Good morning. What say I draw you a tall, cold glass of industrial waste and we’ll talk about dental health for a while.
The waste in question: hydrofluorosilicic acid, which the City of Calgary has been proud to add to our drinking water every day since 1989.
It comes, via a local middleman, from Lucier Chemical Industries Ltd. in Jacksonville, Fla., which in turn buys its raw material from major phosphate fertilizer producers.
According to LCI’s product data sheet, hydrofluorosilicic acid–or simply, “fluoride” as it is euphemistically called by its proponents– is a “20 to 35 per cent aqueous solution. It is a colourless to straw yellow, transparent, fuming, corrosive liquid. It has a pungent odour and irritating action on the skin.”
It is not a naturally occurring substance, but rather a by-product of the fertilizer manufacturing process due to anti-pollution measures. Formerly it was released as fluorine gas, until farmers in various locations who lived downwind of the factories noticed that their crops were burning, and their animals dying from strange maladies.
Scrubbers in smokestacks alleviated that problem, but created another: a fluorine-rich waste product that, because of its silicon component, is not suitable for any of the industrial processes that currently rely on fluorinated inputs.
The only use, according to LCI’s website, is adding it to our drinking water.
This is done in extremely diluted amounts, to be sure. But still, let me tell you how the company’s own safety data sheet characterizes the chemical: “Prolonged exposure could result in bone changes, corrosive effect on mucous membranes including ulceration of nose, throat and bronchial tubes, cough, shock, pulmonary edema, Fluorosis, coma and death.” Should you need to handle hydrofluorosilicic acid, they advise you to wear a full face shield and acid-resistant clothing and boots.
As Calgary once again dives into the cacophonous dialogue between pro-and anti-fluoridation advocates, I want you to bear this information in mind.
Because, if tradition is any guide, there will be a babel of conflicting science presented on the matter. Proponents in white coats will cite study after study that show a clear net benefit in terms of reduced dental cavities among the public, notably the poor. They’ll promptly discredit any studies which show negative or inconclusive outcomes of fluoridation.
Opponents, meanwhile, will present chapter and verse to the contrary. They’ll emphasize the potential harm of fluorosis, a discolouration and weakening of teeth that even proponents acknowledge as a possibility. And they’ll cite studies that indicate weakened bones among those who have long histories of ingesting fluoridated water.
Somewhere along the line somebody is sure to ask another question. If fluoride is so benign and beneficial, why did the American Dental Association, in 2006, issue a guideline to mothers advising them to use non-fluoridated water in preparing baby formula for the first 12 months?
They will also point to unambiguous remarks like the following, by Dr. J. William Hirzy of the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, March 26, 2001: “In summary, we hold that fluoridation is an unreasonable risk. That is, the toxicity of fluoride is so great and the purported benefits associated with it are so small–if there are any at all–that requiring every man, woman and child in America to ingest it borders on criminal behaviour on the part of governments.”
Well, I don’t think we’ll be seeing indictments any time soon. But now that some clear-thinking aldermen are revisiting the policy, at a time when we’re told that millions of dollars worth of upgrades are necessary to continue water fluoridation, it’s as good a time as any to commit three simple words to memory:
Toxic. Industrial. Waste.
It matters little which scientist wears the whitest jacket. Doubt swirls around fluoridation like grains of sand in a river.
We can only remove that doubt by removing the fluoride.