Fluoride is a cumulative toxin, which means the more exposure you get, and the longer you get it, the worse your symptoms are likely to be. This is true even in areas where fluoride levels occur in water naturally. Fluoridation advocates often use this to support its safety. However, naturally occurring substances are not automatically safe (think of arsenic, for instance).

Data from India’s Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry indicate that nearly 49 million people are living in areas where fluoride levels in water are above the permissible levels. The World Health Organization recommends fluoride levels in drinking water stay between 0.8 and 1.2 milligrams (mg) per liter, and do not exceed 1.5 mg per liter.

Exposure to levels above this amount may cause pitting of tooth enamel and fluoride deposits in your bones, while exposure to levels above 10 mg per liter may cause crippling skeletal fluorosis, as well as abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, seizures and muscle spasms. It’s not only naturally occurring fluoride that can lead to high levels in your water, however.

In one Australian town in 2013, a suspected electrical fault allowed fluoride levels to reach nearly double the guideline amount in local drinking water. The levels may have remained elevated around 2.8 mg per liter for several days. If fluoride exposure is high enough, it can cause irreparable damage to your body. Skeletal fluorosis goes through three stages, which makes sense given fluoride’s cumulative toxicity. According to the Fluoride Action Network (FAN), symptoms of early stage skeletal fluorosis include:

  • Burning, prickling, and tingling in your limbs
  • Muscle weakness
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Reduced appetite and weight loss

The second clinical stage of skeletal fluorosis is characterized by:

  • Stiff joints and/or constant pain in your bones; brittle bones; and osteosclerosis
  • Anemia
  • Calcification of tendons, or ligaments of ribs and pelvis
  • Osteoporosis in the long bones
  • Bony spurs may also appear on your limb bones, especially around your knee, elbow, and on the surface of tibia and ulna

In advanced skeletal fluorosis (called crippling skeletal fluorosis), your extremities become weak and moving your joints difficult, and your vertebrae partially fuse together, effectively crippling you. Does this still sound like a substance you want intentionally added to your drinking water or ignore its presence.

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