Environmental News

Gasoline is a significant source of hydrogen fluoride air pollution

November 21, 1999

Hydrogen fluoride gas (HF) is much more toxic than fluorides which are added to water systems. Even at only 30 ppb, HF has an anti-cholinesterase action. Cholinesterase is essential for the function of the nervous system. This may explain why HF has a mind-dulling effect. At least some high octane gasolines are made with HF. The levels of HF at 3 inches from an automotive exhaust pipe are typically about 30 ppb when high octane gasoline is used. HF can be a contributing cause of mottled teeth like other fluorides are. HF from air pollution from factories was heavy enough to cause mottled teeth in children growing up in industrial cities before water fluoridation ever started.

In 1931, Dr. Churchill, the lead chemist for ALCOA, showed that people who lived in areas with a high concentration of fluoride in the water had a higher incidence of mottled teeth. From this came the myth that mottling is only caused by fluorides in water. People began to ignore HF air pollution.

The first symptoms of chronic HF exposure are chronic fatigue, confusion, partial loss of memory and mental dullness. HF is a cause of asthma. People with these symptoms do not necessarily have mottled teeth. HF causes mottling only when the exposure is during the years when the teeth are forming. HF can impair immune systems. In rat experiments, the rats took longer to learn and lost some of their ability to remember what they had already learned even when the HF was as little as 30 ppb.

Dr. Geoffrey Smith, a retired dentist in Australia, reviews HF in The Secret War and the Fluoride Conspiracy. He explains that the earliest reason for promoting fluoridation was to deflect attention from industrial HF pollution. Dr. Smith has published many scientific papers in respected journals. He worked for a well known intelligence agency.

Virginia Power Releases Data on Chemicals

October 23, 1999


October 22, 1999

Vet says fluoride can be toxic to pets

June 27, 1999

Cats and dogs need dental care to avoid periodontal disease. Giving them canned food instead of dry food is one of the main causes of periodontal disease. The canned food sticks between their teeth. Smaller dogs that stay indoors are more likely to have dental problems. Veterinarians have special equipment for cleaning pets' teeth. Dr. CB Peck, a veterinarian in Fort Smith, Arkansas, recommends brushing your pet's teeth with pet toothpaste regularly. Dr. Peck warns that the fluoride toothpaste which people use to brush their own teeth is toxic to cats and dogs.

-- abstracted from Pam Smith, "Fit fangs for fuzzy friends," Fort Smith Times Record, March 30, 1999.

Eugene toxics right to know law is limited by Oregon Legislature

June 26, 1999

Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber changed his mind and did not veto HB 3421 as promised. This law establishes a state wide toxics reporting system that is much weaker than Eugene's toxics right-to-know law. All new local laws like Eugene's will be subject to the industry-friendly limits imposed by HB 3421. Eugene's law will be exempted for four years.

The new state law limits maximum fines for non-compliance to $1,000 per day. Eugene's maximum fine for non-compliance is $25,000. The fees assessed to businesses is limited to $2,000 per company. Eugene companies pay from $600 to $7,377 in fees to support the Eugene toxics right-to-know program. The state law requires public hearings to consider objections to reportable chemicals. Mary O'Brien, a member of the Eugene Toxics Board, says this kind of public hearing gives businesses which have something to hide a delaying tactic.

Senator Susan Castillo, a member of the Governor's toxics right-to-know task force, said that industry representatives put a lot of pressure on the Governor. She said, ". . . they're denying local control while not fully implementing a better, comprehensive plan."

Mary O'Brien said, "Unless we do something at the statewide level by initiative, the next Legislative sessions will just eat at it some more."

-- abstracted from Alice Tallmadge, "Bowing to Pressure," Eugene Weekly News, June 24, 1999, p. 7.

Using the TRI database online

June 2, 1999

In 1987, Congress passed the Emergency Preparedness and Community Right-to Know Act. This was a reaction to the Bhopal disaster. A chemical factory owned by a U.S. corporation malfunctioned and released a deadly chemical cloud in Bhopal, India. Thousands of people suddenly died or were injured by the toxic cloud.

The law requires every manufacturing facility in the United States to make an inventory of toxic chemicals which may be released into the environment. These annual reports are published in the Toxicx Release Inventory (TRI). This database is maintained by the EPA and is accessible to the general public online. The latest data is from 1997. Toxic releases are estimated, but not monitored. Non-industrial sources such as dry cleaners and car washes are not included. The TRI database includes information on how much of each chemical was released into the air, water, land or treated or transported off site. The avowed purpose of the TRI database is that public disclosure will build motivation for waste reduction and improvements in waste management. Needs for changes in the law may be identified.

An online version of TRI is at Envirofacts Warehouse. From that screen, choose Toxics Releases and from the next screen choose TRI Queries. This displays an entry form for querying the database. Chemicals can be looked up by chemical name or by Chemical Abstract Service (CAS) number. For example, the CAS number for hydrofluoric acid is 7664-39-3. Submitting this CAS will return a list of all the manufacturers in the United States which use hydrofluoric acid in an industrial process. Estimates of where the chemical went are listed for each company. The information comes from Form R, which is an annual report which each manufacturing facility sends in to the EPA. The EPA estimates that 66% of manufacturers fully comply with the reporting requirements for the TRI.

The CAS number for hydrogen fluoride is 32057-09-3. Submitting this number in the TRI query gives a zero listing. However, typing in the words, "hydrogen fluoride," returns a listing of all manufacturers who report using hydrogen fluoride.

Another way to build a query is to use the standard industrial code (SIC). The SIC for semiconductor factories is 3674. Limit this search to California, and TRI returns a list of over 50 factories in California which make semiconductors. In most of these factories, hydrogen fluoride is used for etching the semiconductor circuits. Reports show that a significant portion of the hydrogen fluoride goes up the stack or is lost into the air. Some cities in the Silicon Valley region use fluoridated water and others do not. Airborne fluoride travels across water district boundaries and could dilute the accuracy of epidemiological studies comparing the fluoridated cities with the unfluoridated cities.

For nearly two years, the city of Cupertino debated whether to fluoridate their water supply. Then, in September, 1974, the water commission learned that the concentration of fluorides in Cupertino waste water was already nearly four times the amount recommended for fluoridation. The average fluoride concentration at the sewer outflow metering station was 3.8 ppm. The waste water from a residential area of Cupertino had 1.75 ppm. One ppm is one part per million which is equivalent to 1 mg/liter. A well that supplied water to that area only had 0.2 ppm fluoride. The difference of about 1.5 ppm in residential waste water was thought to come from food, toothpaste and detergents.1

A common practice among the semiconductor companies is to dump spent hydrogen fluoride down the drain. It goes out into the sewer system and into bodies of water like the San Francisco Bay. The sewer system is known as publicly owned treatment works (POTW). The POTW charts are listed separately near the bottom of the page for each industrial facility . Beginning in 1996, each semiconductor factory lists chemicals under waste management in a separate table. Hydrogen fluoride is listed in these tables as being treated, but whether it was only treated for acidity is not specified. Before 1996, many of these factories appear to have not been reporting hydrogen fluoride discharged to POTWs.

Another chemical of interest is fluorosilicic acid. The CAS number for fluorosilicic acid is 16961-83-4. Fluorosilicic acid is a byproduct of phosphate fertilizer refining. If we try to look up data using this chemical name or the CAS number of fluorosilicic acid, the TRI database query returns a zero listing. The phosphate fertilizer factories list fluorine discharged into air, but not fluorosilicic acid. By anybody's reckoning, fluorosilicic acid is a hazardous substance before it is diluted into public water systems.


  1. "Fluoride Level Puzzles Officials," San Jose News, September 26, 1974; Dennis Rockstroh, "Mysteriously High Fluoride Level in Cupertino Sewage," San Jose Mercury, September 26, 1974; "Water Board Learns Residents May be Getting Plenty of Fluoride," Cupertino-Monta Vista Courier, October 2, 1974.

Eugene Toxics Database Comes Online

May 25, 1999

The Eugene Toxics Right-to-Know program was adopted by voters in 1996 as an amendment to the Eugene City Charter. The law makes information available regarding hazardous substances in the community. Local manufacturers who meet specific criteria must file an annual hazardous substance report with the City of Eugene. These reports are available to the public.

The Eugene Toxics program has the highest standards in the nation. Accounting procedures are used to balance the amount of chemicals coming in with the amount of chemicals going out or kept in inventory. Invoices, production reports and materials lists are used to track hazardous chemicals. Mary O'Brien, a member of the Eugene Toxics Right-to-Know Committee, says that people think that federal and state agencies are tracking industrial pollution accurately, but account balancing shows how little they are really doing.

The Toxics Right-to-Know Database is at www.ci.eugene.or.us/toxics/. In the upper left corner, there is a list of choices. Choose List facilities and chemicals. At the next screen, choose List chemicals reported by name. A long list of chemicals comes up. Use the edit menu on your browser. In the Find in Page box, type "fluor" and this will highlight every chemical in the list that contains fluorine or fluoride. As we go through the list, we come to "fluorine." Go across the page and click on the number in the right column. At the next screen, choose List facilities using this chemical. The database lists two companies with fluorine as a waste product. Most of the fluorine is recovered, but some is released into the air.

Go back two screens. Using Edit|Find again, continuing down the list, we come to hydrofluoric acid/hydrogen fluoride. In the right column, click on the number. Then choose List facilities using this chemical. The Hyundai semiconductor factory uses hydrofluoric acid for etching semiconductor chips. Eleven categories of output are listed. 1109.88 pounds of hydrofluoric acid were emitted into the air in 1998. 1.162 pounds were discharged in waste water to publicly owned treatment works (POTW). Most of the total 93,896.944 pounds of hydrofluoric acid was treated on site or shipped as waste.

Companies can save money by tracking chemicals with this accounting system. Sam Pakdel, Environmental Manager for Hyundai in Eugene, told a meeting of industrial environmental managers that Hyundai will make money from complying with the reporting law.

Some companies use only a few chemicals and it takes only a few hours to do the accounting. Others, like Forrest Paint Co. have many chemicals to account for. The environmental manager at Forrest Paint checked the material safety data sheets for 803 toxic chemicals against the City's list of about 1400 reportable chemicals. It took over 600 hours to do the accounting.

The cost of the program is about $100,000 per year. It is administered by the Eugene Fire Marshal's Office. The cost is paid by fees collected from the 41 companies which are regulated by this law.

Opponents of the Eugene Toxics law are making another attempt to persuade the Oregon Legislature to undermine this law by passing a state law, HB 2431, that would have lesser standards and almost no enforceability. The state law would supercede Eugene's law. Mary O'Brien testified against HB 2431. The bill passed the House with a large majority. Governor John Kitzhaber has said he will veto any toxics right-to-know bill that is not as strong as the Eugene toxics law.


Lance Robertson, "Companies busy tracking toxics," Eugene Register-Guard, March 27, 1999, p. A1.

David Steves, "Lawmaker seeks to alter toxics law," Eugene Register-Guard, April 13, 1999, p. 3C.

"Your tax$ at work," Eugene Weekly, April 15, 1999, p. 6.

Mary H. O'Brien, "Legislature deals with Eugene's toxics right to know law," Eugene, The Other Paper, April, 1999, p. 1.