Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Water Fluoridation and its impact on inland fisheries



According to Dr. Paul Engelking, Chemistry Professor at the University of Oregon, studies undertaken at their University have found that small amounts of fluoride at 0.1 - 0.2ppm can negatively impact on salmon populations. In Ireland fluoride is discharged from waste water treatment plants into over one hundred salmon rivers at levels far in excess of these concentrations. 

Therefore it is entirely plausible that discharges of waste water effluents into surface water rivers and tributaries at concentrations > 0.5ppm would represent a significant hazard for salmon populations and may be a contributory factor to the decline of these protected species in Ireland.

Furthermore the cumulative fluoride concentration from multiple point sources within a single river catchment would represent further hazards especially in dry periods with low flow. The impact of this on salmon spawning grounds has never been determined and unfortunately may now be too late given the four decades since water fluoridation commenced.

It is important to note that National Marine Fisheries Service ecotoxicologist, Dr. John Stein who heads the environmental conservation division at the NMFS's Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle, Canada has stated that the hazards for inland fisheries would be much greater in soft water, as low calcium water increases the amount of fluoride absorbed by the fish that swim in it. According to Dr. Stein "Fluoride is pretty toxic, and the softer the water, the more toxic it is".

Soft water rivers represent all of the major salmon rivers in Ireland. The Rivers Bandon, Ilen, Blackwater and Lee for example are all very soft rivers with very low calcium levels.

Fluoride's threat to salmon is taken so seriously in Canada that British Columbia set a special soft-water standard of 0.2 parts per million. In comparison the surface water guideline level for fluoride established under the Water Framework Directive established by the EPA are 0.5ppm. There is provision within current legislation for the EPA to set lower limits for fluoride, similar to British Colombia to protect inland fisheries. It is clear that at the point of discharge this current limit will be exceeded in receiving waters and and most likely will therefore impact negatively on salmon populations. 

Despite over forty years of fluoride discharges into the environment in Ireland no environmental study has ever been undertake by the State to examine the impact of such emissions on sensitive ecosystems or inland fisheries. What is known however is that almost parallel to introduction of water fluoridation populations of salmon decreased dramatically and have never recovered. The degree to which water fluoridation may have contributed to this is entirely unknown as no study was ever undertaken to predict what the impact of fluoride emission may be on inland fisheries or establish a baseline on which to examine future impacts.

It is alarming to note therefore the ‘Expert Body’ established to examine fluoride has no representatives from inland fisheries, no ecologists, environmental scientists, botanists, biologists, ecotoxicologists, wildlife or fisheries specialists to investigate the environmental impacts of such a policy similarly for that matter it has no medical specialists to examine the impact of silicofluoride compounds on human health. 

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