Fluoride Action Network

Fluoride’s Effect on Acquatic Life Joins other Fluoride & Mercury Legislation in Washington State

Source: Citizens for Safe Drinking Water | January 31st, 2002

Three legislative measures that may affect public policy on fluoridation were introduced in the Washington State Legislature last week. The discussion of these bills concerning water quality and fluoridation may be further impacted by two additional measures and their companion bills concerning mercury — all-in-all a busy time for consumer advocates and vested-interest trade associations.

Information on An Assessment of Fluoride‘s Impact on Washington’s Aquatic Life is contained below. Under separate news releases, information will follow on

(1) The Drinking Water Enhancement Act, limiting contaminants in water additives and requiring specific approval by FDA of their safety and effectiveness;
(2) the Washington State Dental Association-sponsored call for a study comparing Medicaid costs of dental care in fluoridated versus non fluoridated communities; and
(3) two bills concerning mercury — one detailing curtailment of mercury inclusion in products and defining disposal, the second identifying risks of mercury exposure through dental amalgams.

An Assessment of Fluoride’s Impact on Washington’s Aquatic Life

Senate Bill 6672 calls for the State Department of Ecology to assess risks to aquatic life associated with the discharging of inorganic fluoride. The assessment will examine waters adjacent to communities that fluoridate and known commercial and industrial points of inorganic fluoride discharge. The Assessment of Fluoride’s Impact on Washington’s Aquatic Life, sponsored by Senator Bob McCaslin, received its first reading on Friday, January 25, and has been referred to the Committee on Environment, Energy & Water (see full text, and access to documentation, below). Co-sponsors include the committee’s Chair, Senator Karen Fraser, and Senator Dan Swecker, Past-President and current Secretary-Treasurer of the Washington Fish Growers Association.

Testimony by experts in support of this bill will be heard by the Committee on Environment, Energy & Water on Tuesday, February 5, at the 3:30 p.m. session in Hearing Room #1 of the Cherberg Bldg. (located just south of the state capitol in Olympia).

According to testimony given last year on a mandatory fluoridation bill in the Oregon Senate (SB 99), salmon and trout are particularly vulnerable to fluoride toxicity in fresh water. University of Oregon chemistry professor, Dr. Paul Engelking, established that in a freshwater aquatic environment, healthy salmonids must maintain a plasma salt concentration more than a thousand times that of the surrounding freshwater, making the species especially vulnerable to accumulations of foreign water-borne chemicals. He noted that other factors affecting salmonids’ vulnerability to fluoride are water hardness and temperature, and the condition of the fish.

Expert witnesses are expected to testify and submit studies indicating that adverse effects to salmonids can occur at fluoride concentrations at or above 0.2 milligrams per liter (1/5 the concentration of artificially fluoridated water). Since fluoride is not removed in second-stage sewage treatment, the fluoridation of municipal drinking water is a significant source of inorganic fluoride entering the open waters of the state. These same studies indicate that fluoride toxicity causes delayed salmonid migration, deformed embryos and an accelerated mortality rate. In one Columbia River field study, a concentration of just 0.5 milligrams per liter of fluoride resulted in a loss of 55% of the migrating salmon within a six-day period.

A keynote supporting the need for passage of this risk assessment bill is that the U.S. EPA has not established any national water quality standard for fluoride. Although Canada has established a “maximum permissible level” of 1.5 milligrams per liter of fluoride, British Columbia has established a more restrictive recommended guideline of 0.2 to 0.3 milligrams per liter (dependent on the hardness of the water).

SB 6672 establishes an emergency measure to review available literature and assess water conditions by the Department of Ecology, which will then make recommendations to the Governor’s Salmon Recovery Office as well as the state legislature.

Documentation can be accessed at: http://www.keepers-of-the-well.org/6672.html

Text of the Bill:


State of Washington 57th Legislature 2002 Regular Session

By Senators McCaslin, Swecker and Fraser

Read first time 01/25/2002. Referred to Committee on Environment, Energy & Water.

AN ACT Relating to effects of inorganic fluoride on the quality of the waters of the state; adding a new section to chapter 90.48 RCW; creating a new section; providing an expiration date; and declaring an emergency.


{+ NEW SECTION. +} Sec. 1. The legislature finds that fluoridation of municipal drinking water is a significant source of inorganic fluoride entering the waters of the state. This source has raised concerns about the degradation of the state’s water quality and may be a factor related to the decline and endangerment of the salmonid population, especially within the state’s freshwater.
The legislature recognizes the actions taken by the government of British Columbia, Canada, in establishing ambient water quality criteria for fluoride in order to protect habitat for freshwater and marine aquatic life. The legislature finds that the lack of a similar Washington state assessment, and associated water quality standards, may be harmful to the state’s aquatic species.
The legislature intends that the department of ecology use the best science available to review and assess the risks associated with the discharge of inorganic fluoride into the waters of the state.

{+ NEW SECTION. +} Sec. 2. A new section is added to chapter 90.48 RCW to read as follows:
(1) The department shall conduct a study of the effects of inorganic fluoride on the quality of the waters of the state.
(2) In conducting the study, the department shall: (a) Include a review of best available scientific literature regarding the effects of inorganic fluoride in aquatic environments; (b) include an assessment of the inorganic fluoride levels in the marine and freshwater, focused on locations near communities that have fluoridation of their municipal drinking water systems, and locations near known industrial or commercial discharges of inorganic fluoride; (c) use the best available science in determining the threshold effects of inorganic fluoride on aquatic life, with a focus on the effects, in the migratory routes and spawning areas, of salmonids that have been listed as threatened or endangered by the federal government; and (d) include the consideration of factors such as low-level stream flows, variations in water temperature, and the hardness of the waters.
(3) The department shall include an opportunity for public comment on its draft findings and recommendations. The opportunity for public comment shall include at least two public hearings, with one occurring on each side of the crest of the Cascade mountains. The period for submitting written public comment shall remain open for at least ninety days.
(4)(a) The department shall prepare a final report containing its comprehensive findings and recommendations based upon its assessment.
(b) The final findings and recommendations shall include a summary of the comments received, an analysis of the scientific basis of the comments, and, if the comments are not incorporated into the department’s findings or recommendations, the reasons why the comments were not included.
(c) The department shall submit its final report to the governor, the salmon recovery office created under chapter 77.85 RCW, and the legislature by December 15, 2003.
(5) This section expires December 31, 2003.

{+ NEW SECTION. +} Sec. 3. This act is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, or safety, or support of the state government and its existing public institutions,
and takes effect immediately.
— END —