Fluoride in water, understanding its function and effects

Fluoride has traditionally been considered one of the common additives that counties add to their water supplies and, along with chlorine, it is commonly thought of as a harmless substance that most people ingest routinely. Water fluoridation has been one of the greatest achievements in public health, and the United States Center for Disease Control (CDC) has named it as the ninth most important medical achievement in history, below the discovery of penicillin and above the discovery that smoking tobacco is harmful.

However, this may not be the case sometimes and few people actually understand why our bodies use fluoride for and how it can be harmful if taken into excess.

Fluoride is a mixed substance composed of the chemical element Fluorine and a few other minerals that are usually dissolved by water from surrounding rocks, and it is naturally present in ground water.

The main purpose fluoride is used for is as a supplement that is essential for teeth and bone formation, and it is prescribed by doctors to prevent teeth cavities and decay. However, a high and chronic consumption of fluoride can be harmful and it can actually damage your teeth enamel and your bones, causing two diseases known as dental and skeletal fluorosis. Dental fluorosis mostly causes white spots and irregular edges in your teeth, while skeletal fluorosis causes a weakening of the bones and pain in the joints. Even more, a huge and sudden intake of fluoride can cause fluoride poisoning which can cause nausea and diarrhea; fluoride poisoning has occasionally led to outbreaks and even a few deaths whenever massive amounts of fluoride had been added to the water supply by accident. Additionally, and this is more concerning, unnecessarily high levels of fluoride in water have been shown to halt the brain development of kids and babies, which results in lower IQ levels when they grow up and cognitive deficits.

Up until around 50 years ago, the scientific and medical communities agreed that a level of 1.2ppm (which equals 1.2 milligrams of fluoride per every liter of water) was not only acceptable but recommended, and certain areas in the United States began adding more fluoride to their water supply when this did not met such level in order to bring it up the recommended standard.

In recent decades this number has been revised however, and it has become obvious that such a big amount of fluoride is not really necessary as people already get the fluoride they need by consuming salt and using modern toothpaste (virtually all table salt and toothpaste brands add fluoride to it). So, now a lower level of 0.7ppm (0.7 ml per liter) is the amount of fluoride recommended for water. Still, many medical and scientific authorities keep calling for water fluoridation to be reduced or even stopped, as they argue the topical use and application of fluoride in the form of toothpaste directly to the teeth should be only recommended use of this important mineral.

As more information and studies are conducted, the scientific and medical communities will settle the matter in the coming years.


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