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Am J Public Health. 1990 Oct;80(10):1230-5.

Evaluating the impact of municipal water fluoridation on the aquatic environment.

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  • 1Community Health Department, Lakeshore General Hospital, Pointe-Claire, Quebec, Canada.


Although highly beneficial for dental health, low concentrations of fluoride in environmental waters may be toxic to several organisms. In an era of heightened public awareness about the environment, this may lead city officials to withhold implementing water fluoridation for environmental reasons. This paper presents a mass balance approach to evaluate this perceived risk. Generally speaking, fluoridated water loss during use, dilution of sewage by rain and ground water infiltrate, fluoride removal during secondary sewage treatment, and diffusion dynamics at effluent outfall combine to eliminate fluoridation-related environmental effects. In Montreal, water fluoridation would raise average aquatic fluoride levels in the waste water plume immediately below effluent outfall by only 0.05-0.09 mg/l. Downstream, these changes would be only 0.02-0.05 mg/l at 1 km, and 0.01-0.03 mg/l at 2 km below outfall. Overall river fluoride concentrations theoretically would be raised by 0.001-0.002 mg/l, a value not measurable by current analytical techniques. All resulting concentrations would be well below those recommended for environmental safety and would not exceed natural levels found elsewhere in Quebec. A literature review did not reveal any examples of municipal water fluoridation causing recommended environmental concentrations to be exceeded, although excesses occurred in several cases of severe industrial water pollution.

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