Lucent May have to Spend $5M to Remove Fluoride from the Water

The following are excerpts from an article appearing in The Morning Call newspaper which services Allentown Pennsylvania.


The Morning Call

Allentown, Pennsylvania
by Ann Wlazelek

April 19, 1998

Allentown's latest quest to fluoridate its drinking water could be dammed by costs. Adding the cavity-fighting element to Allentown's water supply could cost $345,000 in front-line equipment and $40,000 in annual maintenance, a new estimate shows.

Even worse, the city's largest water user, Lucent Technologies, needs "ultrapure" water to make computer chips. Executives say it could cost the microelectronics giant as much as $5 million in equipment to remove fluoride from the million gallons of city water it uses daily.

Although the group originally hoped city Councilman Frank Concannon would call for a fluoridation vote this spring, Nylund said members are content to wait until June or July because some candidates do not want the "f-word" to make or break their campaigns.

But opponents fear health hazards from accidental overdoses and consider fluoridation an infringement of their rights.

Kushner said Americans are getting too much fluoride, even without drinking it in their water.

"It's in dental products, food, the atmosphere," he said. "Teeth and decay are not the issue today.

The issue today is fluorosis, or mottled, brown teeth. You have to wonder what happens to the rest of the body. Is it settling in bones, soft tissues?"

Tom Reeves, a CDC engineer and fluoridation expert, said there has been only one death associated with drinking properly fluoridated water, and that happened because of accidental overdose.

Reeves said the Alaskan man was sick with diarrhea and vomit ing and, to avoid dehydration, consumed about 10 liters [2.5 gallons] of water.

Another four people from Maryland and Illinois died after dialysis clinics improperly used fluoridated water to artificially clean their blood. Dialysis permits a direct exchange between the blood and water, and can more easily result in an overdose, Reeves said.

George DeNardo, director of Lucent's worldwide microelectronics plants, said, "The way our
manufacturing system was set up, elaborate and robust, it was never designed to take fluoride out."

DeNardo expects a consultant's opinion in the next week or two, but estimates the tanks needed to remove fluoride from more than 1 million gallons of water a day could cost $3 million to $5 million.

"It's a hard molecule to remove," he said, because fluoride particles are extremely small. DeNardo said a quick survey he conducted told him other computer-chip plants owned by Lucent and their competitors use well water.

Even if Lucent got special permission from Allentown to dig a well to serve the Union Boulevard plant, DeNardo said the result could be higher water bills for city residents.

When put before council in 1993, fluoridation was defeated 4-to-3.

The CDC's Reeves said he has helped many communities across the country fight for fluoridation twice, but never three times as he is doing with Allentown.