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Water fluoridation is the process of adding fluoride to tap water, which is pretty common in the US. Most people who drink and use municipal water have fluoride in their supply. Whether that’s a good thing or bad is another question.
Recent research and analysis have shown that the practice of water fluoridation may be doing more harm than good. In 2016, water purity and health activists even petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to stop the fluoridation of public water supplies.
Nevertheless, as many as 200 million Americans are still consuming water with artificially-added fluoride in it. So you may want to test your water as well to see if you’re among those people. More importantly, you should determine how high the concentration of fluoride is.
As fluoride levels in tap water can vary significantly, this article will tell you how to test your water for accurate results. This allows you to make the call and decide whether you need a fluoride water filter to remove excess amounts of this double-edged sword of an element.
So, here is our guide on how to test water for fluoride.
- 1 How to Test Fluoride Levels in Water
- 2 Are There Safe Levels of Fluoride?
- 3 What Are the Side Effects of Fluoride?
- 4 Conclusion
- The most accurate but most expensive option is a professional lab test.
- Fluoride test strips for home usage are affordable and simple, however they might not be 100% precise.
- Reactive testing kits are a cheap option and offer precise readings but they may be challenging to use.
How to Test Fluoride Levels in Water
The easiest way to find out if your water has fluoride in it is to inquire with your local government. Just ask them whether they add it to their reservoirs or not. By law, they are supposed to reveal such information.
The concentration of fluoride and other minerals is calculated in parts per million (ppm) or milligrams per liter (mg/L).
That said, even if your city government claims there’s no fluoridation of water, you may still want to conduct testing – not because we suspect them to not tell the truth, but because fluoride can also be naturally occurring in water.
Anyway, here are the available water tests for fluoride:
Certified Lab Testing
A third-party lab can test your water and tell you exactly what’s going on with it, including the levels of fluoride it contains. The results are typically highly accurate for the sample you send, which makes this option the most reliable.
Professional lab tests list all the contaminants like heavy metals as well as minerals etc. found in water along with their concentrations, unless you’re paying for a specific analysis only. Regardless, the result can come in very handy in gauging what kind of water filtration system you may need in your home.
Keep in mind not all labs are EPA-certified, though, so make sure you use one that is. That way, you can ensure they follow official guidelines for testing and benchmarks of impurities in water.
Personally, we like to recommend Tap Score. They’ve developed a water test specifically for fluoride.
Do your search and find a lab, online or near you. Then, contact them and inquire about how the sample should be collected.
Some labs will ask you to use their own sterilized containers, so the results are not skewed because of stuff already present in your old jam jar. Collect from their location or ask them to mail the containers.
Collect the water as per their directions and drop off or mail the samples to the lab. The lab will send you the results prepared by a professional.
- Third-party lab tests give accurate results.
- It can also highlight other contaminants you may be unaware of.
- The lab may also make recommendations for water treatment solutions.
- Lab tests for water quality can cost hundreds of dollars.
- The results are not available immediately and take a few days.
DIY Test Strips
A quick, easy and economical way to test water for fluoride is to purchase a fluoride strip test. These strips tell you whether your water has fluoride or not almost instantaneously.
The way this works is that you need to drip the strip in water for a few seconds. The strip reacts with the fluoride if present and changes color. You’ll receive a comparison guide with different colors that indicate the fluoride concentrations.
If no color change occurs, your water doesn’t have any fluoride in it.
- These are easy-to-use test kits with instructions.
- They are available at stores and online (Amazon, eBay, etc.).
- It doesn’t cost a lot.
- The result indicates fluoride presence quickly.
- The result may not tell fluoride levels accurately.
- It’s only limited to testing for fluoride.
- Accuracy can be compromised if the instructions are not followed correctly, which can be unclear in some kits.
A reactive testing kit for fluoride is similar to the strip test method. Here’s how it goes:
- You’ll need a clear disposable bottle to fill in the water from any of your taps.
- Now, you need to add the liquid reagent and shake it gently to dissolve.
- Some tests come with a photometer, where you’ll slide in the sample and wait for the results.
- Alternatively, there might be a color chart to compare the color of the water solution with, indicating fluoride presence and concentration.
- These testing kits provide accurate results.
- It usually costs fewer than 100 bucks.
- It’s quick and easy to use anywhere.
- Photometers require calibration, which can be a tad bit difficult.
- Results can get messed up if instructions are missed or not followed properly.
Are There Safe Levels of Fluoride?
Not all levels of fluoride in water are unsafe. Here are two figures for reference from reliable governmental agencies:
- US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Rating: The EPA puts fluoride levels of 4.0 mg/L in drinking water as safe. At this level or lower, fluoride does not pose a threat to your health. However, the EPA doesn’t enforce its maximum contaminant levels.
- US Department of Health and Human Services Rating: This branch of the federal government has a much lower safety level rating for fluoride as compared with the EPA’s. It says a fluoride concentration of 0.7 mg/L is ideal to prevent cavities while not causing dental fluorosis.
Tap Water Fluoridation
Water fluoridation goes back as early as 1945. In 1962, the normal range of fluoride in water was 0.7 to 1.2 mg/L. Today, water fluoridation follows the lowest of this range, i.e., 0.7 mg/L. This is mainly because people are getting fluoride from other sources as well.
Naturally Occurring Fluoride
Where else are you getting fluoride from? Well, plenty of things because this element is present abundantly in the ground. So, even some foods and drinks have a decent amount of fluoride, including grapes, spinach, tea and coffee.
What Are the Side Effects of Fluoride?
Fluoridation was largely seen as a public health measure for many decades because fluoride is good for dental hygiene. However, for the past couple of decades, research showed that this was only true for moderate amounts of fluoride.
Any amount over the acceptable level can have negative consequences. Now, with fluoride being present in many dental, medicine and food products, there’s a higher chance of people getting more of it than they should.
The following are the likely problems resulting from higher-than-recommended fluoride consumption over a long time:
Dental and Skeletal Fluorosis
Your teeth and bones store most of the fluoride you ingest, as much as 99 percent. Overconsumption of fluoride leads to discoloration and disfigurement of teeth in young kids six years or younger.
Skeletal fluorosis is marked by stiff and aching bones and joints as a result of the excess fluoride in bones.
The thyroid, which is a crucial gland in the body, can develop hyperthyroidism, in which its function increases. This can lead to other more serious health issues later on.
This is the gravest of the concerns when it comes to overconsumption of fluoride. While only one percent of it makes its way to the brain, it may cause neurological issues like fatigue, depression and sleep issues.
There are common methods for testing water for fluoride:
- Relying on a professional laboratory which offers the most accurate results. Another huge advantage is that you can have your water tested for other contaminants as well.
- Using DIY test strips. The process is simple and quick, and you don’t need to spend a lot of money. But the results may not be as accurate.
- A fluoride photometer is best suited for people interested in repeated testing. A basic level of technical understanding is required here.
Fluoride can occur in water both naturally and artificially.
There are safe levels; however, fluoride overconsumption can result in health issues like dental and skeletal fluorosis.
- Learn How to Remove Fluoride from Water at Home
- Does Boiling Water Take Out Fluoride?
- Does a Water Distiller Remove Fluoride?
- Do Water Filters Filter Out Fluoride?
- Does Reverse Osmosis Filter Fluoride?
-  https://www.epa.gov/sites/default/files/2015-10/documents/2011_fluoride_questionsanswers.pdf
-  https://aspe.hhs.gov/hhs-recommendation-fluoride-concentration-drinking-water-prevention-dental-caries
Rory has joined the Water Masterz team as a contributing writer. He has covered all sorts of topics in the last several years.
Outside of his writing work, Rory enjoys photographing the Irish landscape and making music!