One mineral that is commonly found in drinking water that’s almost always looked at positively is fluoride. That’s because every time a person goes to brush their teeth, they pick up a tube of toothpaste and read about the benefits of fluoride for oral health.
Take it from me, a pool water chemistry expert with over 26-years of keeping water sparkling clean, you may want to look at fluoride in drinking water a little differently. That’s because if ingested in high amounts over time it can be a very concerning mineral.
That’s why I want to talk to you about how fluoride gets into your drinking water, how that can impact you and the health of your loved ones, and how to remove fluoride from water if you find it present in high concentrations.
Fluoride toxicity is not something that you want to factor into your health. You don’t have to with the many water filtration system options that are available that can remove it from your drinking water.
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Why Does Tap Water Have Fluoride?
Fluoride is a naturally occurring compound that is ionic. It’s derived from the single most reactive element fluorine. It’s among the most commonly found minerals on earth. Naturally occurring fluoride is the 13th most commonly found mineral to be exact.
One of its most often found forms is that of calcium fluoride (fluoride salts).
It’s present in just about everything including plants, air, soil, rocks, and many foods. Because of this, there are almost always at least traces of it in both sea and freshwater sources.
That’s why it should come to you as no surprise that there may be traces of it in your drinking water. What may come as a surprise is if you find that you have a high concentration of fluoride in your tap water. Something that most likely has nothing to do with any natural processes.
So where does excess fluoride in drinking water come from?
The number one source of high fluoride concentrations comes from community water fluoridation.
That’s because a municipal water supply may add fluoride as a way to help prevent tooth decay. Water fluoridation is a practice that first started way back in the 1940s.
The CDC estimates that over 200 million homes across the country (roughly 73%) are served by municipal water facilities that fluoridate water during treatment.
That means if you are on city-supplied water there is a good chance that your water has a higher-than-normal level of fluoride in it.
It is not believed that fluoridated water has a high enough fluoride consumption level that it causes the most significant forms of skeletal fluorosis.
That is attributed to situations where soils have an extremely high natural fluoride content (many places in Africa) and erosion causes them to leech into nearby aquifers and other water sources.
Forest fires and some industrial processes can also lead to higher levels of fluoride contamination in nearby water sources.
Since it’s so commonly found in tap water, you definitely want to learn how to remove fluoride from water.
Risks of Consuming Too Much Fluoride
What I am about to tell you may make you think twice before you brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste.
Although I wouldn’t worry about that too much because you swallow very little fluoride each time that you brush your teeth, the information that I am about to give you should make you at least consider testing your water to make sure there are no high concentrations of fluoride in it.
The biggest risk associated with excess fluoride exposure is called fluorosis. A concerning health condition that comes in two forms.
Dental fluorosis that attacks the teeth and skeletal fluorosis that impacts bones. Cases of dental fluorosis that affect the teeth are more common and the mildest of the two forms.
Dental fluorosis can cause everything from white spots on teeth to brown stains and weakened teeth.
Skeletal fluorosis is a disease that results from fluoride starting to accumulate in bones over time. Stiffness and joint pain are early signs of it and in more severe cases it causes the bone structure to change and the calcification of ligaments.
People with this condition also tend to break bones easier.
It must be noted that it takes excessive amounts of fluoride intake over a long time to get the more severe form of Skeletal fluorosis; so, it would be uncommon for excessive fluoride exposure to take place from municipal fluoridated water sources.
Health and human services departments also strictly regulate fluoride numbers in municipal water sources.
It’s also believed that excess fluoride in the body can be linked to Osteosarcoma (a rare type of bone cancer) and can hinder brain development. Thyroid problems have a possible link to too much fluoride intake also.
As a water chemistry professional, I am not sure why they even add fluoride to water anymore since it’s found in just about every tube of toothpaste that’s sold and you don’t need that much of it to protect your teeth.
Before you can learn how to remove fluoride from water, you first must test for its presence in your water supply.
So, how do you test your water for fluoride? Keep in mind that as was discussed, the biggest source of fluoride in tap water comes from municipalities that add it to the water that passes through its treatment facilities.
So, if you are on city water that testing may have already been done for you. You can simply call up your city office or water treatment facility and ask them for a copy of the latest water report.
Some municipalities will even post their water testing results on their websites each month.
If you prefer to test your water for fluoride yourself, you can do this with a home test kit or by professional lab analysis. Home testing is done through the simple use of test strips which produce quick results.
A good home fluoride test kit is this 16 in 1 Drinking Water Test Kit from Hofun. It will test for 15 other concerning water impurities too.
Lab analysis does not produce results as fast as home test kits but the results are much more accurate. These are also very easy to use because you just order a kit online, fill the sample vials that come in the kit, and then ship them to the lab in the provided prepaid envelope.
We at Water Tech Advice regard the Tap Score products as being among the best professional lab water testing choices.
We have taken the time to review the best water testing kits and many of them include chlorine as one of the impurities they can identify the presence of.
How to Remove Fluoride from Water
If you tested your tap water and it’s found to have a very high level of fluoride in it, there are several methods that you can choose to remove fluoride from your drinking water. Keep in mind it is one of the toughest minerals to remove from water.
Our site has even come up with a list of the best fluoride filters for you to choose from. Every water filtration system on that list is very good at removing the large majority of the fluoride that passes through them.
I will also quickly go over with you the best types of filter media for removing fluoride.
Reverse Osmosis Systems (RO)
Although reverse osmosis water filters do not remove 97% to 99% of fluoride like it does many other common water contaminants, these filtration systems still remove around 85% to 93% of the fluoride that tries to pass through them.
This combined with the high number of other contaminants these water filters remove makes quality reverse osmosis systems my choice for fluoride removal.
Reverse osmosis filters do have a somewhat high initial cost and are mostly installed as point-of-use water filtration devices, so they do not filter fluoride out of all of the water that comes into your home.
I don’t feel anyone can go wrong by adding a reverse osmosis filter near their kitchen sink and it’s an excellent way to produce fluoride free water.
You will see later on in this article that boiling water alone does not remove fluoride. But if you take that one step further with a complete distillation sequence then mission accomplished.
Distillation removes 99% or more of the fluoride from drinking water that is treated this way.
The biggest drawback to it is it takes some time and only produces small quantities of purified water at one time. It also tends to produce bland tasting water as all of the minerals are removed from it.
See the best water distillers here.
Dedicated Fluoride Filters (Activated Alumina and Bone Charcoal)
Activated alumina and bone charcoal are filter types that will remove up to 90% of the fluoride from the water that passes through them.
They are most commonly found on larger scale fluoride removal situations such as those used at municipal water treatment plants, but there are some made for home use also.
The advantage that you get from using these types of dedicated fluoride filters is that they do not waste nearly as much water as distillation and reverse osmosis do. Their major drawback is these do not remove as many other water contaminants as distillation and reverse osmosis systems.
Filtration Methods That Don’t Remove Fluoride
Here are some water purification methods that don’t significantly reduce the amount of fluoride found in household water:
Activated Carbon Filtration
It’s a shame that carbon filters do not remove fluoride because it’s one of the most widely used forms of water filtration. Just because it does not remove fluoride does not mean that it is not an excellent filter media. That’s why many quality water filtration systems contain one or more carbon-based filter stages.
Boiling water is one of the oldest ways of removing impurities from it. Unfortunately, fluoride is not one of the contaminants that it eliminates. There is even some evidence to suggest that fluoride concentration may get higher with boiling as some of the water content is lost during the process.
Should I Remove Fluoride from Water?
When I ponder a question like this, I prefer to think of things in terms of ‘why not’ as opposed to ‘should I’.
I am not going to harp on any sayings like ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’ but that does somewhat apply when you are talking about water filtration and your health.
Would I purchase a dedicated fluoride filter for this purpose?
No, not just for the reason that fluoride is added into my city’s water supply.
I would only consider this if testing revealed unusually high concentrations of fluoride in my water. That would occur more often with well water because city water is tightly regulated for fluoride levels.
For removing fluoride from city water my choice would be to add a reverse osmosis system.
That would give me not only some peace of mind that I am protected from excess fluoride intake but also from the hundreds of other water contaminants that these types of filters remove.