Drinking water is very beneficial for daily life, for that humans need 8 glasses of water a day. Besides containing calcium, sodium, magnesium, potassium, and bicarbonate, mineral water contains fluoride. This content is found naturally in soil, water, and food, max 1.5 parts per million (ppm). However, fluoride is also produced synthetically for use in drinking water , toothpaste, mouthwash and various other chemical products.
More than 60 countries or more than 330 million people have consumed drinking water containing fluoride. In neighboring countries such as Singapore, it also adds fluoride to drinking water.
Singapore started its water fluoridation in 1956, which aimed to reduce the prevalence of dental caries in its people, as quoted from Fluoride Class Action . Because children there have significant dental fluorosis rates. However, concerns have arisen regarding the effects of fluoride on health, including problems with bone, teeth, and nerve development.
As we know, Singapore has become a world tourist destination. Millions of travelers from various countries flock to Singapore to take a vacation. In 2017 alone, Indonesian citizens (WNI) recorded 2.95 million tourists traveling to this lion country. Well, is drinking water safe for tourists?
Risk of fluoride
Excessive exposure to fluoride has been linked to a number of health problems, as reported by Medical News Today , the following:
1. Dental fluorosis
Exposure to high levels of fluoride during childhood, when teeth develop, can cause mild dental fluorosis. There will be small white lines or spots on the tooth enamel. This does not affect dental health, but color changes can be seen.
Breastfeeding a baby or making formula milk with fluoride-free water can help protect young children from fluorosis.
Children under the age of 6 should not use mouthwash containing fluoride. Children must be monitored when brushing their teeth to make sure they do not swallow toothpaste.
2. Skeletal fluorosis
Excess fluoride exposure can cause bone disease known as skeletal fluorosis. For years, this can cause pain and damage to bones and joints.
Bones can become hardened and less elastic, increasing the risk of fractures. If the bone thickens and bone tissue accumulates, this can contribute to impaired joint mobility.
3. Thyroid problems
In some cases, excess fluoride can damage the parathyroid gland. This can cause hyperparathyroidism, which involves uncontrolled parathyroid hormone secretion. This can cause thinning of calcium in the bone structure and higher than normal calcium concentrations in the blood. Lower calcium concentrations in the bones make it more susceptible to fractures.
4. Neurological problems
In 2017, a report was published which showed that exposure to fluoride before birth could lead to worse cognitive outcomes in the future.
The researchers measured fluoride levels in 299 women during pregnancy and in their children between the ages of 6 and 12 years. They tested cognitive abilities at 4 years of age and between 6 and 12 years. Higher fluoride levels were associated with lower scores on IQ tests.
In 2014, fluoride was documented as a neurotoxin that can be harmful to children’s development, along with 10 other industrial chemicals, including lead, arsenic, toluene, and methylmercury.
Other Health Problems
According to the International Association of Drugs and Toxicology (IAOMT), an organization that campaigns against additional use of fluoride, it can also contribute to the following health problems:
- Acne and other skin problems
- Cardiovascular problems, including arteriosclerosis and arterial calcification, high blood pressure, myocardial damage, cardiac insufficiency, and heart failure.
- Reproductive problems, such as lower fertility and early puberty in girls
- Thyroid dysfunction
- Conditions that affect joints and bones, such as osteoarthritis, bone cancer, and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders
- Neurological problems, possibly leading to ADHD
High levels of exposure to fluoride can cause:
- Stomach ache
- Excessive saliva
- Nausea and vomiting
- Seizures and muscle spasms
This is not the result of drinking tap water. This is only possible in cases of accidental drinking water contamination, such as fire or industrial explosion. Keep in mind that a lot of harmful substances in large quantities but help in small amounts.
Flouride Contained in Products
Fluoride is in a lot of water supplies, and this material is added to drinking water in many countries.
Fluoride is also used in dental products, including:
- Cement and fillings
- Gels and mouthwash
- Some thread brands
- Fluoride supplements, recommended in areas where water does not contain fluoride
Non-dental fluoride sources include:
- Drugs containing perfluorinated compounds
- Food and beverages made with water containing fluoride
- Waterproof and stain items with PFC
Excessive exposure to fluoride can come from:
- Fluoridation of public water
- High concentration of fluoride in natural fresh water
- Fluoride mouthwash or toothpaste
- Untested bottled water
- Improper use of fluoride supplements
- Some food
Not all fluoride exposure is due to adding chemicals to water and dental products. Some geographical areas have naturally high fluoride drinking water, for example, southern Asia, the eastern Mediterranean, and Africa.
Dosage of Fluoride in Drinking Water
The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) sets the optimal level of fluoride to prevent tooth decay at 0.7 ppm, or 0.7 milligrams (mg) in every liter of water. The previous figure, valid from 1962 to 2015, is 0.7 to 1.2 ppm. In 2015, it was revised to the lower limit. The aim of this optimal level is to promote public health.
Another case for the World Health Organization (WHO) notes that long-term exposure to drinking water containing more than 1.5 ppm of fluoride can cause health problems. The WHO guideline limit is 1.5 ppm.
While the Environmental Protection Agenc y (EPA) aims to protect people from excessive exposure to toxic chemicals. This regulates the maximum permissible level at 4 ppm, and the secondary maximum level at 2 ppm. People are asked to notify EPA if the level is above 2 ppm. Levels above 4 ppm can be dangerous.