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Water is currently our main dietary source of fluoride – but there’s very little hard evidence to suggest that this naturally-occurring mineral is good for us.
While municipal water treatment reduces a broad range of contaminants in drinking water, there are still trace contaminants remaining. Fluoride is one of them. Some states even fluoridate water – that is, add fluoride to our drinking water source – and there’s been a growing controversy about this decision for decades.
Many people have voiced their concerns about the potential health effects that arise from drinking fluoridated water. Issues with fertility, thyroid disease, arthritis, gastrointestinal disease, and even cancer have arisen – but fluoride remains in our water today.
Luckily, if you hate the idea of putting something potentially harmful in your body, there are means of effectively removing fluoride from your water. In this guide, I’ll be discussing the filtration solutions that will effectively remove fluoride from drinking water – and those that don’t work, so you won’t waste your money on the wrong thing.
🤔 Why Does Tap Water Have Fluoride?
The main reason that so many states have added fluoride to water is that, in dental science, it has proven effective in preventing cavities, thus helping to maintain and improve oral health.
Tooth decay is a big problem in the US, and there are many fluoride toothpastes and mouthwashes that are designed to enter the tooth enamel, where fluoride works with calcium and phosphate to defend teeth against the formation of cavities. But these toothpastes and mouthwashes aren’t designed for swallowing, like drinking water is.
In states that use schemes for adding fluoride to water, water fluoride levels are lower than those in toothpaste and mouthwash. The idea of these schemes is to protect the teeth of the population and help to collectively cut down on dental visits and costs associated with treatment for cavities and tooth decay.
🩺 Potential Health Risks of Fluoride
Though there is science linked to the benefits of fluoride, there are also plenty of potential health risks that come from exposing ourselves to fluoride in drinking water at home. The available information about fluoridation of water is frustratingly limited, so most information that follows is based on emerging evidence. It is best to do your own research if you’re keen to learn more about whether your specific region may be adding fluoride to your water source.
According to Fluoride Alert, fluoride is recognized as a neurotoxin, which means it may damage the brain. Hundreds of studies have linked prolonged fluoride exposure to brain damage, reduced intelligence, reduced ability to learn and remember, and reduced IQ, especially in children. Studies on pregnant women have even found a link between fluoridation and impaired fetal development.
When higher levels of fluoride accumulate in the bones, it can result in something known as skeletal fluorosis. This serious condition results from ingesting excess fluoride during the years of bone growth. Joint pain and stiffness are early symptoms of skeletal fluorosis, which can result in mineralization of tendons, muscle impairment and pain.
Dental fluorosis is a common cosmetic condition that’s characterized by discolored, stained teeth. It results from excessive fluoride exposure in children and babies (typically throughout the first 8 years of their life). Interestingly, those with dental fluorosis have a particularly high resistance to cavities – and while this is undoubtedly a good thing, the enamel discoloration caused by the condition looks unsightly. Many people with fluorosis resort to spending hundreds of dollars on cosmetic treatment to remedy the appearance of their teeth.
Water fluoridation is thought to interfere with the functioning of the thyroid gland, because it mimics the behavior of the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). This may result in thyroid cell death, inflammation, and conditions such as hyperthyroidism, especially when coupled with iodine deficiency. Because the body mistakenly recognizes fluoride as iodine, it may absorb it into tissues, which can lead to toxicity.
Additional Potential Issues
The American Cancer Society examined research and studies looking at a potential link between water fluoridation and cancer. Osteosarcoma is a type of cancer that is most commonly associated with fluoride, and some studies found that drinking fluoridated water may put people at a higher risk of the disease, while some studies couldn’t find any solid evidence.
✅ How to Remove Fluoride from Water
Keen to learn how to remove fluoride from water? There are multiple whole house and point-of-use solutions, and I’ve highlighted the most common ones below.
Reverse Osmosis Filters
Reverse osmosis water filtration is one of the most popular ways to greatly reduce fluoride from drinking water. While the average water filter system might not be capable of removing fluoride, which is quite a difficult mineral to eliminate, reverse osmosis is thorough enough to get the job done well.
In a reverse osmosis filtration system, several water filters and a semi-permeable membrane are used to remove more than 99.9% of TDS (total dissolved solids), and contaminants like chlorine, bacteria and viruses, VOCs, heavy metals and pesticides, from a water supply. Reverse osmosis systems are usually installed beneath a kitchen sink.
When tap water is forced through the reverse osmosis membrane at a high pressure, only water particles can pass through the membrane’s tiny pores. The impurities in water, which are larger in size (fluoride is one of them), are emptied down a drain at a constant rate, which results in only clean, healthy drinking water passing out of the system.
A water distiller system is another one of the highly effective ways to remove fluoride from drinking water. This type of filtration system can usually be set up in a matter of minutes on a kitchen countertop and requires electricity to operate.
Fluoridated water is added to the boiling chamber in the system, which boils the water and causes it to evaporate. Water then condenses, and the water droplets produced pass down a spout and fill up a clean pitcher. The majority of contaminants, including fluoride, can’t take on a gaseous form, which means they’re left behind in the boiling chamber. You can then clean out the boiling chamber to remove the contaminants.
Distiller systems are some of the most popular water products for removing pretty much every single harmful contaminant from water, like sodium, water hardness, and dissolved solids – though they can make water taste a little flat as they remove the beneficial minerals too.
Activated Alumina Filters
Activated alumina filters are commonly used to remove high levels of fluoride in a public water supply. In some states, this mineral is found in high quantities in natural groundwater, and is considered too high for consumption.
You can use an activated alumina filter to tackle fluoride in drinking water in your home, and this type of filter is effective enough to remove approximately 90% of the mineral. But for this filter to work, you need a relatively slow water flow and low pH. You’ll also need to replace the filter cartridge regularly if you want it to effectively remove fluoride from water in the long run.
This type of filter can sometimes be installed as an inline filter in your home, but it may also need to be connected up to an existing filtration system, so make sure you know what you’re buying before you spend your money.
Bone Charcoal Carbon Filters
Bone char charcoal is one of the oldest means of fluoride removal from a public water supply. It can remove fluoride up to 90%, and is more efficient than reverse osmosis, as it doesn’t waste water during filtration.
Bone char is made using a careful process that enhances the adsorption ability of the charcoal. Generally, these char filters are added to a larger filtration system that can remove not only a large amount of fluoride, but also a broad range of contaminants from a water supply, including chlorine and lead.
Again, make sure you have the means of installing this type of charcoal filter, especially if it’s designed to be installed on larger filter systems, before you make a purchase.
⚠️ Drinking Water Purification Methods Not Effective for Fluoride
Simple Activated Carbon Filters
Not all types of carbon filters will effectively solve your fluoride issue at home. If you use a simple AC filter, this won’t be able to absorb the mineral, and isn’t recommended if you’re looking to get the best benefits from a fluoride removal filter system.
Does Boiling Water Remove Fluoride?
You now know that distillers use boiling, evaporation and condensation to produce the best-quality fluoride-free water. So you may well be wondering whether you can perform your own distillation in your free time at home.
Unfortunately, however, the process of simply boiling water can’t be used to eliminate fluoride. All that will happen is that the fluoride will have a higher concentration, resulting in fluoride salt.
You can, however, distill your own water, providing you copy the distillation process carefully. It’s important that water is evaporated and condensed for distillation to work. You can make your own distilled water without a distillation system – you just place a large pot over a stovetop burner, fill it a third full with water, then add a smaller pot inside the large pot. Heat the water on medium heat and place an upside-down lid on top of the pot. The water will evaporate, then trickle down to the middle of the lid, where it will drop into the smaller pot.
Should I Remove Fluoride From Water?
Though drinking water sources don’t contain a large amount of fluoride, according to some evidence, it may still be enough to negatively affect your health. For many people, this evidence is enough to put them off drinking public water entirely and search for a fluoride-free solution.
If you’re currently spending hundreds of dollars a month on bottled water for your family because you’re concerned about tap water fluoride intake, it’s worth considering one of the water products mentioned on this list for producing fluoride-free water.
You’ll be able to save money by drinking pure water directly from the water supply in your home, and you’ll have peace of mind that you’re looking after the health of yourself and your children. While you may well still enjoy fluoride’s oral health benefits by using fluoride toothpaste or mouthwash, you’ll know that you won’t be consuming it in your water.