Today’s solution of the day is “hydrofluorosilicic acid,” or HFS for short.
It’s what the City of Boulder adds to the city’s drinking water to achieve water fluoridation – a common practice in the United States intended to help reduce incidences of tooth decay.
But a group of Boulder citizens will be circulating a petition in attempts to get a measure on the 2006 ballot that could potentially eliminate the use of certain materials that can be added to Boulder’s drinking water.
Randall M. Weiner, a local environmental attorney, is part of the petitioning group known as Clean Water Advocates of Boulder (CWA). A visit to the CWA Web site, www.bouldercwa.org, lists a number of concerns that group members or other researchers have with water fluoridation in general, but Weiner said the citizen initiative would not directly prohibit fluoridation per se.
“What it says is if the city’s going to medicate through the water supply, the medication has to be approved by the FDA for that purpose and the substance used cannot exceed EPA pollution goals,” said Weiner.
He said one of the reasons the group might be concerned about HFS is that it is not considered pharmaceutical-grade fluoride. The city purchases the product from Lucier Chemical Industries (LCI) in Jacksonville Beach, Fla., and it may include small amounts of heavy metals.
An October 1990 LCI data sheet said HFS typically contains small amounts of lead and arsenic. Information from a current HFS data sheet mentions lead but not arsenic, and a Daily call to LCI for verification on current arsenic levels was placed after LCI’s normal business hours.
A 2005 city information packet does say Lucier certifies that the product meets both American Water Works Association and National Science Foundation standards developed for the drinking water industry.
Weiner said current EPA standards known as Maximum Contaminant Level Goals (MCLGs) for both lead and arsenic are set at zero, so the citizen initiative could apply to the use of HFS in its current chemical composition even if the EPA and FDA say certain levels of fluoridation are acceptable.
Ned Williams, Boulder’s director of public works for utilities, said city voters voted to fluoridate Boulder’s water to a level of one part per million in 1969. He also said neither he nor City Council would be able to decide to cease the use of fluoride or reduce concentrations below one part per million, and said only city voters would be able to make the decision.
“For us, it’s easy to add it and it’s easy not to add it,” said Williams.
Williams said he did not have a personal opinion on fluoridation, saying he considers the matter a health topic as opposed to a water-treatment topic. He also said no water treatment facility that the city has researched uses pharmaceutical-grade fluoride to fluoridate water, possibly due to cost and/or availability of quantities required to treat the large volumes of water used in larger cities.
He and Weiner both said they were awaiting an anticipated Wednesday release from the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) titled “Fluoride in Drinking Water: A Scientific Review of EPA’s Standards.”
“I also know the city Water Resources Advisory Board (WRAB) has been waiting to review the information before they start to weigh in on whatever type of advice or recommendations they may want to provide on this,” said Williams.
Weiner is a former member and chair of the city’s Environmental Advisory Board (EAB), and said he initially got involved in the issue of water additives when citizens approached him as an EAB member.
He said CWA as a group is about a year old, and said the group is “loosely affiliated” with other advocacy groups in the state, including those in Ft. Collins and Pagosa Springs.
He also said the group is made up of “various professionals” around town, including dentist Dr. Stephen Koral, herbalist Brigitte Mars, cardiologist Dr. Andrew Meyer and hydrologist Alison Burchell.
The group would need in the neighborhood of 4,000 valid petition signatures to get the initiative on the 2006 ballot, and Weiner said the group will go forward with petitioning regardless of findings in the NAS report.
“What will happen Wednesday is a specific discussion on fluoride, and what this initiative deals with is what precisely goes into the water,” said Weiner.