Fluoridation started July 15 at the Carroll-Boone Water District plant on Beaver Lake without onsite testing of chemicals as required by the American Water Work Association. Arkansas law states, “All unit processes, equipment, chemicals and appurtenances shall be in accordance with the latest edition of the applicable AWWA standards.” Cathy Klein, CPA and CBWD office manager, answered in response to an email from the Independent asking if the water district tested the sodium silicofluoride prior to putting it in the water, “We are not aware of this requirement by AWWA. Would you please send me a copy of what you are referring to so I can review it?”
The Independent sent the AWWA standard saying fluoridation chemicals be sampled at the point of destination to CBWD. Klein said the district is not sampling at the plant, and is instead relying on the manufacturer’s representation that the fluoride product used will be ANSI/NSF Standard 60 certified.
“The Carroll-Boone Water District will adhere to the Arkansas Department of Health Rules and Regulations regarding fluoride,” Klein responded in the email. “Any fluoride product used will be ANSI/NSF Standard 60 certified per the Arkansas Health Department Rules and Regulations.”
One of the country’s top experts on the issue of contaminants in fluoridation product, Dr. Phyllis Mullenix, said failure to test could mean the district gives people water that contains harmful substances.
“This material comes from overseas because it is not manufactured in the U.S. anymore,” said Mullenix, who authored a recent article in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health that contaminant levels of lead, arsenic, barium and aluminum in fluoride additives can vary widely from batch to batch, which jeopardizes any safe use of fluoridation chemicals. “If the water operators do not test each bag or lot that comes in, then they are just accepting someone’s word. They are blindly fluoridating. There is every opportunity that they can get the concentration wrong in terms of contaminants such as lead. That is a problem because they can inadvertently exceed the EPA allowance for lead or arsenic by not knowing the content of lead and arsenic in the additives. I would think water operators must test every batch that comes in to meet their ethical obligation to provide people with safe drinking water.”
Mullenix said in a telephone interview it is known that Northern Arkansas has significant lead in water from sources such as erosion.
“If they don’t know how much lead is in the water naturally, they are just adding lead from fluoride additives on top of what is there from natural sources,” she said. “It is a crap shoot, really, with water operators having no idea what they are putting in the water. To give up and accept a little stamp on the side of the product staying it is NSF certified is giving up all control. Basically, you are relying on a foreign source. Can you trust it? Don’t you want to know what is in the chemicals you are putting in people’s drinking water?”
The chemicals CBWD uses are imported from a Prayon facility in Belgium. An email to Prayon asking the country of origin for the fluoridation chemicals was not returned.
“Most of the fluoridation salts do originate in China, which is notorious for providing us with contaminated products of all kinds,” Mullenix said. “Before you put something in the drinking water from China or some other place you know hands out contaminated products, wouldn’t you like to know what is in it?”
When Mullenix did the study of fluoridation chemicals, she traced it back to Singapore. She said U.S manufacturers quit making the product because manufacturing was so hazardous for workers.
“Now they get the chemicals from someplace like China that doesn’t care about the health of workers,” Mullenix said. “Also, NSF standards say a customer can request information from manufacturers, but my understanding is that these manufacturers won’t respond.”
Another contaminant of great concern because of its potential impact on dementia is aluminum. Mullenix said the fluoridation chemicals from China she tested were shockingly high in aluminum.
“It was in the thousands of parts per million,” she said. “That is what you would find in electroplating sludge. If water operators don’t even know how much aluminum is in it, how do they know they aren’t exceeding the limits set for it? It is just not good practice to dump in any chemical when you don’t know the content of each and every batch.”
Mullenix headed the toxicology department at the Forsthye Research Institute for 12 years. On its website, Forsthye describes itself as “the world’s leading independent research organization dedicated to improving oral health.”
Mullenix said it is strange that Arkansas is just now proceeding with a fluoride mandate when the most comprehensive recent research said studies fail to support the effectiveness of water fluoridation. A recent report by the Cochrane group found that 97 percent of the earlier studies that showed a benefit to water fluoridation reducing cavities were at a high risk for bias.
“The Cochrane report came out of a study funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to look at whether the studies that found a benefit of reducing tooth decay were reliable,” Mullenix said. “The Cochrane study said the scientific literature does not support that fluoridation has a benefit in preventing tooth decay. The point is you have a fluoride mandate in Arkansas at the same time current literature is telling you it doesn’t work. Even the American Dental Association has admitted that effect of fluoride, if it does have an effect, is topical. So why are you drinking this stuff that includes lead and other contaminants that we know potentially cause harm to humans? It really makes no sense. We shouldn’t be putting any chemicals in the water that could cause harm to the public.”
Mullenix said after doing her research, she and her family decided against drinking fluoridated water, and instead use bottled water they had tested for fluoride content. She has sympathies for people in Arkansas who now have the expense of either filtering the water or purchasing bottled water.
“As far as I am concerned, what you are losing there is confidence in the drinking water,” Mullenix said. “It becomes a personal responsibility and that is a very expensive one, I can tell you. Basically it is hurting a lot of people who can’t afford to go out and buy bottled water or purchase a reverse osmosis system and keep it maintained. That kind of diligence is passed on to the consumer and individual instead of relying on the expertise of your water operators. It is strange this mandate came in at a time when so many other locations are backing off fluoridation. You seem to be going backwards.”