5 Common questions about fluoride in water
Fluoride in water can be both naturally occurring, or artificially added. In the latter case, this is usually with the objective of aiding oral hygiene in populated areas. Because of its controlled addition in many water systems around the world, it has become associated with a number of different controversies, myths and confusion.
Whether you are interested in monitoring fluoride in water, or simply want to know more about how the ionic compound affects those who consume it, we have included answers to some of the most commonly asked questions below.
Is fluoride in water bad?
In many countries around the world, fluoride is used to prevent the development of tooth decay, or tooth cavities, in a process called fluoridation. Because of the artificial addition of the ionic compound, the process has been met with resistance throughout its use. Reasons for this have included: lack of informed consent, lack of proven results in adults, belief that it causes cancer, and its lack of necessity in the current age.
Despite this, there is little to no evidence that fluoridation has any direct association with common illnesses such as cancer, or deaths due to cancer. Any other adverse effects currently lack sufficient evidence to satisfactorily reach a definitive conclusion.
At the commonly recommended level of fluoridation, dental fluorosis is the only commonly occurring adverse side effect. In most cases, this is mild and does not present any aesthetic or health concerns. In extremely rare cases, where high levels of fluoridation have been recorded, this has lead to acute fluoride poisoning, with symptoms that include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea.
Naturally occurring fluoride can be present at levels over the recommended concentration for humans, and can have negative side effects – including severe dental fluorosis, skeletal fluorosis, and weakened bones. Marine life has also been shown to accumulate fluoride, even at ambient ocean levels. Biomagnification can also occur in water bodies where fluoride concentrations are high.
In both natural water bodies and reservoirs of drinking water, fluoride monitoring can be incredibly beneficial. The prior warning can help to detect unnaturally high levels of fluoride so that action can be taken before it causes any damage to aquatic or human life.
What causes fluoride in water?
Fluoride occurs naturally in water sources. The concentration of fluoride levels in these areas can be affected by influences such as geology, climate conditions, and contact with fluoride minerals and groundwater chemical composition.
Fluoride has also been added to water supplies in a number of different countries (such as the UK and US) in order to help dental hygiene. In some locations, such as China and India, fluoride levels are naturally high, and defluoridation is used to lower levels for water supplies.
How do I remove fluoride from water?
The process of removing fluoride from water is known as defluoridation. This is the process commonly used when naturally occurring fluoride levels exceed the recommended limits. There are various methods of achieving this, including filtering water through granular beds of activated alumina, bone meal, bone char, or tricalcium phosphate; by coagulation with alum; or by precipitation with lime.
If you worried about the levels offluoride in drinking water, water filters can be used; however not all filters provide filtering for fluoride.
How much fluoride is harmful?
In areas where fluoride is artificially added to water bodies, the level used is not enough to incur any proven negative side effects – except the potential for fluorosis. This may appear as an aesthetic abnormality on the teeth, but in most cases, this is not visible and presents no other risk.
With higher concentrations of fluoride, such as those found in some bodies of water like natural lakes and rivers, more adverse side effects can be incurred through consumption. In extremely rare cases, such as where a malfunction has occurred in the process of fluoridation, illness and death have been observed.
In order to prevent potentially harmful levels of fluoride building up in water bodies, water quality monitoring is advisable. Frequent monitoring can help in both cases where build-up is gradual, as well as those where a contaminant which causes an immediate concentration of fluoride levels. If you are interested in monitoring fluoride, take a look at our guide here.
Is fluoride harmful to babies or dogs?
In high doses, fluoride can be harmful to babies and dogs. Though fluoridation levels in drinking water are typically very safe for consumption, higher concentrations of fluoride, such as those found in adult toothpaste, can be harmful to both.
Flouration and normal levels of fluoride are safe for child consumption and it is only in situations where higher concentrations may be consumed, such as if large amounts of toothpaste are consumed, that any negative effects may occur. Brushing a child’s teeth is still very much recommended and safe. In some cases where fluoridation is present, fluorosis can occur in developing children, causing their teeth to display barely visible white lines on the teeth.
If large amounts of toothpaste are consumed, then contact emergency services immediately.
With dogs, fluoride poisoning is extremely rare – although it can occur if they consume water in an area with high concentrations, such as some lakes and rivers. Some people choose to brush their dog’s teeth and in these cases, it is important to use pet specific toothpaste. In most cases these will be deliberately free of fluoride, to prevent any risk. Make sure to check the packaging to ensure this is the case, before using.
Interested in monitoring fluoride in water?
At Aquaread we have a number of tools which have been designed to help monitor levels of fluoride in water. Whether this is being used to monitor drinking water or to test fluoride in natural environments, our range of devices means that monitoring is easy and accurate.
Take a look at our range of fluoride water testing equipment here.