Fluoride, a naturally-occurring mineral ion of elemental fluorine, can be found in water supplies throughout the world. In the United States, fluoride is often added to water to help prevent tooth decay. While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set standards for the amounts of fluoride in water supplies, this mineral can pose health threats. With a reverse osmosis water system, you can remove this potentially harmful contaminant from your family’s water – water that is used for cooking, and drinking.
What is Fluoride?
The element fluorine is found in abundance in nature. In fact, it is the 13th most common element in the earth’s surface and is a component of many types of rock. Fluorine in its elemental state exists as a gas with a strong odor; this gaseous state is uncommon, as the element is highly reactive.
When fluorine reacts with certain metals like sodium or calcium, fluorides are formed. Fluoride is an ion of this element, and can be found in trace amounts in:
The fluoride ion bonds to our bones and tooth enamel, strengthening them against decay. In research conducted by scientists at the turn of the 20th century, it was discovered that fluoride helped to prevent dental caries, a condition commonly known as cavities. In 1945, the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan was the first in the world to add fluoride to public water supplies; many other cities and countries soon followed. Today, fluoride is added to water supplies as well as toothpastes, mouth rinses, and dental hygiene products. It is estimated that over 200 million people in the U.S. benefit from fluoride in water supplies.
The Dangers of Fluoride
As noted earlier, the EPA sets an enforceable maximum concentration of fluoride in water supplies at 4.0 milligrams per liter (mg/L). The agency has determined that this limit meets public health goals. There is no question that fluoride is beneficial; with small amounts of fluoride in drinking water, we gain robust protection against cavities.
If fluoride helps to strengthen our bones and teeth, what are the dangers associated with this mineral ion? Scientific research has revealed a surprising number of health conditions associated with fluoride exposure, including:
- Arterial calcification
- Bone weakness
- Bone cancer (osteosarcoma)
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Cardiac failure
- Interference with health development of fetuses
- Thyroid dysfunction
- Lower IQ
- Lower fertility rates
It is important to note that added fluoride in water supplies is only part of the potential exposure source of this ion. Fluoride may occur in higher concentrations in natural water supplies, including well water and sources containing high levels of fluorine compounds. The use or overuse of certain dental health products can also contribute to excess exposure to fluoride. In the home, one of the leading ways of removing this potentially harmful ion from water is by using a reverse osmosis water system.
Dental Fluorosis: Signs of High Fluoride Exposure
In small amounts, fluoride protects the tooth enamel against cavities. Unfortunately, this mineral ion can also harm teeth, especially in infants and children. Dental fluorosis is a condition that may change the appearance of tooth enamel. Signs of the condition include:
- White or whitish spots on tooth surfaces, particularly along the margins of the teeth
- Depressions or pits in tooth surfaces
- Rust-colored stains on tooth surfaces
Severe fluorosis may result in bone diseases as well as pain or tenderness in the bones and joints.
The EPA’s maximum allowable limit of fluoride is set at 4mg/L. The agency has also set an additional non-enforceable limit of 2mg/L to help prevent the formation of dental fluorosis.
Although these signs of discoloration or pitting are not in themselves a threat to human health, they indicate excessive fluoride exposure. Over time, and depending on factors like age, health, and genetics, this exposure can lead to health complications and even death. Research is still ongoing whether the addition of fluoride in water supplies has more benefits than potential harms, and the subject is not without controversy.
Reverse Osmosis Water Systems: Effective in Removing Fluoride
Fluoride may occur naturally in water or may be added by municipal water treatment systems before the water is piped to your home. While there are certain benefits associated with fluoride in preventing tooth decay, the potential risks often outweigh these benefits. It is crucial to understand that excessive fluoride in water supplies may go undetected unless laboratory testing is conducted or until signs of fluorosis appear on the teeth.
How can you protect yourself and your family against excessive levels of fluoride in drinking water? A reverse osmosis water system is an effective and efficient solution. Osmosis is a natural cellular process that moves fluids through cell walls to achieve equilibrium in fluid concentrations. Reverse osmosis mimics that natural process, using pressure to push water through a semipermeable membrane. The membrane (“filter”) is equipped with tiny pores – pores as small as 0.0001 micron. These pores trap contaminants like:
- Dissolved minerals
- Heavy metals
- Industrial contaminants
Clean, fresh water passes through the reverse osmosis water system membrane, leaving contaminants behind. According to numerous studies of the effectiveness of a reverse osmosis water system removing fluoride, these systems achieve 85-90% removal, keeping fluoride levels far below the maximum allowable limits set by the EPA.
A reverse osmosis water system is installed between water supply lines and the faucets or fixtures in your home. Water treated by one of these systems is free from harmful contaminants and the taste, odor, and clarity of the water is improved. Some of the most advanced reverse osmosis water systems on the market include multiple filter stages to ensure great-tasting, fresh, and safe drinking water for use by you and your family. These systems are easy to maintain, requiring only periodic filter changes to ensure continued performance. A reverse osmosis water system helps to keep you and your family safe from the potential dangers of fluoride in drinking water while removing many other harmful contaminants that can cause serious health complications.