In the first part of our “Many Layers of Fluoride Controversy” series, we discussed how your health is impacted by fluoride. Here in Part II we will discuss the environmental and financial implications.
In the last several decades it seems that we human beings are just starting to realize that many of the practices we carry out on a massive scale have a drastic impact on the environment in which we live, often in unforeseen and unintended ways. Could fluoride be the next in a long line of pollutants that we’ve used to cause significant environmental damage before we fully understood what we were even doing?
In addition to the huge amount of fluoride that it takes to fluoridate a metropolitan water supply, there are thousands of dental offices and millions of homes using fluoride products on a daily basis. It seems reasonable to assume that this massive redistribution of fluoride is something that is unprecedented in nature. What is the effect of this stuff on the plants and animals around us? Where is all this fluoride coming from?
Most of the fluoride we consume comes from two different sources. The vast majority of the fluoride used in public water supplies is actually derived from the waste of various industrial processes, such as aluminum smelting. Pharmaceutical grade fluoride, which is found in most prescription and over-the-counter fluoride products, is typically derived from sulfur tetrafluoride, a dangerous gas of which hydrofluoric acid is a byproduct. So far it doesn’t sound like something we should be cavalierly putting on a fast track to all the world’s oceans, but how does fluoride actually impact the plants and animals with which we share our environment?
Aquatic invertebrates, one of the cornerstones of the global food chain, are probably the most susceptible to fluoride toxicity. Some are adversely affected by concentrations well below what is used to fluoridate drinking water. There is also ample evidence showing the toxic effect that fluoride has on plants when it becomes concentrated in the soil. Fluoride levels in natural water supplies already appear to be impacting the population of vital fish species, and many small birds and mammals display observable complications with relatively low levels of exposure. With fluoride having observable, negative effects on every category of the animal kingdom, it seems fair to classify it as an almost universally toxic substance. It is toxic enough, in fact, that the EPA has to regulate fluoride pollution by defining what the “safe” level of fluoride pollution is. Sadly, this “safe level” is determined rather arbitrarily.
As stated before, the question of fluoride consumption is every bit as much of a consumer decision as it is a public policy decision. All too often these days, we as consumers are put into the position of either making the right decision or the affordable one. We’ve established that there are alternatives we can use to obtain the same benefits that we get from fluoride, but what kind of options do we really have for consumer products that we can practically use on a regular basis?
Actually there are quite a few, and a departure from fluoride consumption is probably a far less financially difficult move than you would anticipate. Many products that use fluoride alternatives are very comparable in price to their fluoride-containing counterparts. As these products become more prominent in the industry, it stands to reason that their cost may decrease, as well.
Even for a family living on a tight budget, the price difference in switching to fluoride alternatives is negligible, if it exists at all. Plus, when put in context with long-term health and environmental implications, the overall cost of our mass fluoride saturation could prove quite great.
Check back with us next week for Part III in our three part series on fluoride, in which we will discuss the history and current state of fluoride-related politics.