Fluorine is an essential trace mineral that is present in minute amounts in nearly every human tissue but is found primarily in the skeleton and teeth. Fluorine occurs in the body in compounds called fluorides. There are two types of fluorides: sodium fluoride is added to drinking water and is not the same as calcium fluoride, which is found in nature.
Recent research indicates that fluorine increases the deposition of calcium, thereby strengthening the bones. Fluorine also helps to reduce the formation of acid in the mouth caused by carbohydrates, thereby reducing the likelihood of decayed tooth enamel. Although traces of fluorine are beneficial to the body, excessive amounts are definitely harmful. Fluorine can destroy the enzyme phosphatase, which is vital to many body processes including the metabolism of vitamins. Fluorine inhibits the activities of other important enzymes and appears to be especially antagonistic toward brain tissues.
Fluoridated water supplies are by far the most common source of this mineral, although this form (sodium fluoride) may be toxic. Toxic levels occur when the content of fluorine in drinking water exceeds 2 parts per million. Calcium is an antidote for fluoride poisoning. Other rich sources of fluorine include seafoods, cheese, meat, and tea. The fluorine content in plant foods varies according to environmental conditions such as type of soil, intensity of prevailing winds, and use of fertilizers and sprays that contain fluorine.
Fluorine is absorbed primarily in the intestine, although some may be taken up by the stomach. I About 90 percent of ingested fluorine appears in the ibloodstream. Half of this is excreted in the urine,
and the other half is readily absorbed by the teeth bones.
Substances interfering with absorption include aluminum salts of fluorine and insoluble calcium.
An average diet will provide 0.25 to 0.35 milligram of fluorine daily. In addition, the average adult may ingest 1.0 to 1.5 milligrams from drinking and cooking water containing 1 part per million (ppm) of fluorine, ital fluorine may occur at fluoride concentrations '2 to 8 ppm; osteosclerosis, at 8 to 20 ppm. Higher levels can depress growth, cause calcification of the ligaments and tendons, and bring about degenerative iges in the kidneys, liver, adrenal glands, heart, central nervous system, and finally the reproductive is. Fatal poisoning can occur at 50 ppm, or 2500 times the recommended level. There are some areas in the United States where fluorine levels in the water are high and tooth mottling (enamel discoloration) is epidemic, and there are other areas where fluorine is not added to the water and dental decay is high.
Dr. Ionel Rapaport, a University of Wisconsin researcher, suggests that there is a direct relationship between the incidence of mongolism and fluoridated drinking water. Higher than average incidences of mongolism have been noted in areas where mottled teeth indicate an excess concentration of fluorides in the water.
Deficiency Effects and Symptoms
A diet deficient in fluorine may lead to poor tooth development and subsequent dental caries. Fluorine deficiencies are unusual in the American diet.
Beneficial Effect on Ailments
Fluorides have been used in the treatment and prevention of osteoporosis and dental caries. They have also been used to stop the loss of hearing that occurs in otosclerosis.