Q: How Much Fluoride Does Reverse Osmosis Remove?

Children under three should never use fluoridated toothpaste. Or drink fluoridated water. And baby formula must never be made up using Toronto tap water. Never.

Limeback, in Kauffman (2005:41)

Fluoride ingestion can pose unnecessary risks. Here’s what to know.

It’s no secret that fluoride isn’t the safest of minerals. It’s widely known to be a poison, shown to result in dental and skeletal fluorosis in populations exposed to high levels . Your toothpaste tube will also specify that toothpaste is not to be swallowed, and when it is, to obtain medical help or contact a Poison Control Centre immediately.

Canada is one of the most fluoridated countries in the world, with 45.1% drinking publicly fluoridated water. The addition of fluoride into our drinking water is hotly debated in our society, with some communities flat out refusing to add it. Montreal’s water supply, for example, remains unfluoridated.

What’s the debate about?

Supporters of fluoride addition, including the WHO and Health Canada, advocate for fluoride, citing evidence that shows fluoridation is a safe and effective form of cavity prevention, while those on the other side argue for the undeniable health risks that fluoride ingestion can pose.

Fluoride may be ingested in small quantities in our water, but they argue that the part to worry about is the cumulative effect. Fluoride is also ingested via other beverages – including beer, pop, and juice, as well as fish and other foods. In addition, vegetables we consume are fertilised with compounds containing fluoride and are irrigated, washed, and cooked, in fluoridated water – meaning it would be easy to exceed the minimum daily allowance.

What can I do to protect my family?

First and foremost, it must be said that fluoride may very well be a great way to deal with cavities. However, that does not mean that fluoride needs to be ingested for it to be effective.

Topical use via toothpastes and dental rinses are effective, and the addition of fluoride to our water therefore represents an unnecessary risk.

Children are more susceptible to harm from fluoride. How can I protect my little ones?

Ensure that fluoridated toothpaste is not used for children under 3 years of age. It has been shown that young children can accidentally ingest fluoride levels exceeding recommended total intake.

Virtually all authors have noted that some children could ingest more fluoride from [toothpaste] alone than is recommended as a total daily fluoride ingestion.

(Levy 1999)

In addition, do not use fluoridated water to make formula.

Is reverse osmosis water enough to remove fluoride?

Depending on the membrane used, fluoride removal levels can vary. As per the Fluoride Fact Sheetproduced by the Water Quality Association, for reverse osmosis water processed via a CTA (cellulose triacetate) membrane, fluoride rejection rates of 80-90% are achievable. With a TFC (thin film composite) membrane, rejection rates are higher – up to 95%.