Too much fluoride in tap water is a growing concern among many Americans. It’s good for your oral health, but do the risks outweigh the benefit? The latest research suggests that the time has come to stop adding fluoride to our water supply, but for now, public health officials aren’t convinced.
The bottom line is — if you want to remove unwanted fluoride, you’re on your own. But we’ll show you how.
Why is Fluoride in Our Tap Water?
Fluoride is a naturally occurring element. It’s present in the soil and most water sources at low levels.
If you have a well, you may have natural fluoride in your water, but if you drink from a public water supply, there’s a 70-percent chance you’re getting more than you bargained for.
In the late 1930s, Colorado Springs dentist, Frederick McKay, first noticed that fluoride reduced staining and tooth decay. In 1945, Grand Rapids, Michigan, became the first major city in the United States to add fluoride to drinking water to improve community dental health. By the mid-1960s, fluoridated water became the norm.
Is Fluoride Bad for You?
Most experts, including the World Health Organization, agree that fluoride is both a friend and foe. The American Dental Association believes that water fluoridation decreases cavities by up to 25 percent.
But an increasing number of studies show links between fluoride levels higher than 2 mg/L and health problems. The adverse effects of excessive fluoride consumption may include dental fluorosis, skeletal fluorosis, hypothyroidism, neurological disorders and more.
Meanwhile, most European countries log similar improvements in community dental health despite drinking non-fluoridated water, owing perhaps to the addition of fluoride in dental products.
What’s the Recommended Fluoride Concentration in Tap Water?
The EPA is responsible for setting tap water standards, including fluoride content. The current legal limit for fluoride is 4 mg/L — twice the amount associated with adverse health effects — and a non-enforceable standard of 2 mg/L, meaning that a treatment plant can’t be cited for not meeting that goal.
Is It Necessary to Remove Fluoride from Tap Water?
Studies suggest that our fluoride intake may now be too high with the introduction of fluoride treatments and fluoridated dental products. But not everyone has excessive fluoride in their water.
If you have less than the 2 mg/L recommended guideline, you may reap dental benefits without incurring much risk. Above 2 mg/L, even the EPA recommends using alternative water sources for children.
Does Boiling Water Remove Fluoride?
Boiling water is the universal way to make it potable because it kills bacteria. But does boiling tap water remove fluoride? Unfortunately, it doesn’t. Boiled water has more fluoride in it, not less.
As water boils, some of it evaporates, leaving a higher concentration of fluoride in the remaining volume. The good news, however, is that there are many effective methods for removing unwanted fluoride.
How Do I Remove Fluoride from Drinking Water?
Boiling doesn’t remove fluoride from water, but filtration can. Let’s take a closer look at the best fluoride removal filters.
#1 Reverse Osmosis Water Filter
Reverse osmosis water filters are among the most effective for fluoride removal. As water passes through the semi-permeable membrane, it removes all substances larger than water molecules, including 99 percent of fluoride ions.
#2 Activated Alumina Water Filter
Activated alumina filters remove up to 95 percent of fluoride. Made from aluminum oxide, they also treat arsenic and hydrogen sulfide. Non-toxic, activated alumina is not the same as aluminum.
#3 Bone Char Water Filter
Bone char water filters are made of charred animal bones. They remove fluoride plus a wide range of other contaminants from harmful chemicals to heavy metals.
#4 Water Distillers
If boiling water doesn’t remove fluoride, why does distillation work? Because distillers capture only steam as water evaporates, condensing it into droplets. Pure water is collected in a reservoir while contaminants, like fluoride, are left behind.
Distillation is superior to boiling water and still ranks as one of the world’s most effective water purification methods. Distilled water is virtually fluoride-free.
Does Filtered Water Contain Less Fluoride Than Bottled Water?
Most bottled water is just filtered tap water with enhancements to improve its taste. Most brands have less fluoride than public water, but plastic bottles are a massive waste of resources.
Refilling reusable containers with filtered water makes more sense financially and supports sustainable living.
Whole-Home VS Point-of-Entry Water Filters
There are two types of water filtration systems that remove fluoride from water — whole-home filters that are plumbed into your pipes and purify the water throughout your home and point-of-entry filters, like RO systems, that treat water from one tap.
Since most fluoride exposure comes from what we eat and drink, point-of-entry filters, a reverse osmosis system is a budget-friendly way to remove fluoride from drinking and cooking water.
But only whole-house filters remove contaminants from your bath. Chlorine, for example, can cause skin irritation and chlorine gas can be inhaled in the shower. When it comes to water filters, you need a big-picture solution.
The best filter for removing fluoride is one that tackles the other potential contaminants in your water. Reverse osmosis, for example, isn’t ideal for removing chlorine but activated alumina and bone char are. So, the next step is to do a water test so that you know exactly what you’re dealing with.
Further reading: Do water filters really remove Fluoride?
Testing Your Water for Fluoride
If you drink from a public water supply, treatment authorities can tell you the fluoride content. Your annual consumer confidence report, put out by your water district, also breaks down levels for most contaminants except those that can get into water after it leaves the treatment plant, like lead.
No government agency monitors private wells, so the CDC recommends annual testing for bacteria and nitrates. It’s a good time to check your water for fluoride and other high-risk contaminants in your area.
Testing your water isn’t a complicated process. If you don’t have a lab nearby, you can purchase a home test kit online. We like SimpleLab’s Tap Score because it’s cost-effective and easy to use.
If it’s been a while since you’ve tested your water, we recommend comprehensive testing before buying filtration equipment since there are significant differences in which contaminants reverse osmosis, activated alumina and bone char filters remove.
How to Reduce Fluoride Exposure?
If you can’t remove fluoride from water, the next best thing is to limit fluoride intake from other sources by:
Choosing Fluoride-free Toothpaste
Fluoride toothpaste is safe for adults, but kids may swallow it unintentionally. Select only non-fluoridated toothpaste and mouthwash for children.
Avoid Coffee and Tea
Coffee and tea plants are grown where high levels of fluoride are present in groundwater. Black and green tea contain the highest concentrations.
Choose Fresh Food Over Canned
Most canned foods are made with fluoridated water. Choose fresh produce whenever possible.
Fluoride is used as a pesticide on crops kids enjoy, such as grapes. Organic brands are fluoride-free.
Even if boiling water did remove fluoride, chances are you have better things to do. So, invest in a top-quality home filtration system and leave boiling water for the campground.