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Fluoride Poisoning

Fluoride Poisoning

There is a debate and controversy surrounding fluoride poisoning. Is it real? How does it occur? Here is detailed information on the topic.
Madhura Pandit
Last Updated: Apr 22, 2018
Fluoride is a salt of hydrofluoric acid that prevents tooth decay. It is one of the prominent chemical components found in water and toothpaste. Apart from these, it is also found in other products like vitamins, certain dietary supplements, glass etching or chrome-cleaning agents, insecticides, etc. In normal cases, it is not harmful. But, when ingested accidentally in large amounts, it can result in toxicity or poisoning.
Causes
As it is found in many household products, there are chances of people accidentally ingesting it. If 5-10 grams of fluoride is ingested in a short duration, a person can suffer from life-threatening symptoms. In case of children, 15-16 mg/kg (amount of fluoride per kg of body weight) can be toxic.
Fluoride poisoning in children usually occurs due to accidental ingestion of toothpaste or insecticides. Here it is essential to note that a small amount of toothpaste (required for brushing) does not lead to toxicity. It is only large amount consumed in a short period that causes poisoning.
Apart from that, fluoride is also released as a result of certain industrial processes, and is a chief industrial pollutant. Inhalation of this toxic smoke can also lead to poisoning. On the other hand, fluoride coming in contact with skin or the eyes can lead to discomfort and itching.
Signs and Symptoms
Fluoride toxicity is found to have an adverse effect on the cardiovascular system as well as on the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Following are the symptoms observed.
  • Hypercalcemia
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Arrhythmia
  • Abdominal pain
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Seizures
  • Tremors
  • Nausea
  • Muscle weakness and spasms
  • Shock
The symptoms depend on the amount of fluoride ingested or inhaled, and the time taken for the same. This is not an exhaustive list, as sometimes, other symptoms can also be observed. Severe poisoning can lead to seizures, cardiac failure, multiple organ failure, respiratory paralysis, and consequently death.
Treatment
This is an emergency condition and should be treated immediately. Therefore, if a person experiences any of the aforementioned symptoms on ingesting fluoride, he/she should call the emergency service immediately. Cardiac monitoring is essential to treat arrhythmia. Intravenous fluids (IV) may be required to treat dehydration caused by diarrhea and vomiting.
Secondly, calcium chloride IV may be used to treat calcium deficiency. Poisoning caused due to fluoride can be treated with the help of several medications and electrolytes, depending on the nature and severity of the condition.
As a preventive measure, one should remember to stay away from industrial pollutants as much as possible. Secondly, awareness should be created about using right toothpastes among children and adults. Lastly, parents are advised to keep children away from insecticides and other chemicals.
Disclaimer: This article is meant only to provide information. It is not to be substituted for doctor's advice and consultation.