This may not make me the most well-liked person within parts of the libertarian community, but I feel as though we do need to critique each other when it is necessary. Anthony Antonello has posted two videos on his site in a piece called “Fluoride Whistle Blower, Works in a Water Treatment Plant” where he discusses the process of adding sodium fluoride to the water with a worker in the industry.
Before I go any further, let me make it perfectly clear that it is my position that the state has no role in the delivery of water to people and it would be much better handled by the market free from government interference. Would some private companies still add fluoride to their water? I’m sure there would be some, but at least it wouldn’t be mandated by a government apparatus.
I have no problem with anyone investigating the fluoridation of water. Do not take this critique of Antonello as a call for him to stop his work on the subject. I am only concerned about him losing his credibility through faulty reporting.
This is not just a message to Antonello, it is a message to everyone.
There are two themes in the videos stuck out to me and need discussion:
The HAZMAT suit
Antonello asks the water treatment plant worker if what he is wearing in the video is a HAZMAT suit. The worker replies that it is not. Antonello then goes on to refer to the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that is being worn in the video as a “partial HAZMAT suit.” There is no such thing as a partial HAZMAT suit. Anything less than a complete HAZMAT suit would render it unusable since it would allow exposure to the wearer.
This is what the worker was wearing in the video:
I am an engineer that works in a much more potentially hazardous environment than a water treatment facility. There are much harsher chemicals and materials than sodium fluoride where I work and I am sometimes required to wear similar (and more) PPE to what is shown in Antonello’s video. So why would the worker be required to wear goggles and a respirator? He’s working with a powdery material that could easy get blown into the air, putting it in contact with his eyes, breathed into his lungs, or ingested through his mouth. For the same reasons, similar PPE would be required if he were handling something like sawdust.
The skull and crossbones
Antonello and his guest spend some time talking about the skull and crossbones warning on the bag of sodium fluoride. They use this as evidence of the danger of its use in water fluoridation. Unfortunately, it is improper to do so.
As an aside, I would all but guarantee that if this worker were to ask for an MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) from his employer for any chemical that he handles, they would provide him one. Also, he can search for them for free here.
A lethal dose of sodium fluoride for a 154 lb human is 5-10 grams. Given that the worker was handling a 50-lb bag of it, it would make sense that it would carry a warning label on it and that he wear PPE to protect against accidental ingestion and/or inhalation.
It was suggested by a WHO committee that the recommended fluoride level be between 0.5 and 1.0 mg/L. Given a worst-case scenario of a lethal dose of 5 grams and a fluoride water level of 1.0 mg/L, our 154 lb human would need to drink 1320 gallons of fluoridated water in one sitting to be killed. He would have been killed many times over by water intoxication before the fluoride became relevant.
This is an example of the dose being the cause of the lethality rather than the substance itself. For example, air is made up of about 78% nitrogen. If a person were to be exposed to a nitrogen-rich atmosphere, the displacement of oxygen by nitrogen would cause that person to experience a quick death.
Here’s an even better example: what happens if you drink too much alcohol? You get sick. Your body rejects it. And if you drink way too much, you could die. The fact that death can occur in elevated doses does not mean that it will occur in smaller doses (and thank goodness for that).
Let me reiterate, I am not suggesting that Anthony Antonello or anyone else should give up pursuing the topic of government fluoridation programs. All I’m asking is that the case they present is not based on reactionary, emotional responses and that they rely more on available technical data as well as well-known industry standards. Otherwise, mistakes like the ones made in this video cause a loss of credibility. Losing this credibility could cause people to ignore the message and that is something the movement does not want.