FAN’s Pesticide Project is working to end the fluoride contamination of our food which is due primarily to 2 pesticides: Cryolite and Sulfuryl Fluoride.
The permitted levels of fluoride residues allowed in food are very, very high – you can see them here. The legal term for a pesticide’s residue on food is called a tolerance.
In 2004, the US Department of Agriculture published the National Fluoride Database of Selected Beverages and Foods – but this was before the US gave the green light for sulfuryl fluoride as a food fumigant and approved extremely high levels of fluoride on food.
FAN has not been able to locate any US EPA-approved laboratory that will test foods for their fluoride content. In fact, the director of one laboratory told us,
“It’s easier to test hazardous waste for fluoride
than it is to test fluoride levels in corn flakes.”
We believe that anyone should have the right to independently test for the levels of fluoride in their favorite foods. One of the projects FAN hopes to launch is the testing of the fluoride levels in various foods, including organic and pet food. We have seen preliminary results of certain organic processed foods and soups and were surprised at the fluoride levels, which we attributed to the use of fluorinated water. If anyone has solid suggestions and wants to make this happen, please contact us.
A little information about the two major pesticides that are responsible for fluoride in our food.
This insecticide has been used since 1957 on fruits and vegetables (and ornamental crops). According to EPA, it is used today predominantly on grapes, potatoes and citrus fruit (orange, grapefruit, lemon, lime, tangelo, tangerine). It is sprayed on crops either from the ground or by aircraft. The California Organic standards approved its use for many years until the US Organic Standards came into effect between 2001-2002. At that time, cryolite was removed for use in California organic agriculture.
3 things to know about Cryolite:
- This is the pesticide that is primarily responsible for the fluoride contamination of our vegetables, fruits, fruit drinks, and wine.
- For decades regulatory agencies got away with the worst type of risk assessment for this pesticide and as a consequence cryolite was given a free pass.
- You can avoid exposure to fluoride residues from cryolite by buying organic or growing your own food.
It’s use as a food fumigant on post-harvest food was first approved by the US EPA Office of Pesticides in 2004. With this approval, EPA approved the highest levels of fluoride residues on food in its history. According to EPA, sulfuryl fluoride breaks down rapidly in the human body to fluoride.
FAN became involved in 2001 when Dow AgroSciences first petitioned US EPA for an Experimental Use Permit for sulfuryl fluoride on raisins and walnuts. FAN submitted comments and formal Objections and then in 2004 and 2005 EPA approved its use and high fluoride levels on all processed food, beans, grains, flour -and much more, including a fluoride residue of 900 ppm on dried eggs! FAN collaborated with two great groups, the Environmental Working Group and Beyond Pesticides, and a masterful pro-bono lawyer (Perry E. Wallace, Esq.), to reverse EPA’s approval, through a series of substantive submissions to the US EPA.
Incredibly, after many years of hard work, in January 2011, EPA concluded that it agreed with “all” of our objections and published their proposal to phase-out sulfuryl fluoride. According to protocol, EPA simultaneously solicited public comments on the phase-out. That was when the Dow Chemical Company, the proprietary owner of sulfuryl fluoride, did everything a powerful corporation can do to dissuade EPA from enacting the phase-out. They successfully lobbied Congress to add a few short sentences to the Farm Bill of 2014 that nullified the phase-out. And we the people lost! But there’s more. Having salvaged their money-making post-harvest food fumigant from the phase-out, Dow Chemical sold sulfuryl fluoride in 2015 to Douglas Products. Congress left the public unprotected while allowing Dow to enrich itself on a chemical that is so extremely toxic to the brain that it should be banned.
6 things to know about Sulfuryl Fluoride
1. It is exceptionally toxic and workers who use it are at risk. One 1998 study compared the effects on fumigation workers who used either methyl bromide or sulfuryl fluoride. The study found that sulfuryl fluoride workers suffered “subclinical effects on the central nervous system” as well as observable “cognitive deficits.”
2. In all animals (rats, mice, rabbits, dogs) exposed to sulfuryl fluoride in Dow’s experiments, it was found to create severe and rare effects in the brain. Notably, it harmed the brain white matter and created vacuolation (holes) in several parts of the brain (cerebrum, white matter, thalmus/hypothalmus, etc.). Incredibly, effects on the bone were not studied.
3. We know that when sulfuryl fluoride is used, two different residues are left “in” or “on” the food. These residues are “fluoride” and “sulfuryl fluoride.” EPA has given legal tolerances for each. However, we know very little about the chemical “sulfuryl fluoride” itself, aside from the fact that it is horribly toxic and attacks the brain.
4. FAN was told that Dow AgroSciences campaigned hard to get US EPA to accept sulfuryl fluoride as the replacement fumigant for methyl bromide. Because methyl bromide is an ozone destroyer, western countries were obligated under the UN Montreal Agreement to end all uses. Only the US hasn’t complied with this mandate. FAN agrees that all uses of methyl bromide in the US must end immediately, but substituting it with sulfuryl fluoride is unwise for many reasons including the fact that it is a potent greenhouse gas. Of note: Dow is the producer of both fumigants!
5. In response to FAN’s Objections, US EPA proposed to phase-out the use of sulfuryl fluoride as a food fumigant in 2011 on the basis that children were overexposed to fluoride. The Food Quality and Protection Act (FQPA) states that “aggregate exposure levels of consumers (and major identifiable subgroups of consumers)” must be taken into account. We know that children are overexposed to fluoride because of the incredibly high levels of dental fluorosis –CDC reported that 41% of children aged 12-15 were diagnosed with it. Because of this and the several other objections we made, US EPA could not justify new sources of exposure. However, Dow AgroSciences and its chorus in industry and Congress, are opposed to any justification for a phase-out.
6. You can avoid sulfuryl fluoride residues by buying organic or growing your own food.
The Fluorinated Pesticides
Many of these pesticides are extremely toxic – most particularly the ones that contain both bromine and fluorine because this combination has shown severe effects on the brain. These particular pesticides are: Amidoflumet, Bromethalin, Chlorfenapyr, Fluazolate, Fluorosalan, Halfenprox, Tralopyril, and Thifluzamide.
The fluorinated pesticides do not leave a “fluoride” metabolite residue, instead they leave fluorinated metabolites. Basically, we did not have the time nor expertise to understand these fluorinated metabolites and we don’t know of any group who is even interested in them, aside from the companies that want to sell pesticides and the EPA who have to review them. The public needs independent groups to begin to understand fluorinated pesticides and their metabolites because so many have come into existence as alternatives to well known toxic chlorinated ones. It could turn out that the fluorinated pesticides are equally dangerous, or even more so.
Lastly, if any of the fluorinated pesticides catch on fire they will release hydrofluoric acid.
The Fluorinated and Fluoride Pesticides
beginning with the following letters