Fluoride is a natural component of the earth’s crust and soil. Water, air, plants and animals contain small amounts of fluorides. You can be exposed to small amounts of it by breathing air, drinking water or eating food. Fluorides are binary compounds or salts of fluorine and another element. An example is sodium fluoride, which is often added to drinking water supplies and a variety of dental products such as toothpastes and mouth rinses, to prevent dental cavities. Other fluorides that are commonly used to fluoridate water are fluorosilicic acid and sodium fluorosilicate.
Fluorides are also found naturally in rocks on the ground, coal and clay in the earth’s crust. And it is released into the air in wind-blown dust.
Fluorides are associated with several elements present in the water, mainly aluminum in freshwater and calcium and magnesium in sea water, when left in the sediment; it adheres strongly to sediment particles. When deposited on the ground, fluorides form strong bounds with soil components, since they are retained in it . As water flows through the soil, it removes only a small amount of fluorides soil. Fluoride can be stored and accumulated by plants or may be collected in powder form in the upper parts of plants.
Fluorides are also added to drinking water supplies at a concentration of about 1 part of fluoride per a million parts of water, and toothpastes and mouthwashes to prevent the formation of dental caries. The analytical methods used by scientists to determine the levels of fluoride in the environment, usually do not determine the specific form of fluoride which is present. Therefore, It is improbable to know what forms of fluoride are present at hazardous waste sites. Some forms of fluoride may be insoluble or could be tightly attached to particles or embedded in minerals that are not taken up by plants or animals.
In many places fluoride is added to water; the recommended level of fluoride is around 1 ppm. In the United States, approximately 15,000 water systems serving about 162 million people containing optimal fluoride levels between 0.7 and 1.2 ppm, either by natural conditions or by artificial settings. Average levels of fluoride in surface water are about 0.2 parts of fluoride per million parts of water. Levels of fluorides in well water generally range from 0.02 to 1.5 ppm, but often exceed 1.5 ppm in areas of the southwestern United States.
The average daily adult intake of fluoride through food and water is about 1 milligram (1 mg) if you live in a community with less than 0.7 ppm fluoride in the water and about 2.7 mg if you drink fluoridated water. To determine the level of fluoride in your drinking water, you can contact your local water supplier or consult the Annual Report of Consumer Confidence, which provide operators of its water system.
Your age and health status affect what happens to fluoride once inside your body. However, the amount that enters the bloodstream depends on factors such as the concentration of fluoride you swallowed, the amount of fluoride that is dissolved in water, if you recently ate or drank something and what they ate or drank. About half of fluoride ingested leaves the body to be quickly eliminated through the urine, usually within 24 hours, unless large amounts (20 mg or more, corresponding to the amount present in 20 liters or ingest over fluoridated water) although some is stored in bones and teeth.
Fluorine and hydrogen fluoride are very irritating to skin, eyes and respiratory tract. At high levels, as might occur in an industrial accident, hydrogen fluoride can also damage the heart.
Small amounts of fluoride help prevent tooth decay, but high amounts can harm your health. Eating or drinking too much fluoride during the period in which the teeth are formed (before 8 years) may cause visible changes in teeth. This condition is called dental fluorosis. At higher concentrations, fluoride may increase the fragility of the teeth and sometimes cause them to break. In adults, exposure to high levels of fluoride may increase bone density. However, if the exposure is high enough, these bones can become weak and brittle and fracture risk may be higher. In animals, exposure to extremely high doses of fluoride can result in decreased fertility and sperm and testes damage. The thyroid, which regulates the body’s metabolic rate, is extremely important in overall human health. Chemicals like fluoride can cause thyroid disruption, and can especially cause the thyroid to under-perform (hypothyroidism).
Most human studies living in areas with fluoridated water or water with high fluoride levels typically have not found an association between fluoride and cancer risk. Two animal cancer studies were inconclusive. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC, for its acronym in English) has determined that fluoride is not classifiable as to carcinogenicity to humans.
There are tests to measure fluoride levels in urine; these tests can determine if you have been exposed to fluoride levels above normal. The urine test must be done shortly after exposure because fluoride that is not retained in the bones leaves the body within a few days. This test cannot be performed in the doctor’s office, but can be done in most laboratories that evaluate chemical exposure. The urine test for fluoride cannot be used to predict the nature or severity of toxic effects. In special cases, you can perform tests to measure bone prolonged exposure to fluorides.
Not only adding fluoride increases environmental chemical pollution and increase residents’ risks of dental fluorosis and other health concerns, it will also raise monthly water bills since adding these industrial waste chemicals costs millions of dollars.