The subject of artificially introduced fluoride in our water supplies has been hotly debated for years, since its first implementation around 50 years ago.
In many developed countries, fluoride is introduced into mains water as a means of strengthening our teeth. It’s estimated that 300 million people in 39 countries drink artificially fluoridated water.
The amount of fluoride added to water is somewhere between 1mg to 1.5mg per litre, which is regarded as a safe and therapeutic level. It’s a substance that needs to be carefully controlled as in large quantities, it can be quite poisonous and corrosive.
The benefits of fluoride in regards to preventing dental cavities is something I won’t debate, but a more important issue relating to the environment dawned on me.
The average person only drinks a small fraction of the water they use a day. If all the water we are consuming is fluoridated, how much of it does our body actually use, how much is expelled as waste, how much is winding up in the environment and what are its effects?
The bad news is that fluoride does not break down – it accumulates in the environment. Some plants are known to be particularly sensitive to fluoride – even at 1 part per billion. Bear in mind that the amount in our water supplies is around 1 part per million. It can negatively affect growth and germination in some species. Fluoride taken in by plants through the water can then cause complications in animals who feed on those plants.
Fluoride is also known to be particularly toxic to some aquatic life; in fact, there’s some species of freshwater fish that will die if placed into a container of fluoridated tap water.
There’s also been talk of a connection between fluoride and certain forms of cancer – but doesn’t everything seem to have a link to cancer these days? Still, it’s another aspect that may point towards a need to rethink the artificial fluoridation of our water.
Of the fluoride we ingest through drinking water, only half in stored in our bodies – the rest, along with the fluoride in the water we use to flush, winds up down the toilet and then makes its way into the environment.
Fluoride is not only present in our water, but also in toothpaste. Again, much of it isn’t used by our bodies, but is flushed down the drain when we rinse. Added to all this, fluoride also enters the environment from other industrial processes. Because of the mass fluoridation of water and these other sources; it is also being returned to us in the food and fluids we purchase.
Are we being overdosed with fluoride and poisoning the environment as a result? Are we now all getting enough fluoride via other means that it no longer needs to be in our water?
I’m certainly not suggesting fluoride should be avoided altogether; but it does seem like we are all unwittingly engaging in a massive overkill. Cutting out fluoride in just the water we drink will have little overall impact. For example, drinking only bottled water may not have any effect at all since much of it is tap water dumped into a plastic bottle with just a fancy label anyway.
Installing a rainwater water tank and utilizing rainwater wherever possible is a great way to reduce the amount of fluoride we discharge into the environment; but not really financially feasible for a lot of people.
The best things we can do as individuals while the fluoride debate rages are:
a) Ask questions and research – raise the profile of fluoridation concerns. Speak to your dentist, doctor and environmentalists about the issues I’ve mentioned. Get more people thinking and talking about it.
b) Reduce the amount of water we use overall and therefore reduce the amount of fluoride escaping into the environment. I’ve published a series of simple water saving tips that just about everyone can implement.
Reducing the amount of water we use will not only cut down on the amount of fluoride in the environment, but it will also helps save our precious water resources and save you some cash too!