Fluoride In your Drinking water
Added to water in a number of public water systems for the purpose of reducing tooth decay in consumers, fluoride is one of those chemicals in water that can provide some health benefits when applied below certain levels but turn into hazardous drinking water contaminants when those levels are breached. Too much exposure to fluoride can lead to tooth and bone defects. It may even cause bone cancer.
If your water system supplies you with fluoridated water at fluoride concentrations you’re not comfortable with, then do something about it. Reducing the concentration of fluoride in your drinking water can bring down those health risks you don’t want to be subjected to. This can be achieved by deploying high quality water purification systems, some of which can reduce fluoride concentrations by 95% or more.
Standards set for Fluoride
To mitigate the health risks associated with fluoride exposure, the EPA has set both the maximum contaminant level goals (MCLG) and maximum contaminant level (MCL) for fluoride to 4.0 mg/L or 4.0 ppm (parts per million).
An MCLG is a non-enforceable health goal with an adequate margin of safety for a given contaminant and is based solely on possible health risks and exposure over a lifetime. An MCL, on the other hand, is an enforceable regulation. In other words, water systems are mandated to comply with the level specified as MCL.
So, in the case of fluoride, water systems should make sure fluoride concentrations do not exceed 4.0 ppm in order to achieve regulatory compliance.
Certain substances are assigned an MCLG and an MCL when they are found to have potential health effects. For example, fluoride may cause bone disease and tooth defects. Some scientists even believe it can lead to bone cancer.
In 2006, the National Academies’ National Research Council declared that the MCL set by the EPA for fluoride did not protect Americans against possible adverse health effects. The finding was based on reviews made on past researches on various health effects due to fluoride exposure, including studies that were made up to 10 years back.
Harmful effects of Fluoride on the human body
Although the dental health benefits of water fluoridation are widely recognized, more and more researches are steadily revealing its equally significant health risks. Here are some of the most alarming.
Excessive exposure to fluoride at a young age can result in a dental problem known as enamel or dental fluorosis. The extent of this dental condition in a person can range from mild discoloration at the surface of the teeth to serious staining. It can also result in enamel loss, pitting and mottling.
People are most susceptible to enamel fluorosis during their tooth formation years. That means, children up to 8 years of age are most prone to this condition. In the US, children in communities being supplied with water having fluoride concentrations at around 4 mg/L exhibited significantly high occurrences of enamel fluorosis. The average recorded frequency in these communities was 10%.
In addition to the MCLG and the MCL it had set for fluoride, the EPA also added a secondary standard or SMCL. This standard is meant to minimize the occurrence of those dental defects. Fluoride’s SMCL is set at 2.0 mg/L.
When fluoride enters the body, it has a tendency to accumulate in the bones. Because of this, there are valid concerns as with regards to possible effects accumulated fluoride might have on the musculoskeletal system. In particular, most scientists and medical practitioners are currently focusing their attention on a bone and joint condition known as skeletal fluorosis, which is brought about by excessive exposure to fluoride.
Bones that absorb fluoride increase in density. The ensuing change in bone composition result in stiffening of joints. This can be painful for the affected individual. In severe cases, the mobility of the affected individual can suffer. Exposure to fluoride in drinking water at concentrations between 2 mg/L and 4 mg/L is believed sufficient to cause severe cases of skeletal fluorosis.
Skeletal fluorosis is not the only adverse effect excessive exposure to fluoride can have on bones. Certain studies have shown that too much fluoride can also diminish bone strength, thereby increasing risk of bone fracture. Some scientists believe fluoride concentration in drinking water of 4 mg/L, which is the MCL set by the EPA, is too high because it is enough to increase fracture incidents.
People suffering from renal failure are more susceptible to these bone diseases because their kidneys are no longer able to get rid of the excess fluoride. As a result, the bones tend to accumulate fluoride much faster.
Increased risk of cancer
More studies are showing a possible link between fluoride and osteosarcoma, a rare bone cancer. The studies, which involved human beings, are consistent with previous animal experiments, which pointed to an increased risk to this particular bone cancer among male rats that were exposed to fluoride.
How does fluoride get to your drinking water?
Water fluoridation, which is the process of adding fluoride to a public water supply, is meant to prevent tooth decay. It has been practiced since the 1950’s and has continued up to this day, even with the presence of fluoride-reinforced toothpastes.
Thus, it is highly likely that the fluoride you find in your drinking water was intentionally put there by your water supplier. Still, fluoride can also come from other sources. For instance, it can come from runoffs that have originated from weathered soil and rocks containing fluoride. Discharges from commercial and industrial establishments who deal with fluoride and who are located near your water supply can also be a source.