What is Fluoride Pollution?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Coal releases fluoride when it is burned.
Coal releases fluoride when it is burned.

Fluoride pollution is pollution which is characterized by high levels of fluorides, a family of chemical compounds with a wide range of uses. Typically, it does not occur in a vacuum; fluorides are often found in combination with a range of industrial pollutants. Like all forms of industrial pollution, it has serious implications for the environment. Many government agencies have set specific pollution standards which are designed to identify harmful levels of fluoride so that industries which use fluorides can be regulated.

Fluoride pollution can be especially damaging to fish.
Fluoride pollution can be especially damaging to fish.

The most common source of fluoride pollution is coal, which releases fluorides when it is burned. Countries with a high concentration of coal-burning power plants, such as China, often experience very high levels of fluoride pollution as a result. In areas where coal is used as a household fuel for heating and cooking, indoor pollution can also result. Even with scrubbers and other technology in place, coal-burning power plants can generate a great deal of pollution, with fluoride only being a part of the story.

ountries with a high concentration of coal-burning power plants, such as China, often experience very high levels of fluoride pollution as a result.
ountries with a high concentration of coal-burning power plants, such as China, often experience very high levels of fluoride pollution as a result.

Industrial processes which involve the use of fluorides are another source of fluoride pollution. Fluoridated water is often generated during manufacturing processes, and if that water is dumped into waterways or poorly contained, it can spread into the natural environment. In addition to appearing in waterways, fluorides may also crop up in the soil, potentially damaging crops. Fluoridated waste can also be solid, in which case improper disposal may result in leaching.

Some industrial wastewater treatment processes remove contaminants such as excess fluoride and then pipe the water back into use in the factory.
Some industrial wastewater treatment processes remove contaminants such as excess fluoride and then pipe the water back into use in the factory.

For humans, fluoride pollution can be problematic when people are exposed to a high volume of fluorides as a result. Excessive intake of fluoride can cause fluorosis, a medical condition which damages the bones and teeth. Fluorides can also irritate the skin, eyes, and lungs, and sometimes they can damage the heart or cause hypocalcemia, a serious condition in which the body does not get enough calcium. Fluorosis in particular is a major problem in some regions of the world, thanks to high levels of fluoride.

Bottled water may not include the added fluoride found in most tap water in the United States.
Bottled water may not include the added fluoride found in most tap water in the United States.

This form of pollution can also hurt wildlife, especially fish, who can be trapped in waterways with high levels of fluoride and nowhere to go. Fluoride pollution can also damage crops and plants, and certain fluorides can contribute to the formation of acid rain. Increased regulation of industrial pollution in general will cut down on fluoride pollution, as will more responsible practices by companies which generate industrial waste.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a AllThingsNature researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a AllThingsNature researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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    • Coal releases fluoride when it is burned.
      By: torsakarin
      Coal releases fluoride when it is burned.
    • Fluoride pollution can be especially damaging to fish.
      By: Paper Girl
      Fluoride pollution can be especially damaging to fish.
    • ountries with a high concentration of coal-burning power plants, such as China, often experience very high levels of fluoride pollution as a result.
      By: wusuowei
      ountries with a high concentration of coal-burning power plants, such as China, often experience very high levels of fluoride pollution as a result.
    • Some industrial wastewater treatment processes remove contaminants such as excess fluoride and then pipe the water back into use in the factory.
      By: chartcameraman
      Some industrial wastewater treatment processes remove contaminants such as excess fluoride and then pipe the water back into use in the factory.
    • Bottled water may not include the added fluoride found in most tap water in the United States.
      By: gosphotodesign
      Bottled water may not include the added fluoride found in most tap water in the United States.
    • Exposure to fluorides may irritate the eyes.
      By: Rob hyrons
      Exposure to fluorides may irritate the eyes.
    • Ingesting too much fluoride may cause the teeth to become discolored.
      By: Halfpoint
      Ingesting too much fluoride may cause the teeth to become discolored.