What Is Fluoride and Why Is It Used in Drinking Water?
You’re probably familiar with fluoride, that yucky stuff the dentist gives you at the end of your cleaning. But did you know fluoride is virtually everywhere? Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral found in rocks and released into the soil, water, and air through a variety of natural and industrial processes. It is also added by municipal water systems for dental health.
Before fluoride was added to the public water supply, tooth decay was a major problem. In the early 20th century, studies showed that high levels of natural fluoride in certain community water supplies could prevent tooth decay. Tooth decay, when left untreated, can lead to serious complications, including heart disease.
Water fluoridation first began in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and quickly spread to other towns and cities after subsequent studies revealed a significantly lower rate of cavities in schoolchildren. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States named community water fluoridation one of the ten greatest public health achievements of the twentieth century.
Is Fluoride in Your Water Harmful?
A well-known and trusted group of independent health researchers, the Cochrane Collaboration, deemed those early fluoride studies “flawed” and warned of the harmful effects of fluoride over-ingestion. Many people want it to be no longer added to drinking water, calling it “unethical” and “mass medication.”
Still, added fluoride is present in water at levels well below the recommended level. But because naturally occurring fluoride may exceed safe levels in some areas, it’s important that you know the health risks of high fluoride intake.
Recommended fluoride level
Because of increased access to fluoride in dental products and elsewhere, in 2015 the US Department of Health and Human Services reduced its recommendation for the amount of added fluoride to “0.7 milligrams of fluoride per liter of water, opposed to the 0.7 to 1.2 milligrams per liter recommendation issued in 1962.” Health and Human Services may add fluoride at a level of 0.7 mg/L for public dental health, but that doesn’t mean that’s the level that fluoride is considered safe at.
Safe fluoride content in drinking water is currently capped at 4 mg/L. This is the maximum amount of contaminant allowed in public water systems, also known as the maximum contaminant level (MCL).
Regular consumption of water with excessive fluoride concentration—that is, above 4 mg/L—can cause serious health problems.
Adverse effects of fluoride
While I’m not going to tell you if fluoride should or shouldn’t be added to the water supply, I will tell you some of the consequences of excess fluoride in tap water, including a few major side effects of excessive fluoride intake that are mentioned below.
Fluoride can cause white spots in developing teeth. This is known as dental fluorosis, and it occurs when teeth are exposed to too much fluoride through drinking water or excessive use of fluoride rinses or fluoride toothpaste. In this condition, excessive fluoride builds up in the bones causing skeletal fluorosis and skeletal weakness.
High blood pressure
According to research, there may be a significant link between high blood pressure and fluoridated water. Increased fluoride levels in groundwater have been linked to an increase in the prevalence of hypertension, particularly among adult males.
Fluoride’s internal side effects are concerning, but fluoride exposure can also impact your skin. Fluoride consumption on a regular basis may result in fluoroderma, which causes acne and painful sores. Excessive fluoride exposure can also cause hormonal imbalances, which can lead to acne.
Fluoride alone will not cause seizures. However, it may increase the risk for people with epilepsy or other seizure disorders.
If you are already prone to seizures, keep an eye on the fluoride concentration in your water. Too much fluoride consumption can result in a potentially fatal seizure. Learn more about it at Medical News.
Toxic to brain and nerve cells
Perhaps most concerning is preliminary research that suggests high fluoride levels in animal test subjects may be toxic to brain and nerve cells. Fluoride not only affects bone and teeth, but it can also affect the brain development of children.
Excess fluoride exposure before birth may result in poorer cognitive outcomes later in life. Higher fluoride levels may even result in lower IQ scores. Human epidemiological studies have also found possible links between fluoride exposure and learning, memory, and cognition deficits, though the majority of these studies have focused on populations with fluoride exposures higher than those typically provided by US water supplies.
How Do You Check Fluoride Level In Your Water?
So you’ve read all those scary medical conditions and now you want to know if your water has high levels of fluoride. Well, there are several ways you can check.
A fluoride meter is an electronic device used to measure fluoride levels in the water. You can read a step-by-step guide on how to use a fluoride meter here.
Testing strips are available for purchase that you can use to test fluoride levels at home. However, it is doubtful that they give an exact result.
You can order a fluoride testing kit from a laboratory and send them a water sample to test fluoride levels. It could potentially save you a hassle, and you would receive your test results efficiently, from a trusted source.
Does Boiling Water Remove Fluoride?
Boiling water is an easy method to get rid of impurities, such as bacteria, viruses, and pathogens. Boiling makes tap water safe from microorganisms that could cause illness. But does boiling water remove fluoride as well?
No. Unfortunately, boiling water does not remove fluoride.
The reason for this is that high levels of heat have no effect on many water contaminants, including unwanted fluoride. Actually, with boiling, water vapor escapes, leaving behind the dissolved and concentrated minerals and solids, contaminants that include fluoride, pharmaceuticals, pesticides, lead, synthetic estrogen, herbicides, and arsenic.
How Can You Remove Fluoride From Water?
If you can’t boil water to remove fluoride, how can you reduce fluoride exposure for you and your family? Turns out there are several easy ways.
Reverse osmosis water filter
A reverse osmosis system is a simple method to remove fluoride from drinking water. It can remove up to 92% of fluoride from your water.
This technology uses household water pressure to force tap water through the filter. Water is filtered using a semipermeable membrane and other filters, such as sediment or carbon filters (many reverse osmosis units incorporate a four-stage process for optimal water quality).
Fluoride, as well as other contaminants, such as sulfates, asbestos, chlorine, detergents, cadmium, and heavy metals, are easily removed with this method.
Reverse osmosis has grown in popularity as a safe, cost-effective, and easy-to-maintain water filtration system. A family of four can enjoy fresh filtered water every day for pennies per gallon. A new reverse osmosis system typically costs less than $400
Bone char water filter
One of the oldest fluoride removal methods is bone char, which is made by thoroughly cleaning, drying, and carbonizing animal bones. It is also known as brimac, and some scientists believe it is the most effective method of removing fluoride from water.
Bone char is available as a filter cartridge and can remove up to 90% of fluoride from water. It requires more upkeep than a reverse osmosis system, with regular filter replacements required for consistent performance.
Bone char, like reverse osmosis, targets a wide range of contaminants in the water supply. It efficiently removes fluoride, chlorine, and chloramine. Typically, 40lb of bone char costs around $550. I suppose it may not be the best method for vegans, though.
Activated alumina water filter
Aluminum oxide is a colorless compound found in sapphires and rubies. It is also known as activated alumina. Activated alumina absorbs fluoride very well due to its high surface-area-to-weight ratio, and the EPA recommends it as an effective medium for removing fluoride, arsenic, and thallium.
Water must have a pH of 6.5 or lower in order for activated alumina to work, and proper absorption must occur. While activated alumina is the primary fluoride removal medium in many fluoride filters, keep in mind that it doesn’t remove all fluoride from water. Rather, it reduces it to a much safer concentration—around 0.1 ppm.
Distillation is the most basic and least expensive method of purifying water. Like the earth’s hydrologic cycle, it employs natural processes of evaporation and condensation. As fluoride-concentrated water is heated, steam evaporates from the boiling water and condenses on the surface. As condensation collects in a new container, fluoride and other contaminants are left behind. The final product is pure, distilled water.
Distillation, like reverse osmosis, removes particles and ions as well as fluoride, leaving the water mineral-free but slightly acidic. Countertop distillation units can be purchased for easy distilling at home. Because of the relatively slow rate at which water is distilled, distillation units are more practical for individuals or small families.
Distillation units are more practical for individuals or small families because water is distilled at such a slow rate. Cost of water distillers depends on their size, and the price range starts from $120 and goes up to $3500.
While it’s hard to deny that added fluoride has had its benefits, modern dental care has changed the way people look at fluoride. And natural fluoride can be particularly dangerous. Recent research studies have revealed the negative effects of consuming more fluoride in your tap water.
If you determine that your water contains fluoride at unsafe levels, it’s important to remove fluoride from your drinking water.
Many people wonder, Does boiling water remove fluoride? Regrettably, the answer is no, boiling water does not remove fluoride from water.
However, methods other than boiling, such as reverse osmosis, distillation, activated alumina, and bone char filters, among others, can ensure fluoride-free water for daily use.