September 14, 2005

Chemistry Explained : Fluorine

Doctor Lenny is a chemist by training and a philosopher by design. He thinks about things and does not allow prevailing opinion to interfere with his methods. Science cannot be done by consensus. In thinking about all the elements and how they are distributed, it strikes the doc that we have an absolute dependence on more elements that are readily available in our local environments. So how do elements migrate through the food chain to get where they need to be?

In order to promote science and to replace the late Carl Sagan as a voice that people recognize that represents knowledge and truth for its own sake, Doctor Lenny will start a weekly article series featuring the chemistry of one element from the periodic table. We start tonite with Flourine - Element number nine. The form with one extra electron, fluoride, is added to drinking water. Tonight, Doctor Lenny asks - why?

Fluoridation - Deserving of a closer look?

XXXThere are always two sides to every coin and many times, it becomes difficult to tell heads from tails. Information collected must be taken with a grain of salt - sources need be considered and when conflicts occur - follow the money. Recently, there has been a further push to have communities fluoridate their water supplies. A note on the internet correlating fluoridation with school violence coincided with a local forum on fluoridation presented by a state health official and a local dentist. The major question that needs to be resolved is - what is the physiological effect of fluoride on human development? A few hours of research have not come close to answering that question - but it has lead to a wealth of useful information.
XXXFluorine is an element that belongs to the halogen family. The overwhelming desire of a fluorine molecule is to add a single electron and become the fluoride ion. This negatively charged anion binds to positive charged metal cations to create a form of salt. Fluoride salts are very soluble in water and the fluoride ion has been shown to bind with calcium to make the very strong compound calcium fluoride, CaF2 ,which make the enamel layer of teeth tougher. The American Dental Association has endorsed community water fluoridation since 1950 and has sponsored research that shows that 'optimal levels of fluoride does not harm people or the environment.' (1)
XXXSome beg to differ. A search of the term fluoridation on an internet search engine brings up a myriad of sites. One site details the origins of the fluoride ion used for community fluoridation - the compound sodium fluoride. The label of sodium fluoride containers says corrosive poison in large red letters. In fact, the FDA ranks fluoride ions as a 4.5 on their 6-point toxin scale. Commercial sodium fluoride also contains arsenic and lead ions in measurable amount. The dental lobby recommends 1 part per million of fluoride ion as the optimal amount.
XXXHowever, fluoride ion accumulates in foods. Vegetables cooked in fluoridated water collect more fluoride ions. The dental industry already supplies fluoride to willing consumers in the form of toothpaste - why do they wish to turn an optional poison into a mandatory one? Look at the source of the fluoride ion. This fluorine originates as a by-product of several types of industrial production - examples include the fertilizer industry, the aluminum smelting industry, and the nuclear power industry. It would be very interesting to pursue the correlation between these industries and the fluoride safety studies from the 30's and 40's, then later in the 70's, when fluoridation became a hot issue.
XXXFluoride is also a known enzyme inhibitor, a substance that causes biological catalysts to cease their proper function. As the concentration of fluoride increases, the potential for harmful effects also increases. In Oregon,people are very concerned about the recovery of salmonoid fish species. A study provided by the Oregonians for Safe Drinking Water sites a level of 0.2 milligram/Liter as having a lethal effect on salmon. (2) How can that be when salmon live in the ocean, which has a natural fluoride abundance of 1.0 milligram/Liter? The fresh water salmon component is mostly smolts and juvenile fish, except during spawning periods. Developmental biology is quite different from adult physiology, and the young of a species are much more susceptible to lower levels of biologically active compounds. This preliminary research did not turn up data that would correlate fluoride with youth violence, or even data that would suggest that fluoride is a psychoactive agent. It did note some references that implied a link to certain forms of cancer, an allegation specifically denied at the local forum.
XXX The justification pushed forward by the health department was that overall community health takes precedence over individual risk - a position advocated by the US Supreme Court decisions to allow community fluoridation projects in the past. In today's information age, there is too much conflicting information presented. Science is used to demonstrate fact, based on the sponsor's preconception of that fact. Free exchange of scientific information is often held hostage by the patent process or the industry/academic/government entanglement over the pursuit of profit. The questions of the general safety of fluoride ions need to be answered by factual citations, rather than broad generalizations before another community is subjected to mass fluoridation oftheir drinking water supply.

(1) Water Fluoridation : Prevention … Natures Way - Oregon Health Division Center for Child and Family Health. (Pamphlet)
(2) Foulkes, RG & Anderson, AC - Impact of Artificial Fluoridation on SalmonSpecies in the Northwest USA and British Columbia, Canada. Fluoride Volume 27Number 4 (1994) p 220-226
(3) Websites : http:/ ; http:/ ; ; ;

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