Date: 31 Jul 2008

Fluoride and environmental health: a review

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access

Abstract

The relationship between environmental fluoride and human health has been studied for over 100 years by researchers from a wide variety of disciplines. Most scientists believe that small amounts of fluoride in the diet can help prevent dental caries and strengthen bones, but there are a number of adverse affects that chronic ingestion at high doses can have on human health, including dental fluorosis, skeletal fluorosis, increased rates of bone fractures, decreased birth rates, increased rates of urolithiasis (kidney stones), impaired thyroid function, and lower intelligence in children. Chronic occupational exposure to fluoride dust and gas is associated with higher rates of bladder cancer and variety of respiratory ailments. Acute fluoride toxicity and even death from the ingestion of sodium fluoride pesticides and dental products have also been reported. The distribution of fluoride in the natural environment is very uneven, largely a result of the geochemical behavior of this element. Fluorine is preferentially enriched in highly evolved magmas and hydrothermal solutions, which explains why high concentrations are often found in syenites, granitoid plutonic rocks, alkaline volcanic, and hydrothermal deposits. Fluoride can also occur in sedimentary formations that contain fluoride-bearing minerals derived from the parent rock, fluoride-rich clays, or fluorapatite. Dissolved fluoride levels are usually controlled by the solubility of fluorite (CaF2); thus, high concentrations are often associated with soft, alkaline, and calcium-deficient waters. Although much is known about the occurrence and health effects of fluoride, problems persist in Third World countries, where populations have little choice in the source of their drinking water and food. However, even in developed nations, fluoride ingestion can exceed the recommended dose when sources other than drinking water are ignored.