Fluoride can have many effects on human health. Fluoride can affect bone and teeth, causing potentially permanent harm. For example, bone homeostasis can be disturbed due to excessive amounts of fluoride consumption, known as skeletal fluorosis. Additionally, dental/enamel fluorosis can occur which is enamel development being disrupted by fluoride.
Fluoride is a mineral compound that is made up of the element fluorine and another substance, often a metal. Some fluorides can occur naturally and can be found in soil, air, or water. The way Fluoride travels through the body once consumed is the bloodstream. Through the digestive tract, Fluorides are absorbed into the blood and often, they build up in areas of the body with a large amount of calcium such as the bones and teeth.
Fluoride can be found all around nature such as soil, plants, food, and water. However, the amount of fluoride varies and is often very low. The fluoride that is consumed by most humans is derived from water that had fluoride added to it (fluoridated water), foods and beverages that were cooked or made with fluoridated water, and dental products containing fluoride (toothpaste, mouth rinse, fluoride gels).
Fluoride can be harmful and dangerous for human consumption. Since long-term exposure to high levels of fluoride can cause skeletal fluorosis (fluoride build-up in the bones), the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set a maximum amount of 4.0mg of fluoride allowed in the water we drink. However, as long as the guidelines of fluoride consumption set by the Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) are not exceeded, there will not be any health risks or danger associated with fluoride consumption.
Most adults ingest about 2.9mg of fluoride every day, while those aged 11-14 years old ingest about 2.4mg and those aged 4-11 years old ingest about 2.2mg. The Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) has stated that adult males should have about 4 mg of fluoride and adult females should have 3mg of fluoride. If these guidelines of fluoride consumption are exceeded, there may be adverse health effects such as dental fluorosis which is chronic and happens when too much fluoride is ingested while the teeth are developing.
Most of the worries around the connection between fluoride and cancer stems around osteosarcoma, a type of dangerous bone cancer, because fluoride often collects in the parts of bones that are still developing. Therefore, there are multiple theories on fluoridation affecting the risk of osteosarcoma. For example, a theory states that fluoride can make the cells in the growth plate of the bone grow at a quicker rate, putting them at a higher risk of becoming cancerous cells. However, there has been no concrete evidence that undoubtedly proves the connection between fluoride or fluoridation and different types of cancer.
Many studies that were conducted on this link had too many factors that were too difficult to control such as the groups being tested and other causes of cancer.
There are multiple ways to avoid fluoride consumption to avoid exceeding the limit of safe human consumption. For example, buying a water filter or purchasing spring water would avoid the intake of fluoridated water, which is often the largest daily source of fluoride for most individuals. Another way to avoid fluoride is to purchase fluoride-free toothpaste and dental products. Dental products are one of the most commonly-used sources of fluoride in our daily lives. Children are especially at risk of diseases caused by fluoride, since they often swallow toothpaste that is filled with fluoride, putting them at risk for dental fluorosis. Therefore, it is recommended to use non-fluoride dental products such as toothpaste and mouth rinse in order to prevent the risk.