Fluoride in Tap Water – Is it Safe to Drink?
Fluoride is a natural mineral found on earth’s surface. It is also produced synthetically for its use in toothpastes, mouthwashes, and adding to drinking water supply. Yes, it is widely added to public water supply in the United States and some parts of Europe as it helps prevent tooth decay and cavities. In fact, 75% of fluoride consumption in the United States comes from drinking fluoridated water and processes drinks such as sodas and fruit juices.
However, time and again, scientific research has spurred debate if fluoride leads to cancer. Evidence suggest that high doses of fluoride leads to bone cancer and cognitive impairments. Consumption of fluoride during pregnancy was tied to lower IQ levels among children.
While this long-running debate is unlikely to end anytime soon, let’s discuss why fluoride is added to water and what are the potential risks.
Benefits of Adding Fluoride to Tap Water
Tooth decay is one of the most common problem affecting children. Many people don’t afford the cost of regular dental checkups. It is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to ensure dental health. For most cities, every $1 spent on fluoridation of drinking water saves $38 which otherwise would have been spent on dental treatment.
Not only children, even adults can prevent tooth decay by consuming fluoridated water. Researchers at the University of Adelaide have proved that adding fluoride in drinking water supply has significant dental benefits for adults.
Some of the other benefits of fluoride:
- Reduces cavities in adults and kids.
- Prevents tooth decay.
- Minimizes pain that comes with tooth decay.
- Strengthens teeth and enamel.
Is it Safe?
In short, yes. Fluoridation in small amount is safe. However, as with other minerals, overexposure to fluoride could be dangerous. Excessive concentration in drinking water results in dental fluorosis. Teeth get permanently damaged with discoloration and white mottling.
In some cases, excessive exposure to fluoride could lead to skeletal fluorosis, a condition causing severe pain and damage to bones.
Fluoride is also a neurotoxin. Over exposure to fluoride could also result in neurological problems which may alter the normal activity of the nervous system.
The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) in the United States has set an optimal limit of 0.7 mg per litre of water which was reduced from 1.2mg in 2015.
Are There Ways to Reduce Fluoride Exposure?
If your drinking water comes from a public source, you can find out the levels of fluoride in your water supply by contacting local body who looks after the supply. If you draw water from a private well, getting water tested from a reputable laboratory is a good way to ascertain the quality of your drinking water. Private wells can easily be infected by other harmful contaminants such as bacteria. In that case, advanced treatment methods might need to be considered to make water fit for drinking.
If you have excessive fluoride in your water, you should consider removing it from your drinking water by filtration. Installing a water filter ensures you are drinking safe water. A reverse osmosis system removes harmful contaminants such as sand, chlorine, fluoride, heavy metals, and other impurities to give clean drinking water.