Fluoride and the Phosphate Connection
by George C. Glasser
Cities all over the US purchase hundreds of thousands of gallons of fresh
pollution concentrate from Florida - fluorosilicic acid (H2SiF6) - to
Fluorosilicic acid is composed of tetrafluorosiliciate gas and other
species of fluorine gases captured in pollution scrubbers and concentrated
into a 23% solution during wet process phosphate fertilizer manufacture.
Generally, the acid is stored in outdoor cooling ponds before being
shipped to US cities to artificially fluoridate drinking water.
Fluoridating drinking water with recovered pollution is a cost-effective
means of disposing of toxic waste. The fluorosilicic acid would otherwise
be classified as a hazardous toxic waste on the Superfund Priorities List
of toxic substances that pose the most significant risk to human health
and the greatest potential liability for manufacturers.
Phosphate fertilizer suppliers have more than $10 billion invested in
production and mining facilities in Florida. Phosphate fertilizer
production accounts for $800 million in wages per year. Florida's mines
produce 30% of the world supply and 75% of the US supply of phosphate
fertilizers. Much of the country's supply of fluoro-silicic acid for water
fluoridation is also produced in Florida.
Reverse Osmosis Removes Arsenic, Fluoride, Lead,
Sodium, Nitrates--virtually anything you could want removed from
Phosphate fertilizer manufacturing and mining are not environment friendly
operations. Fluorides and radionuclides are the primary toxic pollutants
from the manufacture of phosphate fertilizer in Central Florida. People
living near the fertilizer plants and mines, experience lung cancer and
leukemia rates that are double the state average. Much of West Central
Florida has become a toxic waste dump for phosphate fertilizer
manufacturers. Federal and state pollution regulations have been modified
to accommodate phosphate fertilizer production and use: These regulations
have included using recovered pollution for water fluoridation.
Radium wastes from filtration systems at phosphate fertilizer facilities
are among the most radioactive types of naturally occurring radioactive
material (NORM) wastes. The radium wastes are so concentrated, they cannot
be disposed of at the one US landfill licensed to accept NORM wastes, so
manufacturers dump the radioactive wastes in acidic ponds atop
200-foot-high gypsum stacks. The federal government has no rules for its
During the late 1960s, fluorine emissions were damaging crops, killing
fish and causing crippling skeletal fluorosis in livestock. The EPA became
concerned and enforced regulations requiring manufacturers to install
pollution scrubbers. At that time, the facilities were dumping the
concentrated pollution directly into waterways leading into Tampa Bay.
A Phosphate Worse than Death
In the late 1960s, EPA chemist Ervin Bellack worked out the ideal solution
to a monumental pollution problem. Because recovered phosphate fertilizer
manufacturing waste contain about 19% fluorine, Bellack concluded that the
concentrated "scrubber liquor" could be a perfect water fluoridation
agent. It was a liquid and easily soluble in water, unlike sodium fluoride
- a waste product from aluminum manufacturing. It was also inexpensive.
Fate also intervened. The aluminum industry, which previously supplied
sodium fluoride for water fluoridation, was facing a shortage of fluorspar
used in smelting aluminum. Consequently, there was a shortage of sodium
fluoride to fluoridate drinking water.
For the phosphate fertilizer industry, the shortage of sodium fluoride was
the key to turning red ink into black and an environmental liability into
a perceived asset. With the help of the EPA, fluorosilicic acid was
transformed from a concentrated toxic waste and a liability into a "proven
The EPA and the US Public Health Service waived all testing procedures and
- with the help of the American Dental Association (ADA) - encouraged
cities to add the radioactive concentrate into America's drinking water as
an "improved" form of fluoride.
The product is not "fluorine" or "fluoride" as proponents state: It is a
pollution concentrate. Fluorine is only one captured pollutant comprising
about 19% of the total product.
By 1983, the official EPA policy was expressed by EPA Office of Water
Deputy Administrator Rebecca Hanmer as follows: "In regard to the use of
fluosilicic (fluorosilicic) acid as a source of fluoride for fluoridation,
this agency regards such use as an ideal environmental solution to a
long-standing problem. By recovering by-product fluosilicic acid from
fertilizer manufacturing, water and air pollution are minimized, and water
utilities have a low-cost source of fluoride available to them."
A Hot New Property
In promoting the use of the pollution concentrate as a fluoridation agent,
the ADA, Federal agencies and manufacturers failed to mention that it was
radioactive. Whenever uranium is found in nature as a component of a
mineral, a host of other radionuclides are always found in the mineral in
various stages of decay. Uranium and all of its decay-rate products are
found in phosphate rock, fluorosilicic acid and phosphate fertilizer.
During wet-process manufacturing, trace amounts of radium and uranium are
captured in the pollution scrubber. This process was the subject of an
article by H.F. Denzinger, H. J. König and G.E. Krüger in the fertilizer
industry journal, Phosphorus & Potassium (No. 103, Sept./Oct. 1979)
discussed how radionuclides are carried into the fluorosilicic acid.
While the uranium and radium in fluorosilicic acid are known carcinogens,
two decay products of uranium are even more carcinogenic: radon-222 and
During the acidulation process that creates phosphoric acid, radon gas
contained in the phosphate pebble can be released in greater proportions
than other decay-rate products (radionuclides) and carried over into the
fluorosilicic acid. Polonium may also be captured in greater quantities
during scrubbing operations because, like radon, it can readily combine
In written communications to the author, EPA Office of Drinking Water
official Joseph A. Cotruvo and Public Health Service fluoridation engineer
Thomas Reeves have acknowledged the presence of radionuclides in
Radon-222 is not an immediate threat because it stops emitting alpha
radiation and decays into lead-214 in 3.86 days. Lead-214 appears to be
harmless but it eventually decays into bismuth-214 and then into
polonium-214. Unless someone knew to look for specific isotopes, no one
would know that a transmutation into the polonium isotope had occurred.
Polonium-210, a decay product of bismuth-210, has a half-life of 138 days
and gives off intense alpha radiation as it decays into regular lead and
becomes stable. Any polonium-210 that might be present in the phosphate
concentrate could pose a significant health threat. A very small amount of
polonium-210 can be very dangerous, giving off 5,000 times more alpha
radiation than the same amount of radium. As little as 0.03 microcuries
(6.8 trillionths of a gram) of polonium-210 can be carcinogenic to humans.
The lead isotope behaves like calcium in the body. It may be stored in the
bones for years before turning into polonium-210 and triggering a
carcinogenic release of alpha radiation.
Drinking water fluoridated with fluorosilicic acid contains radon at every
sequence of its decay to polonium. The fresher the pollution concentrate,
the more polonium it will contain.
As long as the amount of contaminants added to the drinking water
(including radionuclides in fluorosilicic acid) do not exceed the limits
set forth in the Safe Drinking Water Act, the EPA has no regulatory
problem with the use of any contaminated products for drinking water
Big Risks: No Tests
Despite the increased cancer risk from using phosphate waste to fluoridate
drinking water, the EPA nor the Centers for Disease Control have never
commissioned or required any clinical studies with the pollution
concentrate - specifically, the hexafluorsilicate radical whose
toxicokinetic properties are different than the lone, fluoride ion.
Section 104 (I) (5) of the Comprehensive Environmental Response,
Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) directs the Toxic Substances and
Disease Registry, the EPA, the Public Health Service and the National
Toxicology Program to initiate a program of research on fluoride safety.
However, after almost 30 years of using fluorosilicic acid and sodium
fluorosilicate to fluoridate the drinking water, not one study has been
The fluoride ion only hypothetically exists as an entity in an ideal
solution of purified water - and tap water is far from pure H2O. All
clinical research with animal models is done using 99.97% pure sodium
fluoride and double distilled or deionized water. Among the thousands of
clinical studies about fluoride, not one has been done with the pollution
concentrate or typical tap water containing fluorides.
The fluorosilicic acid is also contaminated with small traces of arsenic,
cadmium, mercury, lead, sulfates, iron and phosphorous, not to mention
radionuclides. Some contaminants have the potential to react with the
hexafluorosilicate radical and may act as complex ionic compounds. The
biological fates and toxicokinetic properties of these complex ions are
The reality of artificial water fluoridation is so complex that
determining the safety of the practice may be impossible. Tap water is
chemically treated with chlorine, soluble silicates, phosphate polymers
and many other chemicals. In addition, the source water itself may contain
a variety of contaminants.
The addition of a fluoridation agent can create synergized toxicants in a
water supply that have unique toxico-kinetic properties found only in that
particular water supply. Consequently, any maladies resulting from chronic
ingestion of the product likely would be dismissed as a local or regional
anomaly unrelated to water fluoridation.
Technically, artificially fluoridating drinking water is a violation of
the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). Under statutes of the SDWA, federal
agencies are forbidden from endorsing, supporting, requiring or funding
the practice of adding any chemicals to the water supply other than for
purposes of water purification. However, the Public Health Service (PHS)
applies semantics to circumvent Federal law in order to promote and fund
PHS states that they only recommend levels of fluorides in the drinking
water, and it is the sole decision of a state or community to fluoridate
Federal agencies are forbidden from directly funding or implementing water
fluoridation but Federal Block Grants are given to States to use as they
see fit. Through second and third parties (such as the American Dental
Association, state health departments and state fluoridation
coordinators), PHS encourages communities to apply for Federal Block Grant
funds to implement fluoridation.
The legality of using of Federal Block Grant funds to fund water
fluoridation, a practice prohibited by Federal law, has never been
addressed in the courts.
Vendors selling the pollution concentrate as a fluoridation agent use a
broad disclaimer found on the Material Data Safety Sheet that states: "no
responsibility can be assumed by vendor for any damage or injury resulting
from abnormal use, from any failure to adhere to recommended practices, or
from any hazards inherent to the product." [Emphasis added.]
The next time you turn on the tap and water gushes out into a glass,
reflect on the following disclaimer from the EPA's 1997 Fluoride:
Regulatory Fact Sheet: "In the United States, there are no Federal safety
standards which are applicable to additives, including those for use in
fluoridating drinking water."
George Glasser is a Florida-based writer whose work has appeared in
Newlife, Whole Life Times, the Sarasota ECO Report and the Tampa Tribune.
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