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Fluoride in the Water System

written by: ciel s cantoria•edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 9/30/2010

Scientific studies revealed that fluoride at low levels is effective in tooth cavity prevention; however, exposure at high levels can lead to skeletal fluorosis. Yet how can one avoid this bone disease, if the human body is constantly exposed to fluoride in the water system and in the environment?

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    Fluoride: What is it and What Health Hazards Does It Bring?


    As early as 1993, the National Research Council (NRC) found out that the amount of fluoride being ingested by most US citizens had alarmingly reached high levels. This was attributed to its wide availability in the environment.

    Large amounts of fluoride in the water system and commercially flouridated toothpastes, mouthwashes and supplements have contributed in elevating consumption to levels considered already hazardous to human health.

    Fluoride as a naturally occurring element is described as the salt form of fluorine combined with other elements. It is a natural substance often found in certain geological areas, usually at the foot of high mountains and in areas where there are abundant amounts of sea deposits.

    However, fluoride in the community water system is said to be the major dietary source, since it is ingested as drinking water in homes and in commercial establishments that make use of drinking water, both coming from the same fluoridated water reservoir.

    In addition, this substance can also be inhaled as part of atmospheric air, being one of the many contaminants contributed by industrial emissions and cigarette smoke.

    There are also pharmaceutical and dermatological products containing fluoride as ingredient, and enter the human body through ingestion and skin absorption.

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    G amelogenesis imperfecta 

    Health Hazards of Fluoride:

    Dental Fluorosis -

    High level intakes of fluoride have been medically established as capable of causing bone degenerating diseases called dental and skeletal fluorosis. Dental fluorosis is more evident in children, since their teeth are still at the stage of early development. Newly erupted teeth among growing children are becoming noticeably stained or of a darker color than that considered as normal teeth coloring. There are also cases where newly formed teeth have bone structures that are easily damaged.

    However, the World Health Organization offers information that children who are already six years of age and onwards are no longer affected by the effects of fluoride, except for those who are suffering from Vitamin A, D and other nutritional deficiencies.

    73px-NOF Femur 2 

    Skeletal Fluorosis-

    Further scientific studies revealed that fluoride easily enters the bone compartments but leaves slowly. According to the NRC report, the effects of over-exposure was documented as early as 1975. These were the studies pertaining to the effects of industrial fluoride among aluminum workers exposed to high concentrations.

    The effects of skeletal fluorosis are described as progressive, as a result of the increasing accumulation of this substance in the bone compartments for a number of years. NRC estimates that this degenerating disease takes full effect in about 20 years. Those already suffering from the disorder are experiencing stiffness and pain in their joints as a result of ligament calcification and severe changes in bone structure.

    800px-Thyroid adenoma 


    The NRC recommends further medical and scientific studies on other diseases that stem from excessive ingestion of fluoride in the human body. There are evidences that excessive ingestion has influenced the occurrence of hypothyroidism.

    Although fluoride could provide possible relief to hyperthyroidism, the effect of over-exposure to the substance under normal body conditions is said to be anti-thyroid. This means excessive intakes via drinking water can cause the thyroid to malfunction. Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid is not active in delivering the hormones it produces to the different body tissues, at the concentration levels required by the body to function normally.

    As a note to this section, studies about other health hazards of excessive fluoride still require sufficient evidence. There are substances present, other than fluoride, which can induce the occurrence of the disorders even at low levels. Nevertheless, the concern that excessive ingestion as contributing factors to several health disorders cannot be taken lightly. A likely example is the occurrence of goiter, and its relation to iodine deficiency, resulting from hypothyroidism.

    Please proceed to the next page for information about the sectors susceptible to the health hazards of fluoride.

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    Fluoride in the Water System and How to Prevent Fluorosis? This page of our article about Fluoride in the Water System provides information about excessive intakes of fluoride and the preventive measures to avoid flourosis of the the teeth and bones. Get the details from here...
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    Sectors Highly Susceptible to Health Hazards of Fluoride in Drinking Water

    428px-US Navy 041216-N-3069F-014 Airman Kyle Anderson and Storekeeper 1st Class Robert Brown assigned to USS Carl Vinson's (CVN 70) Supply Department unload packages donated to the Christmas Angels gift drive 

    (1) Infants are at the top of the list as highly susceptible because of the amount of fluoridated drinking water they acquire through their infant formula. Considering the size of a child’s body and the amounts of drinking water taken in as part of their regular diet, fluoride exposure is already high. Thus, the effects of high levels of exposure are expected to occur easily in their bodies.

    (2) People with kidney problems are susceptible to skeletal fluorosis, inasmuch as they tend to have more intakes of water. The natural tendency is that fluoride, being a salt compound, is retained by the kidney sufferer’s system. One of the scientists who reviewed the NRC reports, Dr. Kathleen Thiessen, cited that there are documented evidences of skeletal fluorosis among kidney patients since the 1970s.

    (3) The same condition is said to be true with diabetic patients, whose treatments are not sufficient to meet the effects of increased water intakes. Thus, their levels of fluoride ingestion are higher than that of the average person’s. Similarly, there is documented evidence indicating that this substance was a common factor among diabetic patients who had developed skeletal fluorosis and other systemic changes in bone structures leading to bone deterioration.

    (4) Workers as well as athletes, military personnel and others who actively engage in outdoor work, are likewise in precarious positions because they tend to sweat profusely. Their bodies demand large amounts of drinking water to replenish their bodily fluids as a prevention against dehydration.

    (5) The low income sectors are considered the most susceptible to the health disorders brought about by too much fluoride intake. Lack of accessibility to health care provisions, particularly dental services, are the main issues being addressed. Low food quality likewise heightens this sector’s vulnerability to detrimental effects of fluoride;

    (6) On a global scale, scientists all over the world are wary of the potential consequences of fluoride’s actual harm. Concerns are aired in behalf of countries that have no capabilities to conduct their own research; hence, providing international assistance is being pointed out as a matter requiring immediate attention.

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    Global Fluoride Belts – Fluoride Contamination of Drinking Water Coming from Massive Sea Deposits

    Salt covered stones at Dead Sea 

    The World Health Organization has identified five (5) geological sites called global fluoride belts, where high levels of naturally occurring fluoride have been established. They are:

    Belt 1: Turkey traversing through Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Sudan, Somali, Ethiopia Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa;

    Belt 2: Starting from Egypt, the stretch of land courses through Libya, Algeria, Morocco, Western Sahara and Mauritania;

    Belt 3:The lands stretch starting from Turkey and continuing throughout Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, reaching northern Thailand and parts of China;

    Belt 4: Sierra Nevada and Rocky Mountains reaching down to Central America, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, and ending at Andel Mountains.

    Belt 5: Japan, Volcanic Indonesia and the Philippines; it should be noted that these countries are not geographically connected.

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    Recommended Preventive Measures

    432px-Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1981-076-05A, NSV-Mütterheim 

    • Breastfeeding among infants is highly encouraged since measured samples of fluoride taken from mother's milk resulted in very low levels.
    • Lessen intake of food with high fluoride content like soy-based infant formula, soft drinks and commercial juices, tea, grapes and other grape products and processed chicken meat.
    • Discourage the use of fluoridated toothpastes and flavored-toothpaste for children below 2 years old, while older toddlers should have parental supervision when brushing their teeth to observe proper rinsing and spitting out of toothpaste residues. Controlled measures of toothpaste should likewise be observed among children, who tend to use the substance excessively.
    • Proper nutrition is still seen as the best solution to counter the negative effects of fluoride, inasmuch as strong tissues formed by healthy body cells have more chances of combating the potential disorders.

    The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends that the amount of fluoride in water, to be safe, should be maintained at 4.0 milligrams per liter (mg/L). However, this recommendation is said to provide very little assurance, since the public lacks access to this information. Apparently, fluoride in the municipal water system appears to be the main source of fluoridated drinking water and fluoride level contents vary from state to state.

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    Reference Materials and Image Credit Section

    Reference Materials:

    • Measures of Exposure to Fluoride in the United States---

    Image Credits:

    • All images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons