Fluoridation contribution to heavy metals in drinking water is too low to measure

Anti-fluoride activists claims of fluoridation chemicals being laced with toxic metals just do not stand up to scrutiny

Anti-fluoridation activists claim fluoridation adds toxic heavy metals to drinking water because the fluoridation chemicals are “waste products” from industry (the phosphate fertiliser industry). Despite the fact that published research shows this not true.

The activists rarely give evidence for their claims but when they do they cite chemical data from certificates of compliance supplied to local bodies by the fluoridation chemical providers. But these activists simply have no concept of what these figures mean and always ignore the huge dilution involved in water treatment.

Example of continually tweeted scaremongering misinformation from the Fluoride Action Network’s press officer.

Anti-fluoride people particularly go on about arsenic yet a 2015 Canadian study showed that the difference in arsenic levels from unfluoridated and fluoridated water treatment plants was infinitesimal. That study is:

Peterson, E., Shapiro, H., Li, Y., Minnery, J. G., & Copes, R. (2015). Arsenic from community water fluoridation: quantifying the effect. Journal of Water and Health.

The data shows that even after treatment the concentration of arsenic due to natural sources is about 0.44 ppb. Fluoridation added a mere 0.07 ppb to this! (ppb = parts per billion = micrograms/litre = μg/L).

See Another defeat for anti-fluoridation claims about arsenic for a discussion of this paper.

The authors point out that all the drinking water systems in their study were compliant with the Canadian drinking water guideline for arsenic of 10 μg/L (10 ppb [parts per billion] – the same as in New Zealand) and the estimated amount attributable to fluoridation from this study is less than 1% of this guideline. Their results were also consistent with other published estimates of the likely contribution of fluoridation chemicals to arsenic in drinking water.

The fluoridation chemicals used in New Zealand have lower levels of impurities than those used in North America so the resulting contamination of drinking water is even lower than in Canada.

Here I look at the heavy metals contaminants in our drinking water and the effect of fluoridation on those levels

What are the concentrations of contaminants in our tap water?

They are very low – in fact, they are regulated to be very low. The regulations set maximum allowable levels (MAV) and providers must keep their contaminant below these MAV levels.

The figure below uses data taken from reports for the Hamilton City Council Water Supply Annual Compliance Report 2018/2019. I have converted the data from units of g/m3 to parts per billion – ppb. I have used data from  a certificate of compliance for the hydrofluorosilicic acid (HFA) supplied to the Hamilton City Council in 2015 (referred to in my article Chemophobic scaremongering: Much ado about absolutely nothing)

I have made this figure tall in an attempt to show the calculated contribution of contaminants concentrations from the fluoride treatment (red) alongside the actual measured levels in the tap water (green). The Y-axis is different for Barium and Aluminium because the concentrations are much higher. Click on the image to see a larger version of the figure

Here are some relevant points about this data:

1: Lead is not included because the amount is below the detection limit. The measured levels of the other contaminants of interest (green) are very low – well below the MAV values.

Waikato River water contains relatively high levels of arsenic – higher than MAV recommendations. But water treatment reduces the levels to well below the MAV level (and in some samples the levels are below the detection limit).

2: The calculated levels for contaminants due to added fluoridation chemicals (HFA – hydrofluorosilicic acid) are extremely low. In fact, in all cases, they are well below the levels that could be detected by the analytical methods used – in most cases far less than 1% of the detectable levels.

This means that the final concentration in drinking water of heavy metals added with the fluoridation chemicals is far too low to even be detected by the sensitive chemical analytical methods used. It is simply misleading for anti-fluoride activists to rave on about the contaminant levels in the concentrated chemicals without taking into account the huge dilution involved.

3: The figure below illustrates that the fluoridation treatment makes only a minuscule (undetectable) contribution of contaminant elements to the tap water.  Well under 1% of the contaminant contribution coming from the source water itself.

Conclusion

Fluoridation chemicals add such a minuscule amount of heavy metals to drinking water that their contribution cannot be detected. The amounts are below the detection limit of the analytical methods used.

The claims of anti-fluoride activists are emotional rather than factual. It is meaningless to publish images of compliance certificates. When they cite chemical data for the fluoridation chemicals used they simply have no concept of what the figures mean and completely ignore the high dilution factor involved in treating drinking water.

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