Fluoridated City Water – Problems and Solutions
If your city adds fluoride to your water, you have every right to be concerned. Water fluoridation is one of the most controversial subjects in the water industry and many people feel very passionate about this topic with good reason. Fluoride is a toxin and the necessity of adding it to water supplies is highly questionable, yet most people have little to no control over their cities’ decision to fluoridate their water. Fortunately, there are drinking and whole house water filter systems that can treat and remove fluoride from your water. Before starting any water treatment process, it is good to first learn more about the type of contaminants you are dealing with.
What is Fluoride?
Fluoride is composed of salt compounds that form when the element fluorine combines with minerals in soil or rocks. Fluoride ions can be found naturally in several minerals or produced as a chemical by-product of modern industries. People are mainly exposed to fluoride through their food, tap water and toothpaste and it is readily deposited and retained in our bones and teeth. Fluoride is very toxic at higher concentrations and ingestion, inhalation and skin contact should be avoided to prevent fluoride poisoning.
Why is Fluoride added to my water?
Many American cities automatically add fluoride to their water supplies, a practice known as water fluoridation, as a measure to promote dental health and reduce tooth decay in the general population. Scientific studies have shown that low levels of fluoride in saliva have the ability to protect people’s tooth enamel from demineralization and prevent cavities. This is the same reason that fluoride is added to most brands of toothpaste and other oral hygiene products for topical treatment around the teeth. Opponents of water fluoridation argue that while brushing your teeth with fluoridated toothpaste may have some helpful benefits, ingesting fluoridated water is completely unnecessary. This is a strong argument that is backed by the low incidences of cavities found in practically all European countries where water is not fluoridated and basic tooth brushing has proven to be sufficient. As of 2012, about 72% of all American cities still add fluoride to their drinking water.
What are Fluoride’s health effects?
Fluoride is a toxic compound that collects in our bones and long term exposure and consumption can lead to an increased likelihood of bone pain, fractures and possibility even cancer. For young children, excessive fluoride can increase the chance of developing dental fluorosis or mottling of tooth enamel. Higher concentrations of fluoride can be poisonous and can lead to vomiting, organ damage and even death. In fact, ingesting half a tube of toothpaste is enough to kill a small toddler which is why there is a “if swallowed, contact a poison control center” warning on every tube of fluoridated toothpaste.
Fluoride exposure may also have a harmful effect on the developing brains of infants and children. Based on 27 studies on the effects of fluoridation and human intelligence, Harvard scientists found that there was a correlation between elevated levels of fluoride in drinking water and reduced IQ. It is well known that babies and young children are more vulnerable to the harmful effects of chemicals and heavy metals, therefore fluoride exposure should also have a greater impact on their development and exposure should be controlled and limited.
How can I remove Fluoride from my water?
Fluoride can be removed from the water through several methods which include distillation, reverse osmosis, activated alumina and bone char.
- Distillation – A water distiller boils water in one chamber and captures the purified water vapor in a separate chamber leaving the contaminants behind. Distillation is an effective method to remove fluoride and heavy metals but it takes a long time to purify water and requires large energy consumption to heat the water. Distillers can be used for producing a moderate amount of fluoride-free drinking water for small families, but it is not typically used for whole house fluoride removal.
- Reverse Osmosis – A reverse osmosis (RO) system uses a semi-permeable membrane to filter out contaminants from water and can effectively remove up to 97.7% of fluoride from your drinking water. Water is forced through the membrane which has the ability to effectively filter pollutants down to 0.001 microns, smaller than even viruses. Most RO systems can run purely off the water pressure alone and do not require electricity to operating, and they can produce a high volume of drinking water for large families. RO systems are efficient and cost-effective which is why they are the most popular type of filter for removing fluoride from drinking and cooking water.
- Activated Alumina - Activated alumina oxide is made from natural corundum minerals and it is often used in whole house fluoride filters to remove fluoride from water throughout the entire home. Fluoride is strongly attracted to this porous media which uses the process of adsorption to capture and adsorb it out of the water and protect people from fluoride exposure, ingestion, skin absorption and inhalation at every bath, shower and sink water outlet. Depending on the level of fluoridation, an activated alumina whole house fluoride filter may last between 4-6 years before the media needs to be replaced.
- Bone Char – Bone char is a form of carbon made from charring animal (cattle) bones. This media works similar to the way our bones work in attracting fluoride by exchanging ions with fluoride and heavy metals. Bone char is effective as a whole house fluoride filter media, however there are some concerns with using this type of media. Since it is made from animal bones, the source of the bone char is important to ensure that it is medical grade and did not come from sick or infected animals.