Fluoride in drinking water causing serious health problems, warns UN report

21 November 2006

Excessive amounts of fluoride in drinking water are exposing millions of people around the world to risks ranging from often crippling skeletal problems to milder dental conditions, according to a report released today by the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO).

Excessive amounts of fluoride in drinking water are exposing millions of people around the world to risks ranging from often crippling skeletal problems to milder dental conditions, according to a report released today by the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO).

The report, issued in Geneva, finds that the widespread effects of fluoride in drinking water remain largely unrecognized and neglected, and that much of the suffering could easily be prevented.

Although fluoride is found in some concentration in all natural waters, bringing benefits for teeth, excessive concentrations in some areas can lead to debilitating health problems.

The report identified Africa, the eastern Mediterranean and South Asia as three regions where unusually elevated concentrations of fluoride are causing concern. One of the worst affected areas is an arc stretching from Turkey to China.

The effects can be devastating. In China, for example, at least 10 million people are estimated to suffer from skeletal fluorosis, when fluoride accumulates in the bones over many years and causes stiffness and joint pain and, in some cases, changes to bone structure, calcification of ligaments and crippling effects.

Clinical dental fluorosis, another by-product of elevated fluoride concentrations, is marked by stained and pitted teeth and, in the worst cases, by damage to the enamel of the teeth.

The report states that although removing excessive fluoride from drinking water can be difficult and expensive, there are alternative low-cost options available at a local level, such as the use of absorptive filters, bone charcoal or crushed clay pots.

 

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