Monday, July 30, 2012

Dangers of Fluoride and Lead in Drinking Water

The article by Claire O’Sullivan (Irish Examiner, Councils ordered to replace lead piping, July 30th 2012) outlines the dangers of lead piping for public health and she has quite rightly identified how lead can damage brain development and the nervous system.  It should also be noted however that the U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP) formed from parts of several different US government agencies, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies lead and lead compounds as "reasonably anticipated to be human carcinogens. I addition the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is part of the World Health Organization (WHO) has also classified inorganic lead compounds as "probably carcinogenic to humans."

It has further been documented in the peer reviewed journal Neurotoxicology (September, 2007, 38: 1032-1041)  that silicofluorides or fluosilicicic acid, used to fluoridate water supplies in Ireland, is associated with serious corrosion of lead-bearing brass plumbing, producing elevated lead concentration in water at the tap resulting in increased blood lead levels in children. It is important to be aware therefore that in Ireland the EPA have advised local authorities that any houses built prior to 1970 are to be suspected as containing lead water pipes.

While silicofluorides have never been tested for human safety in 2006 U.S. National research council (NRC) report “Fluoride in Drinking Water...A Scientific Review of EPA’s Standards” emphasized the importance of such testing and recommended studies of silicofluoride treated water of different hardness and mineral content taking into account the complex chemistry of silicofluorides. No such studies have ever been undertaken in Ireland.

Apart from the dangers of silicofluorides themselves, the health impacts of fluoride are of increasing concern. The US National Toxicology Program in 1990 found "equivocal" evidence of cancer-causing potential of fluoridated drinking water in laboratory animals, while a comprehensive report from the Harvard study, published in 2006, found that exposure to fluoride in drinking water was linked to a higher risk of osteosarcoma an often fatal bone cancer. More recently last week the Harvard School of Public Health found that fluoride in drinking water seems to fit in with lead, mercury, and other poisons that cause neurological damage and highlighted that children were at most risk from the effect of this neurotoxin on the brain. The risk would be greatest for bottle fed babies who are exposed to fluoridated water.

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