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What’s in My Water: Fluoride

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Understanding what fluoride is and why it’s in our water is often a cloudy, confusing conversation. Most people are aware that their tap water (usually) has fluoride, but few know what “fluoride” actually means—or how it really impacts our children.

Fluoride in Drinking Water

Fluoride is a combo of the element fluorine and other minerals from rocks and soil. The EPA explains that some fluoride compounds dissolves in our ground water supply naturally, but other types of fluoride in our water come from fertilizers or factories. In some cases, the treatment plants add extra fluoride to our water…which raises a lot of questions.

Back in the 60s, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) thought up to 1.2 milligrams of fluoride per liter of water was acceptable. This was recommended level was based in part because fluoride ingestion was thought to help our teeth; but today, this notion of ingesting or drinking fluoride for better health is no longer the norm.

The DHHS finally recommended to lower fluoride levels to 0.7 milligrams per liter (or 0.7ppm) in April 2015. Because we regularly get fluoride from our toothpastes and mouth rinses, the health experts decided that any additional fluoride in our drinking water could actually cause a fluoride overload.

Concerns with Fluoride

Those opposed to fluoridation cite various side effects—especially related to children. The CDC explains that when younger children consume too much fluoride, they can develop dental fluorosis. Over-exposure to fluoride causes changes in tooth enamel and leaves scattered white spots, lines, or edges over the teeth. It’s strange but true: Fluoride in toothpaste can help prevent cavities, but fluoride in water can cause tooth discoloration!

Another case against fluoride refers to brain function. Studies from China repeatedly show that high fluoride levels can reduce IQ levels. Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health found “strong indications that fluoride may adversely affect cognitive development in children.” These findings make a strong argument for using fluoride topically (as with toothpaste) rather than swallowing fluoride in our water, and letting it reach all of our organs and tissues.

It’s encouraging that federal health officials are recommending fluoride intake be cut in our water, it’s still up to the states and counties to determine their own fluoride levels. (You can review your area’s stats on the CDC’s “My Water’s Fluoride” webpage.) Currently, the Indiana State Department of Health says 300 public water supplies fluoridate and 4.3 million Hoosiers receive fluoridated water—but short of changing fluoride standards for your region, you can still invest in clean, fluoride-free water for your family.

Home Water Filtration

When you remove fluoride, chlorine, and other impurities from your water the taste of your home’s drinking water dramatically improves. (It makes your water safer, too.) Simple carbon pitcher filters and other home water systems aren’t strong enough to remove fluoride. But a reverse osmosis system (also called an RO system) thoroughly filters your tap water so you’re only getting the healthiest, clearest drinking water.

We like RO water because it also takes care of the weird taste and smell of chlorine in our tap water. It even helps protect your water-using home appliances. If you have any other local Indy questions about “What’s in My Water,” just leave us a comment below! We’d be happy to answer your concerns in an upcoming post.

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