The original desire for widespread, cost-effective prevention of tooth decay is now at odds with a worry about unforeseen consequences and health risks from fluoride consumption. There are some debates about its safety, and even some communities that have decided to quit fluoridating their water supplies, with more having serious discussions.
If you are concerned about the potential harmful effects of fluoride in your water, or just want to reduce it in your own home’s supply, there are effective filtration treatments to provide you with safe, healthy water.
What is Fluoride and why is it in my water?Fluoride is a mineral that is found naturally in ground, water, air and food.
In the 1930s, scientists discovered that naturally occurring fluoride in water supplies prevented tooth decay. Fluoride protects teeth from decay by helping to rebuild and strengthen the tooth’s surface, or enamel. This stops cavities from forming and can even rebuild the tooth’s surface.
In order to test the theory that fluoride in the water could prevent tooth decay, in 1945 a 15-year study was launched in Grand Rapids, Michigan, as the first city in the world to begin fluoridating its public water supply.
Five years into the study, Grand Rapids schoolchildren were found to have significantly fewer cavities than children from surrounding communities, so other Michigan cities also began fluoridating with similar results. Within a few years, cities and towns across the United States were fluoridating their water.
In practice, community water fluoridation adjusts the amount of fluoride in drinking water to a level recommended for preventing tooth decay.
Today, over 63% of US homes are served by a water supply with fluoride levels optimized to prevent tooth decay. It’s estimated fluoridation prevents tooth decay by at least 25% in both children and adults.
Does Fluoride cause health concerns?Although fluoridation of water has been very effective at reducing tooth decay in children, there are concerns about its potential adverse health effects.
The US Public Health Service (PHS) updated community water fluoridation drinking water standards in 2015 in response to studies of health concerns. The PHS recommends that the fluoride level in drinking water should be 0.7 ppm.
While the PHS standard states the optimum level for fluoride in drinking water is 0.7 ppm to prevent tooth decay, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets the maximum contaminant level for fluoride in drinking water at 4.0 ppm in consideration of the potential harms of fluoridation. The EPA also has a non-enforceable secondary standard for fluoride of 2.0 ppm to protect children against dental fluorosis.
Since the introduction of fluoride toothpaste, mouthwash, and supplements, there is an increased potential for excess fluoride ingestion and resulting health effects.
Ingestion of fluoride toothpaste alone may raise children’s consumption above recommended levels.
FluorosisIf you consume too much fluoride, especially in water, you may be at risk for fluorosis of teeth and bones.
Children who are exposed to high concentrations of fluoride while their teeth are developing can develop mild dental fluorosis, which discolors teeth with lacy white markings or spots within the tooth enamel. The much more rare, severe dental fluorosis can cause pitting of the tooth surface.
Excess fluoride intake over a long period of time can also result in skeletal fluorosis, a bone disorder resembling osteoporosis, which can cause pain or damage to bones and joints.
Thyroid issuesConsumption of excess fluoride may harm the parathyroid gland, triggering hyperparathyroidism, which releases too much parathyroid hormone into your body.
Because this hormone helps regulate the balance of calcium in the bloodstream and tissues, an imbalance can result in too much calcium in the blood, and too little in the bones. Calcium deficiency in bones makes them more susceptible to fractures.
Neurological issuesWhile there is not a scientific consensus on other potential harmful effects of fluoride, there have been some troubling issues raised.
A study published in 2017 suggested a link between prenatal exposure to high levels of fluoride and babies born with poorer cognitive functions.
Other studies suggest fluoride’s potential for developmental neurotoxicity, or fluoride toxicity.
How to remove fluoride from waterIn order to reduce the fluoride in your water, you will need specialized filtration.
A typical water filtration system which uses carbon filters does not remove fluoride from the water. Boiling water also does not remove fluoride - in fact it concentrates it.
Distillation can be used to remove fluoride, but is not a convenient method for most homeowners.
The most effective and convenient treatments for fluoride are filters designed specifically for fluoride reduction, and reverse osmosis systems.
Specialty fluoride reduction cartridge filterWhile most common drinking water filters aren’t effective at removing fluoride, there are specialty filters and systems available which are easily installed right at your tap.
When you want to make sure your filtration system will deal with the fluoride in your water, choose a filter specifically designed to reduce fluoride.
Countertop Fluoride Reduction System
Reverse OsmosisIf you are concerned about the health effects of contaminants in your water, it’s likely fluoride isn’t your only worry.
For effective treatment of not only fluoride, but also a long list of other contaminants including arsenic, copper, lead and total dissolved solids, you can install an undersink reverse osmosis system.
Reverse Osmosis system
If you want to verify what the level of fluoride is in your water supply, you can check out your municipal water treatment system’s yearly Consumer Confidence Report (CCR), or annual drinking water quality report. If you haven’t received it, you can either call your local water supplier or find your report at the EPA.
How to test your water for fluoride
If you have private well water, you will need to test the water yourself to discover your fluoride level
Purchase a water test
You can get rid of the fluoride in your waterWhile the fluoridation of our water supplies has been successful at the reduction of tooth decay, there may also be a downside to its widespread use.
Concerns about over consumption of fluoride and its potential health effects are legitimate reasons to seek out ways to reduce it in your home’s water.
You can easily treat your water for fluoride right at the tap. The installation of the appropriate fluoride reduction or reverse osmosis filtration system can ensure your water is both clean and healthy to enjoy.