Hydrofluorosilicic acid, commonly known as fluoride, is a waste product collected from the chimneys of the fertiliser industry.

This fluoride chemical also contains traces of lead, aluminium, mercury, arsenic and sometimes uranium.

It is banned from being released into the air, sea, lakes and rivers because it is toxic to animals and the environment.

Instead, ratepayers’ money buys this toxic chemical handled by workers wearing hazmat suits like this.

This fluoride is what goes into our drinking water.

Find out the facts, visit


We have been asked to respond to this complaint under the following codes:

Code of Ethics – Basic Principle 4

Code of Ethics – Rule 2

Code of Ethics – Rule 6

Code of Ethics – Rule 11

Code of Ethics

Basic Principle 4: All advertisements should be prepared with a due sense of social responsibility to consumers and to society.

Rule 2: Truthful Presentation Advertisements should not contain any statement or visual presentation or create an overall impression which directly or by implication, omission, ambiguity or exaggerated claim is misleading or deceptive, is likely to deceive or mislead the consumer, makes false and misleading representation, abuses the trust of the consumer or exploits his/her lack of experience or knowledge. (Obvious hyperbole, identifiable as such, is not considered to be misleading).

Rule 6: Fear Advertisements should not exploit the superstitious, nor without justifiable reason, play on fear.

Rule 11: Advocacy Advertising Expression of opinion in advocacy advertising is an essential and desirable part of the functioning of a democratic society. Therefore, such opinions may be robust. However, opinion should be clearly distinguishable from factual information. The identity of an advertiser in matters of public interest or political issue should be clear.

Basic Principle 4

We have prepared our advertisement with a due sense of responsibility, with attention to the fair and robust treatment of matters which concern the public, as this is our raison d’être.  We understand it is not the mandate of the ASA to make judgments on which opinions are more valid than others, or to be the arbiter of fact. We firmly believe consumers have a right to know what is added to their food and water. They have a right to know where any additives are sourced and if these additives contain traces of heavy metals or radioactive materials. It is socially responsible to give this information to consumers.

Rule 2: Truthful Presentation

Claims that the advertisement breaks Rule 2:


“emphasizes words such as: ‘Acid,’ ‘Fluoride’, ‘Waste Product’; several Elements of the Periodic Table, with no mention as to their effects – which is especially relevant because they have negative connotations associated with them for many people, simply acknowledging that the product used to add to water can contain them”.

“This equates to drinking over 5,000 glasses of water at one time before reaching a toxic level of fluoride”


“I feel this ad is giving is giving incorrect information (that the chemicals distributed into the water are diluted to such a low level they cause no health risk but instead create a health benefit”


“Advertising against fluoride in water using ‘facts’ that have been proven to be incorrect”


“The information contained within was extremely factually inaccurate”


1) “‘Hydrofluorosilicic acid, commonly known as fluoride’. Hydrofluorosilicic acid is commonly used for water fluoridation, but it is not commonly known as fluoride.”

2) “‘Hydrofluorosilicic acid… is a waste product’. This is not true. HFA can be made in a variety of ways, and is a byproduct of several industrial processes – not a waste product. This byproduct has many uses – solar panel fabrication, computer chip fabrication, chemical stock, glass etching and of course the fluoride additive in drinking water.”

3) “‘This fluoride chemical also contains traces of lead, aluminium, mercury, arsenic and sometimes uranium’. This statement is misleading, as it neglects to put these trace elements into context. Water sources themselves frequently have such trace amounts of the listed elements, often at higher levels than might be introduced by the addition of fluoride via HFA. Given that the water still has to pass the ‘Drinking-water Standards for New Zealand’ (, these elements will only ever be present in the water at a safe level.”

4) “‘It is banned from being released into the air, sea, lakes and rivers because it is toxic to animals and the environment.’ This is misleading. Although it is illegal to release concentrated HFA into the environment (as is the case with most chemicals:, the end product of water fluoridation – fluoridated water – can be, and is, safely released into the environment in large quantities.”

Our Response to Rule 2

COMPLAINANT 1 claims that we have broken Rule 2 when we used the words “banned” and “toxic chemical” and that we neglected to point out at the same time that the Personal Protective Equipment that the worker is wearing is commonly required in many professional vocations.

However, the words used are truthful, in that the chemical added to the drinking water is an acid, and it does contain traces of lead, arsenic, mercury and sometimes uranium, as this chemical analysis from Hamilton City Council shows: (page 24 of attached LGOIMA Request Scaling Problem)

Fluoridation chemicals are banned from being released into the environment unless they are diluted through the public water supply. This news article[1] shows how Ravensdown (NZ Phosphate Fertiliser manufacturer) was taken to the Environmental Court for allowing fluoride to be emitted into the air and damaging crops.

We have emphasised some of these words as, in our advocacy position, we are trying to alert the public to these basic facts, as most people believe that the fluoride added to the water is naturally occurring calcium fluoride. They believe this because proponents continually refer to fluoridation as “the process of adjusting the natural level of fluoride in the water supply”[2] We believe proponents’ description of fluoridation to be highly misleading.

The process of fluoridation does require workers handling the chemical to wear hazmat suits. “Toxic” is the common and correct usage for fluoride chemicals:

Page 6 of the attached Fluoride Standard NZ:

3.1.1 “Fluoride compounds are toxic and should be handled with care. Suppliers of fluoride compounds must comply with the relevant regulations for classification, marking, packaging, labelling and transporting of material, currently including the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996 and Regulations and their amendments, Land Transport Rule 45001/1 and NZS 5433.1&2: 2012, Transport of Dangerous Goods on Land.”

Most members of the public are aware that protective clothing and equipment are commonly required in many vocations, so it is not our purview to tell people what is generally known. However, members of the public are likely unaware of this requirement for handling fluoride chemicals, as most members of the public still wrongly believe that fluoride is a safe nutrient. The Lancet published research in 2014[3] that classifies fluoride, along with lead, mercury, arsenic and 11 other poisons as neurotoxins. Therefore, we have presented this truthfully and with a due sense of social responsibility.

COMPLAINANT 1’s complaint that people would need to drink 5,000 glasses of fluoridated water at one time to reach a toxic dose, is incorrect and irrelevant to this advertisement. We do not claim, or imply, that anyone is going to reach an acute toxic level of fluoride from drinking fluoridated water at one time. In fact, the number of glasses providing a toxic dose would most often be far fewer than 5,000, but it depends on age, body weight, and concentration of fluoride in the water etc. Our primary aim is to educate the public about the low chronic dose people receive from ingesting fluoridated water over many years, which causes documented illness[4] for many people. However, as stated, we did not make claims about acutely toxic or fatal dosages in the advertisement, so this is a moot point.

COMPLAINANT 6 complains that we are being untruthful by saying that hydrofluorosilicic acid is commonly known as fluoride. He is wrong, as fluoridation chemicals throughout all scientific and laypersons’ literature are commonly referred to as “fluoride”. The Ministry of Health frequently refers to HFA as “fluoride”.[5]

COMPLAINANT 6 complains that hydrofluorosilicic acid is not a waste product. However, it was admitted by EPA spokesperson Rebecca Hammer, that “fluoridation was a good solution to pollution”[6].


According to Water Standards New Zealand (see attached Fluoride Standards Water NZ, page 2)

1.5.1  “Hydrofluosilicic acid is produced as a co-product in the manufacture of phosphate fertilisers. Phosphate rock, which contains fluoride and silica, is treated with sulphuric acid. This produces two gases: silicon tetrafluoride and hydrogen fluoride. These gases are passed through scrubbers where they react with water to form hydrofluosilicic acid.”

It is irrelevant that hydrofluosilicic acid may be created by other industry sources, as it is the production of phosphate fertiliser that creates the chemical used in water fluoridation.

Auckland Council buys 700 tonnes of hydrofluosilicic acid for approximately $250,000, giving the approximate cost per tonne of $350. Given that it is expensive to transport hazardous goods, the cost of purchasing the chemical itself must be just about negligible. If the producers of this fluoride chemical had other uses for it, then it is not likely they would be selling it so cheaply. We also note that none of the other uses in D Ryan’s list involves uses for human consumption. Ryan’s choice to call HFA a “byproduct” is simply semantics for the purpose of marketing a waste product to dispose of it by selling it.

COMPLAINANT 6 complains that we have misled people by not putting the traces of contaminants in context. However, we did stipulate in the advertisement that “traces” of these contaminants were added. People generally understand that “traces” means very, very low levels, and most people would not consider “traces” of something to be likely to cause harm. However, it is still unknown at what point any of these contaminants do cause harm, especially when ingested over a lifetime. Considering New Zealand has the fourth highest rate of cancer in the world and some of these contaminants are carcinogens, it could be that our health authorities have not yet found the real safe level to protect sensitive groups, particularly people with kidney disease, diabetes and bottle-fed babies. No safety studies have ever been conducted anywhere in the world, and our main aim is to afford the public the respect to which they are entitled by explaining the composition of the chemical compound used in water fluoridation.


  1. Quote from the Environmental Protection Agency in the USA: “To answer your first question on whether we have in our possession empirical scientific data on the effects of fluorosilicic acid or sodium silicofluoride on health and behaviour, our answer is no.” Source: Quote from the Water Research Centre in the UK: “I can inform you categorically that WRC-NSF has never tested any samples of disodium hexafluorosilicate or hexafluorosilicic acid. Therefore in this case we have no test data to release nor names of clients – these simply do not exist.” Source:

Our inclusion of the word “traces” ensures that we have met the requirement for truthful representation that does not mislead.

COMPLAINANT 6 complains that we are telling people that HFA is banned from being released into the environment because other hazardous chemicals are also banned, and that HFA is released “safely” into the environment in large quantities.

We have been truthful in telling people that HFA is banned from being released into the environment. This is the ONLY hazardous chemical, banned from being released into the environment, that can instead be added to the public water supply as a means to dilute it before it reaches the wider environment.

When fluoride is released from volcanoes, it causes a huge amount of environmental damage. From the US Department of the Interior:

“When magma ascends close to the surface, volcanoes can emit the halogens fluorine, chlorine and bromine in the form of hydrogen halides (HF, HCl and HBr). These species are all strong acids and have high solubility; therefore, they rapidly dissolve in water droplets within volcanic plumes or the atmosphere where they can potentially cause acid rain. In an ash-producing eruption, ash particles are also often coated with hydrogen halides. Once deposited, these coated ash particles can poison drinking water supplies, agricultural crops, and grazing land.”[7]

When fluoride is released into the sea, it is also known to cause damage. In a field study, Damkaer and Dey[8] demonstrated that high salmon loss at John Day Dam on the Columbia River was caused by the inhibition of migration by fluoride contamination. They determined that the “critical level” was 0.2ppm. There are other studies that indicate levels below water fluoridation level, 1.5ppm, have lethal and other adverse effects on fish. Delayed hatching of rainbow trout has occurred at 1.5ppm[9], brown mussels have died at 1.4ppm[10]; an alga (Porphyria tenera) was killed by a four-hour fumigation with fluoride with a critical concentration of 0.9ppm [11], and levels below 0.1ppm were shown to be lethal to the water flea, Daphnia magna[12]. Studies have also shown that waste water often contains higher amounts of fluoride than was added to the water supply[13][14]and that the concentration in both surface run-off and sewer effluent exceeds 0.2ppm which has been shown to affect aquatic life.

Fluoride was actually the first industrial chemical to spark the environmental movement as it was proven that industry was releasing fluoride into the air causing damage to the environment, crops and livestock. As a result of lawsuits, it was subsequently banned[15]. As no safety tests have been conducted that prove otherwise, there is no rationale to presume that the fluoridation chemicals would not be causing any environmental damage.

COMPLAINANT 1’s belief that fluoride is being released safely once diluted, appears to be based on wishful thinking, rather than any serious study of the literature.

Our representation is truthful and does not mislead.

Rule 6: Fear

Claims that the advertisement breaks Rule 6:


“emphasising words such as “acid”, “fluoride”, “waste product”, “banned’ and “toxic chemical” plays on fear”


“the ad is playing on the fear of those un-informed of the issue”


“the ad is fear-mongering”


“scaremonger the public”


“The advert uses words that are likely to play on people’s fear, such as acid, waste product, chimneys, ’fertiliser industry’, lead, mercury, arsenic, uranium, banned and toxic.”

“The average member of the public will not have a good understanding of water treatment processes, and I feel that this advert abuses this lack of general knowledge. Hydrofluorosilicic acid (HFA) fully hydrolyses in water, and there is no acid left in drinking water. The only chemical remaining in the water is fluoride ions, and they are identical to the naturally occurring fluoride ions that are already in the water supply. The source of the fluoride is irrelevant, and focussing on the source of the fluoride will only stand to confuse the public.”

“Fluoride Free NZ also try to scare viewers by using a stock photo of a person wearing a hazmat suit.”

Our response to Rule 6

COMPLAINANT 1 and COMPLAINANT 6 complain that using words such as “acid” etc are “playing on fear”. However, the words used give a truthful representation of what the fluoridation chemicals are. In our experience, most people want to be told the truth about this regardless of whether the truth is palatable or not. Half of the country does not have fluoridated water and the other half has been drinking fluoridated water for perhaps as long as 60 years.

Our aim is for people to make informed decisions about health. This is the same aim as public health advertisements about drunk driving, tobacco, seatbelts and fire safety. Tobacco and alcohol suppliers do not complain to the ASA about public health campaigns that damage their reputations. Our advertisement is factually correct, not designed to terrify, as some of those other campaigns are intended. “Fear mongering” uses unproven claims. Our campaign is presenting factual and scientific information for the benefit of public health. We firmly hold that in our role as public health advocates, we do indeed have “justifiable reason” to inform the public about what is being added to their water. The right of the consumer to know what is being added to their water cannot be overridden.

COMPLAINANT 6 claims that the average member of the public will not have a good understanding of water treatment processes. Fluoridation is not a water treatment process. HFA is not added to make the water potable as all other water additives are. It is added to the drinking water because some people still wrongly believe it is potentially beneficial to teeth. The fact that the average person may not have a full understanding of the process is no reason why they should not be told. It is not an “abuse of this general lack of knowledge” but the opposite – showing respect for people’s right to know the truth about a very important matter.

COMPLAINANT 6 claims the source of fluoride is irrelevant and that telling people will only serve to confuse them. It is COMPLAINANT 6’s opinion that the source of fluoride is irrelevant, and in our experience, most people do not agree. If this point was truly irrelevant, then there would be no cause for Ryan to complain.

A letter last year from Ministry of Health, (see attached Fluoride Standards Water NZ, last page), confirms that there is indeed a difference in types of fluoridation chemicals. A change in the production of hydrofluosilicic acid was causing insoluble silica precipitates that were causing scaling in the pipes.  Manufacturers have had to change their process. This would not happen with naturally occurring calcium fluoride, as that would not contain added silica.

COMPLAINANT 6 displays a huge arrogance in assuming the general public will be confused by learning where fluoridation chemicals come from. The general public are quite capable of knowing, and indeed have a right to know, everything about a chemical added to their drinking water. People who are “confused” are free to find out more information, and we have supplied resources for that purpose in the ads:

COMPLAINANT 6 claims that we are trying to scare people by showing them that workers are required to wear hazmat suits. We doubt very much that anyone would be “scared” to see this, as most people are aware that workers are required to wear safety gear when handling water treatment chemicals. What they may not be aware of is that fluoridation chemicals also require that level of safety precaution. Our intention was to utilise the very expensive, short time that we had (30 seconds) to inform as succinctly as possible, that fluoridation chemicals are hazardous products and not the naturally occurring minerals or nutrients that most people believe them to be.

Rule 11: Advocacy Advertising

Our response to Rule 11

We believe that we have undertaken clear measures to meet the criteria for advocacy advertising.

The identification of Fluoride Free NZ as the advertiser is clearly stated. Please refer to previous ASA ruling in our favour for COMPLAINT NUMBER 16/285 regarding this. We therefore feel the content of the ad should also be interpreted applying the intention of the Code. There are no technical breaches and the Commercial Approvals Bureau approved both of our advertisements before they went to air. We understand that the CAB considers careful criteria, which we clearly met. Taking into account the clear position on fluoridation that FFNZ publicly promotes, what we presented in the ad clearly falls under the category of robust opinion, allowed in advocacy advertising, under Rule 11.

Contact person for advertising complaints Mary Byrne
Name and contact at creative agency  independent designer
Name and contact at media agency TV3
A basic, neutral description of the advertisement Public health information about water fluoridation.
Date advertisement began 27th July. Only ran 9 times.
Where the advertisement appeared (all locations e.g. TV, Billboard, Newspaper Website TV and social media: Facebook and Youtube
Is the advertisement still accessible – where and until when?
A copy of digital media file(s) of the advertisement – if the complaint relates to on-screen graphic, please send a broadcast quality version.
Who is the product / brand target audience?

Please provide a copy of the media schedule.

Advert did not air on TV1

Advert aired 9 times on TV3:

29th July Paul Henry

30th July The Nation

30th July Block NZ Girls vs Guys

5th Aug Prime News 5.30pm

5th Aug Newshub at 6pm

5th Aug Hawaii Five-O 11.55pm

6th Aug Survivor 10.30am

6th Aug Newshub 6pm

6th Aug Saturday Movie

Pre-vetting Approval number if applicable N/A
Clear substantiation on claims that are challenged by the complainant. Please see the Guidance Note. Please see attached.
The response from the advertiser is included in the published decision.  The ASA is not able to accept confidential or proprietary information.  Please contact the Complaints Manager if this is an issue.
For Broadcast advertisements:
A copy of the script “Waste Product Ad”
Hydrofluorosilicic acid, commonly known as fluoride, is a waste product collected from the chimneys of the fertiliser industry. This fluoride chemical also contains traces of lead, aluminium, mercury, arsenic and sometimes uranium.It is banned from being released into the air, sea, lakes and rivers because it is toxic to animals and the environment.Instead, ratepayers’ money buys this toxic chemical handled by workers wearing hazmat suits like this.

This fluoride is what goes into our drinking water.

Find out the facts, visit FluorideFree. org.NZ

CAB key number and rating FFNZ030WP1








[8] Damkaer DM, Dey DB. Evidence for fluoride effects on salmon passage at John Day Dam, Columbia River, 1982-1986, North American Journal of Fisheries Management, 9 154-162 1989;

[9] EIlis MM, Westfall BA, Ellis MD. Determination of Water Quality Research Report 9, Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of Interior, Washington DC 1938 pp 81-82;

[10] Hemens J: Warvick RJ, Oleff WD. Effect of extended exposure to low fluoride concentration on estuarine fish and crustacea. Progress in Water Technology 7 579-585 1975;

[11] Ishio S, Makagawa H (1971). Cited in: Rose D. Marier J. Environmental Fluoride 1977. National Research Council of Canada, Ottawa 1977, p 30

[12] Dave G. Effects of fluoride on growth reproduction and survival in Daphnia magna, Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology, 78c (2) 425-431 1984;

[13] Masuda TT. Persistence of fluoride from organic origins in waste waters. Developments in Industrial Microbiology, 5, 53-70 1964

[14] Singer L. Armstrong WD. Fluoride in treated sewage and in rain and snow. Archives of Environmental Health, 32 21-23 1977