Sunday, December 11, 2005

Environmental Group Slams Food Fluoride Levels

New food tolerances for the fluoride-based pesticide sulfuryl fluoride could be potentially damaging to public health, according to several environmental groups, reports Anthony Fletcher on

As I reported in December 2004, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) now allows very high levels of fluoride in common foods. See: “How Much Fluoride Did You Eat Today?”

There is no dispute that fluoride is toxic in large doses. The EPA sets maximum fluoride levels of 4 parts per million (or 4 milligrams per approximately 1 quart) in U.S. water supplies to protect against skeletal fluorosis – a crippling arthritic-like condition. Much less fluoride ingested daily puts children at risk of dental fluorosis – white spotted, yellow or brown and sometimes pitted and crumbly teeth. But too much fluoride can and has killed.

For example, the probable toxic dose (PTD) of fluoride is less than two ounces of 1,000 ppm fluoridated toothpaste, commonly sold in the U.S., for a one-year-old child and about three ounces for the average 5-year-old, according to Whitford in the Journal of Dental Research (May 1987).

“An 8.2 ounce container of a 1500 ppm fluoride dentifrice would contain nearly 360 mg of fluoride, or seven times the PTD for a one year old and more than 3.5 times the PTD for a five year old,” writes Whitford.

“For these reasons, we recommend that parents be advised to supervise the use of dentifrices by young children, that they caution their children not to swallow or eat the dentifrice, and that, in households with young children, dentifrices be stored such that they cannot be used in the absence of a parent. Manufacturers should give consideration to including on the label the statement that the use of the product by young children should be supervised by a a parent and to developing a 'child proof' container cap,” writes Whitford in this 1987 article.

The FDA now requires a warning label on fluoridated products. But the American Dental Association actually plays down fluoride’s toxic effects whenever they can protecting fluoride’s image, for some reason, but not you or your children.

The ADA claims the warning is just to avoid the dental disfigurement fluoride can cause:

From the ADA website:

“The American Dental Association's (ADA) Council on Scientific Affairs believes that one part of the warning now required on fluoride toothpastes by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) could unnecessarily frighten parents and children, and that the label greatly overstates any demonstrated or potential danger posed by fluoride toothpastes.”

Fletcher reports, “[t]he new Environmental Protection Agency tolerances were requested by Dow AgroSciences following the firm's expansion of its pesticide sulfuryl fluoride - trade name ProFume – which is used to fumigate food processing facilities and storage areas.”
“The product targets stored product pests, as well as those insects that may be transported from the field on food commodities. But some environmental groups argue that the new levels are potentially dangerous,” reports Fletcher.

The Environmental Working Group, Beyond Pesticides and the Fluoride Action Network (FAN) challenged the maximum legal limits for the fluoride-based pesticide in foods, which have been set at levels that dwarf the amount allowed in tap water. In just one case, the EPA is allowing 900 parts per million (ppm) of fluoride in dried eggs, as opposed to the maximum 4 ppm allowed in tap water.

One third of the nation's eggs are sold and consumed in dried, reconstituted form.
The groups noted that 900 ppm set for dried eggs is extremely close to the amount used in toothpaste (1,000 ppm), a level that is considered toxic if consumed in greater than pea sized portions.

"How can the EPA consider 900 ppm in eggs safe, while the Food and Drug Administration directs parents to call poison control centers if their children consume more than a pea sized portion of toothpaste with fluoride at 1,000 ppm?" asked Paul Connett, PhD, Executive Director of FAN. "Unlike toothpaste, eggs are meant to be eaten, not spit out."

The EPA has set fluoride tolerances for over 200 foodstuffs ranging from 5 ppm in cheese all the way up to 900 ppm in powdered eggs. The groups warn that at the maximum level of fluoride a serving of scrambled eggs made with as few as two egg equivalents could make a child vomit and a four egg omelet could have the same effect on an adult.

“Dow has never conducted crucial safety tests on fluoride residues yet scientific studies point to serious health risks from ingesting even small amounts. A wealth of independent, peer reviewed studies have found adverse effects on children's developing brains, the male reproductive system, kidneys, and bones,” according to the Groups Joint News Release.

"It isn't just powdered eggs that may have dangerous fluoride levels. All processed foods will be allowed 70 ppm fluoride residues… from breakfast cereal to hamburger helper,” says Chris Neurath, FAN researcher.”

Wheat flour is allowed up to 125 ppm. For comparison, the maximum level of fluoride allowed in drinking water is 4 ppm and the natural level of fluoride in mothers' milk is approximately 0.008 ppm.

The EPA argues that most fumigated foods won't contain the highest allowed levels so there is no need to worry. Yet the USDA's surveillance program for pesticide residues on foods routinely finds samples bought at stores that exceed the EPA tolerances. The potential for a significant number of acute poisoning cases every year is very real.

"We are very concerned that total fluoride exposure is not safe for children," said Richard Wiles, Senior Vice-President of Environmental Working Group (EWG). "EPA is relying on outdated science to support this increase in fluoride exposure, and in our view has not discharged its legal duty to thoroughly consider the effects of fluoride on infants and children, from all routes of exposure, based on a thorough review of the most recent peer-reviewed science."

"This is yet another example of the EPA pesticide division protecting the bottom line of Dow AgroSciences rather than the health of the American public," says Jay Feldman of Beyond Pesticides.

"It is ironic that, while 11 EPA Unions, representing over 7000 professionals, are calling for a moratorium on water fluoridation because of its likely role in causing osteosarcoma in young males, the EPA's pesticide division has approved the highest fluoride tolerances in US history.
With the Centers for Disease Control admitting that 1 in 3 American children have dental fluorosis [the telltale sign of overexposure to fluoride during early childhood] now is not the time to be adding more fluoride to the nation's food supply,” says Paul Connett, PhD, Executive Direction of the Fluoride Action Network.

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