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Fluoridation Chemical Shortages and Rising Costs

92% of the chemicals used to fluoridate water systems are the hazardous waste byproducts (fluosilicic acid, or "FSA") of the phosphate industry. As phosphate production drops and water fluoridation increases, there's been a shortage of FSA in North America and prices have increased dramatically.

If PA mandates water fluoridation, roughly doubling the state's demand for fluoridation chemicals, how will the demand be met when water systems throughout North America are already experiencing shortages? How will the increased demand affect the already-rising cost of the chemicals -- even for the water systems in the state that are currently buying them?

[Data for all charts compiled from U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Mineral Commodity Summaries for Phosphate and Minerals Yearbooks on Fluorspar. Compiled raw data available here.]

    U.S. Phosphate Production is Dropping:
    (million metric tons)

[Phosphate production has peaked in the U.S. and globally. See more on peak phosphorous.]

...closer up and more recent:

...and the Number of Companies and Plants Producing Fluosilicic Acid (FSA) Waste is Dropping:

"In 2008, there were three companies producing marketable byproduct FSA at phosphoric acid plants (part of a phosphate fertilizer operation). J.R. Simplot Co., Mosaic Fertilizer (a subsidiary of The Mosaic Co.), and PCS Phosphate Co. Inc. operated five plants in Florida, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Wyoming that produced marketable FSA." (source: 2008 Minerals Yearbook: Fluorspar, US Geological Survey, January 2010, p. 26.1)

"Mosaic shut down its Green Bay and South Pierce plants in Florida at the end of May [2006], reducing supplies to water fluoridation and other markets, although some of the shortfall was made up by the decision of J.R. Simplot to begin production and marketing of FSA at its Rock Springs, WY, fertilizer plant."
(source: 2006 Minerals Yearbook: Fluorspar, US Geological Survey, September 2007, p. 26.1)

    Total Fluosilicic Acid (FSA) Waste Production

    The Percentage of Fluosilicic Acid (FSA) Waste used for Water Fluoridation (vs. Other Industrial Uses) is Increasing Dramatically...

    Thus the Amount of Waste FSA Sold for Water Fluoridation in Increasing

"In 2006... water fluoridation sales were essentially unchanged compared with those of 2005 as shortages resulting from the closure of the two Mosaic plants were covered by diverting FSA from other markets to the fluoridation market and by the startup of marketable FSA production at the J.R. Simplot plant in Wyoming."
(source: 2006 Minerals Yearbook: Fluorspar, US Geological Survey, September 2007, p. 26.2)

    The Cost of Waste FSA Sold for Water Fluoridation in Increasing:

    Total Sales of Waste FSA to U.S. Drinking Water Systems

    (millions of dollars)
FSA, which is primarily used for water fluoridation, was in short supply during the latter half of 2005. The shutdown of U.S. Agri-Chemicals' Fort Meade, FL, phosphate fertilizer plant coupled with increased demand for FSA for water fluoridation (especially in California) were the causes. Some municipalities had to scramble to locate new supplies and faced significantly higher prices (McCoy, 2005).
(source: 2005 Minerals Yearbook: Fluorspar, US Geological Survey, August 2006, p. 27.1)

Articles on fluoridation chemical shortages and rising costs:

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Last modified: 22 December 2007

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