How it All Started An employee came to the union with an ethics complaint. He was tasked with writing the Federal Register notice proposing EPA’s new drinking water standards for fluoride. The non-enforceable health based standard was known at the time (1985) as the Recommended Maximum Contaminant Level Goal (RMCL). (It is now called the Maximum Contaminant Level Goal [MCLG]). The MCLG must be set at a level to prevent any known or anticipated adverse effect on health, with an adequate margin of safety. The enforceable standard is the Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL), and it must be set as close to the MCLG as technically and economically feasible. The MCLG EPA was proposing would allow a large fraction of children to have severe dental fluorosis, like this:or this: Severe DF
EPA had by fiat defined severe dental fluorosis as merely an adverse cosmetic effect, not a health effect, and therefore not anything EPA had to prevent in its health based regulation. (Note: In 2006 the National Academy of Sciences’ National Research Council opined that severe dental fluorosis was, indeed, an adverse health effect, and advised EPA to revise its drinking water standards.)
In those days before email at EPA, mass communication was by posting on bulletin boards throughout Headquarters. This is what the complaining employee posted: Paul Price Posting on F MCLGS 2
Union Gets Involved The employee came to union president Dr. Robert Carton complaining of this situation asking for help. During the Summer of 1985, after people outside the “EPA Fishbowl” learned of the union’s existence and advocacy for truth and good science in decision making on the asbestos issue, folks concerned about fluoride toxicity invited EPA employees to a seminar on the subject by Dr. John Yiamouyannis. That seminar coupled with the employee’s ethics complaint prompted Drs. Carton and Hirzy to visit the Director of the Office of Drinking Water. We tried to settle this ethics issue quietly, within the family, but EPA was unable or unwilling to resist external political pressure. We two also visited with Ralph Nader about the issue and he suggested we work with outside entities if they should approach us on the issue.
NRDC Asks for Help Also as a result of the union’s asbestos publicity, we were solicited by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) to join in their 1986 lawsuit over fluoride drinking water standards filed against EPA. NRDC asked the union to file an amicus curiae brief that laid out the science, which after a vote, we did. NRDC wrote the legal portions of the brief and Dr. Carton wrote the science portions, digging deeply into the extant literature on fluoride. The more union scientists looked into the fluoride issue, the more obvious became the political subversion of science around this issue. The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia reviewed the brief, then refused to enter it into the record, holding that if it did, “It would be like EPA suing itself.” We argued that the union had a separate legal existence from the Agency, but the Court still was not willing to accept our brief.
By Other Means….In spite of the Court’s rejection, the union’s views about the scientific invalidity of EPA’s fluoride drinking water regulations began to be sought by citizens wanting to keep fluoridation out of their communities. After consulting with NFFE National office about keeping out of legal trouble and getting National’s approval of our pursuing an EPA mission (and coincidentally making friends for organized labor in the Civil Service) by other means, Dr. Carton started making trips around the country, using his annual leave for that purpose. The National Union recognized Local 2050 for Honorable Mention for this work, and NRDC’s Amicus Journal published an article about the Local in 1990. Amicus Journal Summer 1990
Drs. Carton and Hirzy were contacted by BBC investigative reporter, Christopher Bryson, who had gotten our names from Ralph Nader upon his inquiry of Nader about fluoride for an article BBC had asked Bryson to write. Bryson interviewed both Carton and Hirzy and eventually published a book titled “The Fluoride Deception” in 2004. From left: Phyllis Mullenix, Bob Carton, Mike Connett, Bill Hirzy, Deb Jacobson, Chris Bryson at publication celebration.
By 1990 the union’s assessment of fluoride toxicity and requests from the public for this information led to publication of a White Paper on the subject. FLWHTPAP
Neurotoxicity In 1997, the union was asked to write a support letter, outlining our past involvement with the fluoride issue, for Dr. Phyllis Mullenix, a neurotoxicologist, who was suing her former employer for firing her because she published a paper on the neurotoxicity of sodium fluoride in rats. This we did. Her research group showed, among other things, that off-spring of pregnant females were born hyperactive and remained hyperactive throughout life.
In 1998 a research group that included an EPA toxicologist found that rats drinking water containing 1 per per million (ppm) of fluoride as sodium fluoride or aluminum fluoride suffered significant brain damage, i.e. changes in brain blood vessels and loss of brain cells. They also showed kidney damage and what may have been damage to their immune systems.
Two scientists from the Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics, who happen also to be union officers, sent a memo to EPA’s Children’s Health Protection work group on neurotoxicity hazards that could be experienced by children from fluoride, based on studies during the 1990’s, never receiving the courtesy of an acknowledgment of the memo.
Union Votes to Oppose Fluoridation The Mullenix letter came to the attention of some California citizens. They then asked the union to endorse the Californians For Safe Drinking Water ballot initiative aiming to keep fluoride out of that State’s water supplies. Before calling for a vote of its members on this request, the union arranged a seminar by Prof. Paul Connett of St. Lawrence University and Dr. Bob Carton, our former Local President, covering toxicity data published in the mid and late 1990’s. Based on the seminar and the preponderance of other adverse information on fluoride of which we had become aware since 1985, we voted at a general meeting in 1997 unanimously to endorse the California initiative.
Senate Testimony In June, 2000 Dr. Hirzy was invited to give testimony on the union’s views about fluoride to a Subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. Video of that testimony and other videos on fluoride can be viewed by going to http://fluoridealert.org/fan-tv/hirzy/. The written testimony is at this link: 629 FINAL . That testimony asked for a Congressional review of the U.S. Public Health Service’s national program of water fluoridation, but none has occurred – since 1978. The testimony video, and others at that site, also cover fluoride’s carcinogenicity up to 2000. More on cancer below.
Fluoride and Children’s IQ Dr. Hirzy and co-authors published a quantitative risk analysis on fluoride’s developmental neurotoxicity in 2016 based on best available data and using two standard EPA risk analysis techniques. DNT Risk Assmnt 2016 In addition, the Fluoride Action Network (FAN), for which Dr. Hirzy now serves as volunteer Science and Regulatory Affairs Advisor, filed a petition with EPA under provisions of the Toxic Substances Control Act, as amended in 2016, asking for a ban on addition of fluoridation chemicals to drinking water. EPA denied the petition in February 2017, and FAN is currently (March 2017) deciding on next steps, which may include a lawsuit. More on the petition and its progress can be found at http://www.fluoridealert.org.
That url contains much information about the link between fluoride exposures and bone cancer that was developed before 2000.
EPA Fires Toxicologist for Speaking Out About Cancer In May, 1992, EPA fired the Office of Drinking Water’s chief toxicologist, who also was our local union’s Treasurer at the time, for refusing to remain silent on the fluoride cancer risk issue. This occurred following publication in 1991 of a National Toxicology Program bioassay of sodium fluoride that showed male rats got bone cancer after dosing with fluoride at levels only about one hundred-fold greater than the public receives. The judge who heard the lawsuit brought against EPA over the firing made the finding that EPA fired the toxicologist over his fluoride work, and not for the phony reason put forward by EPA management at his dismissal. He won his lawsuit and was put back on the payroll at EPA in 1994, with back pay and a $50,000 damage award, but only after the Agency was forced to do so by the Secretary of Labor and public embarrassment.
Inside the Fishbowl Newsletter Coverage See Vol. 1, No.4 of Inside the Fishbowl on the Newsletters Page for the first news communicated to EPA professionals by the union on this subject. Inside the Fishbowl continued to report on union activities on this subject over the years.
Cancer Data Post 2000 In 2005 a letter was sent from presidents of 11 EPA labor unions to Administrator Johnson requesting him to set an MCLG of zero for fluoride based on new cancer data, with cc’s to certain Members of Congress Unions SLJ MCLG 0 . A followup letter was sent one year later Follow ups re MCLG 0 memos, and a letter to Speaker of the House Hastert requested a legislative moratorium on water fluoridation while further research was carried out Moratorium Letter Hastert. Neither Congress nor EPA appears to be interested in revisiting the national water fluoridation issue.
ADA Attacks EPA Unions The American Dental Association wrote to Assistant Administrator for Water Grumbles to complain of EPA’s labor unions’ communications cited above, to which union president Welch and vice-president Hirzy wrote a response to AA Grumbles. ADA Grumbles Our Reply
Fluoridation with a Hazardous Waste Among the first things that became apparent when we began looking at fluoride was that the source of most of the fluoride going into drinking water was a hazardous waste (as defined in the Resource Recovery and Conservation Act) product of the phosphate industry. In producing phosphate fertilizers an early step is to heat phosphate ore containing, among other contaminants, lots of silica and fluoride minerals, with sulfuric acid.
How it Forms This releases silicon tetrafluoride (SiF4) and hydrogen fluoride (HF), both gases which are eventually vacuum stripped from the process stream by water scrubbers, producing hydrofluorosilicic acid (H2SiF6, HFSA). Prior to regulations under the Clean Air and Clean Water Act the gases were vented to the atmosphere, and any liquid waste steams discharged to waterways. After regulations, the HFSA was captured as a ~25% w/w solution, then trucked or send via railcars (which required rubber lining to withstand the corrosive nature of HSFA and residual HF) to the nation’s drinking water systems for disposal, hamner_letter, as shown in this letter from Deputy Assistant Administrator of Water Rebecca Hanmer in reply to a citizen inquiry. This practice remains in place as of early 2017.
Money, Money, Money… seems to be a major reason why there is so little interest in Congress or EPA in stopping the addition of HFSA to drinking water supplies. The Hanmer explains why EPA is happy to let the practice continue: “…water and air pollution are minimized and water authorities have a low-cost source of fluoride…” – to the enormous benefit of the phosphate fertilizer industry. EPA’s rationale for defending fluoridation that is implied in that phrase is, “The solution to pollution is dilution…as long as the dilution occurs in drinking water systems and not in rivers or other waterways.”
Over 97 percent of the HFSA…paid for by taxpayers at an average price of about $500-$800/ton, though New York and Phoenix pay an average of $2000/ton…goes down shower drains, flushes toilets, washes clothes and dishes, waters lawns and puts out fires…then….it goes into ambient waterways. In this way EPA and the phosphate industry turn a hazardous waste, whose disposal would cost the phosphate industry many millions of dollars, into a pure profit item for industry worth many more millions of dollars. Dilution is the “ideal”solution to pollution, indeed.
In 2011, for instance, the U.S. Geological Survey Reported that about 275,000 tons of HFSA was sold for water fluoridation. At $700/ton, a conservative estimate, that amounts to over $190,000,000 in pure profit. That, coupled with avoidance of disposal cost of about $1.50/gallon for hazardous liquid waste amounting to about $75,ooo,000, yields an economic advantage to industry approaching $200,000,000 per year.