Tag Archives: heavy metals

Chemophobic scaremongering: Much ado about absolutely nothing


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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Natural News comes out with a load of heavy metal rubbish on fluoride


The web site “Natural News” is a prime source of information for alternative and “natural” health enthusiasts. It promotes a lot of misinformation on fluoridation and is often cited by anti-fluoridation propagandists. So – no surprise to see a recent campaign in social media promoting a Natural News article Natural News exclusive: Fluoride used in U.S. water supplies found contaminated with lead, tungsten, strontium, aluminum and uranium.

The article was dutifully tweeted ad nauseum and of course local anti-fluoride campaigners also dutifully and uncritically promoted it. But no-one actually looked at the data in the article to see if it was in any way meaningful or supported the claims of contamination being made. In fact, it is just another example of the sort of misrepresentation I referred to in the article Fluoridation: emotionally misrepresenting contamination. That is, people getting hysterical about contamination  data which actually show very low levels of contaminants.  Getting hysterical about numbers just because they are numbers without any understanding of what they mean.

Lead researcher – the Health Ranger

Mike Adams, who calls himself the Health Ranger, wrote the article which pretends to be a scientific investigation of contaminants in 6 samples of sodium fluoride obtained from Chinese sources. He reports the maximum and average values of a number of contaminants. Of course he uses parts per billion (ppb) because that gives him larger numbers by a factor of 1000 than the usually used parts per million (ppm). I will convert his values for readers and compare them with values found in Australia and New Zealand for contaminants in fluorosilicic acid, the most commonly used fluoridation chemical (actually fluorosilicic acid is also the most commonly used fluoridation chemical in the USA – so its strange that the “Health Ranger’ didn’t analyse that).

The table below compares “the Health Ranger’s” analytical values with those for fluorosilicic acid reported in my article  Fluoridation: emotionally misrepresenting contamination. Also included are the regulated maximum values for these two fluoridation chemicals. I have included only values for arsenic and lead as these are the only ones of “the Health Ranger’s” list included in New Zealand regulations (see NZ Water and Wastes Association Standard for “Water Treatment Grade” fluoride, 1997).

Arsenic (ppm) Lead (ppm)
Fluorosilicic acid
Regulated maximum 132 132
Range certificates 1.1 – 4.3 <0.001 – <5
Sodium Fluoride – Mike Adams
Regulated maximum 366 366
Maximum – NN 0.14 1.0
Average – NN 0.07 0.3

So, “the Health Ranger” produces hysterical headlines for fluoridation chemicals using figures showing extremely low levels of contamination! They are even low in comparison with the fluoridation chemicals used in New Zealand and they are certainly very much lower than the local regulated maxima. And don’t forget that these concentrated chemicals are diluted millions of times over when added to drinking water.

Yes, I know, there are some people who think any measured value is too much. But put this into context. Even the most pristine water or food will contain (very low) levels of contaminants if we use an analytical method that is extremely sensitive. That is why we should check claims of contamination by comparison with “uncontaminated” material and regulated maximum values. We must put the numbers into context.

Contamination from source water – not treatment chemicals

To put the situation of fluoridation chemicals into further context contribution of contaminants to drinking water from other sources should be considered. In Fluoridation: putting chemical contamination in context I compared the amounts of arsenic contributed from fluoridation chemicals to local drinking water (Hamilton City in the Waikato) to the arsenic already present in the source water from the Waikato River. The figure below shows any contribution from the fluoridation chemicals used is miniscule compared with the natural levels already in the water.

I won’t comment on the other heavy metals “the Health Ranger,” (who describes himself as the “lead researcher” in this pathetic study) mentions as they are not covered by local regulations. However, the certificates of analysis for fluorosilicic acid included in my article Fluoridation: emotionally misrepresenting contamination all reported Uranium at levels  < 2 ppm. “The Health Ranger” reported a maximum of 1.4 ppm and average of 0.2 ppm.  Not so impressive in ppm – you can see why he prefers ppb.

Similarly he makes a song and dance about titanium – despite the fact that he detected it in only 2 of his 6 samples and at concentrations apparently too low to enable “quantitative analysis.”


Cleary another scare-mongering article from Natural news. It is accepted uncritically by anti-fluoride activists and heavily promoted by their propagandists. But it is worthless – some would say fraudulent.

This sort of fraud going on in the “natural” health movement needs to be widely exposed. The ordinary reader has no way of evaluating these claims or the numbers involved. However exposure of these sort of fraudulent articles will help readers  be wary about future claims from these sources.

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Fluoridation: emotionally misrepresenting contamination

Another attempt by me to put the issue of contamination of fluoridation chemicals into proper context.

This time I am using data placed on-line by Sapphire Eyes Productions. They produced an emotional anti-fluoridation film Fire Water which relies heavily on the argument that fluoridation chemicals are waste products full of contaminating heavy metals. Trouble is – the data they put on-line does not support the argument – rather it destroys it as it shows that the measured levels of contamination are well below regulated limits.

You can find their data at Raw Fluoridation Chemical Analyses – Freedom of Information – South Australia Water Corp.: FOI Fluoridated Water Analyses for South Australia, 2006 – 2010.

I have extracted the relevant data – from the 16 certificates of analysis for fluoroslicic acid they presented. In the table below I compare the range of contaminant levels with the regulated maximum concentrations for New Zealand (quoted in  NZ Water and Wastes Association Standard for “Water Treatment Grade” fluoride, 1997). As mentioned in previous articles the specific impurity limits are calculated from the maximum acceptable value (MAV) of an element taken from the Drinking-Water Standards for New Zealand 1995. A further safety factor is used as described in the regulations:

“Specific Impurity Limits (SIL) have been calculated based on a maximum dosage (MD) of fluoride ion/litre of water and the maximum acceptable value (MAV) of a parameter taken from the Drinking-Water Standards for New Zealand 1995. The safety factor (SF) used in the calculation should be a minimum of 10, which reflects the view that no more than 10 percent of aMAV should be contributed by a given impurity in a water supply chemical.”

Put simply, the contamination from fluoridation chemicals should contribute less than 10% of the maximum acceptable value in the finished water.

Element Regulated maximum – ppm Range 16 certificates – ppm
Antimony 40 0.005 – <2
Arsenic 132 1.1 – 4.3
Cadmium 40 0 – <2
Chromium 660 0.6 – 7.3
Lead 132 <0.001 – <5
Mercury 26 <0.1 – 7.9
Selenium 132 <0.05 – <2

The data clearly shows that contamination is far lower than the regulated maximum in all the relevant cases. Even for mercury the high top end of the range was for only two samples all others would have contributed less than 10%

And remember less than 10% of the regulated maximum means less than 1% of the maximum acceptable value for drinking water.


So, don’t be taken in next time an anti-fluoridation activist goes on about waste products and contamination – even if they refer to specific analytical data. Insist on looking at the actual data and checking the levels against the regulations. Don’t be fooled by their tendency to flash the data and quickly move on (as they did in the Hamilton Fluoride Tribunal).

Remember, these days analytical methods can be extremely sensitive. Just because we can measure a contaminant concentration does not mean we should be concerned about it. After all, all our foods and drinks, natural or not, will contain almost any element at extremely low concentrations.We should always attempt to put the information into its real context.

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Fluoridation: putting chemical contamination in context

Anti-fluoridation activists often claim fluoridating chemicals used for water treatment are contaminated with heavy metals and radionuclides. I have written about this before in Fluoridation – are we dumping toxic metals into our water supplies?Water treatment chemicals – why pick on fluoride? and Hamilton – the water is the problem, not the fluoride!  The issue was also discussed in my exchange with Paul Connett (see Fluoride debate).

Trouble is, many people have difficulty putting measured levels of contamination into context. After all, if there is a sufficiently sensitive analytical method available just about any contaminant will be detected and measured in our food and water. The important issue is the magnitude of the contamination (which is often natural anyway). That is why measured levels of contaminants must be compared with the maximum allowable values defined in regulations for food and water safety.

I have seen anti-fluoridation activists presenting submissions to councils who will flash on the screen a copy of a certificate of analysis as “evidence” of heavy metal contamination without any reference to the measured values at all! Their logic seems to be that the fact contaminant levels have been measured at all is some sort of “proof” of dangerous contamination.

Arsenic in Hamilton City water

It may help to consider the possible levels of contamination with the contamination from natural sources. In the graph below I have plotted the relative contribution of arsenic from natural and fluoridating chemicals in the treated Hamilton City (NZ) water. Arsenic is commonly mentioned by opponents of fluoridation.


The source water for Hamilton (Waikato River) contains arsenic from natural sources usually 2 or 3 times the maximum acceptable value (MAV) for drinking water (10 ppb As) (McLaren and Kim 1995). (ppb = parts per billion). In the figure the first bar represents river water arsenic content just under 30 ppb. After treatment up to 90% of the arsenic is removed so that it does not exceed the  MAV  (here 3 ppb) – red horizontal line. However, the contribution from fluoridation chemicals used (assuming about 2 ppm As in the FSA – the last batch used in Hamilton had 0.4 ppm As) is miniscule (about 0.01 ppb) compared with that from natural sources. Too small to show in the above graph.

Seems to me rather silly to argue against treating Hamilton water with fluoridating chemicals because they are “contaminated” with arsenic while ignoring the much large contribution of arsenic from the source Waikato River water.

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