Should Fluoride be Added to Local Area Tap Water?

This October, the Meadville Area Water Authority will be adding Fluoride to its water. Whether or not you approve of the addition of Fluoride to a local water facility we wanted to provide you with some facts from the Water Systems Council and Water Quality Association about Fluoride.

Fluoride Facts

  • Natural trace element
    • Occurs naturally only in the reduced (fluoride, F-) form in combination with other minerals creating Fluorspar, Cryolite, and Fluorapatite
  • Exists in almost all soils
    • As water passes through the earth, it absorbs Fluoride, thus most water contains some Fluoride
  • Fluoride content varies by region
    • Dry regions generally have higher Fluoride levels in their water than regions that have higher than average rainfall amounts
    • Groundwater usually contains more Fluoride than surface water
  • In its elemental form Fluorine is a flammable, irritating, and toxic halogen gas that is one of the most powerful oxidizing agents known
  • Fluoride is classified as any binary compound of Fluorine with another element

Why Add Fluoride to Water?

When you think about Fluoride, you probably think of your dentist telling you that it will keep your teeth healthy. This is also the reason the Meadville Area Water Authority wants to add Fluoride salt, measured as Fluoride, to public drinking water supplies at about one milligram per liter (mg/L). They want to reduce tooth decay. Evidence shows that for most cities, every $1 invested in Fluoridation saves $38 in costs to treat dental problems. Fluoride is also protective against fractures and skeletal effects in adults.

According to a 2011 EPA report, about 196 million people drink Fluoridated water at levels ranging from 0.7 to 1.2 mg/L. In the United States the EPA, under the authority of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), has set the Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) and the MCL Goal (MCLG) for Fluoride at 4.0 mg/L. This means that utilities must ensure that water from the customer’s tap does not exceed this level in at least 90% of the homes sampled. The utility must take certain steps to correct the problem if the tap water exceeds the limit and they must notify citizens of all violations.

Fluoride Health Effects

Most doctors, dentists, and government officials believe that at low concentrations, Fluoride prevents tooth decay and strengthens teeth. However, consuming an excessive amount of Fluoride over time can collect in bones and lead to skeletal fluorosis. Skeletal fluorosis involves pain or stiffness of the joints. In severe cases, it can cause damage to bone structure, calcification of ligaments, and crippling effects. Symptoms are mainly seen in bone structure. Skeletal fluorosis causes:

  • Bones to harden and thus less loose elasticity, causing easily fractured or broken bones, which is sometimes called “marble bones”
  • Thickening of the bone structure and accumulation of bone tissue which can contribute to impaired joint mobility
  • Ligaments and cartilage to become calcified
  • Ruptures of the stomach lining and nausea
  • Damage to the parathyroid glands, leading to hyperparathyroidism
    • Uncontrolled secretion of parathyroid hormones which regulate calcium concentration in the body
    • Depletion of calcium in bone structures and a higher calcium concentration in the blood contributing to a loss of bone elasticity.

At this time there are no established treatments for skeletal fluorosis, but it is reversible in some cases, depending on the progression of the disease. Unfortunately, it is a very slow process to eliminate fluorine from the body completely and often produces only slight improvements.

Dental fluorosis (discoloration or weakening of teeth) can also occur from consuming too much fluoride. Dental fluorosis only affects teeth before they come in, so the EPA suggests that children under the age of 9 do not drink water containing more than 2 milligrams per liter (mg/L) of fluoride.

Fluoride Treatment Methods

If you’re concerned about the fluoride level of your water we’ve listed a few treatment options for you depending on your water’s pH levels:

  • Reverse Osmosis
  • Activated Alumina
  • Distillation
  • Bone Charcoal
  • Electrodialysis
  • Deionization
  • Boiling water will NOT remove fluoride, and will actually concentrate the amount of fluoride in the water

These treatment methods can effectively reduce fluoride contaminants sufficiently to meet or exceed the relevant MCL. However, Kinetico’s K5 drinking water station, a reverse osmosis system with flex filtration, is certified to remove more contaminants than any other reverse osmosis system on the market. Contact Clearwater Systems to learn more.