Should You Avoid Fluoride?
In a world where chemicals are part of our daily experience, it is important to know which chemicals to avoid. Fluoride is one of the most present chemicals in our lives, and we are exposed to it through our food, water, and hygienic products. Fluoride is naturally present in many of our foods and water sources, but at a far lower level ppm (parts per million) than what is now added into our food and water or used in hygienic products like toothpaste. As potential for our exposure grows, it is important to know the effects of too much fluoride in our system. This chemical is known for causing kidney damage, harm to the reproductive system, impairment to glucose metabolism, brain damage, and digestive system damage. Here are your top seven ways to avoid over-exposure to fluoride:
1) Stop Drinking Fluoridated Water:
Tap water consumption is, on average, the largest daily source of fluoride exposure for people who live in areas that add fluoride to the water. Avoiding consumption of fluoridated water is especially critical for infants. If you live in area which fluoridates its water, you can avoid drinking the fluoride in one of three ways:
- Water Filters: One way of avoiding the fluoride from tap water is to purchase a water filter. Not all water filters, however, remove fluoride. The three types of filters that can remove fluoride are reverse osmosis, deionizers (which use ion-exchange resins), and activated alumina. Each of these filters should be able to remove about 90% of the fluoride. By contrast, “activated carbon” filters (e.g., Brita & Pur) do not remove fluoride. For more information on water filters, click here.
- Spring Water: Another way to avoid fluoride from tap water is to purchase spring water. Most brands of spring water contain very low levels of fluoride. Some brands, however, do contain high levels (e.g., Trinity Springs). Before consuming any bottled water on a consistent basis, you should verify that the fluoride content is less than 0.2 ppm, and ideally less than 0.1 ppm. You can find out the level of fluoride level in some of the popular brands here. You can also find out the fluoride level by calling the number on the water label. (Most companies have this information readily available.)
- Water Distillation: A third way to avoid fluoride from the tap is to purchase a distillation unit. Water distillation will remove most, if not all, of the fluoride. The price for a distillation units varies widely depending on the size. Small counter-top units cost as little as $200, while large units can exceed $1,000.
If you don’t know if your area is fluoridated, you can find out by contacting your local water department. If you live in the U.S., you can also find out by going to FAN’s State Fluoride Database.
2) Don’t Let Your Child Swallow Fluoride Toothpaste
Fluoride toothpaste is often the largest single source of fluoride intake for young children, and is a major risk factor for disfiguring dental fluorosis. This is because children swallow a large amount of the paste that they put in their mouth. In fact, research has shown that it is not uncommon for young children to swallow more fluoride from toothpaste alone than is recommended as an entire day’s ingestion from all sources.
If you have a young child, therefore, we recommend that you use a non-fluoride toothpaste. If, however, you do use fluoride toothpaste, it’s very important that you supervise your children while they brush to make sure they use no more than a “pea-sized amount” of paste, and that they fully rinse and spit after they finish. And, lastly, do not purchase candy flavored toothpaste (e.g., bubble-gum and watermelon) as these toothpastes (which still contain adult-strength concentrations of fluoride) increase the risk that your children will swallow it (and actually want to swallow it).
3) Do NOT Get Fluoride Gel Treatments at the Dentist
Although dental researchers have stated on numerous occasions that fluoride gel treatment should ONLY be used for patients at highest risk of cavities, many dentists continue to apply fluoride gels irrespective of the patient’s cavity risk. The fluoride gel procedure requires the patient to clamp down on a tray for 4 minutes and uses an extremely concentrated, acidic fluoride gel (12,300 ppm). Because of the fluoride gel’s high acidity, the saliva glands produce a large amount of saliva during the treatment, which makes it extremely difficult (both for children and adults) to avoid swallowing the gel.
Even when dentists use precautionary measures such as suction devices, children and adults still ingest significant quantities of the paste, which can cause incredibly high spikes of fluoride in the blood (for up to 15 hours). These fluoride levels place patients, particularly children, at risk for stomach pain, nausea and vomiting, and places a person at risk for short-term kidney damage, harm to the reproductive system, and impairment to glucose metabolism. The next time your dentist asks you whether you want a fluoride gel treatment, say NO.
4) Eat More Fresh Food, Less Processed Food
When water is fluoridated, it is not just the water that is fluoridated, but all beverages and foods that are made with the water. As a general rule, therefore, the more processed a food is, the more fluoride it has. The good news is that the naturally occurring levels of fluoride in most fresh water (e.g., spring water) and most fresh food (e.g., fruits, vegetables, grain, eggs, milk) is very low. Use this fact to your advantage by trying to shift as much as you can from processed foods to fresh. Also, since processed beverages (e.g., sodas, reconstituted juices, sports drinks) contribute far more to fluoride intake than processed foods, it is most important to focus on reducing your consumption of processed beverages. For more detailed information on how you can cut down on your fluoride intake from processed foods, see “FAN’s Grocery Store Guide: 7 Ways to Avoid Fluoride in Beverages and Food.”
5) Buy Organic Grape Juice and Wine
In the United States, many vineyards use a fluoride pesticide called cryolite. As a result, the levels of fluoride in U.S. grape juice and wine (particularly white grape juice and white wine) are consistently elevated. Indeed, in 2005, the USDA reported that the average level of fluoride exceeded 2 ppm for both white wine and white grape. The levels of fluoride in red wine are also elevated (1 ppm), and so are raisins (2.3 ppm). If you buy grape juice and wine, or if you are a heavy consumer of raisins, buy organic. In the case of wine, if don’t want to spend the extra money on organic, consider purchasing a European brand, as Europe uses far less cryolite than the U.S.
6) Watch Your Black & Green Tea Consumption (and/or Drink Tea with Younger Leaves)
Be careful of drinking too much tea, particularly bottled and instant varieties. The tea plant accumulates high levels of fluoride, and excess intake of tea is known to cause a painful bone disease called skeletal fluorosis. Some teas, however, contain high levels of health-boosting anti-oxidants, which are not only good for health in general, but help to protect against fluoride toxicity.
In the ideal scenario, one could drink tea with high levels of anti-oxidants but low levels of fluoride. Recent research suggests that this might be a somewhat obtainable goal. It has recently been shown that the anti-oxidant levels in tea are far higher in young leaves than old leaves. This is important because young leaves also happen to have lower levels of fluoride. Indeed, it has been proposed that the fluoride content of tea is an indicator of its quality: the higher the fluoride, the lower the quality, and vice versa. If you love tea, therefore, try to purchase varieties that are made from young leaves (e.g., “White tea”). This will allow you to maximize tea’s known benefits, while reducing its known harm. Towards this end, avoid bottled and instant teas as they have been found to contain low-quality leaves that have very low levels of anti-oxidants. With bottled and instant tea, you get the risk (fluoride) without the benefit (anti-oxidants).
7) Don’t Take Cipro or Other Fluorinated Pharmaceuticals
Many pharmaceuticals are fluorinated, which means they contain something called a “carbon-fluorine bond.” Although the carbon-fluorine bond is strong enough to resist breaking down within the body, this is not always the case.
Some fluorinated drugs have been found to metabolize into fluoride within the body and this greatly increases a person’s exposure to fluoride. The most notable example is Cipro. Other fluorinated chemicals that are currently known to break down into fluoride include fluorinated anesthetics (Isoflurane & Sevoflurane), Niflumic acid, Flecainide, and Voriconazole. If you are taking any of these drugs, find out if there are any safer alternatives available.