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Jan 102011
 

From Green Right Now Reports

Just days after the federal government announced it wants to lower the safe limit for fluoride in drinking water, the EPA has put out notice that it will be phasing out a fluoride-based pesticide used in food storage and processing.

The rationale for phasing out the pesticide sulfuryl fluoride is the same as the reason to lower the safe limits for fluoride in drinking water: To scale back Americans’ exposure to the toxic substance.

Fluoride residues end up on coffee beans.

“Although sulfuryl fluoride residues in food contribute only a very small portion of total exposure to fluoride, when combined with other fluoride exposure pathways, including drinking water and toothpaste, EPA has concluded that the tolerance (legal residue limits on food) no longer meets the safety standard under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA)….,” the EPA said in a statement on Monday.

The move comes after pressure for changes from environmental and health groups, including the Environmental Working Group (EWG), Beyond Pesticides and the Fluoride Action Network.

The EPA approved the use of sulfuryl fluoride for food operations  in 2004 and 2005 as a replacement for methyl bromide, which was phased out under the Montreal Protocol as detrimental to the ozone layer. Sulfuryl fluoride was first used as a fumigate against termites, being approved for that use 50 years ago.

Today the compound is used against insect pests in food processing facilities and in stored grains, dried fruits, tree nuts, coffee and cocoa beans. Its use leaves residues that “contribute only a very small portion of total exposure to fluoride”, the EPA reported in its statement.

But combined with the other sources of fluoride — in drinking water and toothpaste — sulfuryl fluoride contributes to the potential overexposure to fluoride among Americans, about 70 percent of whom are connected to fluoridated municipal water systems. In light of that, the EPA said the compound “no longer meets the safety standard under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA)”.

The EPA’s decision to phase out sulfuryl fluoride comes just three days after the Health and Human Services Department proposed lowering the upper safe limit for fluoride in drinking water.

HHS officials said they were concerned that studies were finding rising numbers of children with fluorosis, or teeth mottling, a sign they’d been overexposed to fluoride, a naturally occurring mineral that also turns up as a byproduct of the fertilizer industry.

HHS had concluded that to protect the teeth of youngsters, fluoridation levels should come down from and upper limit of 1.2 milligrams per liter to .7 mg per liter in municipal water. A final decision on lowering the upper safe limit could come in about a month.

Opponents of fluoridation say that drinking water should be completely fluoride-free because it can cause harmful health effects, such as skeletal fluorosis or brittle, weak bones.

A World Health Organization survey of fluoride documented “crippling fluorosis” in India and China in regions where water supplies are naturally high in fluoride. The levels there ranged between 1 and 4 mg of fluoride per liter of water, not that much higher than fluoridated water in the U.S..

Opponents also say that fluoridation fails to protect population groups that are likely to get an extra high level of fluoride because they drink a lot of water or juice drinks, such as athletes, outside workers and babies whose formula is reconstituted with fluoridated water.

They also cite recent studies showing that fluoride crosses the blood-brain barrier and could have an effect on brain health, including a child’s IQ. A recent study out of China showed significant lower IQ scores among children with higher fluoride in their blood (from water supplies) compared with children whose fluoride levels were lower.

The EPA, HHS and the Centers for Disease Control, however, maintain that a low level of fluoride in drinking water is not only safe, but ensures dental health.

“Most people in the United States are not exposed to unsafe levels of fluoride,” according to the EPA statement. “However, aggregate fluoride exposure for infants and children under the age of 7 years old, where drinking water contains high levels of natural fluoride, exceeds the level that can cause severe dental fluorosis. Sulfuryl fluoride contributes only a small amount to their overall exposure.”

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