Richard D. Sauerheber, Ph.D.
University of CA, San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92037
Palomar College, San Marcos, CA 92069
Abstract. The mechanism by which fluoride from unnatural sources exerts adverse effects in man and animals is examined. Low level artificial fluoridation of municipal water can cause well known alterations in teeth and bone structure with incorporation of fluoride into a wide array of tissues and increased hip fracture tendency, depending on years of exposure and water hardness. High accidental levels cause acute lethal poisoning and are responsible for fluoride listings on poisons registries and for their major industrial use as rodenticides, insecticides or pediculicides. Solubility calculations indicate that blood fluoride concentrations required to decrease calcium below normal physiological levels compare to those present in the tissues of poisoned victims and to those causing decreased beat rates in isolated heart cells in culture. The effects of calcium ion and pH over broad ranges on the free fluoride ion concentration were determined. Acute lethal poisoning with heart attack, and also many of the chronic ‘low’ level effects of fluoride, are mediated by calcium binding by fluoride ion. At a pH typical of gastric juice, approximately 50% of fluoride is protonated as hydrofluoric acid HF, with 50% remaining the free fluoride ion. The significance of these observations is discussed in terms of potential hazards, both short and long term, associated with consumption of artificially fluoridated waters of varying calcium content.
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