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Comparison of hydrofluorosilicic acid and pharmaceutical sodium fluoride as fluoridating agents—A cost–benefit analysis

Authors
Journal
Environmental Science & Policy
1462-9011
Publisher
Elsevier
Volume
29
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1016/j.envsci.2013.01.007
Keywords
  • Fluoride
  • Arsenic
  • Cancer
  • Fluoridation
  • Cost–Benefit Analysis
Disciplines
  • Chemistry
  • Pharmacology

Abstract

Abstract Water fluoridation programs in the United States and other countries which have them use either sodium fluoride (NaF), hydrofluorosilicic acid (HFSA) or the sodium salt of that acid (NaSF), all technical grade chemicals to adjust the fluoride level in drinking water to about 0.7–1mg/L. In this paper we estimate the comparative overall cost for U.S. society between using cheaper industrial grade HFSA as the principal fluoridating agent versus using more costly pharmaceutical grade (U.S. Pharmacopeia – USP) NaF. USP NaF is used in toothpaste. HFSA, a liquid, contains significant amounts of arsenic (As). HFSA and NaSF have been shown to leach lead (Pb) from water delivery plumbing, while NaF has been shown not to do so. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) health-based drinking water standards for As and Pb are zero. Our focus was on comparing the social costs associated with the difference in numbers of cancer cases arising from As during use of HFSA as fluoridating agent versus substitution of USP grade NaF. We calculated the amount of As delivered to fluoridated water systems using each agent, and used EPA Unit Risk values for As to estimate the number of lung and bladder cancer cases associated with each. We used cost of cancer cases published by EPA to estimate cost of treating lung and bladder cancer cases. Commercial prices of HFSA and USP NaF were used to compare costs of using each to fluoridate. We then compared the total cost to our society for the use of HFSA versus USP NaF as fluoridating agent. The U.S. could save $1 billion to more than $5 billion/year by using USP NaF in place of HFSA while simultaneously mitigating the pain and suffering of citizens that result from use of the technical grade fluoridating agents. Other countries, such as Ireland, New Zealand, Canada and Australia that use technical grade fluoridating agents may realize similar benefits by making this change. Policy makers would have to confront the uneven distribution of costs and benefits across societies if this change were made.

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