It was discovered in 1937 that high consumption of fluoride is harmful when Nalgonda (in Hyderabad) witnessed the first cases of fluorosis in India.
Since then, various cases of Fluorosis have been observed in India and across the world.
If you have ever visited in ruler parts of India, you might have seen children with tobacco-like stains on their teeth. You may also have seen children as well as adults with bent knees and shoulders.
It may have occurred due to the toxic environment or malnutrition.
But it seems strange that clear looking water with no taste and odour can also cause such problems.
Thanks to the fluoride-contaminated water!
Fluoride drinking water directly affects the health of children as well as adults.
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Some Facts About Fluoride
- Fluoride comes from fluorine. Fluoride is found naturally in groundwater, soil and food.
- Fluoride is used in pesticides, Public water supply to kill bacteria present in water, in toothpaste and mouthwashes to protect the teeth.
- Too much fluoride can lead to various health issues like tooth problems, bones and joints diseases.
- Not all fluoride exposure occurs due to adding fluorine in drinking water and dental products.
In some areas, drinking water is naturally high in fluoride.
Health Risks of Fluorides
Excessive intake of fluoride causes many health issues as under:
Fluorosis is a crippling disease that occurs when fluorides get deposited in hard and soft tissues of the body. It is of two types:
This type of fluorosis occurs mostly during childhood when children have milk teeth (up to 6 years).
When children are exposed to high concentration of fluoride, it forms tiny white specks on the tooth enamel. It also changes the colour of the teeth.
However, you will not find this problem in children above 8 years of age. Because by the age of 8, most kids have a set of permanent teeth.
It affects the bones and joints of the body like the neck, backbone, shoulder, hip and knees. It results in severe pain and stiffness in the joints.
It may cause calcium disorders in the body such as Rickets, Osteoporosis, etc. It weakens and softens the bones. Due to this, the bones become susceptible to fractures.
Hands, limbs and back are affected the most by fluorosis.
Excess fluoride damages the parathyroid glands. There is an uncontrolled secretion of parathyroid hormones. It depletes the calcium in the bones.
Exposure to fluoride before birth can lead to poor mental health in the future. According to a study, higher levels of fluoride intake by the expecting mothers may lower the IQ of the offspring.
Accidental contamination of drinking water with fluoride can cause:
- Abdominal Pain
- Nausea and Vomiting
- Excessive Saliva
Fluorosis increases the requirement of calcium in the body.
It also decreases the capacity of the body to absorb iron, which causes Anaemia.
It affects pregnant women more than others and results in the birth of an underweight child.
Fluorosis in India
Nalgonda, a district in Telangana is called India’s fluorosis capital.
Rajasthan, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Madhya Pradesh are the worst affected states.
The disease is more prevalent in rural India.
States like Haryana, Punjab, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Assam are mildly affected by the disease.
In Haryana and Punjab, Groundwater Pollution is the main cause of high salt content in water.
How Much Fluoride Does WHO Allow?
According to the WHO’s guidelines, more than 1.5 mg/litre of fluoride in water can cause health problems.
How Can We Deal With the Problem?
Detection of the Disease
The very first step is to detect the disease.
The instruments like Ion electrode measure the fluoride level accurately.
But you can test the fluorine content in water using a simple Water Quality Testing Kit. It is easy to use and is not very expensive.
Find Safer Sources of Water
The idea is to create a public awareness of water quality. You can always find nearby sources of water which are free from fluoride.
A balanced diet full of nutrition can help to prevent fluorosis. Include calcium-rich green vegetables, milk, eggs and anti-oxidants like amla, lemon, spinach, etc. in your diet.
More can be done to deal with the problem by purification of water.
Activated alumina and Reverse Osmosis (RO) removes fluoride and Heavy Metals in Drinking Water. It also balances pH Level of Water.
You can store rainwater directly from the rooftops. It is free from fluorine.
Some Easy Tips to Deal With Fluorosis
- Avoid too much intake of processed foods as it contains fluorides.
- Increase the iodine intake to negate the fluoride content in the body.
- Carbon filters or boiling of water does not remove the fluorine from water completely. RO water filter is the best option which also adjusts TDS Level in the Water.
- According to dentists, using a fluoride-based toothpaste is good for dental health. You need to make sure that your child does not swallow the toothpaste as it can affect the health.
- Add a few leaves of ‘Tulsi’ or Basil plant to the water to reduce the fluoride content.
- Use stainless steel vessels for cooking instead of the Teflon-coated ones.
- Tamarind Tea is an excellent detoxifier for removing fluorine from the body.
Excess intake or exposure with any substance is harmful.
And, prevention is always better than cure.
An early detection and preventing the causes is the best way to tackle any health issue.
If we look away, doing nothing to deal with this health issue, we are to lose! Let’s act now.