On the Economics of the "Recommended Amount" of Fluoride

Dan Montgomery

June, 1997

The American Dental Association recommends 1 mg per day of fluoride for children ages 6 to 16. The population of children ages 5 to 14 in Oakland, California as reported in the 1990 Census was 49,440. One milligram per day for all of these children adds up to 49,440 milligrams. One gram equals 1000 milligrams. Therefore, 49,440 milligrams equals 49.44 grams and 49.44 grams equals 1.74 ounces per day.

I consulted a local pharmacy to find the cost of a bottle of fluoride pills. The pharmacist told me that one hundred fluoride pills cost $4.97. Each pill contains 2.2 milligrams of sodium fluoride which yields one milligram of elemental fluorine. This works out to .0497 cents per milligram of fluoride which can be rounded to 5 cents per day per person or about $15 per year. Most people spend far more than $15 per year on health and beauty products.

Water use per person varies from year to year depending on whether drought contributes to the need to conserve water. In a typical drought year, water use in the East Bay Metropolitan Utility District, which includes Oakland, was 155 gallons per person per day. The total population of Oakland in the 1990 census was 372,242. Water consumption can be conservatively estimated as 155 x 372,242 = 57 million gallons per day. Assuming that the concentration of fluoride remains at 1.0 ppm, the total amount of fluoride in this water each day is approximately 210 kilograms. The 1.74 ounces per day which is targeted at the children of ages 6 to16 is, in this estimate, .023% of the total amount of intentionally added fluoride which goes through the waste water system and into the San Francisco Bay every day.

Here is a cost/benefit assessment made by Florence Mead in 1977:

We are constantly reassured by government agencies that fluorides, in the small quantities added to water, pose no environmental hazard. Following are local examples of these 'small quantities':
  1. The East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) reports that in order to fluoridate our water, they must add 7,636 POUNDS of hydrofluosilicic acid EACH DAY. (Based on figures for Oct. 1976)

    Although the 200,000 EBMUD children in the tooth-forming stage of development consume less than 3/100 of 1% of the water used, the entire water supply must be fluoridated in order to fluoridate their drinking water. If the fluoride were given to these children by individual prescription at the optimum 1 milligram daily for each child, it would take 200,000 milligrams; 200,000 milligrams equal 200 grams; and 200 grams equal 7 OUNCES. The EBMUD is using 7,636 POUNDS A DAY TO DO A 7 OUNCE JOB!

    Adding the 1/5 of 1% of water used, which adults consume, to the 3/100 of 1% the children consume - a total of .23 of 1% - leaves 99.87% of the water used for purposes other than drinking and cooking. This, in turn, means that 99.87% of the fluoride added to our water, serves only as an environmental 'contaminant'.

  2. The San Francisco Water Department, in the past 25 years, has added 39,500,300 POUNDS of fluorides to your water. (Based on figures released Sept., 1974) It follows then that 99.87% of these fluorides have accumulated in your environment. Bear in mind that fluoride is a chemical so lethal that it would take only 1/10 of one ounce, in a single dose, to kill a grown man!

    With the onset of fluoridation, last August, in the East Bay; the whole BAY is now surrounded by cities dumping fluorides into it. (18)


Revised Fluoride Supplementation Schedule as Accepted by the American Dental Association Council on Scientific Affairs, Journal of the American Dental Association, Volume 126, December, 1995, Page 1622.

U.S. Census, 1990.

All About EBMUD, Office of Communications and Community Affairs, East Bay Metropolitan Utility District, Oakland, CA, 1995.

Excerpt from Letter, Florence Mead to San Francisco Crab Boat Owner's Association, circa 1977, in possession of Safe Water Coalition, Contra Costa Chapter.