Fluoride—the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
(By Michael Robison, Water Treatment Consultant Michaelr@turbonet.com )
Often I am asked by my local water treatment clients (the ones with small children) if there is fluoride in their water. My response… is yes, maybe? If they are served by a city water system that city may be using fluoride to fluorinate their water. I encourage them to check with their city water department to know for certain. Ask them if they are using fluoride or chlorine in the water and how often.
On the other hand, when the water source is a private well, spring, creek, etc., there may be naturally occurring fluoride in the water. I guide those clients to have their water tested or test for fluoride themselves.
If your water source is a private well, a spring, reservoir, river, creek, etc. and want to know if there is fluoride in your drinking water you will need to have it tested; ideally, by a professional laboratory.
What Is Fluoride?
The chemical element fluorine forms fluorides when it is combined with other chemical elements. Fluorine is found in nature in a mineral called fluorspar which is also sometimes known as fluorite. Fluorine is a naturally occurring mineral which may contain up to 45% calcium fluoride (CaF2).
Fluorspar is primarily mined in China, Mexico, Mongolia, South Africa and Namibia. Europe still has a few operating fluorspar mines, although due to European market decline the total has declined gradually over the years. World-wide consumption of fluorspar is estimated at 4.5 million metric tons per year. Here’s what it looks like:
The acid grade of fluorspar is used as raw material to produce hydrofluoric acid. Worldwide production of hydrofluoric acid is estimated at more than three million metric tons. Once the ore is dug from the earth the impurities are removed to leave a fluorspar which contains minimum 97% calcium fluoride.
The bi-products are collected and serve a variety of industrial purposes. Acid grade fluorspar is transported to hydrofluoric acid plants by ship, road, rail or barge… where it is reacted with sulphuric acid to form hydrogen fluoride gas. Hydrofluoric acid is stored for use as a liquefied gas or may be diluted with water to make liquid solutions of hydrofluoric acid.
Fluorine is the chemical element with atomic number 9, represented by the symbol F. Fluorine forms a single bond with itself in elemental form, resulting in the diatomic F2 molecule. F2 is a supremely reactive, poisonous, pale, yellowish brown gas. Elemental fluorine is the most chemically reactive and electronegative of all the elements.
The fluoride added to drinking water is hydrofluoric acid and is man-made. In the hydrofluoric acid form; fluoride has no nutrient value at all and it is one of the most caustic of industrial chemicals.
A Brief Bit of Fluoride History. . .
Back in the 1900’s, in an area of Southwestern United States dentists noticed a large number of patient’s teeth were permanently stained and in some of those cases, their teeth were literally falling apart. The dentists also noticed these patients stained teeth were often cavity-free. A high level of naturally occurring fluoride in their drinking water and a bit of fluoride in their food was the discovered cause. It didn’t take long for the dentists to come to the misguided conclusion… that fluoride prevents tooth decay.
Sadly, those dentists overlooked a very important point. They failed to take into consideration the calcium, magnesium and other minerals in the water and in the food crops irrigated by this water. They assumed fluoride, working on its own, prevented cavities. They mistakenly assigned far too much credit to fluoride and little, if any credit to the value of other important minerals; minerals our bodies need.
Now, the most usable form of minerals (organic minerals) come from the vegetables we eat because they are interconnected with substances that drag them into the cells. The minerals in water (inorganic minerals) are not interconnected with the other nutrients, so they are not as easily assimilated. This includes the man-made fluoride.
I need to mention… unlike calcium and many other minerals; fluoride is NOT an essential nutrient.
Note: Fluoride-caused staining and deterioration is now known as dental fluorosis (flu·o·ro·sis). Dental fluorosis is defined as; a condition in humans due to exposure to excessive amounts of fluorine or its compounds, resulting from accidental ingestion of certain insecticides and rodenticides, chronic inhalation of industrial dusts or gases, or prolonged ingestion of water containing fluorides. It is characterized by skeletal changes such as osteofluorosis and by mottled enamel when exposure occurs during enamel formation.
Help for cavities? In the 1940’s communities began adding one part per million fluoride to water supplies in the belief that this would reduce dental caries (cavities).
Children who didn’t have access to fluoridated water were, and still are, often given fluoride supplements. Fluoride supplements are available only by prescription.
What? Fluoride supplements are available only by prescription? To me, that fact alone strongly indicates a level of danger. And think about this… after more than 50 years, fluoride supplements have never been approved by the USFDA. Fluoride is listed as an “unapproved new drug” by the FDA and as a “contaminant by the USEPA.
Today more than 60% of US municipal water supplies are fluoridated. In addition, we receive fluoride in our food and many beverages… even some table salts are “enhanced” with fluoride. And we’ve all noticed the amazing number of dental products containing fluoride on the market today.
And did you know. . .
- Fluoride is also used in the production of plastics, electronics, metallurgy, petroleum, pesticides, detergents, crystal glass, light bulbs, and ceramics. Do YOU use any of these products? Do you realize use of these products may contribute to your intake of fluoride? Pesticide residues remain on foods, medicines often contain fluoride (arthritis, HIV drugs and asthma inhalers for example) and air is often polluted by fluoride from industry.
- Children’s dental fluorosis rates have steeply increased. At least 22% of all American children now have dental fluorosis as a result of ingesting too much fluoride, according to The Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Note: Some sources claim this number may be as high as 69%.
- New research proves much of what we’ve been told about fluoride is incorrect. If there are any dental benefits to fluoride at all, if there are any at all. . . those benefits are derived from topical application. There is no reason to take fluoride supplements or to put it into our water supplies… and many good reasons NOT to. More and more scientists are now seriously questioning the benefits of fluoride, even in small amounts.
- UNICEF, an organization whose goal is to protect children, reports, “more and more scientists are now seriously questioning the benefits of fluoride, even in small amounts.”
Is Fluoride Safe?
While we all should be concerned about dental fluorosis, there many more serious health concerns associated with fluoride intake. Fluoride has been linked in government and scientific reports to: Alzheimer’s, memory loss and other neurological impairment, bone decay (including dental and skeletal fluorosis, bone pathology, arthritis, and osteoporosis), cancer, genetic damage, gastrointestinal problems and kidney damage.
Fluoride has been found to leach lead from old water pipes and pre-1980’s copper water pipe solder resulting in increased lead levels in drinking water.
National EPA Union Press Release for August 19, 2005… “Eleven EPA employee unions representing over 7000 environmental and public health professionals of the Civil Service have called for a moratorium on drinking water fluoridation programs across the country, and have asked EPA management to recognize fluoride as posing a serious risk of causing cancer in people.” ** You will have noticed this press release is dated August 19, 2005. . . and a visit the EPA Ground and Drinking Water website pages… shows little has changed as of January 11, 2011. According to the Press Release dated January 11, 2011 EPA has completed and peer-reviewed a quantitative dose-response assessment based on the available data for severe dental fluorosis. This was an analysis for Non-cancer Effects! Great! What about the Cancer Effects?
For more information about fluoride:
- Anatek Labs Inc. (Provides water analysis services) www.anateklabs.com
- Fluoride Action Network www.fluoridealert.org
- More Scientific Facts on Fluoride www.all-natural.com/fleffect.html
- Fluoride Research Journal http://www.fluorideresearch.org/
- America Overdosed on Fluoride – Lynn Landes (Includes e-mail correspondence in which an ADA spokesperson refutes news reports that non-fluoridated bottled water causes cavities, and what you can do to ban fluoride and educate others. And reports of arsenic found in fluoride?)
- Fluoridation Debate (Environmental Health Perspectives, Volume 105, Number 11, November 1997) ehpnet1.niehs.nih.gov/docs/1997/105-11/forum.html
- Fluoridation: The Overdosing of America – Fact or Fiction? (Slides by Gerald H. Smith, D.D.S.) www.icnr.com/FluoridePres.html
- The Fluoride Debate: A response to the American Dental Association’s booklet, “Fluoridation Facts” www.fluoridedebate.com
- UNISEF www.unisef.org
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control www.cdc.gov
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration www.fda.gov/default.htm
- U.S. Environment Protection Agency Ground and Drinking Water website www.epa.gov/safewater
- Comite Technique Europeen Du Fluor (Fluoride Industry Working Group, Storage, Transport and Safety. www.eurofluor.org/publications/STS%2098111.pdf
- Fluoride: Protected Pollutant or Panacea? www.fluoridation.com
- Fluoride Controversy, the Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients www.tldp.com/fluoride.htm