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.
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.
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.
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.
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.