Intern. J. Environ. Studies 56: 435-449 1999
Water Treatment with Silicofluorides and Lead Toxicity
R.D. Masters, M.J. Coplan
Department of Government, Dartmouth College and Gruter Institute for Law and Behavioral Research, H.B. 6222, Hanover, NH 03755 (USA); Intellequity, 38 Silver Hill, 8 Natick, MA 01760 (USA).
Toxic metals like lead, manganese, copper and cadmium damage neurons and deregulate neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine (which are essential to normal impulse control and learning). Earlier studies show that - controlling for socio-economic and demographic factors - environmental pollution with lead is a highly significant risk factor in predicting higher rates of crime, attention deficit disorder or hyperactivity, and learning disabilities. Exposure and uptake of lead has been associated with industrial pollution, leaded paint and plumbing systems in old housing, lead residues in soil, dietary habits (such as shortages of calcium and iron), and demographic factors (such as poverty, stress, and minority ethnicity). We report here on an additional "risk co-factor" making lead and other toxic metals in the environment more dangerous to local residents: the use of silicofluorides as agents in water treatment. The two chemicals in question - fluosilicic acid and sodium silicofluoride - are toxins that, despite claims to the contrary, do not dissociate completely and change water chemistry when used under normal water treatment practices. As a result, water treatment with silicofluorides apparently functions to increase the cellular uptake of lead. Data from lead screening of over 280,000 children in Massachusetts indicates that silicofluoride usage is associated with significant increases in average lead in children's blood as well as percentage of children with blood lead in excess of 10 ug/dL. Consistent with the hypothesized role of silicofluorides as enhancing uptake of lead whatever the source of the exposure, children are especially at risk for higher blood lead in those communities with more old housing or lead in excess of 15 ppb in first draw water samples where silicofluorides are also in use. Preliminary findings from county-level data in Georgia confirm that silicofluoride usage is associated with higher levels of lead in children's blood. In both Massachusetts and Georgia, moreover, behaviors associated with lead neurotoxicity are more frequent in communities using silicofluorides than in comparable localities that do not use these chemicals. Because there has been insufficient animal or human testing of silicofluoride treated water, further study of the effect of silicofluorides is needed to clarify the extent to which these chemicals are risk co-factors for lead uptake and the hazardous effects it produces.
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