Fluoride is found naturally in soil, water, and foods. It is also produced industrially for use in drinking water, toothpaste, mouthwashes, and various other chemical products. Tooth decay is one of the most common health problems affecting children especially in areas where fluoride levels in the water are low. Therefore, fluoride is added to the water supply in such areas to reduce the prevalence of tooth decay among the local population. But concerns have arisen about fluoride’s impact on health, because excessive use of fluoride can lead to dental or skeletal fluorosis, which can lead to bone and joint damage, in addition to neurodevelopmental problems.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is meant to save people from overexposure to poisonous chemicals. It fixes the utmost allowed content at 4 ppm and the maximum minor content at 2 ppm. People are asked to inform the EPA if the concentrations are greater than 2 ppm. Concentrations greater than 4 ppm could be fatal. In regions where water naturally contains higher levels of fluoride, community networks are compelled to ensure that the maximum concentration does not surpass 4 ppm.
Fluoride is a neurotoxin that, in high doses, can be harmful. Acute, high-level exposure to fluoride can lead to abdominal pain, excessive salivation, vomiting and nausea, seizures, and muscle spasms. This is likely to happen only in cases of accidental contamination of drinking water, due to, for example, an industrial fire or explosion. Excessive exposure to fluoride during childhood, when teeth are developing, has been linked to dental fluorosis. This can lead to mild dental fluorosis that appears as streaks or small white spots in the tooth enamel. High fluoride exposure can also lead to skeletal fluorosis poisoning which results in damage to the bones and joints as the bones become stiff and less flexible, increasing the risk of fractures.
Reports suggest that prenatal fluoride exposure may lead to poorer cognitive outcomes in the future. Studies have shown that higher levels of fluoride have been associated with lower scores on intelligence tests, and in 2014, fluoride was documented as a neurotoxin that stunts a child’s development.
In some cases, excess fluoride can damage the parathyroid gland. This can result in hyperparathyroidism, which involves the uncontrolled secretion of parathyroid hormones. This can result in a depletion of calcium in bone structures and higher-than-normal concentrations of calcium in the blood. Lower calcium concentrations in bones make them more susceptible to fractures.
According to the International Association of Oral Medicine and Toxicology (IAOMT), an organization that campaigns against the use of added fluoride, fluoride may also contribute to skin problems such as acne and cardiovascular problems, including atherosclerosis, heart muscle damage, heart failure, and high blood pressure. Also reproductive problems, such as reduced fertility, early puberty in girls as well as hypothyroidism, osteoporosis, bone cancer, temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), and Neurological problems that can lead to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Even without fluoridation, normal levels of fluoride in water in some places can be higher than prescribed. Therefore, community water systems in such areas are required to reduce the level of fluoride below an acceptable level. But levels in private water sources, such as wells, always remain higher.
People concerned about being exposed to too much fluoride, especially those who live in areas with high levels of fluoride in their water, can learn about the level of fluoride in their drinking water Use alternative sources of drinking water, such as bottled water.