So by now, you may have decided where you stand on fluoride, and the debate that surrounds fluoridating community water supplies. But how, exactly, is fluoride added or removed from the water?
First of all, adding fluoride is much easier than removing it. Essentially, a water district will add fluoride (usually in the form of fluorosilicic acid, sodium fluorosilicate, or sodium fluoride) to a large drum of water called a saturator tank. When the water is saturated with fluoride, it is distributed into the water supply at the levels deemed fit.
Removing fluoride is a bit trickier. Most standard water filters will not impact the fluoride concentration in water, because they are charcoal-based (which don't trap any and all chemicals). And don't bother with the old boiling trick; fluoride will cheerfully stay in the hot tub. Reverse osmosis and distillation filters will remove fluoride, and the CDC recommends you purchase a American National Standards Institute (ANSI) certified unit that's been tested for effective fluoride removal.
Unfortunately, cost of reverse osmosis and distillation techniques can be prohibitive to individuals, and is not necessarily effective for an entire community water supply. As the World Health Organization puts it, "the preferred option is to find a supply of safe drinking-water with safe fluoride levels" [source: WHO].
If you can't get enough of fluoride -- or are concerned you're getting too much -- read on to discover lots more information about fluoride and the debate that surrounds it.
- Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry. "ToxFAQsâ„¢ for Fluorine, Hydrogen Fluoride, and Fluorides." March 3, 2011. (September 1, 2011) http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaqs/tf.asp?id=211&tid=38
- American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. "Enamel Fluorosis." 2011. (September 1, 2011) http://www.aapd.org/publications/brochures/fluorosis.asp
- American Cancer Society. "Water Fluoridation and Cancer Risk." November 3, 2010. (September 1, 2011) http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/CancerCauses/OtherCarcinogens/AtHome/water-fluoridation-and-cancer-risk
- American Dental Association. "Fluoride and Fluoridation." 2011. (September 1, 2011) http://www.ada.org/fluoride.aspx
- American Dental Association. "Fluoride Facts." 2005. (September 1, 2011) http://www.ada.org/sections/newsAndEvents/pdfs/fluoridation_facts.pdf
- British Dental Health Foundation. "Fluoride." 2010. (September 1, 2011) http://www.dentalhealth.org/tell-me-about/topic/sundry/fluoride
- Canadian Dental Association. "Fluoride FAQs." 2011. (September 1, 2011) http://www.cda-adc.ca/en/oral_health/faqs_resources/faqs/fluoride_faqs.asp
- Centers for Disease Control. "Achievements in Public Health, 1900-1999: Fluoridation of Drinking Water to Prevent Dental Caries." October 22, 1999. (September 1, 2011) http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm4841a1.htm
- Centers for Disease Control. "Community Water Fluoridation." 2011. (September 1, 2011) http://www.cdc.gov/fluoridation/index.htm
- Environmental Protection Agency. "Basic Information about Fluoride in Drinking Water." July 1, 2011. (September 1, 2011) http://water.epa.gov/drink/contaminants/basicinformation/fluoride.cfm
- Environmental Protection Agency. "Questions and Answers on Fluoride." January 2011. (September 1, 2011) http://water.epa.gov/lawsregs/rulesregs/regulatingcontaminants/sixyearreview/upload/2011_Fluoride_QuestionsAnswers.pdf
- Fluoride Action Network. "Home." 2011. (September 9, 2011) http://www.fluoridealert.org/
- Gower, Timothy. "The Danger in Your Water." Prevention Magazine. June 19, 2006. (September 1, 2011) http://www.prevention.com/health/health/healthy-living/the-danger-in-your-water/article/319972e50d803110VgnVCM10000013281eac____
- MedLine Plus. "Dental Cavities." February 2, 2010. (September 1, 2011) http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001055.htm
- National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial. "Story of Fluoridation." March 25, 2011. (September 1, 2011) http://www.nidcr.nih.gov/oralhealth/topics/fluoride/thestoryoffluoridation.htm
- Oulis, C.J. et al. "European Academy of Pediatric Dentistry." 2000. (September 1, 2011) http://nuke.aisopalermo.it/Portals/0/EAPD_Guidelines-Fluorides.pdf
- Pollick, Howard F. "Water Fluoridation and the Environment: Current Perspective in the United States." International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health. Vol. 10, no. 3, page 343. Sept. 2004. http://www.cdc.gov/fluoridation/pdf/pollick.pdf
- Ray, Barry. "Researcher develops accurate method for detecting dangerous fluoride." Florida State University. December 9, 2010. (September 1, 2011) http://www.fsu.com/News-Archive/2010/December/Researcher-develops-accurate-method-for-detecting-dangerous-fluoride
- Sammamish Plateau Water and Sewer District. "Frequently Asked Questions--Fluoride." 2010. (September 1, 2011) http://www.sammplat.wa.org/faq-fluoride.asp#how
- UNICEF. "Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene." January 27, 2006. (September 1, 2011) http://www.unicef.org/wash/index_water_quality.html
- World Health Organization. "Water-related diseases." 2011. (September 1, 2011) http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/diseases/fluorosis/en/
Toothpaste has a long, strange history. Check it out with HowStuffWorks.