Fluoride and tea don’t mix – according to new research

According to recent research findings, fluoridation puts tea drinkers at risk of damaged bones, discolored teeth and soft tissue harm. What most tea drinkers probably don’t know is that tea has naturally high fluoride levels. Excess fluoride can weaken bones and discolor children’s un-erupted teeth. And you could be getting more fluoride than you realize if you live in a region that fluoridates its water.

Whenever I see new studies come out, I take them with a grain of salt. We don’t know who sponsored the research or what they were trying to prove that could have influenced the way they conducted their research. But this one gave me a little pause because I drink a lot of tea.

According to 1997 ADA data, you shouldn’t have more than 3 mg (women) or 4 mg (men) of fluoride per liter of water daily. It’s much lower for children. In 2006, the National Research Council reported the basis for those levels should be reduced.

In the study, four cups of tea delivered 0.8 to 1.8 mg of fluoride, reports Cao et al. in Food Chemistry. “Among populations habitually consuming black tea, water fluoridation is not only unnecessary but also possibly harmful…The target organs of chronic fluoride intoxication are not only the teeth and skeleton, but also the liver, kidney, nervous and reproductive systems,” they write.

A March 2008 Food and Chemical Toxicology study found up to 4.5, 1.8, and 0.5 mg/L fluoride in black, green and white teas, respectively, when brewed for 5 minutes (61 teas sampled). Brewed teas could contain up to 6 mg/L fluoride depending on the amount of dry tea used, the water fluoride concentration and the brewing time, according to the American Dental Association (ADA).

The examples of what too much fluoride combined with tea at not good. Case Reports by Cao and Yi in the Journal of Fluorine Chemistry (February 2008) “Fluoride and Tea” showed:

  • A 57-year-old Englishman’s misdiagnosed Paget’s disease (weakened bones) with osteoarthritis was finally correctly diagnosed as skeletal fluorosis caused by his long-term heavy tea-drinking habit.
  • A Pakistani woman’s dental fluorosis resulted solely from tea which she consumed from age two.
  • A 36-year-old Chinese woman’s ten-years of joint pain disappeared when she stopped drinking tea.
  • French doctors identified 5 patients who developed bone softening (osteomalacia) from drinking tea.
  • An American woman’s fluoride-caused debilitating joint pains disappeared when her two-gallon-a-day iced-tea habit stopped.

While there are definite benefits of fluorinated water, if you’re a heavy tea drinker you might want to make your tea with filtered water…just in case.

USDA: Fluoride in Food

2 thoughts on “Fluoride and tea don’t mix – according to new research

  1. @Fluoride Action Network: While these are interesting cases, I’m not sure they’re a case for taking action to stop putting fluoride into water.

    As a baby I was put on tetracycline (due to a cut caused by forceps during my birth). One of the main side effects of tetracycline is it makes your teeth very porous – yet I’ve never had a cavity. Why? My town used fluoride in its water supply. It’s very effective.

    While I understand the “right to choose” argument of the FAN, that right is balanced by the need of the government to reduce the cost of health care paid for by public dollars. Obviously, this is not a concern in the US given its lack of government-supported healthcare; however, I am surprised that many European countries don’t use fluoride in their water, given that it would likely reduce the cost on taxpayer to provide socialized dental care.

    I see no reason to stop the general population from the scale of benefit provided by fluoride because there are a few side effects in isolated cases. I mean, it’d be like banning milk because a few people are lactose intolerant. Better to focus on isolating the factors that trigger fluoride sensitivity, and enabling people to detect if the fluoride is a factor in an ailment.

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