Water district operator takes up anti-fluoride fight
It is possible that customers of Carroll Boone Water District may not have fluoride added to their water after all as a result a CBWD contract with Eureka Springs, Berryville, Green Forest and Harrison that forbids the introduction of any corrosive water into distribution systems.
There are concerns that highly corrosive fluoride added to the water could leach lead from distribution pipes, which could cause lead contamination of drinking water, said Rene Fonseca, a licensed operator with the CBWD.
Lead is a neurotoxin harmful to infants and pregnant women that causes developmental delays in children, damages kidneys and the nervous system and interferes with red blood cell chemistry, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Approximately 250,000 U.S. children 1 to 5 years old have blood lead levels greater than 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood, the level at which CDC recommends public health actions be initiated.
Lead poisoning can affect nearly every system in the body. Because lead poisoning often occurs with no obvious symptoms, it frequently goes unrecognized.
Fonseca said experience in other areas of the country with aging infrastructure has shown that fluoride chemicals added to the water supply can result in extremely high lead levels in children. In 2004, an investigation by the CDC found that 42,000 children in Washington D.C. 16 months old and younger had blood levels 2.4 times higher than normal.
Fonseca talked to water officials in Washington, D.C. who told him the problem was created when they switched to chloramines for water disinfection, mixing chloramines with fluoridation products that combined to have a corrosive effect on the city's aging lead pipes. Fonseca said similar problems have been identified in at least three other water districts with lead pipes. His concern is that the same thing could result here from introducing fluoride into CBWD water.
"In aging systems, even with optimal corrosion control in place, it would be a challenge, if not impossible, to prevent the leaching of lead into the water," Fonseca said. "This is a very important public health issue. Under our contract, I don't see how they can force us to fluoridate the water."
The issue is bigger than Eureka Springs or the CBWD. Fonseca said he is concerned about health and welfare of all citizens of Arkansas where waters are fluoridated now or plans are under way to add fluoridation.
The state legislature has mandated fluoride be added to all public water supplies serving more than 5,000 people. The Public Health Service states that fluoridation helps prevent dental decay and is one of the top 10 public health achievements of the 20th Century.
"Water fluoridation has helped improve the quality of life in the U.S. by reducing pain and suffering related to tooth decay, time lost from school and work, and money spent to restore, remove, or replace decayed teeth," according to the U.S. Surgeon General. "An economic analysis has determined that in most communities, every $1 invested in fluoridation saves $38 or more in treatment costs."
Eureka Springs has twice voted against fluoridation. Opponents of fluoridation say many other cities across the country have stopped fluoridating waters after studies have linked it to hypothyroidism, heart disease, learning problems in children and possibly cancer.
There are also concerns the fluoride products added to the water could be contaminated with toxic chemicals. The CBWD, which serves a population of about 25,000, contacted 49 suppliers of fluoride asking for proper American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and NFS60 certification that would list all contaminants by weight, and include information about toxicological studies pertaining to those contaminants. Not one supplier responded to the request for information.
Fonseca said a recent analysis of a random sample of sodium fluorosilicate additive contained 17 trace elements of a toxic nature including lead, arsenic, and thorium, a radionuclide.
Operators are also concerned about how their health would be affected by exposure from fluoride, which is a hazardous chemical that must be handled with special precautions.
"These are extremely dangerous substances," Fonseca said. "The acute lethal toxicity of sodium fluorosilicate for an adult man is 6.2 grams, which is about the weight of an average driver's license. At a water plant the size of CBWD, you would be dumping 150 pounds a day into the water -- enough oral doses to poison 9,600 men a day or 297,000 men a month. This is not pharmaceutical grade fluoride, as you would receive in the dental office.
"So today from the Ozark Mountains, let our voice be loud enough to carry to Washington, D.C. to the President of the U.S., the U.S. Congress and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to test and approve fluoride products or forever ban this insidious practice," Fonseca said. "Water is a life-giving force. Good quality water is a basic necessity for life."
A lawsuit was filed in 2011 in the Southern District Court of California claiming Americans have a constitutional right to not be exposed without their permission to a drug that has never been approved. The lawsuit states that Congress established that the FDA as the only government entity with the authority to approve claims of safety and effectiveness for products intended to treat and prevent disease. Fluoride used in the water industry has never been tested or approved by the FDA.
A new state mandate on water fluoridation requires that funding for equipment to add fluoridation must come from grants and not from taxes or by increasing rates for water district customers. The Delta Dental Foundation has grants available for equipment. But Fonseca said the equipment is only a small part of the cost, as the district would also have to add buildings to house the operation.
It has been estimated that it will cost CBWD $1.23 million to add the fluoridation equipment and necessary infrastructure. Some legislators have said they were told by lobbyists for fluoridation that the mandate would not cost the taxpayers or increase customers' water bills.
The Mockingbird Hill Water Association in Boone County unanimously opposed fluoridation, stating that many of their 300 members are economically depressed.
"We reject this unnecessary mandated cost being shoved down our throat," said Association President John H. Meyer, who said the board doesn't want a deadly chemical injected into their drinking water.
Crystal Harvey, state director of Safe Drinking Water for Secure Arkansas, said the water fluoridation mandate bill was rushed through the House and Senate in less than seven working days -- hardly enough time to hear from all the citizens in Arkansas against adding a known toxic substance to their water.
In addition to Eureka Springs, Fort Smith and Hot Springs have also opposed adding fluoride to their water system.
"Eureka Springs, Hot Springs and even Fort Smith in its historic areas have those old lead pipes in them," Harvey said. "When you add fluoride, it leaches lead from those pipes."
In addition to harming residents, fluoridation of water supplies could also be a deterrent to tourism.
"Hot Springs is known worldwide for its water, and Eureka Springs also has a history of being renowned for the healing quality of its water," Harvey said. "People may be less likely to come visit if they know that our water could be contaminated with a known accumulative toxic poison. We live in an era of a lot of health-conscious people that want to avoid poisonous chemicals in our food and water."
Harvey said the rushed passage of this law also prevented discussion of how the mandate could affect animals.
"Most farms that raise livestock have traditionally had wells to provide water to their animals," she said. "With the expansion of the rural water districts in Arkansas, that has all changed. We have water districts all over the state, especially Northwest Arkansas, that fall under this mandate but the vast majority of the water supplied in these rural areas goes to maintain the lives of chickens, horses and cattle. Now we don't want anything to happen to our pets, but what about the people or the big corporations in our state that depend on animals for their income?"
Harvey said owners of horses raced at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs might not come to the area if they knew a toxin intentionally being added to the water could damage their investment to the point that their horses would not be able to race or, worse yet, have to be put down because of fractures.
"If the City of Hot Springs is forced to fluoridate their water system, these thoroughbred horses will be consuming a known toxic substance," Harvey said.