Fluoride is a natural, monatomic anion mineral found in foods, water, soil and the earth’s crust.
Nowadays, it can be found in your toothpaste, as well as your local water source, but recent concerns have arisen over the compound’s adverse health effects.
Are you worried your nightly glass of drinking water is more dangerous than it seems (besides the middle of the night bathroom breaks)? Then read on as we cover all things fluoride, including why it’s found in our water, as well as a few potential health risks associated with the mineral.
If you decide you’d like to avoid fluoridated water altogether, we’ll also provide you with four methods on how to remove fluoride from water (and also fill you in on a few methods to avoid).
Why Is Fluoride in Our Water?
Dentist Frederick McKay discovered fluoride in the water supply of Colorado Springs more than 90 years ago. Soon after his discovery, he noticed that most people living near Colorado Springs experienced minimal or no tooth decay.
In 1931 McKay and chief chemist of the Aluminum Mining Company of America (ALCOA), H.V. Churchill, theorized that when people drank water high in fluoride concentration, they were less likely to develop cavities. These positive findings regarding oral health also explain why this mineral is such a prevalent ingredient in toothpaste and mouthwash.
About a decade later, in the mid-1940s, this discovery paved the way for a fluoridated water movement of sorts. The first community to willingly fluoridate its water source was Grand Rapids, Michigan. This experiment began in 1945. As studies continued to suggest that fluoridation of water reduced the number of cavities in children, more municipal authorities began integrating this natural mineral into their public water supply.
Although the practice of fluoridation still continues to this day, many scientists have questioned the efficacy and safety of adding this mineral to local water supplies. In June 2015, an independent network of researchers and health care experts, known as the Cochrane collaboration, released an analysis of 20 studies focused on water fluoridation.
While the research group did confirm that it was effective at reducing tooth decay in children, there was no study that demonstrated the same benefit for adults. Furthermore, the Cochrane report also indicated that early scientific studies that convinced municipalities that fluoridated water was beneficial were deeply flawed. The primary issue was that these outdated studies weren’t able to account for other products that contain high levels of this mineral, such as toothpaste and other dental products.
Since then more research on the adverse effects of consuming excess amounts of fluoride has slowly started to surface, raising concerns among scientists and health-conscious consumers.
Potential Health Hazards of Fluoride
Over the past few decades, concerns have arisen about fluoride’s potentially harmful effects on health, including:
- Thyroid Problems
- Neurological Issues
- Tooth and Bone Damage
- Skin Problems
- Cardiovascular Issues
- Reproductive Problems
Here is more information on some of these potential health problems arising from this mineral’s excessive consumption.
People who consume higher amounts of fluoride run the risk of harming their parathyroid glands. This damage can trigger a continuous expulsion of parathyroid hormones.
As a result, bones begin to lose calcium as the blood develops an abnormally high calcium concentration. Lower calcium levels in the bones can increase the likelihood of fractures and breaks in those who consume high levels of fluoride on a regular basis.
According to a 2017 study, pregnant women who are exposed to higher concentrations of fluoride have an increased risk of giving birth to babies with poorer cognitive functions. Moreover, higher ingestion of this mineral is linked with lower IQ levels. One study even termed fluoride as a neurotoxin that could be hazardous for cognitive development in children.
Tooth and Bone Damage
Over-consumption of fluoride, specifically in drinking water, has the potential to cause dental fluorosis of teeth and bones. Fluorosis causes bones and teeth to become brittle and inelastic, which can result in bone fracture, joint damage, tooth injury and infection.
Additional Health Concerns
Excessive fluoride exposure has been linked to skin problems, cardiovascular issues, and reproductive problems. All of these issues, as well as evidence of corruption related to fluoride policies, have catalyzed an anti-fluoride movement that’s not likely to dissipate any time soon.
How to Remove Fluoride From Water
Given the health problems associated with a higher intake of fluoridated water, many people are trying to figure out how to remove it from their tap water. We will discuss four common ways to remove fluoride from water:
- Reverse Osmosis
- Activated Alumina
- Bone Char Carbon
To truly obtain non-fluoridated water, these ions need to be tackled at the chemical level for effective elimination. Here are some effective methods to remove fluoride from your drinking water:
Distillation is an effective and affordable method to remove fluoride from water. As the water is heated, the steam evaporates from the boiling water, where it is captured in another container. This process leaves the fluoride and other contaminants behind. The vapors in the other container then transition back into a pure and distilled water upon cooling.
But can you distill water at home? You can buy a distiller to do the hard work for you, or you can try a DIY approach. To distill your own water at home without heavy-duty equipment, follow this step-by-step process:
- Place a pot on the stove and fill halfway with water.
- Place a stainless steel bowl inside the pot. Make sure the lip is above the water line.
- Take a concave lid and place upside down over the pot. It should form a tight seal.
- Place an ice pack on top of the lid.
- Heat the water until it begins to boil. As the water produces steam, it will rise towards the cold lid. The steam will quickly condense, form droplets and drip into the stainless steel bowl.
- Continue boiling water until you collect the desired amount of distilled (and fluoride-free) water.
2. Reverse Osmosis
The reverse osmosis method uses pressure to force water across a permeable membrane that only allows water molecules to pass through. As a result, fluoride, as well as other minerals and contaminants, are separated from the water, leaving pure fluoride-free water on the other side of the membrane. For example, reverse osmosis can filter out fluoride and other contaminants such as:
- Cadmium and more
Like distillation, you can buy a reverse osmosis system, also known as an RO filter, for your home. These water filtration systems are typically installed under the kitchen sink and treat your drinking and cooking water. There are whole house filters available as well that are installed at the main water line for the home.
While it is possible to make a reverse osmosis system at home, it is often more expensive to piece together than buying a system would be. There are also a few concerns with reverse osmosis. While it removes fluoride, bacteria and pesticides, RO systems also remove calcium, iron, and other elements that may be beneficial to your health.
3. Activated Alumina
Activated alumina is a porous, solid form of aluminum oxide. It effectively absorbs fluoride and other contaminants from water, which is why the EPA recommends it as a viable option for purifying drinking water.
These alumina filters only work on water with a pH less than 8.5. For fluoride removal, the water pH should be between 5 and 6. As water passes through the filter, contaminants are absorbed into the activated alumina granules, resulting in purer water.
The activated alumina filtration system is a complicated process best left to water treatment professionals, though there are devices you can purchase. Choose from small filtration options like water bottles or purchase a home filter system.
4. Bone Char Carbon
Bone Char (BC) carbon is one of the oldest methods used to remove fluoride from water. It is available in the form of water filter cartridges and can eliminate approximately 90% of the mineral content from water.
This is another fluoride-removal method that isn’t easily accomplished at home. It should also be noted that bone char is made when animal bones are heated to extreme temperatures.
This may not be an option for vegans.
What Will Not Remove Fluoride from Water
There are some methods many people assume will remove fluoride from water, but they’re actually quite ineffective.
Because boiling water removes bacteria and other organisms, some may mistakenly believe boiling tap water will also remove fluoride. However, this method actually increases concentration because, as the water boils, the vapors escape and leave the mineral behind.
Simple home water filters, including those that attach to a faucet or come as part of a pitcher, don’t have the capability to remove minerals like fluoride. Instead, they’re more for removing visible impurities and improving the taste of filtered water.
Others choose to skip purification methods altogether and simply buy bottled water. But as plastic bottles create massive waste, bottled water is not a responsible option and certainly not a method we recommend.
Should You Remove Fluoride from Your Water?
Even though there is evidence that fluoride is good for your teeth, excess ingestion of the compound can trigger serious health issues. If your drinking water contains an unwanted concentration of the mineral, you can exercise your informed choice to have it removed.
Consider using proven methods when learning how to remove fluoride from water, including distillation, BC carbon, reverse osmosis and activated alumina to do away with the mineral.
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