to do the work for you.

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  14. Bill: “Please provide any studies you have on the synergistic effects of these low concentrations on health.

    As Lin Fa Fu showed, too little iodine may potentiate toxic effect of fluoride.
    Others have shown the same for excess iodide and fluoride.

    The “contrarian” Douglas V Frost believed arsenic to be essential to life, but I believe toxic if not synergised with selenium.

    “http://jn.nutrition.org/content/122/3/405.extract

    Like

  15. “I believe…”

    Hmm…

    Only religion gives absolutes that you can believe in.

    Science does not involve belief.

    Like

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