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December 08, 2008



Though I'm not completely current with the research, I think you might be a little bit paranoid, here. That's not to say that "fluoride" is always good, but there are three major chemicals that go by that name, and--as far as I know--only one is really unhealthy. If they were all unhealthy, we'd all be dead.

First and simplest is fluorine gas. It's highly reactive and poisonous if you get a lungful, like chemically-similar chlorine, but unless you're etching glass for a living (where hydrofluoric acid is used), it's unlikely that you're ever going to see more than the tiniest trace of the stuff.

Second is calcium fluoride. That's the natural material (as your report mentioned--I believe it was the tea manufacturer) and is one of the most common chemicals on the Earth's surface. You can assume it's harmless for the same reason you can assume that sand or nitrogen gas is harmless--there's so much of it that it's unavoidable. I'd guess that just about everything you touch or eat has some calcium fluoride in or on it.

Then there's the biggie, actually two related materials, fluorosilic acid and sodium fluorosilicate. They're waste products in the production of aluminum and (for the soda drinkers) phosphoric acid.

That's the stuff that's linked to metabolic (including thyroid), excretory (kidney in particular), neurological, and bone and tooth problems outside that narrow age window. It's also, yes, used as rat poison (though the amount that's fatal to humans is enormous) as well as a major component (remember those neurological problems?) of Sarin and Prozac. I'm not a biochemist, by any means, but I suspect it's also the reason for the aluminum/Alzheimer's scare a few years back.

So, that stuff's highly toxic, but to answer your question about why it's so widespread, a 1930s ALCOA study found that children (only) aged five through nine had fewer cavities with fluoride treatments. By campaigning for treatment by water, they turned toxic garbage to be hauled away into an expensive side product.

I'd recommend worrying less about the calcium fluoride in your tea (which, again, is going to be in everything) than the sodium fluoride in farming irrigation water. As you point out, we don't have any on Long Island, which is great. But I doubt that even the most meticulous shopper doesn't get all his or her food locally.

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