Too Much Tea Can Result In Skeletal Fluorosis

Megan Charles

Too much tea can result in skeletal fluorosis. At least that was the case for a 47-year old Michigan woman, according to The New England Journal of Medicine medical report.

The woman reported that, for the past 17 years, she had habitually consumed a pitcher of tea made from 100 to 150 tea bags daily. Brewed tea has one of the highest fluoride contents among beverages in the United States. Common causes of fluorosis include inhalation of fluoride dusts or fumes and excessive consumption of fluoride.

The doctors estimated the woman's fluoride intake was greater than 20 mg per day. Natural sources of water contain 0.5mg/L or less of the mineral, and, since 1962, the US has specified an optimal level of 0.7 to 1.2mg/L (milligrams per liter, equivalent to parts per million) in public fluorinated water.

The woman had a five year history of pain in the lower back, arms, legs, and hips. Due to the fragility of her teeth, the patient had to have all of her teeth extracted. It was medically recommended she cease drinking copious amounts of tea, and, in time, her symptoms would improve.

It can take years to deplete skeletal fluoride. Excess fluoride is usually removed by the kidneys, but if someone consumes too much then the mineral forms deposits on the bones.

The woman was referred to Dr. Sudhaker Rao at the Henry Ford Hospital because it was suspected that the unnamed woman had cancer. Instead, her X-rays revealed skeletal fluorosis through calcification.

Skeletal fluorosis is a debilitating bone disease caused by excessive consumption of fluoride. In advanced cases, skeletal fluorosis causes pain and damage to bones and joints.

Fluoride, the negative ion of the element fluorine, is found naturally in low concentrations in drinking water and foods. Often it is added to the public water supplies to promote better dental health and to prevent dental decay.

However, in some locations, the fresh water contains dangerously high levels of fluoride, which can lead to serious health problems including skeletal fluorosis. In India, the most common cause of fluorosis is fluoride-laden water derived from deep wells. Over half of ground water sources in India have fluoride above CDC recommended levels.

In the US, the CDC site link allows you to select your state and municipality, and you can see both the optimal fluoride concentration present as well as when the fluorination was initiated in that specific region's water supply.

Fluorosis can also occur as a result from exposure to volcanic activity. Magma contains dissolved gases that are released into the atmosphere during eruptions, aerating plumes of fluorine and sulfur dioxide gases.

Fluorine is a pale yellow gas that attaches to fine ash particles, coats grass, and pollutes streams and lakes. Exposure to this powerful caustic irritant can cause conjunctivitis, skin irritation, bone degeneration, and mottling of teeth (dental fluorosis). Excess fluorine poisoning can result in death, even in areas that receive just a millimeter of ash.

Such was the case in 1783 from the eruption of the Laki volcano in Iceland. It was estimated 25 percent of the human population and 50 to 80 percent of the livestock population in Iceland perished from the exposure of caustic gases.

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